How to Decide if a Hitch Hauler is Right for Your Personal Watercraft

Unless you are purchasing a used personal watercraft (PWC), the chances are good that you will need to also invest in a way to transport your PWC as well.

There are several options for hauling your watercraft, which can make for a daunting process if you do not have all the facts.  

What is a personal watercraft hitch hauler? A hitch hauler consists of a two-bar support platform designed to securely hold a PWC and attaches to an existing hitch receiver on the back of a vehicle.

Depending on personal needs and jet ski specifications, a hitch hauler might be the best option for carrying the PWC.

An Introduction to Personal Watercraft

The three most popular brand names of PWCs are Kawasaki’s Jet Ski, Yamaha’s WaveRunner, and Sea-Doo Waverunner.

Many people refer to these watercraft by their trademarked names instead of a PWC.  

There are two options when purchasing a PWC. The sit-down model is the most popular and can accommodate one, two, or three riders.

The stand-up model accommodates just one rider and is mostly used for racing, tricks, and other competitions.  

The advantages of a PWC over a larger boat include a lower initial cost, less maintenance required, and the capabilities to make quick maneuvers and operate in shallow water.

On the flip side, personal watercraft can only hold a few people. They may cause discomfort due to weather exposure and a rougher ride if the water is not calm.

A PWCs design allows for a variety of activities. Due to advances in watercraft technology, a PWC can travel fairly long distances while using little gas.

They are also powerful enough to tow a tube or wakeboard. The ability to navigate in shallow waters makes it easy to set up a PWC for fishing as well.

For those wishing to use a PWC competitively, there are both races and trick events held around the world.

Other uses of PWC include lifeguarding, rescue missions during flooding, and coastal law enforcement.

The Invention of the Hitch Haulers

By 2012, Jason and Terry Wheeler had designed and patented a way to both hold and transport a PWC by utilizing a vehicle trailer hitch platform system.

The original design consisted of a platform that connected to a hitch on the back of a vehicle with legs on wheels to make movement easier.

The Wheelers intended their system to be used for supporting ATVs, PWCs, and wheelchairs.

Alternate designs allow for the removal of the wheeled legs to be able to transport a PWC while connected to the back of a truck, SUV, or van.

The purpose of this invention was to be able to load, hold, and unload smaller transportation devices without the use of a trailer or truck bed (source). 

Brad Robinson’s latest invention of the utility lift hauler was designed to transport motorcycles, ATVs, and PWCs.

The lift hauler operates on simple hydraulics or a piston design and attaches and avoids the use of a trailer, damaging a truck bed, or taking up all of the cargo space in a vehicle.  

The automated nature of the lift hauler makes it much easier to load and unload large items.

When it is not in use, it can be concealed under a vehicle so as not to take up too much space. 

For use, the lift hauler extends from the bottom or back of a vehicle to accommodate the smaller transportation device.

The device can be operated using a remote control or a mounted control panel either inside the vehicle itself or in the back of the vehicle (source). 

Hitch Hauler Specifications

While the characteristics of hitch haulers vary from model to model, they all have relatively similar specifications.

The hitch carrier itself does not contribute much-added weight for a towing vehicle to handle. Most haulers weigh between thirty to forty pounds. 

Hitch haulers are designed to carry the PWC close to the vehicle to make the carrying experience as safe and secure as possible.

They clear enough space from the ground to protect the PWC from being damaged while allowing for a feasible loading and unloading situation for just one person.

Hitch carriers can fit into most standard hitch receivers. The majority of carriers are suited for Class III or IV receivers.

As far as load-carrying capacity goes, trucks and SUVs are best suited for carrying the additional weight and cargo.

Hitch Hauler Models

VersaHaul Jet Ski Carrier

This PWC carrier is exclusively made for stand-up models. It can hold up to 500 pounds or the maximum hauling weight as designated for a vehicle.

It fits both a Class III (rated for 500 pounds) and Class IV (rated for 1,000 pounds) hitch, or 2-inch receiver opening.     

The bottom rails are adjustable to fit a variety of PWC models and there are also supports for the front end.

Additionally, the rails are covered to reduce the risk of damage to the PWC, and the powder coat finish on the carrier enhances the overall look and durability. This carrier retails for around $576 (source).  

Click image for latest price on Amazon

Ez-SKI Jet Ski Carriers/Haulers

The purpose of the Ez-SKI’s design is to enable one person to load and unload a PWC from the water, a stand, or another carrier.  It fits into all 2-inch hitch receivers (Class III and IV).

