Boat Weight Myth VS. Reality: Boat weight compared to lift capacity

August 21, 2018

There are two separate weights to any boat; wet weight and dry weight. Dry weight is the weight of a boat without any fluids or accessories added. This is the way that it comes from the factory. Wet weight, on the other hand, is after all fluids and accessories have been added to the boat. When purchasing a boat lift, it is required to know the wet weight of the boat to accurately size the lift. One important point to remember is that the listed weight capacity on the lift must be treated as a max weight. Exceeding the weight capacity of the lift will void any manufactures warranty. Overloading the lift and relying on the safety factor to protect your investment always results in a service call and more expenses for the owner. For the longevity of the lift and integrity of your boat, it is always better to go bigger than to overload and possibly cause catastrophic failure.


The wet weight of a boat is relatively easy to determine. Gas weighs approximately 7 pounds per gallon. To find how much weight the gas adds to the overall weight of the boat, multiply the fuel tank capacity by 7. For example, a 2018 22’ Key West 219FS Center Console weighs approximately 2,250 pounds without motor (with 250 hp outboard, add approximately 750 pounds with rigging). This particular boat has an 80 gallon fuel tank, so the gas will add 560 pounds (80 x 7). Another factor to consider is if the boat has one or multiple live wells. Water weighs approximately 8 pounds per gallon. The same steps would apply for the live wells as does the gas. Using the same example boat, there is a 20 gallon live well, so an additional 160 pounds (20 x 8) would be added to the dry weight of the boat. If the boat has a shower station, onboard bathroom, and/or cooler, the tank capacities would need to be multiplied by 8; the same as the 20 gallon live well was in the example. This brings the weight of the example boat up to 3,720 pounds with motor, gas, and water accounted for.


The other thing to consider when finding the wet weight is additional accessories and fitting out the boat. Fitting out the boat would include: bimini tops or any other sun/fishing tops, extra seating, fishing gear, towers, generators/AC, etc. Provided additional accessories aren’t heavy additions (such as a tender or davit for larger boats), it is typical to take 15% of the wet weight of the boat to account for these accessories. In the example boat’s case, this would be an additional 558 pounds (3,720 x .15).


This bring the grand total WET weight of a 2018 22’ Key West 219FS Center Console to approximately 4,278 pounds. This was found by adding up all weights (2,250 [boat] + 750 [outboard] + 560 [gas] + 160 [water] + 558 [gear]). So again, to review; to find the wet weight of a boat, take the dry weight of the boat + the weight of the motor + the weight of fuel (tank capacity x 7) + the weight of water (tank capacity x 8) + gear (weight of boat with all tanks full x 15%).


Once an approximated wet weight is determined and a lift is purchased, a few other factors also play into safe and proper operation of the lift. Although there is a built in safety factor, it is not recommended that these limits be exceeded. There is a greater chance for damage to the lift, boat/watercraft, and individuals the more these limits are exceeded. Another factor to consider is weight distribution. Boat lifts are designed to lift weight equally both forward to aft, and port to starboard. If the boat is loaded even 1’ off of center, this changes the weight distribution by 40%, possibly causing undue wear and damage to the lifter beams, bunks, cables, and even to the piling.


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Game Dev Weekly. (June 2, 2017). Boat Lift Operation: What You Need to Know for Your Safety. Retrieved from


Garber Metrology. (n.d.). Gas and Water: In Equal Measure. Retrieved from


Helmenstine, Anne. (August 30, 2017). How Much Does a Gallon of Water Weigh? Easy Calculation. Retrieved from


Key West Boats. (n.d.). 219FS. Retrieved from


Pascoe, David. (n.d.). Boat Secifications: Length, Weights and Other Trivia. Retrieved from


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