Most engine and boat brands recommend bracing the lower unit when it’s tilted for trailering to alleviate stress induced by road vibrations and jolts to the hydraulic tilt-and-trim system and the boat’s transom. Today the choice boils down to one of two means of support: a motor tote or a traditional transom saver. The correct answer is debated among both boaters and boatbuilders, says Dave Davis, founder and owner of DD26 Fishing, which engineers and builds motor totes to fit a variety of outboard models.
“Neither is better than the other,” Davis says. “But there are situations in which one might be better-suited than the other.”
Most transom savers keep an outboard straight while trailering, but with a motor tote, steering locks such as the T-H Marine 4-inch clips ($14.99 per pair, thmarinesupplies.com) are needed to keep the engine from flopping over.
Transom savers offer length adjustment. The West Marine transom saver ($64.99, westmarine.com), for example, adjusts from 26 to 38 inches, depending on how high you want to tilt the lower unit. Motor totes, on the other hand, are fixed in terms of how high the lower unit is tilted.
On smaller aluminum boats or older fiberglass boats with wood-core transoms, a transom saver is often the best choice, Davis says. “A motor tote forces the transom to carry the weight while trailering, but that might not be a good idea unless the transom is 100 percent solid and strong,” he explains. A transom saver enables the trailer’s rear cross member to carry some of the weight.
A motor tote such as the DD26 Ybrid ($169.99) is machined from aircraft-grade aluminum and fitted with automotive bump stops. It snugs between the hydraulic trim rams and the tilt bracket to firmly brace an outboard once trimmed down tight. Importantly, it unifies the engine and boat while trailering to eliminate motor bounce that can damage the trim system or transom.
A transom saver, on the other hand, which relies on the rear cross member of the trailer, can shift position more easily. “A boat definitely moves and bounces around on a trailer while towing, even with everything strapped down right,” Davis points out. A transom saver, which can change the spacing between the lower unit and the trailer, negates some of the support.
With a motor tote, the outboard and boat move as one, independently of the trailer, so there are no concerns about the boat shifting on the trailer, he says.
In addition, motor totes will not harm the finish of the lower unit. With a transom saver, however, the “V” portion of the device that cradles the lower unit often leaves scratches in the lower unit.
Perhaps, most significantly, many multi-outboard boats—and even single-outboard models with transom brackets—are poorly suited to using transom-saver-style devices. With multi-engine boats, it’s difficult to engineer attachment points on the trailer for multiple transom savers.
What’s more, when a boat has an outboard mounted on an extended transom bracket, the distance between the outboard lower unit and the rear trailer cross member is often so great that a transom saver becomes impractical. In these circumstances, using motor totes is the best choice for support while trailering.