Our Top 10 Best Boat Ladders Reviewed | Best Marine Products

Best Boat Ladder – Top 10 Reviewed

Best Boat Ladder

Each component of your boat determines your overall experience when you’re out on the water. Below we’ll discuss a part you may not have given much thought to, but which is essential to your next outing; boat ladders.

Which one should you invest in? We’ll help you make an informed decision.

About Boat Ladders

A boat ladder, or boarding ladder as boating enthusiasts call it, is a ladder that allows boaters to get in and out of the boat without getting their feet wet, directly from the pontoon or dinghy.

What if You Don’t Have a Boat Ladder?

They’re very handy and you don’t have to swim or use a dinghy to get in. If you like water sports like wakeboarding or diving, they’re nifty tools for getting in and out of the water easily. It’s also a vital safety feature allowing quick access to the water or onto the boat when rescuing someone who went overboard.

So, if you don’t have one yet, it may be the investment to make this year.

What Ladder Should You Use?

Type

There is such a great variety to choose from and your ideal purchase largely depends on what you need it for and what your budget will allow. Ladders come in varying lengths and can be rigid, retractable, foldable or even roll-up rope ladders.

Let’s take a brief look at the main ladder types:

  • Dive: Easily detaches and is well suited to skiing and scuba diving.
  • Platform: Requires a sturdy boat platform and is great for all water sports.
  • Pontoon: Specially designed to help you climb in and out of the boat from the pontoon. They often clip over the boat’s handrail.
  • Portable: Are just that: you can cart them around. They’re usually very lightweight and foldable, for example, a rope ladder.
  • Boat swim: They are generally short and easy to port and pack away. They’re practical where space saving is important
  • Transom: Very similar to platform ladders but they have the added benefit of being able to flip out or they will be retractable/telescopic.

Length

They’re usually available in 2, 3, or 4 step lengths, determined by the distance from the deck to the water. We recommend allowing for having two steps below the water line, helping swimmers to climb in and out easily.

Foldable and retractable ladders are great space savers or use a rope ladder on dinghies. Also, look for rungs with non-skid treads on steps instead of stainless steel: they’re far safer and you’re unlikely to slip off.

Important warning: don’t install a ladder too close to the hull because you don’t want to crush fingers and toes.

Hoffen Telescopic 4 Step Ladder Stainless Steel Telescoping Extendable Ladder 600 Pound Capacity for Marine Yacht/Swimming Pool

Weight Rating

You also have to consider weight ratings and estimate the traffic. Scuba divers, for instance, carry hefty equipment in and out of the water adding many pounds to their overall weight. Make sure your ladder is weight-rated sufficiently.

Here’s a practical example: the average male in the US weighs around 200lb. Your average scuba kit including tanks, breathing apparatus, wetsuit, weight belt, and accessories will total 40 to 50 pounds. That’s a combined weight of 250lb, so your ladder must be able to consistently bear that load in high traffic, without breaking and so injuring people or damaging the boat.

Materials

Most ladders are either aluminum or stainless-steel as these substances are impervious to rusting. Use stainless steel fasteners for the same reason.

Aluminum or stainless-steel will work perfectly well in both salt and freshwater. Although stainless steel is the more expensive of the two, it’s a better investment. A quality stainless-steel won’t even tarnish, where aluminum may, although it’s not critical.

We don’t recommend using ladders with timber steps as they tend to rot quickly and can cause injury as a result.

Make sure that there are rubber protectors secured at the contact point with the boat, preventing scuffing and damage to the hull, especially when using folding or retractable ladders. 

Installing Your Boat Ladder

Remember to prepare for installation well, such as having all tools on hand, so your DIY task isn’t of low quality. This can put people’s lives at risk.

You’re going to install the ladder on the boat’s transom. This is either the flat of the stern of the horizontal beam reinforcing the stern, whichever is best for your desired ladder length.

Let’s look at a handy step-by-step guide on how to install the ladder.

Step 1

First, determine where you want to install it and how far the ladder must dip below the waterline when the boat is at rest. You can layout the drill points and other markers with a soft, easily erasable pencil or cover the area in marking tape. This prevents you from scratching the surface.

Step 2

When marking out your areas, make sure the overall width of the ladder is well away from the boat’s motor. Then draw an outline of the ladder on the transom.

Step 3

Make sure that you’re not drilling through anything important on the other side of the transom, such as electrical wires or ballasts. If so, reposition the ladder.

