Best Winches of 2019 – Complete Buyer’s Guide

Going off-road with your vehicle may seem like an exhilarating thing to do, but having your vehicle stuck in such a situation can be equally frustrating.

With heavier vehicles, simply pushing is not an option, so one needs a winch in order to save the day.

To help ensure you have the right sort of winch as backup if the need ever arises, here is your complete guide to buying and using one.

Comparison of the Best Winches

Product

Rating

Price

Smittybilt 97495 XRC Winch

Smittybilt 9500 lb 97495 XRC GEN2 Winch-9500 Pound Load Capacity

Best Overall and Best Winch for Car Trailer

Superwinch 1125220 25000 lb.

Superwinch 1145220 Terra 45 ATV & Utility Winch (4500lbs/2046kg Rating)

Best Winch For Jeeps

Superwinch 1595200 Tiger Shark

Superwinch 1595200 Tiger Shark 9.5, 12 VDC winch, 9,500 lb/4,309 kg capacity with roller fairlead

Best for the Money

Superwinch 1135220 Terra 35000 lb.

Superwinch 1135220 Terra 35 3500lbs/1591kg single line pull with roller fairlead, handlebar mnt toggle, handheld remote

Best ATV and UTV Winch

Smittybilt 97412 XRC Winch

Smittybilt 12000 lb 97412 XRC GEN2 Winch-12000 Pound Load Capacity

Best 12000 lb Winch

WARN 910500

WARN 910500 Drill Winch 500lb capacity

Best Portable Winch

Smittybilt 97510 X 2O Waterproof Winch

Smittybilt 97510 X 2O Waterproof Winch - 10000 lb. Load Capacity

Best Winch for Trucks

What is a Winch?

Before we go ahead and buy one, we need to know what a winch is exactly. To put it simply, it is nothing but a heavy-duty tool that is used for towing a vehicle. It is usually meant for larger vehicles like trucks or SUVs. Its gear train system allows it to create a powerful torque that is capable of pulling heavy vehicles out of situations.

How Does A Winch Work?

The working of a winch, along with its design may not be the simplest. It basically consists of a spool attached to a hand crank. The spool is wrapped with a synthetic or a wire winch cable. The winch is attached to the vehicle and the cable is secured to a heavy anchor. Its design is such that it creates a tension in the cable, and with this tension, it slowly pulls the vehicle out of wherever it is stuck.

What Is A Winch Used For?

A winch is a savior when you're stuck. Can it guide you through a forest if you're lost? Probably not. But if you ever find your heavy-duty vehicle stuck in any sort of uneven land or a mud pit, this is the unit that you can count on.

With its great strength and brilliant design, it works perfectly to pull out vehicles when they are stuck. It doesn't need any extra assistance of you pushing your vehicle out of where it's stuck.

How to Choose a Winch

Choosing a winch isn't a very hard task. All it requires is the knowledge of some features that need to be considered, and a present, vigilant mind while going through the options. In case you are not familiar with what to look for in a winch, let us help you out.

Compatibility For Use and Vehicle

You must first decide what you are going to use your winch for and what vehicle it is going to be used on. Once you've done that, you need to make sure that every option you consider as your final pick is compatible with the use and vehicle you have in mind.

ATV Winch (Source)

Type of Winch

Winches are not all the same but come in three different types. To make sure you get the functioning you want, you need to decide which type you need. Your decision can vary depending upon the labor required for one type or availability of an electric supply for the other.

Dimensions and Mounting

The mounting area of the winch depends upon the vehicle. Therefore, you need to make your final choice according to the area available for the winch on the vehicle. If the area isn't large enough, you might have to go with a smaller winch. But if there's ample space, choose a bigger and better one.

Quick Take - Best Winches

Skip the review - here are the best winches:

  1. Smittybilt 97495 XRC Winch
  2. Superwinch 1125220 25000 lb.
  3. Superwinch 1595200 Tiger Shark

Review Of The Best Winches

With the basics done, we can finally get down to business. Picking a winch can be a tricky choice due to the wide amount of products available. In order to reduce your confusion and to make the task easier for you, we've picked out some of the best units you can invest in.

