Can an ATV Pull a Boat? The Answer May Surprise You

Can an ATV pull a boat? Believe it or not, the answer is yes, so long as it’s a small boat that doesn’t exceed the towing capacity of the ATV and is on flat land.

There are a few more things you need to know before trying to pull your boat with an ATV or side by side.

In this post, we will discuss the capabilities of ATVs and UTVs when it comes to pulling boats and trailers. We will also talk about the legality of using an ATV to tow a boat, and some tips for doing so. Stay tuned for more information on this topic!

ATV Towing Capacity

Before we go too deep in this post, let’s get the towing capacity out of the way, as it will answer a lot of our questions.

A Can-Am Outlander 1000 has a towing capacity of 1,600-lb.

A Can-Am Defender 1000 has a towing capacity of 2,500-lb.

The Outlander is an ATV and the Defender is a UTV, these weights are more on the higher-end for the ATV and UTV world. Most ATVs and UTVs are not this high, so keep this in mind.

You should avoid going over the towing capacity of your ATV, as this is what the manufacturer built them for. Also, these weights are for flat areas, and boat launches are not flat, and they also are very wet. I know you’ll see other websites and videos saying an ATV can pull more than this, but it’s not safe to do.

Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should.

Can an ATV Pull a Boat?

An ATV can pull a boat trailer, but it’s best you don’t pull a boat and trailer that exceeds the towing capacity of your ATV.

An ATV can pull just about anything with wheels on flat land, but that doesn’t mean you should. Not only is it dangerous when you pull something greater than the towing capacity, it also is hard to control the ATV.

The problem is not the “going” but the stopping and turning, especially when you bring in slopes and wet boat launches.

ATVs and many UTVs don’t have enough weight or stopping power, and a large trailer can throw the ATV around and hurt the driver and people near it.

Then all the weight on the rear lifts the ATV front up, and you lose traction on the front wheels for steering. It’s just dangerous to tow a trailer too large for your ATV or side by side.

Can an ATV Pull a Boat Out of the Water?

Yes, an ATV can pull a small boat out of the water on a trailer but, as we said before, it’s not the pulling that is the problem.

If the boat and trailer are too large it will just drag the ATV into the water and just end up hydro-locking your ATV engine which is not a good thing. Also, ATVs are not long enough, so you need to put more of it in the water when launching a boat and that can hydro-lock the engine too if not done right.

If the boat exceeds 1,000-lbs, I would not use an ATV to pull or drop it into the water. If it’s a large side by side, you could get away with 2,000-lbs boats, but it’s not ideal either. Boat ramps are sloped and the ATV and UTV don’t always weigh enough and with the ramps being wet it’s just not a good idea.

It’s best to stick to a truck or only launch or pull out a boat that doesn’t come close to the towing capacity of your ATV or UTV. The steeper the boat launch, the more you should use a truck.

Can an ATV Pull a Jet Ski Trailer?

An ATV can pull a jet ski on a trailer but, as we have said before, it’s not the pulling that is the problem.

The main concern is stopping and steering with all that weight on the back. If you are going to tow a jet ski with an ATV, make sure you have good brakes and tires.

You also need to make sure the tongue weight of the trailer is not too much. Not only will this make towing the jet ski trailer harder, but it hurts your back when taking the trailer on and off. You want about 10-lb on the trailer tongue, or just about enoug, so the trailer is not bouncing up and down on the ball while towing it.

Many jet ski rental companies and jet ski dealerships will use ATVs to pull jet skis around the grounds. They don’t always need to modify them too much, but since every jet ski trailer is different, it’s not uncommon for them to add weights to the front to help them steer.

But overall, an ATV can pull a single jet ski trailer just fine on flat ground, so long as it’s not exceeding the towing capacity of your particular ATV.

Can an ATV Pull a Double Jet Ski Trailer?

Double jet ski trailers are heavier than single jet ski trailers, which makes them harder to pull and stop.

Just to give you an idea, a single jet ski weighs about 800 pounds and a trailer is about 200 pounds, a total of 1,000 pounds.

Double that for a two-place trailer and two jet skis, and you’re about 2,000 pounds total, which means it’s heavier than the recommend towing capacity by the manufacturer for an ATV. A UTV should have no problems, as something like the Can-Am Defender can pull 2,500-lb. But these numbers assume you’re on a flat area, the more steep the area, the heavier the vehicle you need to tow these trailers.

I have towed several double jet ski trailers with jet skis on them (on flat land) with a single ATV before, it’s possible, but it’s just not recommended as it gets dangerous fast. I’m a highly under-paid professional and had a lot of practice, but for the general public, I can’t recommend it too much.

Also, an interesting problem with ATVs is where the ball is often located to hook up to a trailer. It’s tucked in and harder to get to, you can buy extenders which you should, but keep in mind the tucked in ones make it harder to back up and make sharp turns as it will just rub on the tires.

Can You Tow an ATV and Boat Trailer on the Road?

While some small towns may allow ATVs on the road, not every place in the US or the world allows it.

You need to check with your local laws before even thinking about it. If you are caught towing a boat on the road with an ATV, you could get a ticket or be fined. Even if it’s a short distance, the cops don’t care, and you must follow your local laws.

Can an ATV Tow Kayaks and Canoes?

Yes, an ATV can pull a kayak or canoe on a trailer but, you must not overload the trailer, or you run into the problems as mentioned before.

Towing a kayak or canoe trailer will be easier than a jet ski trailer, that is for sure, but the same precautions must be taken.

What Do You Need To do before and During towing With Your ATV?

Here is a quick list of what you must think about when towing with an ATV:

  • Check your local laws if towing on the road, some places don’t allow it.
  • Don’t overload the trailer, check the tongue weight and towing capacity.
  • Make sure your brakes and tires are in good shape and the tires are properly inflated.
  • Buy a receiver extender and the right hitch for your ATV, as it’s not always the same as your truck.
  • Always give extra room for stopping, the brakes on ATVs are not as strong as truck brakes.
  • Adjust the weight of the trailer so you don’t have too much weight on the tongue, or it will affect your turning abilities.
  • Don’t be stupid, an ATV will pull the snot out of things, but it’s the stopping and turning that is the problem. Overdoing it will only hurt you or others around you, so use some common sense.

Some manufacturers require you to buy an adaptor for your ATV to have a tow hitch. UTVs are usually more forgiving and often have a receiver that a truck would use, and you just need to add the tow hitch.

Even though it looks like a standard receiver for a truck, it will only take shorter ones, so you’ll need an adaptor for most ATVs.

You can get ATV trailer hitches here.*

I do recommend getting an extender especially for ATVs as the way the manufacturers tuck in the receiver is stupid and cramped. I’ve seen a few that put it right under the battery, which makes it so hard to take the hitch off the ball as the latch gets in the way.