Stainless Steel and Galvanized Cable: Which Is Best for Your Boat Lift

 Boat Lift Cables

You head over to your boat lift one afternoon for a leisurely ride, and what do you find? Your lift is hanging haphazardly, with one of the four cables completely snapped. Panic ensues. What should you do? Is the lift broken? What broke? How do you fix it?

You call a boat lift repair company (that's what we do, by the way), and they say they can fix it. Wonderful. Then they ask the terrifying question, "What kind of cable do you have?" or worse, "Which cable do you want?" Your heart starts to race. What now?

This article will introduce you to the two kinds of cable and how they differ so you can make the best choice for you and your boat.

But first, let's start with some general cable information.

Cable Basics

Boat lift cables are the four cables that connect to the corners of your lift whether you have a cradle or straps. These cables wear out with use and will generally need to be replaced every three to five years. 

"Wait," you be may be thinking, "were my cables bound to break?" The answer is yes. No matter what kind of cable you decide on, they will wear out eventually. How soon depends on how much you use the lift, but three to five years is average.

This doesn't mean you should limit the use of your boat lift. Enjoy it! Maintaining and replacing cables is a normal part of maintaining your boat lift, just like checking and replacing your tires is a normal part of owning a car. You don't drive less because you are worried about your tires wearing out. It's a normal part of owning a vehicle, the same way maintaining and sometimes replacing the cable is a normal part of using your boat lift.

Some people think that one kind of cable is generally stronger or less likely to wear out than the other. In truth, one isn't better or worse; they're just different. Which one is better for you will depend on several factors.

Galvanized Cable

Galvanized cable is considered to be more flexible and sturdier than stainless steel cable. It also rusts from the outside in, giving visual signs of wear before breaking. Because it rusts, galvanized cable is ideally suited for freshwater and must not stay in the water.

In general, galvanized cable is stronger, gives signs before breaking, and is more affordable than stainless steel, making it the best choice for freshwater boat lifts.

Galvanized cable...

  • Is stronger than stainless steel cable

  • Gives signs before breaking

  • Is more affordable

  • Is the best choice for freshwater boat lifts

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel cable, on the other hand, is better for saltwater boat lifts. The cable doesn't rust. Instead, it wears from the inside out and does not give visible signs of wear. Small strands may break loose and be visible, otherwise, it is more difficult to tell. When checking for loose strands, feel gently along the cable, but do so very carefully. Otherwise, you may end up cutting yourself.

Stainless steel cable is also less flexible than galvanized cable and thus cannot lift as much weight as a galvanized cable of the same width. Stainless is also more expensive than galvanized cable is therefore not recommended for freshwater boatlifts.

Stainless steel cable...

  • Is generally more expensive
  • Is less flexible
  • Does not rust in salt water
  • Does not show clear signs of wear
  • Is the best choice for saltwater boat lifts 

In conclusion,

R.J.'s Boat Lifts recommends using galvanized cable for boatlifts not in saltwater as it is the stronger and more affordable cable that will give clear indicators before breaking.

Stainless steel cable is best for saltwater as it won't rust as easily. Otherwise, it tends to be more expensive, less flexible, and will not clearly show signs of wear.

All boat lift cable, whether stainless or galvanized, will wear over time. Three to five years is the average cable life but may wear faster or shorter depending on use.

Check your cables often for signs of wear. Galvanized cable will rust, while stainless will present some small strands that you can feel very carefully. Don't be afraid to enjoy your lift. Cable wear is normal, and when it does break, it can be replaced easily by qualified boat lift experts.

If you are in or near central Florida, you can schedule a re-cable or other service with R.J.'s Boat Lifts at 352-394-5666. Feel free to ask additional questions by phone or at

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