Hydraulic Winch vs Electric Winch – 2021 Overview

| Last Updated: June 27, 2021

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A winch is a crucial investment for any off-roader, and most people understand how important it can be. However, people often get confused about which type of winch to invest in. Hydraulic and electric winches are two of the most popular choices amongst consumers. 

People at times like buying and keeping both types of winches so they can keep one as a backup. But it would be interesting to see how the two compare. Thus, here’s a complete overview of hydraulic winches vs. electric winches. 

If you want to find out more about them, keep on reading!

What is a Hydraulic Winch and What is it Used For? 

The purpose of any winch essentially is to pull heavy loads. Hydraulic winches work to achieve the same effect; however, they are special in the sense that they don’t operate on batteries. Instead, they work with the hydraulic system of the vehicle. 

Therefore, hydraulic winches can work even when they are completely submerged in water. This is the reason why they are considered an important tool for the marine industry. 

They have the tendency to work for heavy-duty loads without overheating, which is why they are highly suitable for various marine applications, such as anchoring, hauling, etc. Plus, a hydraulic winch has both onshore and offshore applications. 

What is an Electric Winch and What is it Used For? 

Electric winches, like all other winches, serve the purpose of lifting or pulling loads. However, they differ from other winches in terms of their source of power. These are obviously powered by electricity obtained from your vehicle’s electrical system. They have several applications but are primarily of great commercial importance to the telecommunications, power, and landscaping industries. 

They come in various pulling capacities and therefore have a wide range of applications. They are highly popular for off-roading purposes due to their towing applications. Furthermore, they can also be used by farmers as a means of towing heavy machines. 

Hydraulic Winch vs. Electric Winch - Similarities and Differences 

Are you someone who needs to choose between buying a hydraulic winch and an electric winch? Well, if you are confused between the two, then perhaps looking at their similarities and differences will surely aid in making the right decision according to your situation. Let’s jump right into them:

Hydraulic Winch and Electric Winch Similarities

Believe it or not, hydraulic and electric winches do have some similarities. Let’s take a look at them:

Strength and Durability

You can’t say that one winch is constructed to be more durable than the other. It truly depends upon the brand and model. Both electrical and hydraulic winches can have a sturdy and durable construction that enables them to pull weight according to their lifting capacity. Both winches can have water and corrosion-proof iron construction that allows them to be long-lasting. 


The basic purpose of any winch is to pull or lift weights, be it electric, hydraulic, or other types of winches. Hydraulic winches can be used by off-roaders to pull vehicles stuck in the mud, just like electric winches. Many people consider keeping a spare hydraulic winch if they don’t want their car’s battery to be depleted. Meanwhile, electric winches can be used on boats for anchoring.

Some Features

There are some features which you can get with both types of winches. For instance, you can control hydraulic and electric winches through remote control, which can be wireless or corded. This allows you to operate the product within a safe distance. Furthermore, both winches can be mounted in either rear or front of the vehicle. They are also equipped with a braking system for safety purposes. 

Smittybilt GEN 2 XRC Winch

Hydraulic Winch and Electric Winch Differences 

Here are a few differences between hydraulic and electric winches that you should know about before deciding which works for you:

Power Source

The biggest difference between a hydraulic and electric winch is their power source. The former takes electricity from the vehicle’s electrical system, whereas the vehicles' hydraulic system powers the latter. Most hydraulic winches, though not all, use the power steering pump of the vehicle. This is the key difference, which tends to set them apart in some major ways and give them their respective applications.


When it comes to continuous usage, hydraulic and electric winches can be pretty different. You cannot keep an electric winch running for long periods as it will overheat and completely use your car’s battery because that is its power source. This is a highly unfavorable situation to be in. Meanwhile, hydraulic winches can work for longer time intervals without overheating and provide more continuous work since they don’t operate at the expense of your vehicle’s electrical system.

Installation and Price

Electric winches have an easier and more straightforward installation process in comparison to hydraulic winches. They are simpler and more time-efficient to install compared to the latter, which is why first-time winch buyers prefer an electric winch. 

Furthermore, hydraulic winches tend to be more expensive than electric winches. This can be a key factor that many people take into consideration while buying a winch. Hydraulic winches do not require your car’s battery to operate and can offer better continuous work; thus, they tend to cost more than electric winches. 

Electric winch in use (Source)

Top Pick Between Hydraulic Winch and Electric Winch

Most people ask the burning question: which one is the top pick between hydraulic and electric winch? The answer simply will differ from person to person and situation to situation. No one winch does it all. 

If you require a winch for marine application or excessive water use, then obviously, a hydraulic winch will perform better as it has a more suited construction and design. A hydraulic winch can work for longer hours and provide continuous work for heavy loads. 

Meanwhile, if you require a winch simply for off-roading or similar reasons, you can get an electric winch according to your vehicle’s capacity. Plus, remember that hydraulic winches tend to work slower than electric winches; thus, for lighter weights and quick jobs, the latter is a better option.  

It is important to keep in mind that a hydraulic winch is much more expensive than an electric winch and not accessible to all. Thus, if you are on a budget, the latter is a better option. If money isn’t a concern and you require a winch that is a hundred percent water submersible and works smoothly without overheating, doesn’t drain your car’s battery or strain the motor, and is better for long trips, then a hydraulic winch will work well for you. 

