Great Electronics for Trailering Your Boat

Electronics that make towing your boat easier.
Launching boat at the ramp
A backup camera makes launching and retrieving your boat much easier. Courtesy Pixabay/dimitrisvetsikas1969

If you’re looking for ways to upgrade your tow vehicle, electronics to make trailering your boat easier should be near the top of the list. Cameras make launching and retrieving your boat less stressful, and GPS navigation systems can guide you to the ramp. Learn more about the important features you should look for when selecting new electronics for trailering your boat.

Pioneer AVH-1550NEX
This system offers cutting-edge communications, mapping and entertainment options for a more enjoyable cruise. Courtesy Amazon

If you’re driving a vehicle that missed out on an OEM touchscreen audio display and hands-free Bluetooth phone capabilities, here’s an elegant, easy and economical way to bring your vehicle into the smartphone world and add a backup camera. It’s only one of Pioneer’s dozen or so Apple CarPlay options too, so there is apt to be one to integrate into your ride. It links to iOS devices and allows mapping and tunes to be played and controlled on the NEX from services like Pandora and Spotify. It can offer some hands-free capabilities with Android too. Tune it to find the radio stations you want, or play a CD or DVD on board. There are plenty of entertainment options available and standard. It integrates with Pioneer’s ND-BC8 backup camera to give a 129-degree-wide and 105-degree-high image.

Pros: This can give any solid but older vehicle cutting-edge communications, mapping and entertainment options for a more enjoyable cruise. Apple CarPlay lets your system display iOS mapping on the display. An optional GPS module is available, but with Apple CarPlay, we think it’s redundant.


Cons: The AVH-1550NEX is not an inexpensive shortcut to integrated factory audio, communications and mapping systems in newer vehicles, but it does successfully bring those things to older vehicles in its stand-alone format via Apple CarPlay or ­Android Bluetooth connection. There are lots of technical questions to resolve when choosing this system, and it will require professional installation.

Garmin DriveSmart 61 NA LMT-S
This system is easy to read and update. Courtesy Garmin

This two-part system rocks. In addition to giving turn-by-turn guidance on a nearly 7-inch diagonal screen and free and easy lifetime Wi-Fi map updates, DriveSmart offers on-map traffic warnings to help you reroute to better roads. In our tests, it responded flawlessly to voice commands such as a request for an address or to make a call hands-free with Bluetooth-connected mobile phones. The screen is so large and bright, our view of surroundings in reverse was clear and crisp to make backing up on a trailer hitch frustration-free. TripAdvisor on board helps you plan for stops, meals and entertainment along the way. The 640 x 480 resolution color Wi-Fi camera transmits to the Garmin device up to 45 feet away and presents a proximity grid for perspective. Hard-wire the display and cam to power and you can toggle at will between navigation or the rearview cam.

Pros: We loved the big, bright screen and high-resolution imaging on the camera. The backup cam comes on upon shifting into reverse and gives a clear view. Garmin is probably more experienced than anyone in mapping and turn-by-turn traffic support. Voice recognition worked extremely well in our tests, and we could speak directions to the GPS. Mapping firmware updates are thankfully free forever.


Cons: Your vehicle may require dashboard adhesive mounting to avoid obstructing windshield visibility. The Bluetooth connection for transferring road conditions to the GPS is a battery hog for your phone, so you’ll need to keep it plugged in. The wireless camera connection is convenient but gives a shaky image that, though slightly delayed, doesn’t interfere with safe backing-up observation.

PAPAGO GoSafe 760 Dual Lens Dash Camera
This instrument can identify and notify the driver of upcoming stop signs, pedestrians or obstacles. Courtesy Papago Inc.

Dash cams are all the rage overseas and are used to support legal proceedings in the case of mishaps and litigation. This GoSafe 760 Dash Cam is designed with a 140-degree forward-facing camera built into the display. The rear-facing 120-degree camera has an adhesive tilting mount. The display can offer a constant split-screen image of the front and back camera, or switch at the punch of a button. Video is captured on a microSD card up to 128 MB. A G-force sensor tells it when to print to the card or, if the car is parked, will tell it to begin recording.

Pros: We love the traffic tools that warn about stop signs or pedestrians in our path. Dash cams that record events leading up to an accident are popular in many countries, and this is an effective one. When aligning a hitch, the narrower 120-degree camera angle seemingly enlarges the hitch point, easing ball and hitch alignment.


Cons: The compact screen doesn’t interfere with forward visibility and is comparable in size to backup displays built into the rearview mirrors as factory equipment. But it requires careful observation when being used as a backup camera or when hitching up. The rear-facing camera connections aren’t waterproof, so the camera must be mounted inside the vehicle cabin – that works fine on SUVs but not pickup trucks.