Best Hydraulic Winches of 2020 – Ultimate Guide

Winches are mechanical devices used to adjust the tension of a string, i.e., make them tight or loose. They can be as simple as a spool attached to a hand crank that you find on a fish rod. On the other hand, there are also versions used on Jeeps to tow them. 

You also find them within the mechanics of an elevator. This small mechanical concept can accomplish many different things depending on the tools and type of rope used. 

Before getting to the best hydraulic winches, let’s first see what they are and how they operate. 

Our Top Picks for Hydraulic Winches

  • Hydraulic motor
  • Steel geartrain
  • 18,000 lb line pull
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  • Multi-purpose design
  • Heavy-duty disk brakes
  • 12,000lbs pulling power
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  • Best for the Money
  • Two-stage geartrain
  • 12,00lbs hydrauilic design
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Comparison Chart of the Best Hydraulic Winches

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Very powerful hydraulic motor
  • Hardened steel geartrain
  • 18000lb rated line pull
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  • Multi-purpose design suitable for utility and trailer application
  • Reliable heavy-duty disk brakes provide dependable safety
  • Provides enough power to pull 12000lbs
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  • Best for the Money
  • Two-stage planetary geartrain improves winching speed
  • Powerful hydraulic design with 12000lbs of pulling power
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  • Best Mile Marker Hydraulic Winch
  • Durable corrosion-resistant construction
  • Free spooling action with safe mechanical lock
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  • Best Hydraulic Winch for Skid Steer
  • Hardened steel construction
  • Motor rated at 9,000lbs pulling power
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  • Best Hydraulic Winch for Truck
  • Corrosion-resistant design that can be used underwater
  • Equipped with a 2-speed motor with solenoid valve
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What is a Hydraulic Winch? 

Hydraulic winches are the most powerful type of winches that are used for heavy-duty jobs. Mostly, you will see them being used in marine applications or tow trucks. Instead of using a battery, they work on a hydraulic system, as the name suggests, which needs to be installed separately. 

This type of winch can operate much longer without heating. If you find them on a truck, they will be much smaller compared to the ones used on boats. Truck winches are used to tow trucks and are also used with RVs. Marine winches are much bigger and used for anchoring, handling halyards, and more.

How Does a Hydraulic Winch Work? 

Behind a hydraulic winch is a motor or a system that works on hydraulic principles. This type of system uses pressurized fluid to transfer energy and power. This concept is as old as the 17th century. 

The system has three main components other than the winch itself, i.e., a hydraulic pump, a motor, and valves to direct the flow. The pump powered by the motor creates pressure on the hydraulic fluid, which is then used as a source of energy. This energy is converted to mechanical energy to move various parts. To control the amount of pressure and the flow of fluid, different valves are used.

This entire system works on the simple principle that when pressure is applied to a fluid in an enclosed space, it transfers that pressure equally in all directions. This powerful principle is used in many mechanical applications.  

What to Look For When Buying a Hydraulic Winch 

Since you are looking for hydraulic winches, you probably need to do some heavy lifting. There is a lot that goes into buying a winch. Since these are expensive to install, you should do your research before investing in them. We have listed some things to keep in mind when making your decision.

Cable

The cables are mostly of two types, i.e., synthetic rope and steel. The former has a lesser load-bearing capacity and hence is rarely if at all, used with hydraulic winches. The latter is highly durable, has a larger pull capacity, and does not corrode easily. 

The length of the cable depends on how you use the winch. Longer cables require more powerful motors and are used for heavy-duty jobs. For normal use, a cable with a 10-meter length is considered enough. 

Motor

The motor is the driving force of the entire system. Its quality and capacity need to match that of the rope. Its power will be measured in horsepower. It is recommended to go for a sealed motor. Since this equipment is often used in conditions with a lot of water, mud, and other contaminants, you want the motor to be protected from all of that.

Pulling Capacity

Among the many technical numbers attached with winches, pulling capacity is probably one of the most important ones. You should know how much you plan on pulling with the winch and how much it is capable of. If you put extra pressure on it, the cable can break and can even result in accidents. Don’t cheap out on this part; go for higher capacity winches, e.g., 6500 pounds or more.

