Deciding to take the plunge – excuse the cliche – is relatively easy, but determining exactly which solution among the dozens of boat lifts that is right for you can seem a monumental chore. Recommendations from friends and salesmen sometimes fall short, and the last thing you want to do is wind up spending the time, effort and money for a "less-than-optimal" configuration that does not meet your expectations and specific needs.
Before you buy, sit down and ask yourself some questions about where and under what conditions your boat lift will be used. Freshwater or saltwater? What water and weather considerations need to be acknowledged? "Am I the type of person who wants to install it myself or do I need a contractor?" The good news is that manufacturers continue fine-tuning their designs to meet specific needs of boating enthusiasts under all foreseeable circumstances.
Here are the basic boat lift options available.
Overhead Boat House Kits: Overhead boathouse kits mount to the joists or I-beams of your boathouse and come with either slings or a cradle. This is the most common as well as economical option considering that you already have a boathouse built. These kits come in either a single line pull or double line pull configuration, which refers to the cable attaching to either your slings or cradle. Lift speeds range from 1' per minute travel up to 4' per minute travel. Ratings start at a basic 2800-lbs and go up to a 12,500-lb rating.
4 Point Lifts: 4 Point lifts do not require anything except 4-8 pilings strategically placed according to the manufacturers specifications. The kits come in either a galvanized or aluminum, and have lifting capacities starting at 3500-lbs and go up to 32,000-lbs.
Elevator Lifts: Elevator lifts are "side mounted" to a seawall or piling with the most common being mounted to a seawall. These lifts resemble a forklift, lifting your boat out of the water in a very similar way. These kits start at a rating of 1500-lbs and go up to 16,000-lbs. Just like the 4 point lifts, the units come in either galvanized or aluminum.
Davits: Davits are a nice economical solution to pick you personal water craft (pwc) or boat up and out of the water. The davit looks like a crane with a single drop down cable that hooks onto a harness to pick up your pwc, or the lifting eyes firmly attached to the hull of the boat. Davits start at a 500-lb rating and go up to a 5500-lb rating.
Floating Boat Lifts: Floating boat lifts are almost a necessity in locations where the water level fluctuates substantially and in conjunction with a floating boat dock. Polymer tanks are typically connected to a cradle and air is either pumped in or out depending on whether you want to raise or lower a boat into the water. Lifting capacities range from 1000-lbs (for pwc's) up to 12,500-lbs.
Shore Docking Systems: While not an actual "lift", these portable shoreline ramps let you easily secure your boat on any gradually sloped shoreline.