How to Choose the Right Boat Cover Type for Your Boat (video)

Boat owner covering boat

Owning a boat is a major investment. A boat is also your best friend when you're on the water. And, as with all cherished items, you want to protect and prolong your boats value, maintaining its condition for the pride and happiness it provides.

But many boaters fail to realize the benefit of a boat cover. Instead, these individuals are content with soggy crafts and washed-out carpets, as well as dirt, grime and dust.

boat with boat cover
A boat cover with a built-in ultra-violet (UV)
inhibitor will prolong the life of your cover by
preventing the sun from breaking down the

Boat covers are an inexpensive necessity for those that spend time on the water. From deterring theft to keeping your craft clean, these polyester or poly-cotton blend covers are truly the real deal. Follow along and find out which boat cover type is right for you.

TIP: Boating Essentials Under $25

Boat Covers Have Many Uses

Boat covers have many uses, some obvious and some not. Keeping a boat clean and dirt-free is first on the list. By repelling water and moisture, your interior will remain dry and free of mold. (How many of us want to get comfy on a soggy seat or a slippery deck?)

  • A cover will also keep out all airborne dust, dirt and grime. Common contaminants include dust from the road, falling leaves from a tree, and the droppings of birds.
  • The ultra-violet rays from the sun can also be harmful to your pride and joy. Sunshine can zap the color from carpets, turning once vibrant hues to pale and lifeless fabric. The sun also has an uncanny way of breaking down rubber components, causing cracks and weaknesses on many of a boat's parts -- not a positive thing for gas lines or hoses!
  • A snug-fitting cover can also keep animals out of your boat, especially nesting mammals and rodents that like the comfort of your storage compartments or the space beneath your deck. For animals that love to chew on wires (think squirrel) a cover can save valuable time and money.
  • Humans are also prone to pry their sticky fingers into an unoccupied boat, and a boat cover can act as a great deterrent to theft. Remember, it isn't too hard to carry away a gas tank, battery or paddles from a boat left sitting on the drive or away at camp, but a secure cover might just be enough to make them pass by your boat.
  • Most boat covers can be tied down to your boat trailer for travel, allowing your boat to arrive at the launch in pristine condition. No wet interiors, dusty carpets or sun damage while pulling your craft down the road, completely covered and snug as a bug.

Which is Best, Custom or Universal Boat Cover?

TRACKER V-Hull Boat Cover
TRACKER V-Hull Boat Cover by Dowco

Boat covers can be purchased in one of two ways. You can buy a custom-fit cover, designed and tailor-made for the exact make, model and year of your boat. Or you can go with a universal style boat cover, a generic model that will fit the measurements you take of your watercraft. Both have merits, and for some owners, there is only one choice. Here is the skinny on the two.

Custom Boat Covers

As I mentioned, custom covers are manufactured to the exact standards of a particular model of boat. Some boat companies like White River Marine Group can help you create a custom boat cover for any of the boat brands they manufacture.  Call your local Bass Pro Shops Boating Center or Cabela’s to order or Dowco Marine for additional information.

A custom fit boat cover takes into consideration the console style, length, width, beam and various other measurements of your boat to give you an outer shell that will truly fit like a glove. No other cover will provide as much protection or as tight a seal as a custom cover -- there is no two ways about it.

boat cover weathersafe
Bass Pro Shops WeatherSafe Storage Tite Boat Covers

The advantages to a custom boat cover are straightforward -- tight fit with no looseness or flapping, built-in areas to house consoles and other raised parts and reinforced areas at critical stretch points. The cost of a custom cover will be more than a universal cover, but if you want the best cover for your boat, custom is your best choice.

Universal Boat Covers

A universal cover takes into consideration the center-line length and beam width of your boat. (To provide a better fit, some manufacturers also take hull style into consideration.) 

boat cover centerline length  measurementIf your boat measures 15' in length, and has a 70-inch beam width, the Bass Pro Shops WeatherSafe Storage Tite Boat Covers is one option to look at. But, notice the parameters involved in the description. This cover will fit boats between 14 and 20-feet, with a beam up to 100-inches.

Universal boat covers are especially useful for those that desire inexpensive protection. They are significantly cheaper than a custom cover, and they do accomplish boat cover beam width measure the wides point of your boatthe job they are designed for. For
some boat owners a universal is the only option, as a custom cover is not available to fit the particular brand and size of boat they own. In this instance, search out the highest quality cover with the closest specifications that you desire. This will bring about the best results.

How to Measure Your Boat for a Cover

Measure your boat's center-line length in a flat, straight line from the bow tip to the farthest point aft. (Do not measure up and over windshields, etc.) Add length for options you want to cover, such as bow pulpits, trolling motors and swim platforms.

boat slat
Boat cover supports will help prevent
sagging and water pooling

Measure beam width (widest area of boat) in a straight, flat line from side to side. (Note: the windshield area is the widest point on some boats, while the transom is the widest on other boats.) Beam width and center-line length are all you'll need to purchase most universal fit covers. You'll also need to know you're boat's hull style (V-hull fishing boat, pro bass boat, center console, jon boat, etc.) when purchasing Semi Custom Covers -- a cover somewhere in-between custom fit and universal fit.

