What’s the Best Winch? Top 8 Revealed

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If you have ever been off-roading in any vehicle, you know that eventually you will get stuck or not be able to climb an embankment when you want or need to. If you go off-roading alone, you will need a winch to help you move, pull, or drag your off-road vehicle. To take some of the guess work out of purchasing a winch, we have put together this list of the best winch types and products available.
 
There are hundreds of winches on the market. Like all products, some winches are great all purpose winches while others will quickly break or die. If you underestimate what you are going to be using the winch for, you might blow the motor or snap the cable causing damage to the winch and the vehicle. If you overestimate what you need, you are may be paying a high price for something you will not use. 

Winch FAQ

1. Why Is a Winch Useful?

A winch is useful because if you are off-roading, you will eventually find an embankment you want to climb, a ditch you cannot get out of, or a puddle that is just deep enough to bog you down. Having a winch means you can pull yourself out with a minimum of effort. Each winch on this best winch list is designed for a specific pull weight limit. A winch is simply a spool, a motor, and a line.

2. What Is a Pull Weight Limit and Pull Capacity?

A pull weight limit and pull capacity are the same thing. It is how much the winch can pull either up or sideways. The lower the capacity the less you can pull. An ATV is lightweight so a lower pull capacity is fine. A heavy duty pickup truck is a different story. For this you will need a much higher pull weight limit.
 

3. How to Select the Right Winch?

To select the right winch you will need to check its weight or the weight of what you want to pull. Then find a winch that can lift that weight with a reasonably sized engine and a price you can afford. If you get a lower end winch that does not have the pull weight capacity to lift your vehicle, you will not be able to pull yourself out of a bog or ditch.

4. What Happens If I Go Over the Weight Limit on the Winch?

Best-case scenario is that the winch just will not pull it. The worst-case scenario is that the cable breaks and drops what you are attempting to lift. Neither situation is particularly pleasant. This is easily solved by purchasing the right winch for your needs. Blown motors, snapped cables, and stripped gears are all a result of having too little power and weight capacity for your winching needs. 
 
It is important to remember that a severely bogged down vehicle requires a higher weight capacity than one that is just being pulled up or over. The general rule on this is that you will need a capacity that is 2 times the weight of the vehicle if you are attempting to pull it out of the mud. Read all instructions carefully before attempting to pull a heavy load.
 

5. What Does an IP Rating Mean?

An IP rating is the standard rating for solids and water proofing. It is how much water or dust it can withstand before breaking down. The lower the IP rating the more likely it is to take damage from dust or debris. This is very important in off-roading particularly if you are going to be taking this into mud or bogs.
 

6. How Do I Use a Winch?

First you will need to know what capacity the winch is and the approximate weight of what you are trying to lift or drag. Then, after reading the individual winches manual, attach the cable to a tow point on your vehicle. Most winches these days have remote controllers and are simple to both operate and install. Each winch may have a different way to latch it securely, so make sure to read the manual of the winch that you buy before attempting to pull a heavy load.

7. Which Is Better: Synthetic Rope or Steel Cable?

Neither one is better than the other. Both synthetic rope and steel cable winches are on this best winch list. Synthetic rope is lighter, floats, and will not cut your hands. It does wear out considerably faster than steel cable. Steel cable is much more durable and will last a lot longer than steel rope.

Remember if you purchase a winch with a steel cable you can always got to a synthetic rope by switching cables. It is a very simple process and one of which should be outlined in your owners manual.

8. How Much Maintenance Does a Winch Require?

Winches do not usually require much maintenance. You want to keep it dry, store it properly, lubricate it periodically and inspect it regularly. If you do this your winch should last for years. The major reasons why a winch would develop a problem are usually due to over-taxing the motor or forgetting routine relubrication and maintenance. If you attempt to lift, pull, or drag something with your winch that is over the pull capacity, then you are endangering yourself, the winch's motor, and the thing you are attempting to pull.

How We Reviewed

We reviewed the best winch products based on IP rating, construction materials, price, and overall horsepower and pull capacity. We also read other users comments and suggestions to identify any ongoing problems that might exist. This best winch list is comprised of the best quality and capacity for reasonable prices. It is possible to get a winch that is very high priced and has little or no pull capacity. We weeded these out to be sure you would get the best quality and capacity at the best price.

Overall Price Range for the Best Winch for You

The overall price range for these winches ranges from $$ to $$$ dollars. More expensive winches are not necessarily the best winch for your needs. If you are only using it on a lightweight vehicle, such as an ATV, you do not need a winch that can pull 13,000 pounds. If you have a truck or SUV that you need to pull, a 13,000 pound winch may be appropriate.

What We Reviewed

  • Smittybilt 97495 XRC Winch
  • Superwinch 1125220 Terra 25
  • Smittybilt 97510 X 2O Waterproof Winch
  • Superwinch 1585202 LP8500 Winch Gen II
  • Superwinch 1145220 Terra 45 ATV & Utility Winch
  • OFFROAD BOAR Synthetic Rope Waterproof Winch
  • WARN 89020 Vantage 2000 Winch
  • Extreme Max 5600.3198 Complete 3100 lb. Winch

Smittybilt 97495 XRC Winch

Features

For the last 50 years Smittybilt has been one of the leaders of off-road accessory technology. They are known for their high quality accessories and excellent warranty.

The Smittybilt 9745 XRC winch is a 6.6 horsepower amphibious winch. It is waterproof with an Ingress Protection (IP) rating of 67. This rating means that it is protected from dust ingress and liquid ingress up to one meter or just over three feet. Most waterproof winches have an IP67 rating. It has a 9,500 pound capacity. When you purchase the winch new, it comes with all the wiring necessary for installation. Essentially, it is a winch in a box. Some winches require you to purchase wiring and mounts separately.

This particular winch is 25.8 x 10 x 13.8 inches and weighs 78 pounds. It is a 4-way roller single line winch and is remote controlled for easy and safe operation. The three-stage planetary gear ration is 161.28:1, and it has a sliding ring gear mounting. The overall finish is black, which will fit with any car or truck body color. The cable is 94 feet long with a 5/16ths of an inch diameter. It comes standard with a lifetime mechanical warranty and a three year electrical warranty.

The Smittybilt 97495 XRC winch makes the best winch available list because of its versatility and IP rating. If you are an occasional off-roader, this particular winch offers performance at a good price.

Load Capacity

9.500 lbs

Price $$ 

Warranty

The SmittyBilt 97495 XRC winch has a lifetime mechanical warranty and a three-year electrical warranty. SmittyBilt has a reputation for standing behind their products.

Pros

  • Water proof to one meter
  • Dust proof
  • Customizable
  • Excellent warranty built by a company with an excellent reputation
  • Faster winding than many other winches

Cons

  • Difficult to install on some vehicles
  • Lever sometimes sticks

Superwinch 1125220 Terra 25

Features

The Superwinch 1125220 Terra 25 is a great lighter duty winch. Although it is built tough, it has a lighter pull rating at only 2,500 pounds. This is perfect for smaller vehicles, off-road can-ams, ATVs, and other lighter off-road vehicles. The 2,500 pound pull rating is just under the weight of today's average size car. It is mainly meant for recreational off-road vehicles.

Superwinch has a reputation for building versatile easily to install winches. The Terra 25 is no exception. It is designed for fast, easy permanent or temporary installation. It has 3 stage planetary gearing and mechanical dynamic braking to avoid unwanted slipping. The wind rope is 50 feet in length and 3/16ths in diameter. 

The overall dimensions of this winch are 13.2 inches in length by 4.5 inches in depth by 4.8 inches high and it weighs just 18 pounds. It is an excellent choice if you are a part time off-roader and have a lighter vehicle. It can easily be removed and attached to any vehicle you choose. Plus, everything you need to install it comes in the box.

Load Capacity

2,500 lb

Price $

Warranty

This winch comes with a limited lifetime mechanical warranty against factory defects and a one year limited electrical warranty.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Temporary and permanent installation available
  • Easy to install and remove when necessary
  • Powerful winch in a small package
  • Dynamic breaking and power off lock to prevent damage due to electrical failure
  • Comes with a remote

Cons

  • Only lifts small vehicles and recreational vehicles
  • No IP rating available

Smittybilt 97510 X 2O Waterproof Winch

Features

The Smittybilt 97510 X20 waterproof winch is a powerful winch in an easy to manage package. It comes with a 6.6 horsepower amphibious motor meaning it is a true waterproof winch. It has an IP rating of IP68 which is the second highest rating possible. This means that not only can you submerge it; it can remain submerged for a long period of time at a specific depth. It also means that the winch's mechanical components are all dust proof.

It has a 3 stage planetary gear system with a 218:1 gearing ratio and 10,000 pounds of lifting power. This winch is designed for serious off-roading. It has a competition aluminum fairlead and a matte black UV resistant casing so it won't dull or fade. The oversized tie rod struts give you the maximum amount of lift power possible for a winch this size. 

It also has an inductive braking system that reduces heat to prevent overheating and fusion. The forged hook is made to take a very heavy load and not break. Everything you need to hook this winch up is in the box, including a wireless remote which can easily be converted into a wired remote in the event of battery failure.

The winch measures 22.3 inches length x 5.4 inches depth x 9.4 inches height and comes with 100 foot of cable. It also comes with Smittybilt's Advantage Warranty.

Load Capacity

10,000 lbs

Price $$

Warranty

This product comes with the Smittybilt limited lifetime warranty for steel based products, a lifetime mechanical warranty, and an extended electrical warranty. Smittybilt
is known to have the best warranty on their winches.

Pros

  • Water proof under pressure for those deep puddles and mud bogs
  • Remote control for self winching
  • Perfect for attaching to the front of a car, truck, or other off-road vehicle
  • An impressive 10,000 pounds of lifting power
  • Reasonable pricing

Cons

  • Replacement parts can be expensive
  • Installation may not be as easy as with other winches

Superwinch 1585202 LP8500 Winch Gen II

Features

The Superwinch Gen 11 is has serious power in a small package. It comes with 94 feet of 5/16ths diameter rope and has a total pull rating of 8,500 lbs. This allows it to pull heavy vehicles out of ditches, up embankments, and through just about any type of mud. It measures 21.3 x 6.3 x 8.6 inches and weighs 73 pounds. The 4.5 horsepower engine is perfect for those who are new to winching and only have medium horsepower requirements.