Best Overall and Best Winch for Car Trailer:
Smittybilt 97495 XRC Winch

Smittybilt 9500 lb 97495 XRC GEN2 Winch-9500 Pound Load Capacity

PROS

  • Ideally designed to work with Jeeps in all sorts of situations
  • Comes with a roller fairlead that allows greater functionality
  • Reliable unit that will work for a long time without failing
  • Features a powerful motor that will be sure to pull out your heavy-duty vehicle from wherever it is stuck
  • Allows super easy installation that gets done in absolutely no time with no hassles

CONS

  • Electrical cables are not long enough to be attached conveniently
  • Remote plug and control box may not function well if not handled properly
  • Manufacturers do not provide sufficient customer support in case of any issues

What Recent Buyers Report

According to those that have recently invested in this unit, there is no other winch that works better. The efficiency with which it works and the great strength it provides have truly impressed users. They haven't found anything to complain about and are sure they'll be using it for a long time. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

Of all the reasons we had to pick this unit, the one that really stood out to us was the ease of installation that it comes with. Such units can be a nightmare to install, but not this one. It takes absolutely no time and effort to get started. 

Who Will Use This Most

Given the fact that this unit tops our list on account of its excellent features, it would be safe to say that it is ideal for all sorts of users. But given its specific features, we find it to be ideal for car trailers. It provides the perfect strength and design for the job, making it the best for such scenarios.

Bottom Line

All in all, this is a winch that any other unit would find hard to beat. It has all the right features and specifics that easily make it better than any other unit. So, if you're looking for the right winch for your car trailer, let us tell you that nothing works better than this.

Best Winch for Jeeps: 
Superwinch 1125220 25000 lb.

Superwinch 1145220 Terra 45 ATV & Utility Winch (4500lbs/2046kg Rating)

PROS

  • Steel planetary gear is wider than those used by other standard products
  • Circuit breaker protection with a weather-sealed solenoid for greater safety 
  • Equipped with a heavy-duty latch hook with a thimble that comes with a lifetime warranty
  • 55 inches of steel wire rope that comes with an ergonomic cam action free spooling clutch
  • High-efficiency and low amp draw provided by a 1.6 HP motor with an ideal mechanical load holding

CONS

  • Consistent use may cause the cable to fray while unspooling
  • Spooling out the cable may not be as swift as one would expect it to be
  • Customer support is not as efficient and prompt as other manufacturers

What Recent Buyers Report

According to the users, this isn't just an ordinary winch with ordinary features. It is one of the best that the buyers have invested in. It has all the features they ask for and then some. And what has the users absolutely sold with this unit is its outstanding strength. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

Why do we think this unit deserves to be on this list? Simple; it has the perfect motor for it. The 1.6 HP sealed motor provides it with a functionality that is above and beyond others. With the ideal mechanical load holding, it is designed to impress. 

Who Will Use This Most

Like we said, this winch features a high-quality motor that provides the best of performance. With this given ideal performance, this winch serves to be the perfect unit for all sorts of Jeeps. The mechanical load holding makes sure it is perfect for the job. 

Bottom Line

Tired of looking for a good winch for your Jeep that doesn't die down after a few uses? Then this is where your search for a new winch ends. This unit is absolutely perfect for working with Jeeps and providing the best of its performance at that. 

Best for the Money:
Superwinch 1595200 Tiger Shark

Superwinch 1595200 Tiger Shark 9.5, 12 VDC winch, 9,500 lb/4,309 kg capacity with roller fairlead

PROS

  • Weather-sealed 5.2hp motor prevents damage from rain, snow, and dust
  • Tried and tested design of the remote allows an efficient and effortless switch
  • Solenoid is also weather-sealed, making it ideal for all sorts of weather conditions
  • Heavy-duty 12-foot rubber handheld remote is designed for enhanced functionality
  • Spool is designed with an ergonomic design to ensure an easy grip and effortless operation for users

CONS

  • Motor is not designed to be used for a greater period of time
  • Needs to rest after functioning and can't be used again right after
  • Casing isn't designed with the best-quality materials and may break if not handled properly

What Recent Buyers Report

One of the main reasons this unit has been put on this list is because of how well it was received by all its users. They not only found this winch to be an item equipped with all the right features but also one that comes at a surprisingly affordable price. And that makes all the difference. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

We find this unit to be incredible due to a slightly different reason than what users found. What really stands apart about this unit is the weather protection it offers. Most units start to die down due to the rough weather they're faced with, but this unit is designed to bear it all. 

