5 Types of Boat Lifts & How Much They Cost

Kenneth Wilson

Is it time to get a boat lift to ease the maintenance and longevity of investment in your boat?

You’re not alone.  Each year tens of thousands of boat lifts are installed for boat owners across the United States.  

The average price of a boat lift ranges from $4,300 to $28,000. For easier reference, consider shelling out around $2,500 per one-ton lifted. This does not include the cost of the dock.

Of course, your boat lift cost will revolve around different influential variables– including the preferred boat lift capacity, brand, and local labor rates for installation.

Theoretically, the more capacity your chosen boat lift can handle, the more you'd pay for it.

Boat lifts use various technologies to haul up a boat out of the water, so they are also priced differently according to their type. 

Many estimates on the internet refer to the prices of 5,000 pound or 10,000-pound boat lift capacity.

However, the costs usually only cover the basic ballpark estimate of the product. You may still need to consider the additional charges as you set your boat lift budget.

Note that some boat lift types, such as cantilever lifts, are not designed to accommodate heavy boats of more than 5,000 lb heavy boats. It is an essential factor to consider as you select your boat type of preference.

The Break Down Of Boat Lift Types & Costs


The ideal boat lift type for your needs will depend on a couple of factors. Keep in mind that some lift types are designed for larger, heavier boats– while others are ideal for installing in smaller, shallow bodies of water.

Refer to the table below for a quick overview of the five different boat lift types and their average costs. 

Capacity

Boat Lift Type

Average Costs

10,000 lb.

4-post Conventional Lift

$5,750

10,000 lb.

Elevator Lift

$11,500

10,000 lb.

Hydraulic Lift

$11,500

5,000 lb.

Cantilever Lift

$4,025

5,000 lb.

Floating Lift

$8,050

4-Post Convention Boat Lifts


Most of the boat lifts you frequently see on lakes are the 4-post conventional boat lift type. It costs $5,750 on average.

These can cater to boats ranging from 4,000 to 20,000 lbs. If your boat is more than 20,000 pounds, your installer may have to use 6 to 8 poles to cater to the heavyweight. What makes conventional boat lifts a good crowd-favorite choice? Well, it is easy to operate and install, even for beginners.

It is considered the best entry-level boat lift choice for small to medium boats on many lakes, rivers, and reservoirs.  

Elevator Boat Lifts


An elevator boat lift can seamlessly lift your boat up and down using an electric winch system—this boat lift costs around $11,500.

Fortunately, this type of boat lift can be installed even in narrow passageways, as they are not too far away from the shorelines. Elevator boat lift types enable you to install beamless boat lifts without PVC or other metals.

In contrast to conventional boat lifts, you won't have to work with messy, tangled cables so that you can marvel at your boat's beautiful view without any obstruction. Depending on your boat size and type, it may be angled in several ways to determine the proper placement for maximum visual satisfaction.

Note that this boat type may require you to secure a permit, though. It is best to prepare your budget for the additional expenses. 

Hydraulic Boat Lifts


Instead of using the traditional cables, hydraulic boat lift types utilize a steel tube and piston in raising the boat. While this can be pretty costly to build, this system can lift a boat higher than other types.

This boat lift type is ideal to use at the coast since it helps you easily haul up your boat above the water and keep it suspended. Unlike cable systems, you can ensure your boat won't crash down even if the system fails due to an unforeseen problem– as long as it has been lifted hydraulically. How secure, right?

Most hydraulic boat lifts are also run on a low profile (through DC power or solar power), similar to elevator lifts. It's essential to secure a hoist frame (with base pads) per leg, as it will rest down the water. Don't forget to level the contact points as well during the actual installation.

If you're wondering about the average cost of hydraulic boat lifts, prepare to shell out around $11,500. Like we always say, the actual prices may vary depending on the add-on features you include. 

Cantilever Boat Lifts


A cantilever boat lift is known for its simplicity and durability, and it is another popular option to consider. Traditional cantilever boat lifts cost $4,025.

The system utilizes steel cables with a simple operation– featuring a winch wheel to crank the lift up and down quickly. This boat lift type suits small boats the most, as it doesn't rely on the nearest power source. Given its simple technology, you can count on simple repairs when necessary. 

