Best Electric Anchor Winches

Updated September 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

24 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
346 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best electric anchor winches

Last Updated September 2020

Lifting a 30-pound anchor is a chore and lifting it through water is considerably harder! A good electric anchor winch can deploy or raise an anchor of up to 40 pounds at the touch of a button, and you can relax! It’s also a lot safer than having an anchor and yards of rope lying around on deck.

An electric anchor winch can be fitted on small- to medium-sized powerboats, fishing vessels, pontoons, and even kayaks. There are freshwater and saltwater models, and while they’re quite similar, there can be important differences. It’s also vital not to confuse these with standard electric winches, the kind of thing you would fit to a truck or trailer. These are specifically designed for anchors, and the two are not interchangeable.

We’ve been looking at electric anchor winches to help you decide on the right one for your needs. A couple brands dominate the market, but, as our product recommendations show, that certainly doesn’t mean you’re short of choice. There’s something for just about every kind of watercraft. We look at specifications in more detail in the following buying guide.

Check your anchor rope (rode) regularly. If there are signs of damage, replace it immediately. Make sure your davit is in good condition, too. If the roller is sticking, it’s causing more friction than it should.

Key considerations

Electric anchor winch vs. windlass

Electric anchor winches are intended for use on relatively modest watercraft in mild conditions, such as inshore sailboats, powerboats, or pontoons with outboards. As you’ll see from their ratings, these winches have a maximum anchor capacity of around 40 pounds. This is mostly because they’re loaded with rope (with a breaking strain of around 700 to 800 pounds), not chain. Bigger vessels need chains but using a winch would be impractical because the spool would have to be extremely large. Vessels with anchor chains need a windlass (see the FAQ section below).

Weight rating

You’ll soon notice that just about all electric anchor winches have a name and a number, such as Deckhand 25 or Anchor 40. The name is just something chosen by the manufacturer, but the number usually gives you an indication of the weight rating; in effect, the maximum anchor size the motor is capable of lifting safely.

However, you need to be careful. With some manufacturers, a model called a “40” is specified for a 40-pound anchor. No surprise there. However, on others you’ll see a note saying something like “40-pound maximum, 30 pounds recommended.” Understandably, this can lead to confusion. Our advice would be to never exceed the recommended weight. If the name includes “40,” but the recommendation is for 30 pounds, as far as we’re concerned that’s a 30-pound winch, not a 40.

DID YOU KNOW?

You’ll often see the term “rode”: it’s whatever runs from the winch to the anchor. On small boats, it can be just rope. On many vessels, it’s rope spliced to a short length of chain before the anchor. On larger vessels, it’s all chain.

Features

Size

The physical size of the electric anchor winch is often important, especially on modest-sized vessels. You need to know it’s going to fit in the position you’re considering. Mounting options are usually quite flexible, but you’ll want to check dimensions. Be sure you know what you’re looking at: motor or motor plus davit. The davit is the part that has a roller guide for the line; your anchor hangs from it when raised. It can usually be attached to the motor housing (which makes for a compact installation) or be fitted remotely (which may be necessary to suit some boat designs). Bear in mind that if you do fit it separately, it’s important to have the two pieces lined up straight or you risk the line running off the guide and jamming. Most davits will accept a wide range of anchor types, but there are occasional mismatches. It’s another thing you ought to check before ordering.

Rope

Pretty much all rope is either braided nylon or polyester. It’s strong, good at resisting abrasion, largely unaffected by salt water, and doesn’t stretch when wet. The size of the winch and the breaking strain of the rope will define the actual length available. While it’s usually plenty, you do need to be careful if you’re sailing in deep water. Remember the 3:1 rule: you should have three times the length of rope for the depth of water. This allows you to stop far enough downstream for the anchor to hold properly (it should never be directly beneath the vessel) and still have plenty in hand for safety.