The frame is steel construction and protected by a bed liner coating. The rails are carpeted and secured with anti-rust hardware.    

The Ez-SKI has three purchase options depending on what your needs are.

The V1 (a standard carrier compatible with most vehicles and PWC models) for $195; V2 (a standard carrier that includes a built-in receiver for towing behind the PWC) for $250;  and the V1 XL (custom carrier made to fit vehicles with rear-mounted spare tires) for $215 (source). 

JetLift Hitch Hauler

This PWC hauler is both versatile and tastefully-designed. There are only three components to the carrier which can be easily assembled and installed, then taken apart for storage if needed.

The rails can be adjusted to many different settings to accommodate the size and needs of the PWC. It is rated to carry up to 500 pounds.

The carrier and components are constructed from steel and standard powder-coated in black.

The rails are coated with the SwiftSkins technology to decrease the risk of abrasions to the PWC. The options for rail color include red, blue, black, orange, gold, or platinum.

This hauler starts at $485 and has the option to upgrade to a custom color (source). 

Photo of a Jet lift hitch hauler jet ski transport

Magneta Trailers Receiver Hitch Carrier

Magneta Trailers offers two types of hitch haulers for stand-up PWCs. Both fit a standard 2-inch receiver hitch and have a rating for 350 pounds with a Class 2 hitch and 500 pounds with a class 3 hitch.

The carrier has a black powder coat finish, and the rails are carpeted to avoid scratches to the PWC.

The standard receiver hitch carrier connects directly to the receiver. It holds the PWC at a height designed to keep the PWC safe and secure (retails at $425, including shipping). 

Magneta Trailers also manufactures a hitch carrier with a built-in jack. It can be adjusted to three different height settings using a hand crank for a convenient way to load and unload the PWC.

The retail price, including shipping, is $725 (source). 

Rad Dudes Freestyle Innovations Hitch Hauler

Rad Dudes’ hitch hauler was designed to make the transportation and movement of a stand-up PWC easier than using a trailer or truck bed.

It has been fitted to a variety of trucks and SUVs, including Jeeps and other vehicles with spare tires on the back.       

This hitch hauler allows for a convenient way for one person to load and unload a PWC to and from the water, ground, or shop stand.

The frame is constructed of steel and powder-coated black. Straps are the only additional item needed to hold down the PWC.

The carrier can be purchased for $250, with the option to have it powder-coated with another color for an additional $100 (source).   

Handmade Fab Hitch Hauler

These PWC carriers are built from steel with stainless steel hardware. They also feature carpeted rails to protect the PWC. 

The base model has four tie-down loops, sells for $185, and is intended for transporting the PWC short distances.

The 2.0 version has two tie down loops, a nose stabilizer with bow stop, and sells for $225.

The HMF Hauler 3.0 also includes two tie-down loops as well as the nose stabilizer with bow stop, sells for $265, and is equipped with a hitch receiver and two safety chain loops (source). 

Benefits of PWC Hitch Haulers

Hitch haulers are manufactured to connect directly to an existing hitch receiver on a vehicle.

They provide a simple and reliable way of transporting a PWC to and from bodies of water and storage facilities.  

Due to the fewer number of parts and basic design, hitch carriers allow for a virtually painless installation process.

No matter which company one chooses, a printed installation guide, installation video, or both are included with purchase.

Additionally, since many of these companies are smaller, owners are available to answer any question and help troubleshoot issues.

Not only are hitch haulers easy to install, but they are also a convenient way for one person to load and unload a PWC.

The more expensive models are equipped with a jack for raising the PWC for transportation and lowering for unloading. 

Even if the carrier does not come with a built-in jack, getting the PWC on and off the rails is not a difficult experience.

The towing vehicle can be backed down a dock and the PWC unloaded directly into the water. For loading and unloading the PWC, a beach cart with wheels or stand is useful if there is only one rider present.

Choosing a hitch hauler over a traditional trailer also cuts down on the necessary components for transportation.

The lack of wheels eliminates the risk of getting a flat tire. 

The purchase of additional tags is necessary for a trailer. However, vehicle license plates can be mounted to the hauler or the carrier can be installed in a manner where the existing plates are visible.

LED lights can be purchased to add to the back of the hauler for added safety. As long as the tail lights on the vehicle are visible, no extra lighting is needed. 

