What is a winch? This useful tool provides pulling power to get your vehicle out of a stuck situation. It’s especially helpful when traveling off-road and comes in a variety of styles. Winches are also used in boating situations, to be mounted on the boat trailer. We will review every type of winch, so you can find one, no matter what tasks you have planned for it.


Preview

Product

Rated Line Pull

Gear Ratio

Check Price

Superwinch 1511200 Tiger Shark 11.5, 12 VDC...

Superwinch 1511200

Tiger Shark

11,500 lbs.

218:1

WARN 68801 16.5ti Series Electric 12V...

WARN 68801

16,500 lbs.

315:1

Champion 3000-lb. ATV/UTV Winch Kit

Champion

3,000 lbs.

171:1

Tungsten4x4 T12000S Offroad 12000 lbs Load...

Tungsten T12000S

Offroad

12,000 lbs.

265:1

Fulton FW32000101 F2 Two-Speed Trailer Winch...

Fulton

FW32000101 F2

3,200 lbs.

N/A

Superwinch 1145220 Terra 45 ATV & Utility...

Superwinch 1145220

Terra 45

4,500 lbs.

191:1

Superwinch 1135220 Terra 35 3500lbs/1591kg...

Superwinch 1135220 Terra 35

3,500 lbs.

140:1

MinnKota Deckhand 40 Electric Anchor Winch...

MinnKota Deckhand

40 Electric 

40 lbs.

N/A

Smittybilt 9500 lb 97495 XRC GEN2 Winch-9500...

Smittybilt 97495 XRC GEN2

9,500 lbs.

161:28:1

Mile Marker 70-52000C H Series Hydraulic...

Mile Marker

70-52000C H Series

12,000 lbs.

6:1

WARN 885000 PullzAll Corded 120V AC Portable...

WARN 885000

Corded PullzAll

1,000 lbs.

153:1


Why Quality Winches Are Worth Investing In

Winches are useful for a multitude of purposes. You will want one if you get stuck because the winch can quickly pull you out. It also helps you maintain a controlled and steady movement when you need to progress slowly. If you want to recover another vehicle, the winch will prove to be invaluable. Plus, when you use a snatch block, you can even use the winch at a 90-degree angle for even more versatility. If you don’t invest in a high-quality winch, you are putting yourself in danger while in these situations.


Features to Look for in a Good Winch

Pulling Power

The most vital factor of a winch is its weight rating. Most experts suggest that you take the overall weight of the vehicle you will be pulling and multiply it by at least 1.5. This criterion allows for any accessories the vehicle has, the additional cargo (including passengers), and the parasitic power draw that occurs during operation.

Weight/Vehicle Compatibility

You also want to look at the type of vehicle you will be using it with. You won't use the same winch on a Jeep as you would on an ATV. Not only do these vehicles contain varying weights, but the mounting and usage will also be different. Pick the best winch for your vehicle, whether it be a car, boat, UTV, truck, or trailer.

Power Source & Winch Type

Most winches are operated with an electric motor. These are efficient and powerful. Still, some winches are run by hydraulic power. While this can run indefinitely at full power, it does require that your vehicle has a hydraulic system. With an electric winch, you have to watch the duty cycle to ensure that the motor doesn’t overheat.

Cabling & Line Length

You have the option between two types of cable. Many people choose the metal wire or cable, but there is also a synthetic cable or rope available. We will discuss these options more in-depth later. The other aspect to consider is the line length. Does it reach far enough to accomplish your tasks?

Winch Drivetrains

When you start the winch, the drivetrain is what's responsible for sending the power from the motor onto the wire. This drivetrain is constructed from gears. You will find several types of gears, each providing its own line speed and gear ratio. You will find winches with planetary gears, worm gears, and spur gears.

Mounting System

You have to look at how the winch is mounted to ensure it will work with your vehicle. There is usually a bolt mounting pattern that you need to follow. In addition, you want to find out if the mounting hardware comes with the winch. Otherwise, you will be buying this equipment separately, which further increases the overall cost.

Safety

When you use a winch, you need to put safety first. Because your winch is responsible for pulling heavy objects, there is some additional equipment you will want to have. Consider a snatch block, a short chain, "D" shackles, a shovel, and a tree trunk protector to make operation as safe as possible.

Extra Features

Among the extra features you can find with a high-quality winch, you must know that each one adds to the cost of your equipment. Consider which options you need if you have to work on a budget. You can find a winch cover, fairleads, remote mounted/rocker switch, and free spooling clutch.

Price & Warranty

As you evaluate the best winch brands, you will pay more for quality. However, these higher-end winches will hold up over time, making them a better value. Another aspect to consider is the warranty that comes with the winch. You want additional protection against manufacturer defects, so try not to go with anything less than a year.


11 Best Winches Reviewed

1. Superwinch 1511200 Tiger Shark

Best Winch for Jeeps

Rated Line Pull

11,500 lbs.

Rope/Cable

84’ Steel

Fairlead

Roller

Gear Ratio

218:1

Mounting Bolt Pattern

10" x 4.5"

Warranty

Yes, 2-year

If you are heading off-road, you likely want the best winch for a Jeep. Superwinch is a leader in the industry and knows how to make a dependable winch. This Jeep winch features a powerful, weather-sealed six horsepower motor that prevents dust, rain, and snow from entering the system. In addition, the weather-sealed solenoid is also kept away from the elements, so you don’t have to worry about damage.

With the heavy-duty rubber handheld remote, you can safely operate the winch from a distance. You can expect the durable stainless steel roller fairlead to take care of the cable for many years of service. It’s finished with a brushed exterior to keep the wire safe from abuse. Furthermore, it features an ergonomically shaped free-spool control, that is comfortable to operate and simple to grip.

This particular model is rated for 11,500 pounds, but there are other options. You can choose a 9,500-lb winch or go with the synthetic rope model instead. While the price for this winch is competitive, you are getting a two-year warranty with the equipment. That provides the additional peace of mind you need while pulling heavy-objects. With this highly-rated winch, you can get out of any tough situation with ease.

Pros

  • Durable
  • Strong cable
  • Weather-sealed equipment
  • 2-year warranty

Cons

  • Price on the higher side

2. WARN 68801

Best Heavy-Duty Truck Winch

Rated Line Pull

16,500 lbs.

Rope/Cable

90’ Steel

Fairlead

Roller

Gear Ratio

315:1

Mounting Bolt Pattern

10" x 4.5"

Warranty

Yes, Limited lifetime

What do you do when you need heavy-duty lifting power? Looking toward the WARN brand is your best option. This company is one of the winch-producing leaders and the equipment is built to last. This WARN winch, in particular, will pull up to 16,500 pounds. That’s why it’s the ideal winch for pulling a heavy truck or SUV out of the mud.

The reason this winch is so powerful is that it comes equipped with a 12V 4.6-horsepower Gen II Series wound motor. Aside from that, this machine also includes a remote control with a 12-foot lead. This allows you to operate the machine safely from a distance. It's the best way to handle your heavy-duty jobs. Furthermore, it also includes a thermometric indicator, integrated flashlight, and S2 elements.

It also comes with a 90-foot long steel cable that is guaranteed to last for a long time. In fact, the company puts a limited lifetime warranty on the winch to prove its durability. This warranty only covers the electrical components for seven years, but that’s nothing worth being disappointed about. The only downside is the incredibly high price. But, with near-perfect reviews, it seems that customers believe it was worth the expense.

Pros

  • Meant for heavy-duty applications
  • Strong, long cable
  • Includes remote control
  • Limited lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Expensive

3. Champion

Best Value Winch for the Money

Rated Line Pull

3,000 lbs.

Rope/Cable

49’ Steel

Fairlead

Roller

Gear Ratio

171:1

Mounting Bolt Pattern

4.9” x 3”

Warranty

Yes, 2-year

If you don't need to pull anything heavy-duty, this low-cost winch should do the trick. It's constructed from Champion, so you know it will hold up under stress. It would even make for a perfect ATV winch without spending a lot of money. The maximum rated line pull is 3,000 pounds thanks to the one horsepower permanent magnet motor. It also includes an efficient planetary gear plus dynamic braking systems for safe operation.

With this winch, you also receive a 49-foot steel aircraft-grade cable along with a latched, rugged clevis hook. On top of that, this system includes a roller fairlead, handle-bar mounted remote control and mounting channel. The 171:1 gear reduction ratio allows this system to reach a line speed of 4.3-feet per minute on a full load, as well as 8.9-feet per minute without a load.

What’s most important about this unit is the price. It’s difficult to find anything priced as low as this model. In addition, it comes with a two-year limited warranty. That’s not all the company threw in, but you also get free lifetime technical support. The Champion winch reviews state that this support is actually quite helpful, so that’s just more value for your buck.

Pros

  • Low cost
  • Durable construction
  • Includes remote control
  • Lifetime support

Cons

  • Not for heavy-duty applications

4. Tungsten4x4 T12000S Offroad

Best 12,000 lb. Winch

Rated Line Pull

12,000 lbs.

Rope/Cable

73’ Synthetic Rope

Fairlead

Hawse

Gear Ratio

265:1

Mounting Bolt Pattern

10"x 4.5"

Warranty

Yes, 3-year

Another high-performance option comes from Tungsten4x4. This 12V winch has what you need for a variety of applications. The 6.5-horsepower wound motor is combined with a smooth-operating clutch lever for a seamless performance. It's rated to pull 12,000 pounds on a single line and is entirely waterproof. You won't have to worry about trudging through streams or getting stuck in the mud again.

Because it features a 73-foot synthetic rope, you also get a Hawse fairlead. Included in the package is also a wireless winch remote for safe operation. You can use this for cars, boat towing trailers, tractors, and light industrial applications. While the price is verging on the higher end of the scale, it provides exceptional value when you think about all the ways you can use this tool.

The simple fact that it pulls 12,000 pounds is enough to convince most people of the versatility. Plus, the reviews on this model back up the capability. It could very well be the best 12,000-pound winch for the money. Plus, you get a three-year warranty on the equipment, which is more than many other companies offer. All that’s left to do is decide how you are going to use it first.

Pros

  • Heavy-duty applications
  • Strong rope
  • Includes remote control
  • 3-year warranty

Cons

  • On the pricey side

5. Fulton FW32000101 F2

Best Boat Trailer Winch

Rated Line Pull

3,200 lbs.

Rope/Cable

20’ Strap

Fairlead

N/A

Gear Ratio

N/A

Mounting Bolt Pattern

10"x 4.5"

Warranty

Yes, Limited lifetime warranty

If you are looking for the best 4wd hand winch, you can’t ask for much more than the Fulton machine. This portable winch is rated to pull up to 3,200 pounds, so it’s perfect for taking on the boat or ATV. It features a one-handed system that quickly shifts from low to high speed, as needed. This hand crank winch also comes with a dual gear drum that is sure to provide smooth operation.

With this manual winch, you also receive a four-position handle that adjusts from six-inches to nine-inches with ease. This unit is constructed in one piece and is built with a corrosion-resistant aluminum frame. On top of that, when you purchase this highly-rated winch, you also get a strap guide, all of the mounting hardware, and a 20-foot heavy-duty winch strap. 

What’s most important is the low price that this unit offers. It’s perfect for someone that wants the peace of mind that comes with a winch without investing a small fortune to get one. Not only that, but it features a limited lifetime warranty for additional peace of mind. Because it is lightweight, you won’t have trouble mounting it on various equipment as you need it.

Pros

  • Low cost
  • Simple operation
  • Durable
  • Limited lifetime warranty

Cons

  • On the pricey side

6. Superwinch 1145220 Terra 45

Best UTV Winch

Rated Line Pull

4,500 lbs.

Rope/Cable

55’ Steel Wire

Fairlead

Roller

Gear Ratio

191:1

Mounting Bolt Pattern

3.0" x 6.66"

Warranty

Yes, Limited lifetime warranty

Again, we have another Superwinch option for you to consider. This one is rated at 4,500 pounds, but there are additional options with this model. There is also a 2,500- and 3,500-pound rated option available. While this one features a 55-foot steel wire rope, you could opt instead to purchase the synthetic rope unit. This particular model features a sealed 1.6-horsepower permanent magnet motor that produces a low amp draw and maximizes efficiency. In addition, it has a mechanical load holding combined with a dynamic brake for additional safety.

Along with the durable wire rope, you will find an ergonomic cam-action free spooling clutch with this machine. It also comes with a circuit breaker that’s protected as well as weather-sealed solenoid contact. With the four-way roller fairlead and heavy-duty latched hook, you can guarantee a long life. Even the company is willing to back that up with a lifetime limited warranty.

What you might notice is that the price is a little higher than you might expect for this size winch. However, you can't argue with the reviews that state this winch is one of the best on the market. Also, you know that the company continues to blow away the competition in terms of performance. If you want a winch that's going to last, you won't go wrong with the Superwinch.

Pros

  • Reliable brand
  • Weather-resistant construction
  • Easy operation
  • Limited lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Occasional defective packaging

7. Superwinch 1135220 Terra 35

Best ATV Winch

Rated Line Pull

3,500 lbs.

Rope/Cable

50’ Steel Wire

Fairlead

Roller

Gear Ratio

140:1

Mounting Bolt Pattern

3.0" x 6.66"

Warranty

Yes, Limited lifetime warranty

As stated in the last review, it’s not difficult to find the Superwinch in various ratings. This is another one you should consider if you only need 3,500 pounds of pulling power. It features many of the same aspects of the other model. Because of this, you can expect the same 1.6-horsepower magnet motor with maximum efficiency and low amp draw. You also get the mechanical load holding and a dynamic brake.

Again, you get a 50-foot steel wire rope plus the ergonomic cam-action free spooling clutch. Because the circuit breaker is protected, you can head off-road in the mud and streams without any worry. You also get a four-way roller fairlead, but remember, you can opt to choose the rope model instead. With the heavy-duty hook, you know this machine will stand the test of time.

Just imagine all of the ways you could use this winch with your ATV. It’s the ideal partner for hitting the trails. Plus, the company provides a limited lifetime warranty. The only downside is the price. You aren’t saving much over the cost of the higher capacity model. You might want to consider the upgrade for the small price. Join with the reviews and become another happy user.

Pros

  • Highly rated
  • Weather-resistant construction
  • Simple mounting
  • Limited lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Higher price

8. MinnKota Deckhand 40

Best Electric Boat Anchor Winch

Rated Line Pull

40 lbs.

Rope/Cable

100’ Nylon Rope

Fairlead

Hawse

Gear Ratio

N/A

Mounting Bolt Pattern

N/A

Warranty

Yes, 2-year

If you need the best electric boat winch, you’ll be happy to find this model from MinnKota. It handles forty pounds, which is perfect for your anchor. Add it to your fishing boat for maximum convenience and effortless operation. Because it runs on a 12-volt battery, you won’t have to exert any power of your own. You can mount this winch horizontally, which helps to stop the anchor from swinging.

It’s also pre-spooled with 100 feet of strong nylon rope, so you won’t have to do much to get started. With this construction, you can also count on the winch to pull up your anchor time after time. This kit comes with all of the mounting hardware you need and doesn’t take long to install. You can also use it with other MinnKota accessories.

The downside to this unit is that you have to purchase the 12-volt battery on top of the winch itself. This creates an expensive price for a mount that is only intended for the boat anchor. In fact, you are looking at a price similar to a heavy-duty winch when all is said and done. To counteract the price, the reviews are quite favorable, and the company provides a two-year warranty as well.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Durable construction
  • Long rope
  • Prevents anchor swing

Cons

  • Doesn’t come with battery

9. Smittybilt 9500 lb 97495 XRC GEN2

Best Winch for Car Trailer

Rated Line Pull

9,500 lbs.

Rope/Cable

94’ Steel Cable

Fairlead

Roller

Gear Ratio

161:28:1

Mounting Bolt Pattern

10.0 " x 4.5"

Warranty

Yes, Limited lifetime

This Smittybilt winch features 9,500-pounds of pulling power, but the company offers this model in other capacities as well. You can choose from the 12,000-, 15,500- and 17,500-pound winch as well. There’s even the option to purchase a model with the synthetic rope instead. This model comes with a 94-foot steel cable. In addition, the car winch features a 6.6-horsepower Amphibious moto with a three-stage planetary gear system.

The system itself is completely waterproof, with its state-of-the-art 500-amp solenoid. It even features a corded remote control for safe operation. Plus, this winch features a stylish black finish that’s sure to last. The kit itself includes all of the wiring you will need to complete the installation. Aside from the insane amount of positive reviews this winch comes with, it also features a reasonable price.

Plus, Smittybilt provides a limited lifetime warranty. You can get a replacement if something should go wrong that is related to the durability. When a company offers a guarantee to this magnitude, you know the organization is confident in what was built. Stick this winch on your car trailer for maximum pulling power. You will find numerous uses for it, which just further increases the value over time.

Pros

  • Reasonable price
  • Waterproof
  • Several capacities available
  • Limited lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Will need upgraded model for heavy-duty applications

10. Mile Marker 70-52000C H Series

Best Hydraulic Winch

Rated Line Pull

12,000 lbs.

Rope/Cable

100’ Steel Cable

Fairlead

Roller

Gear Ratio

6:1

Mounting Bolt Pattern

10.0 " x 4.5"

Warranty

Yes, 2-year

If you want a hydraulic winch with 12,000-pounds of pulling power, this Mile Marker model is a fantastic option. The winch operates independently from the solenoid control valve. This construction gives it addition freedom for a multitude of applications. You can mount it on the front or rear of your vehicle. In addition, you have the option to make it permanent or detachable, depending on what your needs are. You will be hard-pressed to find another unit with this kind of versatility.

As you use the vehicle's power steering system to generate power, you don't drain the battery. This unit is completely element-proof. You can take it in water, and you won't have to worry about corrosion. Furthermore, it comes with a 100-foot steel cable, reversible mounting, stainless steel tie bars, a ductile iron body, and two-speed spooling.

Now, to the downsides. The price of this winch is a little shocking. While we are sure it is worth it, not everyone is going to want to spend this much. We get it. Furthermore, it only comes with a two-year warranty. While that seems long and would be praised on most winches, it doesn’t seem like enough considering the higher price.

Pros

  • Maximum power
  • Element-proof
  • Strong cable
  • Lots of versatility

Cons

  • Expensive

11. WARN 885000 Corded PullzAll

Best Portable Winch

Rated Line Pull

1,000 lbs.

Rope/Cable

15’ Steel Cable

Fairlead

Roller

Gear Ratio

153:1

Mounting Bolt Pattern

N/A

Warranty

Yes, 1-year

Sometimes you need a winch to take on the go. It’s always wise to keep one in the car because you never know when you will need to pull something. Thankfully, WARN doesn’t just focus on heavy-duty winch models, but also created this portable option. Even though it is smaller, it is still durable and manufactured to the highest quality. It’s also extremely easy to use.

With no load, the line speed is 13.8 feet per minute, which is reasonably impressive. It will also lift or pull up to 1,000 pounds. With this model, you won't have to use those old fashioned come-a-long winches or chains. You can use this anywhere that you do construction jobs, plant maintenance, farm work, auto shop repairs, and home improvements. There's no limit to the ways you can make your life easier with a portable winch.

With the 110V power cord, you have what you need anywhere you have power. For the convenience of it, this tool doesn’t even cost that much. It’s considered a no-brainer to have on hand. Despite the lower price, the company still included a one-year warranty, so you have some additional guarantees. This is a great tool to have lying around, just in case.

Pros

  • Portable
  • Simple to use
  • Reasonable price
  • Many applications

Cons

  • Low pulling power

Determine the Right Winch Size

If you want the best truck winch, you simply take the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) and multiply that number by 1.5. For example, if your Jeep Rubicon has a GVWR of about 5,000 pounds, you would need a hitch that can handle at least 7,500 pounds, meaning you should probably look for an 8,000-lb winch. If you want additional power, you can always upgrade to a 9,000-lb winch instead.

As far as power sports go, the ratings are slightly different. For example, if you have a small ATV, under 300cc, a 1,500-lb winch should do the trick. With larger ATVs, you want a 2,500-lb winch or more. As you look at side-by-side vehicles, it makes more sense to use a 4,000-lb winch, especially if you plan to carry cargo.


Installation & Wiring Diagrams

If you want to install an electric winch, you will follow these steps.

  1. 1
    Locate the hitch on the vehicle’s front bumper.
  2. 2
    Use the winch mount to secure the equipment.
  3. 3
    Connect the wire to your battery for power.
  4. 4
    Install the power switch.
  5. 5
    Pretension the wire.
  6. 6
    Make sure the cable is tightly spooled.