Controls

All electric anchor winches have controls on the unit, usually on the back. These provide for up, down, and auto (also called auto-deploy). This latter function means the motor will release the anchor until it touches the bottom and then let out extra rope several feet at a time until it feels the anchor has set properly. It then locks itself. If you’re not happy with the set, or the anchor drags, you can override manually or hit the auto again so it can make another attempt. An auto drift (or anti-drag) system will allow a certain amount of controlled drifting, which is often favored by anglers.

Additional controls may be provided by way of an extra hardwired switch unit, with extra cable so you can mount it wherever you like. There are also those with remote controls, although some of these are corded. They’re perfectly functional, but the cord can be frustrating if it gets in the way. Cordless remotes are also available, but not for all models.

Will the winch hold enough rope? It’s recommended that you have at least three times the length of rope to the depth of water. So, in 30 feet of water, you need 90 feet of rope.

Mounting

Although some people mount them in the stern area (back), generally speaking you’ll be fitting the electric anchor winch and davit to the front of the vessel and connecting it to a 12-volt battery somewhere near the rear. You need to check that the cables supplied with the winch are long enough (although extending them is possible). As much as possible, connections should also be protected against the elements.

Gears

Some electric anchor winches are fitted with plastic gears. Although these aren’t affected by salt water and in theory don’t require lubrication, they certainly wear more quickly than metal gears. Metal would be our recommendation, particularly with anchors that weigh 25 pounds or more. Heavy loads on plastic gears can result in the gears being stripped.

Other features

Fresh or salt: While many electric anchor winches are dual-purpose, some are freshwater only. It’s definitely something to watch out for.

Noise: Although noise isn’t perhaps the most important consideration, it can be annoying when you’re having a peaceful day on the water. It’s worth checking owner comments for real-world feedback on this and any other potential problems.

Warranty: While the standard warranty length is 12 months, it’s perhaps an indication of the manufacturer’s confidence in its winch if it offers a longer period. Some are 24 months and some are 36 months.

EXPERT TIP

Don’t use the winch to drag the boat up to the anchor before raising it. You’ll overstress the mechanism. Motor up to the anchor position, then use the winch.


Staff  | BestReviews

Electric anchor winch prices

Inexpensive: There are a few cheap electric anchor winches under $100, but they are very light capacity, reliability is frequently an issue, and plastic gears have known durability issues. We would look at entry-level models being around $130.

Mid-range: There’s lots of choice between $150 and $250, up to and including 40-pound capacity models, though for that price you’ll rarely get a second switch or remote.

Expensive: A good 35- or 40-pound anchor winch with remote (wired or wireless depending on model) will cost somewhere between $270 and $370. However, if you want a remote, you need to check carefully. Although these winches are almost always remote-capable, the control unit itself can cost another $40 or so.

Never exceed the maximum recommended anchor capacity. It’s false economy, and you risk winch failure, which means you’ll have to drag the anchor up by hand.

FAQ

Q. Is an electric anchor winch difficult to fit?
A.
If you’re comfortable with a set of tools and basic electrical connections — if you handle your own car maintenance, for example — it shouldn’t be a problem at all. You’ll be making a few holes to fix the winch to the deck and connecting up to a 12-volt supply. The instructions aren’t always great, but you can usually find helpful videos online. That said, if you’re at all concerned, we’d suggest contacting a professional boat fitter. It shouldn’t be a very expensive job.
 

Q. Do electric anchor winches need much maintenance?
A.
Not a great deal. You want to keep things clean, so a regular rinse with freshwater as part of your general boat cleaning routine is a good idea. Watch for corrosion, particularly in electrical terminals, something that’s more prevalent in saltwater environments. A light coating with a protective spray oil like WD-40 helps. Once or twice a year you’ll probably be advised to lubricate the moving parts (lithium grease is a favorite). Instructions will be provided.
 

Q. What’s the difference between an electric winch and a windlass?
A.
They can both do the same job in raising and lowering an anchor, but while a winch collects the anchor rope around a self-contained drum, with a windlass, the pulley (called a gypsy) passes the rope or chain off again into a separate collecting area. It’s usually a more complex installation, relying on having some below-deck storage, and better suited to chain/rope anchors than rope alone. Windlasses are usually quite a lot more expensive than winches, too.

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