Floating Boat Lifts


Lastly, let's talk about floating boat lifts– a type you don't commonly see. It combines the concept of a floating dock with a hydro-pneumatic technology of lifting boats. This boat type will cost you approximately $8,050.

What makes this boat lift type special? It hauls up the boat out of the water with the use of specially designed inflated tanks. Thanks to the tank's compact design, a floating lift doesn't require too much water just for boat lifting.

It's the perfect addition for lakes and reservoirs known to have regularly fluctuating water levels. Trust us; you can still use your floating lift even during a severe drought with low water levels.

Before choosing a boat lift type, always consider the dimensions of your boat (length and weight), your budget, the area of installation, and local regulations. We can't stress this enough, but it's always recommended to check for local regulations depending on the body of water you plan your boat lift installation on.

Remember, different states and localities have unique regulations on scope and size and floating lifts. 

Factors Affecting Boat Lift Costs


Aside from the five different types of boat lift, look out for these additional cost factors that may further hike the total prices.

Labor Costs


After paying the upfront boat lift costs, keep in mind that the expenses do not stop there. You will need to consider any extra fees, such as the labor or boat lift installation cost. Some boat lift companies include the actual equipment installed in their packages, but most companies do not offer this service.

With that in mind, you may need to look into local construction companies in your area with expertise in marine equipment to get the job done.

Installation rates will vary on the lift type you choose and the accessibility of the location. Prices will also vary depending on the project's complexity. Generally, you can also expect to pay more for larger boat lift sizes. 

Accessories


When it comes to boat lift customization, you can make the most out of the new system by adding in accessories. For instance, a railway is a wise investment if you want to make it easy to bring your boat from the boathouse to the shore.

Not to mention, it will only boost the value of your boat lift up to thousands of dollars. Other accessories you can consider are carpeted bunks, motor shops, or pontoon accessories. 

Maintenance


Like any boat, your boat lift system requires periodic maintenance to keep it in tip-top condition. Additionally, following regular maintenance activities will extend the lifespan of your boat lift system.

It includes checking the condition of all parts of the lift: bolts, runners, nuts, and the like. If you make a habit of checking the working condition of these parts– you may save yourself from costly repairs in the long run. Another maintenance activity you may consider is lubricating the gears, cable, and other mobile parts. 

What are the Benefits of a Boat Lift?


You may be wondering, what makes a boat lift a good investment? Well, we’ve got you covered. Here are some benefits you may enjoy from having a boat lift:

  • Secured storage: Think of all the times you aren’t actively using your boat. Naturally, storing it in the water isn’t the safest method of securing it in place– but you can rest assured your boat is safe and sound with a boat lift. It protects your boat from strong water impact and fluctuation, which may cause damage or sinking. Your boat lift will hold the watercraft in place even amid summer winds and storms. 
  • Damage prevention: If you leave your boat in the water for too long, you may put it at risk of algae growth or corrosion. Having a boat lift helps reduce the chances of this problem. Not to mention, it also protects your boat’s paint job. 
  • Convenience: Using your boat in the warmer months can be easy. It won’t surprise us if you can manage to enjoy boating every day. However, this may be quite a challenge during the off-season. A boat lift is designed to provide you with the convenience you are looking for. 
  • Value maintenance and lifespan extension: Taking good care of your boat means you can enjoy it for an extended period. You will also save more money in dealing with expensive issues eventually. Learn the joy of keeping your boat's value and worth! To maintain value and extend lifespan: When you take care of your boat, it stays in better condition for a longer time — and you'll be less likely to have expensive problems down the road and also maintain the value of your boat.  
  • Maximized boating time: Boat lifts are designed to get your boat in and out of the water quickly, sometimes in even just one click! It is a great way to maximize your enjoyment as you spend time boating. For instance, a hydraulic boat lift operates in a push-button convenience. Easy as 1-2-3, right? 

Final Thoughts


The bottom line, a boat lift is one worthy investment to consider if you own a boat. It will undoubtedly save you from dealing with a lot of hassle– such as hauling your heavy boat out of the water every time and tying it up as you leave it unsupervised.

A boat lift will also help you save money on costly boat repairs in the long run. So as a responsible boat owner, it might be time to search for “boat lift installation near me.”

Kenneth Wilson
October 14, 2021
Cost Guides, Ideas & Inspiration

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done.

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