Review of the Our Favorite Hydraulic and Electric Winch

Whether you want a hydraulic inch, an electric winch, or both, it can be truly troublesome to find a good quality one, given how many options there are in the market. Thus, we reviewed our favorite hydraulic and electric winch for you, so you can find the best product for your buck. 

Best Hydraulic Winch:
Mile Marker 70-52000C

Mile Marker 70-52000C H Series Hydraulic Winch (12,000 lb. Capacity, 2 Speed)


  • Comes with 100-ft of galvanized aircraft cable
  • Two-speed spooling and a mechanical lock system
  • Sturdy, ductile iron body with 12,000-pound pulling capacity
  • Features a solenoid control valve that provides more freedom
  • Element-proof construction which is corrosion and water-resistant


  • Doesn’t come with controller or hoses
  • Buyers complain that the steel ropes cannot be used with anything but the stock pressures

What Recent Buyers Report

Buyers are completely floored by the design of this unit. They find it to be incredibly durable, and they have a highly innovative design that ensures consumer convenience and smooth operation. Furthermore, this product is a great investment in the long run due to its reliability. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

This wonderful unit caught our attention with its impeccable design. This hydraulic winch allows more freedom in terms of application as it is independent of its solenoid control valve. It can be mounted at the front or rear of the vehicle employing either a permanent or a detachable recovery system. It utilizes the vehicle’s power steering system to operate. 

The overall construction is worthy of praise. This unit is completely element-proof. It is water and corrosion-resistant, which greatly adds to its life. Furthermore, it comes along with a high-quality 100-ft galvanized aircraft-grade cable. Plus, it features two spooling speed settings. 

Bottom Line

All in all, this is a spectacular unit. It takes into account all the small details that ensure smooth operation and enables user convenience. It is highly reliable and incredibly durable due to the sturdy iron body and carries an incredible pulling capacity of 12,000 pounds. 

Best Electric Winch:
Smittybilt GEN 2 XRC Winch

Smittybilt XRC GEN2 9.5K Waterproof Winch with Steel Cable - 97495


  • Comes with a limited lifetime warranty
  • Completely waterproof and highly durable
  • Highly efficient performance with low noise
  • Kit involves all the wiring required for swift installation
  • Equipped with a high-quality state-of-the-art 500-amp solenoid


  • Cable is hard to free spool 
  • Connector assembly mounting bracketry has poor design

What Recent Buyers Report

Users are very impressed with the performance of this unit. They find that it is highly durable and operates very smoothly. Even though some consumers wish that the connector assembly mounting bracketry had a slightly better design, the overall unit is highly reliable.

Why it Stands Out to Us

There aren’t many products quite as well constructed as this one. It stood out to us due to its impressive features and operation. Firstly, it is equipped with a wonderful limited lifetime warranty. The warranty backs the unit's mechanical components for a lifetime and the electrical components for about three years. The customer service is very supportive as well. 

Furthermore, it offers a 9500lbs pull capacity with a smooth, reliable, and low-noise operation. It is constructed to be completely waterproof and is equipped with a state-of-the-art 500-amp solenoid. It comes with all the necessary wiring for installation, which enables the installation process to be swift. 

Bottom Line

Overall, this is a great unit that has a smooth operation. It is easy to install and convenient to use for consumers. It has a high load capacity of 9500-lbs with a low-noise operation, which is impressive. It proves to be a great investment. 


Buying a winch can be a difficult process as it requires a certain amount of knowledge. This often tends to overwhelm first-time buyers. However, rest assured as it isn’t that scary as it may seem, once you have the information you need to make a good decision. 

Hydraulic and electric winches are popular choices due to their vast commercial and domestic applications. Consumers often are in a position where they need to pick one out of the two. 

Thus, the idea behind this post was to offer a fair comparison between the two types of winches so you can decide which one works best for you. Hopefully, by the time you reach this section, you’ll know which one you want to place your bets on. 

People Also Ask

When it comes to buying a good-quality winch, people tend to have many queries. Keeping this in mind, we took your most frequently asked questions and answered them so you can have more clarity on the matter. Let’s take a look at them:

How Does a Hydraulic Winch Work?

Essentially, hydraulic winches work by utilizing fluid power in a confined space. They have pumps that operate to create a difference in applied pressure. This is created by a low-pressure fluid stored in a reservoir and forced into the inlet of the pump. This fluid is then delivered to the pump outlet and into the hydraulic system by means of mechanical action. 

Why Does a Hydraulic Winch Turn Slow?

This can be a clear indication of loss of flow as it determines the speed and response. Loss of flow can occur due to any internal or external leakage in the hydraulic circuit. External leakages include bursting of hose which is easy to spot whereas internal leakage could be at the valves, etc. which is hard to spot. 

How Much is a Hydraulic Winch? 

The price for a hydraulic winch will differ from product to product or brand to brand, depending on the quality of construction, pull capacity, and various other features. However, you can get a winch for $1000 to $1500. 

How Much is an Electric Winch?

The cost of an electric winch can differ greatly depending upon the brand, construction, capacity, and several other factors. But one can get a good-quality electric winch for about $150 to $500.

I used to work in construction and landscaping, so I've seen my fair share of ratchet straps, winches, and similar rigging gear. I started Winch Central because I've seen some nasty accidents due to crappy rigging or poor practice. I wanted to be able to recommend good equipment that's SAFE and also provide resources for how its used. I handle the research side of things here as well as product selection for gear reviews.