Step 4

Now we determine the height. Keeping inside the general outline of the ladder, position the ladder with two rungs below the water level.

Step 5

Clearly mark where the drill points are going to be. The mounting plate will have pre-drilled holes and you can simply mark the drill points through them. Always double-check your position and marks before you start drilling.

Step 6

Select the right drill bit: the bit needs to be at least as wide as the bolt fastener. It also needs to suit the material:

  • Use PVC/timber drill bits for fiberglass
  • Use metal bits for metal

Rather use a battery-powered drill; you don’t want electrical cables all over the place when working near water. Be sure to wear protective goggles just in case and now you can drill the holes carefully.

Step 7

Lastly, pump sufficient sealant into the drill holes. Then mount the bracket securing the bolts with a double nut configuration or use a locking nut.

Check the sealant instructions: they’ll indicate the time to dry.

Then you can secure the ladder, and you’re ready to go.

Our Top Picks

1. Marine MFRS Stainless Steel Pontoon Boat Ladder


This high-quality self-supporting stainless-steel 4-step ladder is superbly designed to withstand harsh marine conditions. It’s easy to clean and maintain.

Its telescopic fold-away ladder is a great space saver with the steps coated in moulded black vinyl tread for extra safety. Boarding is made easy with a comfortable grip diameter and high handrails. The rear entry ladder is mounted on quick release brackets.

  • Warranty: 3 Year Limited
  • Construction: Heavy-duty all-welded 316 stainless steel round tubing to marine grade 
  • Installation: Directly to deck
  • Weight capacity: 400lb
  • Mounting screws: Not included
Dimensions:
  • Ladder: 1.5" diameter seamless welded stainless steel
  • Steps: 2” thick with traction rubber coating
  • Handle Height: 19"
  • Ladder Length: 43", extended
  • Ladder Width: 15.3"
  • Distance to first step: 10.5"
  • Step distance: 10"
  • Fastener Hole: 1/4"

2. Amarine Made 3 Step Stainless Steel Telescoping Boat Ladder


Here is another stainless-steel 4-step ladder that won’t waste much time when it’s time for cleaning your gear. We were also impressed with this rear entry ladder because it’s mounted on quick-release hinged brackets. They can fold away with ease.

Its sleek design enables it to also be used as a pontoon or low-dock profile ladder.

  • Warranty: 3 Year Limited
  • Construct: Heavy-duty all-welded 304 stainless steel round tubing to marine grade 
  • Installation: Directly to deck or railing
  • Mounting screws: Not included
Dimensions
  • Folded length: 14.75" 
  • Fully extended: 34.5"
  • Outer width: 11.5"
  • Mounting holes: 10” apart
  • Ladder width: 14”
  • Diameter: 1.5” x 1.25” x 0.75” stainless-steel tubing

3. Amarine Made 4 Step Stainless Steel Telescoping Boat Ladder


This is a high quality, 4-step telescopic marine-grade stainless-steel ladder. It’s bolted directly to the platform or side railings.

Its handy built-in quick-release Velcro strap secures the steps when retracted. The non-slip molded black vinyl treads wrap around sleek rungs, minimizing slipping when boarding.

  • Warranty: 3-year limited
  • Construction: Heavy-duty all-welded 304 stainless steel round tubing to marine grade 
  • Installation: Directly to deck or railing
  • Weight rating: 200lb
  • Mounting screws: Not included
Dimensions
  • Folded length: 15.5" 
  • Fully extended: 45.5"
  • Outer width: 11.5"
  • Mounting holes: 10” apart
  • Ladder width: 14”
  • Diameter: 1.5” x 1.25” x 0.75” stainless-steel tubing

4. Hoffen Telescopic 4 Step Ladder


The high-quality marine-grade stainless-steel ladder features 4-step telescopic steps and is bolted directly to the platform or side railings. It also has a quick-release feature to secure the steps. You’ll appreciate the skid-proof soft nylon step that is great for safe boarding in rough conditions.