Load Capacity

8,500 lbs

Price $$$

Warranty

Superwinch has a limited warranty for both electrical and mechanical components. The mechanical components are warranted for 2 years while the electrical components are warranted for 1 year.

Pros

  • Excellent reputation and reviews
  • Long cable and long electrical wires
  • Everything you need in one box

Cons

  • Midline horsepower rating may not be enough for bigger trucks
  • Permanent installation only
  • Higher priced than some other makes and models

Superwinch 1145220 Terra 45 ATV & Utility Winch

Features

The Superwinch Terra 45 ATV and Utility winch is one of the smaller winches built by Superwinch. It has a 4,500 pound load capacity, which is not suitable for larger vehicles or equipment that are really bogged down. The small 1.5 horsepower motor is powerful for its size making this winch perfect for those who have an ATV or light vehicle. 

The free spooling clutch and 55 foot, 1/4 inch diameter cable is perfect for the beginning off-roader who only uses an ATV or other recreational vehicle. It weighs only 22 pounds and its dimensions are 15.1 x 4.5 x 4.8 inches. It can be operated via the handheld remote or mounted on the handlebars of an ATV. Its dimensions are 13.2" l. x 4.5" d. x 4.8" h.

Load Capacity

4,500 lbs

Price $

Warranty

This winch comes with the Superwinch limited lifetime warranty for mechanical parts and a limited electrical warranty for one year after purchase.

Pros

  • Excellent power for the price
  • Free spooling clutch for easy pull out
  • Heavy duty latch hook

Cons

  • Mounting plate is sold separately
  • Not appropriate for heavy vehicles

OFFROAD BOAR Synthetic Rope Waterproof Winch

Features

The OffRoad Boar Synthetic Rope winch is one of the stronger winches in this best winch list. It has a line pull of 13,000 pounds, which means it is suitable for larger off-road vehicles. It also has the second highest IP rating of any on our list at IP67. This means that it is waterproof completely submerged at a specified depth. 

The mechanical components are also dust proof. The cable is a full 85 feet with a 2/8ths inch diameter. The 4.6 KW motor is perfect for larger jobs and deep bogs. It also has a free spooling setting for easy pull out. At 61.2 pounds, it is lighter than many other winches of this variety. It measures 24 x 14 x 11 inches.

Load Capacity

13,000

Price $$ 

Warranty

This product comes with a one-year limited manufacturer's warranty.

Pros

  • You can submerge the entire winch if necessary, for off-roading through mud bogs and rivers
  • Powerful motor and braking system
  • Not as expensive as other models on this list
  • Wireless and wired remote

Cons

  • Professional installation is suggested but not required
  • Some mention a heavy draw on the vehicles battery

WARN 89020 Vantage 2000 Winch

Features

The WARN 89020 Vantage 2000 winch is one of WARN's smaller winches. It only has a 2,000 pound pull capacity. It is meant for lightweight recreational vehicles. It has 50 feet of 5/32nds inch diameter cable. With free spooling technology, this winch is very easy to pull out. It also boasts an easy install process. Its dimensions are 15.5 x 13 x 6.5 in and it weighs just 20.5 pounds. The controller for the winch can be mounted to the dash or a wired remote can be attached to the winch itself.

Load Capacity

2,000 pounds

Price $$ 

Warranty

WARN offers a lifetime warranty on the winch and a seven-year warranty on all electrical parts. 

Pros

  • Powerful winch in a small package
  • Anticorrosion material used on all pieces, parts, and cables
  • Dynamic braking system
  • Free spooling for easy pull out

Cons

  • Some parts are sold separately
  • Problems with it getting stuck in free spool

Extreme Max 5600.3198 Complete 3100 lb. Winch

Features

This is a light duty lightweight winch. The Extreme Max Bear Claw winch has a 3,100 pound capacity that will lift a respectable sized ATV or side by side. Just because it is lightweight does not mean that it will not get the job done. Everything that you need to mount this winch on an ATV or side by side comes with the winch.

Load Capacity

3,100 lbs

Price $

Warranty

This winch comes with a two-year warranty on the winch and the hitch mount.

Pros

  • Lightweight for light duty
  • Perfect for most ATVs, side by sides, or tractors
  • Many come in kits with a mounting plate and other necessities

Cons

  • Not the best installation instructions
  • Cable sometimes not included

The Verdict

If you are an off-road enthusiast, you will eventually find yourself in need of a winch. You should purchase the winch that is the right load capacity and the right weight for your off-roading needs. None of the winches on the best winch list are particularly better than another. The best winch for you is the one that suits your off-road needs. We evaluated each winch on the best winch list for price and quality in its pull weight class. These winches are of excellent quality and perfect for your off-road needs. Our favorite for all-around everyday use is the WARN Vantage 2000. It can pull any small to medium-sized vehicles, and the lifetime warranty is a big plus.

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