Who Will Use This Most

This unit features all the right features that one expects from a winch and at a reasonable price, besides. For that purpose, it is ideal for anyone that wants a new outstanding winch but on a lower budget. This winch will be sure to get the job done and done well. 

Bottom Line

Why pay any extra amount when you can pay less for the same quality? This winch does not come with a label from one of the fancy manufacturers, but it comes with a performance that is just as good. And what's more, is that you not only get a great functional winch but also save yourself some money. 

Best ATV and UTV Winch:
Superwinch 1135220 Terra 35000 lb.

Superwinch 1135220 Terra 35 3500lbs/1591kg single line pull with roller fairlead, handlebar mnt toggle, handheld remote

PROS

  • Weather-sealed to ensure it functions best in all sorts of weather conditions
  • Heavy-duty latch hook is designed to take the load without failing the users even once
  • Comes with 50 inches of the 13/64" steel wire rope that provides a great amount of strength
  • Equipped with a 1.6 HP permanent magnet motor that performs the job with great efficiency
  • Solenoid comes with a seal and is circuit breaker protected for better functioning and safety

CONS

  • Cable may begin to fray with time, losing its strength
  • Manufacturers fail to provide the customer service that is expected of them
  • Users may find some difficulty in freely spooling the cable as it may offer resistance

What Recent Buyers Report

According to those that have recently invested in this unit and tried it, they have never quite seen anything like it. The strength and design that this particular unit comes with have particularly impressed the users. They do not see themselves using any other unit for the job. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

It is true that this particular unit has a lot to offer its users. But the best of its features has to be the heavy-duty latch hook it is equipped with. This latch is designed brilliantly and out of high-quality materials to ensure that it carries the load with great ease. 

Who Will Use This Most

Not a lot of units are designed to function ideally with ATVs and UTVs, but this unit does exactly that. Its efficient motor and high weight-bearing capacity make it the perfect partner to work with a number of ATVs and UTVs. And surely no other works better for the job. 

Bottom Line

If you too own an ATV or UTV and have been finding yourself stuck over the decision of what winch to choose, then let us end your troubles and tell you that you need not look any further. This particular unit right here is going to be all that you'll need, considering its capability to bear additional weight. 

Best 12000 lb Winch:
Smittybilt 97412 XRC Winch

Smittybilt 12000 lb 97412 XRC GEN2 Winch-12000 Pound Load Capacity

PROS

  • Ideal for super-heavy vehicles and other loads that it can pull with no trouble at all
  • Reliable piece of machinery that is designed to provide the best of its job without failing
  • Backed with a mechanical lifetime warranty and electrical five-year warranty for ideal customer support
  • State-of-the-art 500-amp solenoid is completely sealed for weather protection and comes circuit breaker protected
  • Equipped with the 6.6 HP amphibious motor and a 3-stage planetary gear that provides the best of performance

CONS

  • Waterproofing does not last well in extreme weathers
  • Slightly more expensive than other standard products
  • It may prove to be quite tricky and requires extra assistance 

What Recent Buyers Report

Those who have used this unit will tell you why it's such a favorite among users. Not only does it provide great strength and performance, but what really wins people over is the reliability it has to offer. With all these features combined, users say they can't find a better unit. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The reliability of a unit is indeed an outstanding feature, but that's not what really amazes us with this unit. For us, what stands apart is the customer support that it comes with. With a lifetime mechanical warranty and five-year electrical warranty, you've got your back covered, no matter what issue you face. 

Who Will Use This Most

Pulling bigger vehicles requires greater strength and even more reliability. Not many units are capable of performing this well under the tension provided by heavier loads. But this one is different. It will be able to pull any sort of weight that you require without burning itself out. So if you too are looking for a winch with that sort of strength, then look no further. 

Bottom Line

All in all, this unit is designed to be the best for the heaviest of weights. Whether pulling out your vehicle or moving huge boulders, this winch will provide you with the best function for the job. If you don't trust it, try for yourself!