You can also choose to install a winch in the bed of your pickup truck.

The instructions might be different based on your vehicle type and the model winch you purchase. It’s always best to read the instructions with the winch as well as look for guidance from the vehicle manufacturer. You can usually find the information on the manufacturer's website.


Installing & Loading a Boat with a Winch

To install a boat winch, you want to check the bolt pattern. The majority of them use a three-bolt pattern. Line up the mounting bolts and tighten them. For the most part, the instructions are similar to working with a vehicle. Make sure you crank the web strap on the drum. You want to keep it under tension, ensuring it is even and flat.

Here are some additional instructions on how to install a winch on a boat trailer.


Winching Techniques & Tips

The way you use a winch will depend on the type of vehicle you are using it on. Before you begin to use it, make sure to wear a quality pair of gloves so your hands don't get cut up. Then, find a sturdy tree or something you can anchor to. Disengage the winch lever to release the cable. Next, you will pull the cable to the anchor. Use your tree trunk protector and "D" shackles for additional safety. Hook your winch into the "D" shackle. Just make sure the tip is facing up. From here, turn the lever back to "engaged." Use your remote to start operating the winch.


Other Winch Parts & Accessories

If you plan to do heavy-duty winching operations, you will need some additional accessories. Consider winch accessories such as a choker chain, tree protector strap, snatch block, gloves, controllers, D-rings, a winch hook and fairleads. You will want to purchase these winching accessories on Amazon, where you can find the best selection at the lowest prices. 


Winching Terminologies Explained

  • Free Spooling 
    The spool is running freely with nothing to slow it down.
  • Mechanical vs. Dynamic Braking 
    Mechanical braking stops the line directly, while dynamic braking slows the line by reducing motor speed and creating traction.
  • Minimum Vehicle Requirements 
    This is the minimum winch you will be able to use with your vehicle.
  • Rated Line Speed
    This is how fast the line will pull back onto the spool with various loads.
  • Rated Line Pull 
    This refers to the maximum amount of weight the line can handle.
  • Thermal Rating (Duty Cycle)
    The duty cycle is how long the system can be active, represented by a percentage.
  • 1.5 GVW Rule of Thumb
    You want to multiply the GVWR of your vehicle by 1.5 to figure out what rate winch you need.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Steel Winch Cables vs. Synthetic Winch Ropes

Synthetic winch rope is safer than steel cable and tends to be lighter. The steel cable, on the other hand, stores energy. This can be dangerous if the cable snaps. This option has some advantages, though, as the cable doesn't kink as a rope will.

Trailer Winch vs. Anchor Winch – Which is best?

The trailer winch allows you to pull the boat onto your trailer while is it on the launching ramp. The anchor winch lets you pull the ship’s anchor or fishing trawl back onto the boat after use.

What is fairlead on a winch?

The fairlead is necessary for guiding the winch line. You have two types of fairleads to choose from. The roller fairlead is used with steel cable, while the hawse fairlead is to use with rope.

Do winches need maintenance and repairs?

Winches require very little maintenance. Just make sure it stays dry and clean to prevent corrosion. You should also inspect it before use to ensure there is no damage. If it is regularly exposed to the elements, take it apart occasionally and lubricate it. If the winch begins to make a grinding sound, you need to service and clean it right away.

How is winch capacity calculated?

You take the GVWR and multiply it by 1.5. This is the minimum rating you want your winch to have.

Do winches come with a mounting plate?

The majority of winches will include a winch mounting plate, but it’s always wise to read the specifications to be sure.

Can I replace the cable if it is damaged?

You can replace the cable on your winch. Just make sure you take necessary safety precautions, whether you are installing a new winch or replacing the cable in your existing model.

Where can I buy winch replacement parts?

The best place to buy winch replacement parts is on Amazon. You will find the largest selection at the lowest prices. If you can’t find what you need there, look at the manufacturer’s website instead.


Conclusion

For the most part, we recommend the Superwinch 1511200 Tiger Shark as the top winch model. It offers enough for most vehicle models, especially if you want to off-road in your Jeep. Otherwise, be sure to read through the other winch reviews to find the model that fits your needs.

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