  • Warranty: 3-year limited
  • Construction: Heavy-duty all-welded 304 stainless steel round tubing to marine grade 
  • Installation: Directly to deck or railing
  • Weight rating: 600lb
  • Mounting screws: Not included
Dimensions
  • Folded length: 15.5" 
  • Fully extended: 45.5"
  • Outer width: 11.5"
  • Mounting holes: 12” apart
  • Ladder width: 14”
  • Diameter: 1.5” x 1.25” x 0.75” stainless-steel tubing

5. Extreme Max 3005.3380 4-Step Pontoon/Dock Ladder


This highly versatile angled, heavy-duty aluminum ladder is designed to help you in more than one scenario. The robust design and construction have been tried & tested as pontoon ladders, dock-end ladders and even on swim rafts.

The wide steps are etched with non-slip tread and the 1” light-weight square tubing is a great space saver. The mounting system is simple and secure, with a mere five minutes required to fully install, making relocation and storage super easy.

  • Warranty: 2-year replacement
  • Construction: Heavy-duty aluminum square tubing 
  • Installation: Directly to deck
  • Weight capacity: 300lb
  • Mounting screws: Not included
Dimensions
  • Ladder: 54”
  • Step interval: 11.5”
  • Ladder width: 15"

6. DasMarine 3 Step Ladder


A robust design constructed of marine grade 316 stainless steel with a whopping 900lb proof load. Non-slip plastic treads are durable, offering great traction.

The low-profile, stainless steel telescopic steps fold quickly and effortlessly into the water for safe boarding. It’s designed to be bolted to the deck or side railings and will be a practical solution on a pontoon boat too.

  • Construction: Heavy-duty all-welded 316 stainless steel round tubing to marine grade 
  • Installation: Directly to deck or railing
  • Weight rating: 900lb
  • Mounting screws: Included
Dimensions
  • Folded length: 14.625" 
  • Fully extended: 33.8"
  • Outer width: 11.875"
  • Mounting holes: 12” apart
  • Diameter: 1.2” stainless-steel tubing
  • Step thread: 7.25" X 1.5"

7. Shoreline Marine Five-Step Folding Rope Ladder


The helpful thing about rope ladders is that they come in varying lengths and number of rungs. They’re really easy to stow away and require very little maintenance other than the occasional fresh-water wash.

You do need to keep a close eye on the weathering especially when used in marine conditions. They’re far more suited for larger boats that are taller out the water and deep docks because they have no bottom support or secure points.

  • Construction: Nylon rope: check for weight rating
  • Installation: Hook over fixed-in eyes
  • Mounting screws: Not included

Dimensions vary but the ladder is generally very small and compact when rolled neatly.

8. SeaSense Boat Ladder (4 Step)


This is a very simple, easy to use the portable 4-step ladder. Its compact and efficient design boasts 304 stainless-steel tubing and PVC non-slip treads of durable construction. With no permanent mounting, it simply hooks onto whichever part of the boat is easiest but using the railings is best. The foldable feet keep it away from the transom.

With four rungs evenly spaced 14.5” wide over 47.5”, its flat design is easy to stow and carry.

9. RecPro Heavy Duty Aluminum 4 Step Removable Boarding Ladder AL-A4


What a great, easy to use 4 step aluminum boat ladder! Its heavy-duty structure boasting 16" wide steps and tall, angled handrails make the ladder super easy to use even in rough conditions.

The ladder extends 48” below deck. It’s ideal for docks and pontoons. The mounting hardware allows for quick release.

  • Warranty: 3 years limited
  • Construction: Heavy-duty all-welded 316 stainless steel round tubing to marine grade 
  • Installation: Directly to deck or railing
  • Weight rating: 900lb
  • Mounting hooks and hardware included
Dimensions
  • Length: 48" 
  • Step width: 18" x 4” aluminum etched steps for grip

10. JIF Marine EQB4 Over Platform Telescoping Boat Ladder


This is a nifty 4-step over-platform telescoping ladder, easily folding on the boat deck or swim platform. The steps conveniently fold flat allowing you to stow it away in tight spaces.

The stainless-steel flat poly threaded treads with handgrips are great safety features when boarding. The electropolished 316 stainless-steel construction holds out superbly against marine conditions.

  • Installation: Mounted directly to deck.
  • Construction: Electropolished 316 stainless-steel
Dimensions
  • Length: 44", extended and 18", stowed
  • Width: 12"
  • Weight rating: 400lb

Final Thoughts

The selection of your boat ladder comes down to two important aspects: requirements and budget. Boat ladders are simply for getting in and out of the water, but you also want value for money. That’s why it’s their special features that you have to pay real attention to. Balance that with your budget & desired lifespan of your equipment and you’re good to go.

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