Many hitch haulers come equipped with an additional hitch receiver on the back for towing behind the hauler.

This feature can come in handy if an owner wishes to tow another boat, recreational vehicle, or other large items.

The Downside of PWC Hitch Haulers

Even though hitch haulers were created to simplify PWC ownership, there are a few negative aspects as well. 

Unless a rider is buying a used carrier or building one on his or her own, they will cost at least a few hundred dollars, if not more.

Upgrades in materials and capabilities can drive the price up over $700. 

There are also extra expenses associated with hitch haulers. To load the PWC onto the rails from storage, a shop, or garage, a beach cart will need to be purchased if riding alone.

The help of an additional person can eliminate this need, but may not always be readily accessible.   

If the means for securing a PWC to the hauler are not included, ratchet straps will need to be acquired before transporting the PWC.

Straps are a fairly negligible expense, but also include the risk of chipping the paint on the PWC.

Hitch carriers can also be extremely rough on the towing vehicle. Issues with suspension and tire wearing have been reported from the added weight and downward pull from carrying a PWC in this manner.

Modifications for weight distribution might be necessary depending on the existing suspension kit and towing capacity.

Vehicle hitches have maximum weight capacities that are calculated based on the assumption that the added weight will be balanced on a ball mount (as is the case with a trailer).

When the PWC weight is instead connected directly to the vehicle, a lever effect is created. The weight pulls the vehicle down. This added stress can damage the towing vehicle if the load is not correctly distributed. 

Owners must also be careful to ensure both the license plate and tail lights are visible when a PWC is mounted on the hauler.

Other drivers need to be able to see the tail lights for safety, and state laws mandate that tags be visible on all vehicles.

Other Hauling Methods

Hitch haulers are just one of a few ways to transport a PWC.

The towing capacity of the vehicle, the weight of the PWC, or other restrictions can help determine which method of transportation is best for each owner and watercraft.

The most popular way to transport a PWC is to use a trailer.

Trailers come in a variety of sizes, can accommodate many different types of watercraft, and distribute weight more evenly to cause less damage to the towing vehicle.  

Trailers can be manufactured using steel or aluminum components. Steel trailers usually come powder-coated and are cheaper than aluminum.

Unless the steel is galvanized, the trailer can become rusty, especially if used in saltwater. 

Aluminum trailers are more expensive than their steel counterparts but tend to last longer and add less weight to the hitch.

The aluminum construction helps the trailer stand up to harsh saltwater better since it is less prone to corrosion.  

Ironton Light Personal Watercraft Aluminum Trailer On Amazon

PWC trailers come in a variety of sizes. Single trailers are the smallest type, can be pulled by cars as well as larger vehicles, and fit comfortably in garages.

Double trailers also offer many conveniences, including the ability to launch two PWCs at one time easily. Owners also have the option to purchase even larger trailers.

Still, towing capacities and storage size restrictions must be taken into account (source). 

Transporting a PWC in a truck bed is another option. Utilizing a component called a deck or platform, owners can load and unload a PWC without a hitch receiver.

Additionally, cargo space is not compromised as items can be stored under the deck.

The majority of truck bed deck options come with tie-down points and cradles to keep the PWC safe and secure.

Additional purchase options include ramps for easily moving watercraft and winches to securely hold and release the PWC.  

Final Thoughts

When buying a personal watercraft, owners need to purchase a way to transport the PWC to and from the water and storage.

Hitch haulers are one way to make moving, loading, and unloading a PWC more convenient for a single operator. 

A hitch hauler could be an ideal fit if the towing vehicle has the capacity to handle the load, there is an existing hitch receiver on the vehicle, and there is only one lighter-weight PWC needing to be towed.

As is the case with any purchase, determining the needs beforehand will make for a more satisfied customer.

Articles contain affiliate links to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. The site is also an affiliate for other brands covered in our the content. We may earn a small commission when readers purchase through these links at no extra cost to the buyer.

Tim Conner, M.D.

Tim Conner, M.D. started boating in 1974. He has been involved in recreational boating continuously since then. Dr. Conner has been active in boating and watersports safety education for decades. He rode his first jet ski in 1997, and rejoined the personal watercraft arena in 2012 with a Sea-Doo GTX 155, followed by 2 supercharged SeaDoos. Scuba certification came in 1988, and he and the family have traveled the world snorkeling and scuba diving for decades. The family has recently taken up paddle boarding. Click the photo for a lot more.

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