Launching a boat from a trailer into open water is no easy task, and the rollers attached to your boat trailers are essential for smooth launches that don't damage the underside of your craft's hull. However, even the toughest boat rollers cannot last forever, and any trailer that has seen more than a few years of service will probably need  its rollers replaced at some point.

When choosing replacement rollers for your trailer, you might assume that opting for identical replacements is the best option, and choosing similarly-shaped rollers to the ones you are replacing is generally advisable. However, you may wish to opt for rollers made from a different material than your previous ones, as rollers can be made from a variety of materials, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Keep the following advantages and disadvantages of common roller materials in mind the next time you go shopping for replacement rollers:

Rubber rollers

Rubber rollers are a good option for the boater on a budget, or a trailer that needs temporary replacement rollers while more sophisticated rollers are manufactured and delivered. As well as being the cheapest roller material commonly used, they are also very easy to fit, and are soft enough to provide adequate padding to the most delicate fibreglass hulls.

Unfortunately, these rollers tend to have a relatively short working life, as they are less durable than rollers made of more high-end materials, and can crack, split and even flatten out under heavy usage. The rubber compounds they are made from can also perish and crumble when exposed to intense sunshine. Dark-coloured rubber rollers should not be used on white fibreglass or aluminium hulls, as they can leave unsightly streaks that are surprisingly difficult to remove.

Polyurethane rollers

Polyurethane is the roller material of choice if your craft has a delicate timber or fibreglass hull, as polyurethane rollers tend to be the softest and most forgiving on the market. Despite this softness, however, they are surprisingly durable, and can be expected to last considerably longer than rubber rollers without suffering severe damage.

Attempt to launch an aluminium boat from polyurethane rollers, however, and all bets are off. The softness of polyurethane leaves these rollers vulnerable to the sharp contours of a streamlined aluminium hull, and they can be cut to ribbons if your craft is launched too quickly or shifts sideways during launching procedures.

High-density polyethylene rollers

High-density polyethylene (generally abbreviated to HDPE) rollers are the gold standard when it comes to roller durability, and when properly fitted these rollers can be expected to last for years without repairs or replacements. They are particularly suitable for boat trailers stored in unsheltered locations, as they do not perish in sunlight and will not crack in response to changing temperatures.

However, you should be wary of using HDPE rollers if you have a fibreglass craft, as these rollers are relatively hard and unforgiving. Launching into rough seas can be particularly challenging with HDPE rollers, as they have very little give and may crack the expensive protective gel coat of a fibreglass hull.