Best Portable Winch:
WARN 910500

WARN 910500 Drill Winch 500lb capacity

PROS

  • Can turn a normal drill into a weight-pulling device with almost no effort
  • Replaces manual labor for you in a number of hard-to-handle pulling jobs
  • Includes 30 feet of wire rope that allows you to get the job done with ease
  • Can function without the hassles that come with installing a standard winch
  • Features a free spool clutch that makes rigging faster and considerably easier

CONS

  • Spooling the wire may get harder after continuous use
  • Can't be used for winching vehicles or extremely heavy loads
  • Needs to be operated with a drill that has to be bought separately 

What Recent Buyers Report

Users that have recently invested in this unit were all greatly impressed by the functionality that it offers. Given the size of the winch, they did not expect much from it, but received much more. For this reason, they would recommend it to anyone looking for a new winch. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

One of the reasons this unit has made it to this list is because of the convenience it provides. Not only does it make a number of manual jobs easier, but also provides further convenience with its use. Unlike other units, you won't find yourself stuck with a short wire or hard to handle machinery. 

Who Will Use This Most

Winches are usually big and heavy, given the function required of them, but this unit is unique. It's not something that makes you question how you'll take it from one place to another. And if that is the sort of winch that you're looking for, this is the perfect one for you. 

Bottom Line

Waste no more time and effort on carrying around a heavy unit. This winch will be your solution to the problem. With its lighter weight and smaller dimensions, it still offers great strength and high-performance. 

Smittybilt 97510 X 2O Waterproof Winch - 10000 lb. Load Capacity

PROS

  • Comes as a complete kit that includes everything you need to get started
  • Equipped with an incredible 6.6 HP motor that allows better functioning 
  • Comes with a lifetime mechanical warranty to ensure customer satisfaction
  • High-powered motor promises easy pullout for heavy trucks without much hassle
  • Offers complete weather protection to ensure it isn't affected by dust, snow, or rain

CONS

  • Cable noticeably starts to fray after consistent use
  • Installation is a little time consuming and may require assistance 
  • Users may find the cable hard to spool at times or experience it getting stuck

What Recent Buyers Report

Users have reported being disappointed by a number of winches time and again. But they have been pleasantly surprised with this unit time and again. With its pulling capacity and strength, users were left with absolutely nothing to complain about. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

While speaking of this unit, what particularly stands out to us is its smartly engineered design. This design not only makes its functioning a lot easier for the user but a lot more efficient, as well. So while using this winch, you'll be unlikely to face any issues. 

Who Will Use This Most

Winching a truck when it's stuck can be a tough task to get around. But half of this task can be made easier just by choosing the right sort of winch. This winch is perfectly suited for the job, providing just the right sort of pulling capacity for your truck. 

Bottom Line

You no longer need to worry about finding a winch that is strong enough to pull trucks. This one is designed to provide the perfect strength and all the other features you might need. We assure you, no winch works better with trucks than this. 

Types of Winches

To those who are not very familiar with these devices, all winches may look the same. But that isn't true. Winches are of different types, providing different functions. And in order to ensure that you pick the right one for your vehicle, it is important that you differentiate between all the different units.

Electric Winch

An electric winch is simply one that uses an electric motor instead of a standard one. It is a lot like the motors used in drills, but much stronger, as it is required to bear heavy weights. Since these units work with an electric motor, they need a power supply, which can be AC or DC, depending upon the winch.

Hand Winch

A hand winch is one that functions manually, by hand. It uses a double clamping mechanism which moves a steel rope. The design of the hand winch reduces the effort that needs to be put in, but a considerable amount of labor is still required from the user.

Hydraulic Winch

This is a unique type of winch that functions on a fluid power source using a hydraulic mechanism. But that isn't all. It also uses a motor, as well as a generator. It basically works on the principle of power conversion and the electrical power required is usually 20-30% more.

Aspects to Consider Before Buying

Before you invest in a winch, you need to know there are a few aspects that have to be considered. These aspects may not determine the ultimate quality of the unit, but they play an important role in your satisfaction with them, which is why you need to keep them in mind.

Price

Price is an important aspect to consider, no matter what kind of product it is that you are investing in. You need to decide your budget before you start looking for a unit and make sure you only consider those that fall within your budget. This will not only save time but will also help save you from spending extra money.

Quality And Strength

Any device that you consider buying should come with great build quality and strength. And when it comes to a device like this, one is required to perform a task of great strength, you need to ensure that your device is ready for the job, with more strength than the rest.

Compatibility With Your Car

A good-priced and strong winch is of no use if it is not compatible with your vehicle. Therefore, you need to ensure that whatever product you are looking at is compatible with your vehicle and provides enough strength according to your vehicle's weight.

