If you have a boat and love to take it out in the nearby lake, river or sea, knowing how to install a boat lift is a must for you. There are numerous types of boat lifts, the most common being the freestanding, mounted and the floating types. Which type you get depends on the depth of water, the type of bed of the water body, the type of dock, the type of boat and many other factors.

You can install a boat lift yourself if you know exactly what you are doing. But there is one thing you must keep in mind. Some boat lifts require by their terms and conditions to be installed by the company experts only, or that you follow the instructions to the T when installing by yourself, or else the warranty becomes null and void. Therefore, if you are not fully confident about how to put a boat lift in, it is best to let the professionals handle it.

A Picture by John Coley

Before you try to decide whether or not you will undertake the project yourself, it is advisable to learn what the common types of boat lifts that people use are. This will help you decide which lift to get in terms of whether you want to install it yourself or not. This is because some types of boat lifts are easier to install than others.

Types of Boat Lifts or Hoists

There are three main types of boat lifts or hoists that exist. We will be listing them here in increasing order of difficulty of installation.

  1. Floating Boat Lift – Floating boat lifts simply consist of tanks that fill with water to sink and pump the water out to rise. These require a simple attachment to the dock or shore, often nothing more than ropes and lines. The only extra bit of work you may need is to customize its shape and size to accommodate boats of different shapes and sizes. 
  2. Freestanding/Bottom Standing Boat Lift – These lifts are set on the bed of the water body near the shore, and work best in shallow water with softer soil. They are shipped in the form of parts and tools and the person needs to assemble it. Once done, it also needs to be attached to the dock or seawall you bring your boat in at.
  3. Suspended/Mounted Boat Lift – This is the hardest to install. They have to be permanently attached to the dock or pilings. Thus, it cannot be assembled and then installed; the entire installation must be done on-site. The process is far more labor-intensive and complex, with more complicated, bulky parts which are greater in number than the previous two.

Also, a manually operated boat lift is easier to install than an electric one, as you do not have to draw lines to the shore and do electrical fittings for the lift.

Options to Install a Boat Lift

You have three options when it comes to installing your boat lift. Depending on the amount of money you are ready to spend, the availability of help and your own convenience, you can do one of these three:

  • Do It Yourself – For the handy people who like to take on tasks like these as personal projects, installing your boat lift yourself is a great idea. While the less complicated boat lifts will not require you to ask for external help, the bigger ones will. Even if you are able to drag a freestanding boat lift to the shore yourself, installing a mounted one alone is a no-go. You will need one or more hands to hold parts up, hand you tools and parts, support you in the more difficult areas and so on.
  • Hire Professionals – If you would rather not make the effort or do not want to make a mistake and void the warranty, booking a professional service is the best idea. These people will come and complete the entire process without you requiring to expend nothing except the charge for their services. Some manufacturers even add installation as a complimentary or discounted service.
  • Using Floats and Wheels – This option works only with freestanding boat lifts or any other type that must be pre-assembled for installation. Once the assembly is done, you can attach the wheels and floats to the boat lift to transport it to the exact location. The wheels assist movement on land and the floats in water, thus requiring you to spend minimum effort. Once it is positioned right, you can simply attach the lift to the dock or bed of the waterbody.

What to Keep in Mind Before You Install Your Boat Lift

If you decide to install your boat lift yourself, ensure the following:

  • Only use the parts and tools that come with the package or are recommended in the instruction manual. If anything is missing, call the manufacturers instead of trying to guess and try it yourself.
  • Before starting the installation, check each part to ensure there is no damage.
  • Never meander from the instruction manual. As said before, this can void the warranty. Also, read the warranty conditions and company policy terms before starting.
  • Do not endanger your life trying to do it yourself. If you feel you might not be safe, abort the task and call professionals to do it.
  • Make sure that the conditions that made the kind of boat lift you bought are still the same, eg, water salinity, water depth, dock/soil/shore type, boat type, size and shape, etc. Otherwise, if any damage is sustained, the company will not be liable to replace, refund or fix it.


Installing a boat lift can be easy and safe if you know what you are doing. It will save you a ton of expenses too. But no one should try to force anything if they are not sure of oneself. At the end of the day, you want a fully functional boat lift so that you can take your boat out and then store it without fear of damage due to natural conditions. So, it is best to keep that in mind and do what will make that possible.


How much does it cost to install a boat lift?

Depending on the kind of boat lift you get, the company and the installation, a boat lift can cost anywhere between $1000 to $20,000.

How long does it take to install a boat lift?

The amount of time depends on whether the lift is pre-assembled, the complexity level of the installation and the expertise of the person doing the job. External environmental conditions also play a part in this.

Are boat lifts worth it?

Boat lifts are extremely important to ensure that your boat does not take any damage or corrosion from the water and aquatic organisms. Boat lifts not only increase the longevity of the boat but they also ensure its proper functioning by preventing changes to its structure from the ravages of nature.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *