Boat lift styles Advantages of free standing vs dock-mounted lifts


When it comes to protecting your boat investment and making launching and retrieving easier, installing a boat lift is one of the best decisions you can make. Boat lifts elevate your boat out of the water when not in use, keeping the hull clean and free of algae and marine growth. This protects the gelcoat and keeps your boat looking its best. Boat lifts also make launching significantly more accessible, allowing you to lower the boat into the water instead of wrestling it off a trailer. Find out the best info about boat lifts at Table Rock Lake.

When choosing a boat lift, one of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether you want a free-standing lift or a dock-mounted charge. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Here, we’ll look at the key differences to help you select the suitable model for your needs.

Free Standing Boat Lifts

As the name suggests, free-standing boat lifts are not attached to the dock. The structure consists of two guide posts secured in the seabed and cross braces above the water. The lift cradle is lowered down between the guide posts to raise and lower the boat.


Location is flexible – Free-standing lifts can be installed anywhere you have enough depth. This allows for positioning away from docks and swimmers.

Lift larger boats – Without a dock bearing weight; free-standing lifts can accommodate larger cruisers up to 40 feet. Weight capacity runs 6,000 to 30,000 lbs.

Adjustable height – Winches allow you to position the boat at the ideal waterline for boarding or engine access.

Lower cost – Free-standing lifts don’t require expensive dock modifications or reinforcement.

No dock damage – There is no attachment to risk damaging or putting added stress on the dock.


Boat access – With the boat parked away from the dock, you’ll need to use a small tender to access it.

Wind/wave action – Free-standing lifts provide less protection from wind and waves. Boats can sway and shift away from the ideal boarding position.

Dock-Mounted Boat Lifts

For dock-mounted lifts, the vertical lift poles attach directly to the dock. The dock structure supports the weight of the boat rather than just the water below.


Boarding access – With the boat parked against the dock, boarding, and offloading gear is much easier.

Protection – attachment to the dock provides more protection from wind and wave action.

Ideal for PWCs – Small docks and lifts are perfect for jet skis and other personal watercraft.

HOA friendly – For communities prohibiting free-standing structures, dock-mounted lifts comply with regulations.


Dock reinforcement – Docks may require additional pilings, bracing, and structural enhancement to support weight.

Limited capacity – Dock lifts max out at around 15-20,000 pound capacity for most models.

Fixed location – You lose the flexibility to position the lift for ideal conditions.

Higher cost – Reinforcing the dock and buying an integrated lift model adds expense.

The choice between a free-standing and dock-mounted boat lift largely depends on your specific conditions. Consider access, location, boat size, dock construction, and local regulations. And consult with a marine contractor to ensure proper installation for the lift style you select. With the right lift, you’ll protect your investment while making boating much more convenient.

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