How to Install a Winch

If you've already invested in a winch for your vehicle, the next step would be to install it. We understand that it may not be a task that everyone is familiar with. In order to help you out, here is a small guide to installing a winch;

  1. Find the Mounting Cradle - This is usually located on the bull bar of your vehicle. Examine it in order to see if it is vertical or horizontal.

  2. Prepare Your Winch For Mount - Slide the square nuts into the canopy next to the drum.

  3. Place the Winch in Position - This will be behind the bull bar. Lift the winch into position and then thread the upper bolts through the pull bar and into the square nuts present on the winch.

  4. Attach the Control Box - Once the winch is attached, you can go ahead and attach the control box, too. If you don't find holes to screw to the control box, you might have to drill some yourself.

  5. Connect the Wires - You need to connect the wires of the control box with the winch itself. This is a simple task that can be done by attaching wires to the corresponding color terminals. Once joined on one end, the wires also need to be connected to the battery.

  6. Give it a Test Run - Once you have put everything together, make sure to give your unit a test run to ensure everything operates as it should.

Once you've completed all the above steps, you will have successfully installed your winch. If you still find yourself having some problems, check out the video below for more detailed instructions on how to install your winch.

How to Use a Winch

Simply buying and installing a winch on your vehicle isn't enough. In order to utilize the device properly, one should also know how to use it properly in case the need ever arises. So if you ever find yourself stuck on rocks or in a mud pit, here is what you need to do to pull your vehicle out.

  1. Plug the Remote Control Into the Winch - Find the remote control for your winch and find the plug on the end of the cord attached to it. This is the plug you need to plug into your winch and then bring the remote back into the vehicle to the driver's seat.

  2. Put on a Pair of Gloves - You never want to touch or deal with a winch cable without enough safety for yourself, which is why you need a pair of thick gloves

  3. Find an Anchor - You need to look for something in front of your vehicle that's huge and heavy to anchor your winch to. A large tree or boulder would do the job perfectly or possibly even another vehicle.

  4. Release the Winch Cable - This can be done using the disengage lever located right outside the winch. The lever can be switched between disengage and spool. Turn it towards disengage and manually pull the cable out, all the way to the anchor.

  5. Wrap a Tree Trunk Protector Around the Bottom of the Anchor - Wrap it in such a way that the two end loops are facing you and hold each end in your hand. Now use a D-shackle to secure the two ends of the protector together. Once done, you can hook the winch hook to the D-shackle while ensuring that the tip faces up.

  6. Turn the Lever Back to Engaged - This prevents the cable from drawing out any further.

  7. Pull the Winch Cable Taut - Do this using the remote control provided by the winch. Press the button to start pulling the winch cable back slowly until the cable is sufficiently taut.

  8. Get in the Car and Winch Your Vehicle Out - Once you are in the car, use the remote to pull your car out slowly. Do not try to pull it out quickly in haste. Press the button, and you will feel your car being pulled out. Release the button every few seconds and start again. Keep repeating until your vehicle is pulled out.

  9. Un-rig And Be on Your Way - Once your vehicle is pulled out, you can un-rig the winch and get back on your way.

Conclusion

While on the road, winches can prove to be one of the most useful devices. But just any winch won't do the job. You need to ensure that you only get a high-quality unit that can successfully help you get out of trouble. Following our detailed reviews and buying guide can ensure you only buy a unit that works out for you, according to your needs. 

People Also Ask

Winching can be a tricky task, one that brings a lot of confusion. And people do often find themselves asking a number of questions. In order to ensure that you don't find yourself stuck if faced with these questions, here are a few queries frequently made by other users.

What Size Winch Do I Need?

Choosing the right size of winch for your vehicle is not rocket science, but a simple task. For a heavier and bigger vehicle, you'll need one that is more powerful. For a rough idea, you can go by the general rule, which basically is to select a winch with a capacity that is at least 75% of the combined weight of your vehicle.

Which is Better? Synthetic or Wire Winch Cable?

Both synthetic and steel wire winch cables have their own set of unique features, and it completely depends upon the user's preference which they like more. However, a synthetic winch comes with a higher breaking point compared to the wire winch cable. And even if it does break, it can be repaired right on the spot with braiding techniques.

What Does Winch Capacity Mean?

Winch capacity, in the simplest words, means the capacity of load that a winch can bear, but with just the bottom layer of rope on the drum. The full winch capacity can be retained with up to two layers.