Boat Cover Accessories & Features 

Boat Cover Support Pole
Camco Anti-Pooling Boat Cover Support Pole

This list represents some common traits that are desirable in a boat cover. The more features you can check off while evaluating a prospective boat cover, the better off you will be.

Tip: Prevent debris and pooling water on your boat cover that have costly outcomes with the Camco Anti-Pooling Boat Cover Support Pole, a rugged telescoping pole that hoists your boat cover for better protection.

Tip: Taylor Made One-Piece Fiberglass Boat Cover Support Bows are rugged and simple to cut for a custom fit.

Boat Cover Support Pole
Camco Anti-Pooling Boat Cover Support Pole
  • UV and Mildew Resistant — A cover with a built-in ultra-violet (UV) inhibitor will help protect your cover by not allowing the sun to break down the material. It will also keep the fabric colorful and looking new. By being mildew resistant, any moisture that remains on the cover will not initiate the process of mold production.
  • Reinforced Seams and Corners — These are important as seams and corners take a lot of abuse, through stretching and pulling. Having multiple layers of fabric in these critical areas will ensure that your cover will not rip or pull apart throughout it's life.
  • Water Resistant and Repellent — A boat cover is virtually useless if it does not resist and repel water. Although it may seem like common sense to believe all
    Boat Cover Support Pole  
    Bass Pro Shops Adjustable Aluminum Boat
    Cover Support Pole
    covers are made this way, you may be surprised to find that they realistically aren't. Stay away from these bad apples.
  • Elastic Bow Strap — This nifty invention will enable the bow portion of the cover to fit snug and secure. Holding the bow portion tight will ensure that the rest of the cover falls neatly into place.

  • Boat Cover Support — If you store your boat outdoors during the winter, you'll want to invest in a boat cover support pole like the Bass Pro Shops Adjustable Boat Cover Support Pole. These handy easy to use inexpensive devices create a high point on your cover to help prevent water and debris pockets from forming.
  • Trailerable — If you want a cover that can be used while trailering your boat, make sure that it is of the trailerable variety. A trailerable cover will come with special straps to ensure the cover stays secure and in place, and not at the side of the road.
  • Tie-Down Straps — Most covers will have elasticized webbing, with a series of straps to hold the cover on. When choosing your cover, ensure that the straps are strong and capable of doing the job. Flimsy straps, belts or hooks will only lead to breakage.
  • Light Weight — Taking a cover on and off a boat can be a bit of task, especially if your chosen cover weighs a
    Outboard Motor Covers
    Bass Pro Shops
    Mercury Outboard
    Motor Covers
    ton. Most manufacturers make lightweight covers that are easy on the back and can be folded down nicely for storage.
  • Outboard Motor Hood — Some models of boat covers have built-in motor hoods for outboards. This is a neat concept, as it protects your boat motor from sun and water damage, and will keep the unit looking brand new. Although these motor hoods can be purchased separately, it is a convenience to have it built directly into the main cover.
  • Warranty — Most reputable manufacturers will offer a warranty on their products. If a company doesn't, it may indicate a less than stellar product.
  • Material — The three main fabrics used in boat covers are polyester, poly-cotton blend and polyester-canvas. three work well, last long and will do the job nicely. 100% polyester is at the top of the class, as it offers the most advantages in terms of no stretch, no shrinkage and water resistance. If deciding on a poly-cotton blend, try to get the highest percentage of polyester in the mixture of the two materials. Cotton or cotton-canvas blends are not as trustworthy, and can stretch or breakdown, so many see this material as a poor choice in comparison to poly.
  • Colors — Boat covers can come in every color under the sun. Mainly a personal choice for this category, as most hues are all on a level playing field. (Black may be one to pass over, as the heat build-up under the cover may do possible damage to electronic components.)
boat fabric cleaner
Bass Pro Shops Fabric Cleaner
and Protectant

Shop Boat Cover Accessories & Tie Downs at Bass Pro Shops

Cleaning Your Boat Cover

A little care can go a long way in making your cover last a lifetime. It is a good idea to periodically wash down the fabric with a mild soap and water solution in order to keep your cover looking vibrant and dirt free. I have found this best accomplished by laying the cover out on the lawn or drive, and using a regular mop and bucket for the application of suds.

Mildew Stain Remover
Star Brite Mildew Stain Remover

Shop boat cleaning supplies and organization at Bass Pro here

A garden hose or power wash can then be used to rinse it all off. Boat covers will get dirty over time, and simple maintenance like this can go a long way.

Tip: Whether spot cleaning or treating large areas, Star brite Fabric Cleaner with PTEF is perfect for cleaning boats, cars, RVs, and your home.

When not using your cover, a storage bag is a great buy. It will keep you cover neat and folded and in a secure space away from the elements. (Much better than a balled-up heap sitting in the back of the garage or shed!) This is an inexpensive purchase that can definitely prolong the life of your cover.

Tip: Perfectly formulated for boats, RVs, cars, trucks, and campers, Star brite Mildew Remover uses a special buffered formula unlike anything else on the market to eradicate mildew from vinyl seats, cushions, tops, and covers.

Although we put a lot of time into the selection process of a boat, choosing a boat cover is usually an afterthought, or is given no thought at all. A boat cover is an important piece of protection that will keep your boat looking fresh and brand new. And that's what we all want for our "best friends" that live out on the water.

Watch Video: How to Clean and Maintain Your Canvas by PowerBoat TV