Speed

The speed of a winch refers to how fast it can retrieve the cable. It is measured in feet per minute. This is not usually something that is a huge concern, but if you like things to get done fast, you might want to pay attention to this number. Usually, it lies somewhere between two to five feet per minute.

Waterproof 

Just like the motor, the cable and winch should be protected from external elements. Constant exposure to water can result in rust and disturb the smoothness of pulling the cable. To make sure that your winch is long-lasting and works smoothly, it should be waterproof.

Quick Take  - Best Hydraulic Winches

Before you get any further, here are our recommendations for the best hydraulic winches:

  1. WARN 74125 Series 18
  2. WARN 30285 Series 12
  3. WARN 30286 Series 12

Review of the Best Hydraulic Winches 

Now that we know how these equipment works, what they are used for, and the important aspects to keep in mind, let’s take a look at the best hydraulic winches on the market.

WARN 74125 Series 18 Hydraulic Winch

PROS

  • Fast line-speed
  • Heavy-duty disc brake
  • Powerful motor operation
  • 18,000 pounds pulling capacity

CONS

  • Rope is sold separately

What Recent Buyers Report

The exceptional pulling capacity of this unit is what makes people coming back for more. This heavy-duty industrial winch can handle a lot and is very durable. The motor and winch are both sturdy and dependable.

Why it Stands Out to Us

You will see WARN winches in just about any article related to winches. They make some of the best products. This is one of their industry-level heavy-duty winches with an 18,000 pounds pulling capacity. It is used for tow, utility, and trailer applications.

The motor has a steel two-stage gear train with a gear ratio of 36:1, which makes for a fast winch. This product also meets CE requirements. This means that it meets the standards of health, safety, and environmental protection set by the European Union.

Bottom Line

Hydraulic winches are used instead of electric winches where you need more power, so this unit is the natural first choice. The minimum recommended pulling capacity is 6,500, and this model goes beyond that with its 18,000 pounds capacity. 

WARN 30285 Series 12 Industrial Hydraulic Winch

PROS

  • Positive locking clutch 
  • 12,000 pounds capacity
  • 21.8 feet per minute pull speed
  • Heavy-duty automatic disk brakes
  • Lifetime warranty for mechanical components

CONS

  • No rope included

What Recent Buyers Report

You get what you are promised with this winch, which is great mechanics and overall quality. The price is justified by the result. As users state, you get your money’s worth with this dependable and long-lasting industrial-level winch. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

This winch uses hardened steel for strength and durability. The two-stage planetary gear train system found in WARN winches improves the device's speed and gear ratio. 

The automatic disk brakes provide safety, and the positive locking clutch prevents the device from jumping out of gear. All the international safety standards are kept in mind while manufacturing this, and that is visible in its performance.

It uses a four-layer steel drum for the wire, which offers it extra durability. It is recommended to be mounted in feet-down or feet-forward positions.

Bottom Line

Our runner-up product follows the same principles and quality standards that you would find in any Warn product. It is suitable for most tow, utility, and trailer applications with its 12,000 pounds pulling capacity. 

Best for the Money:
WARN 30286 Series 12

WARN 30286 Series 12 Industrial Hydraulic Winch

PROS

  • 12,000 pounds pulling capacity
  • Industrial standard and durable
  • Automatic disk brakes for safety
  • Meets worldwide safety standards

CONS

  • Will not be installed on every vehicle

What Recent Buyers Report

According to users, this winch works like a beast. People have used this on their trucks and for moving logs without any complaints. It serves as a great alternative to electric winches that eat up the vehicle’s battery. It has a great pulling capacity and is easy enough to install and operate.

Why it Stands Out to Us

From Warn’s industrial 12 series, this model comes under the same category as our second product with a difference in its working mechanism; this one works in the clockwise direction. You will see that all the other specifications are similar, including the drum size, material, and pull capacity.

It follows the standards of manufacturing set by WARN and the safety standards accepted worldwide.   

Bottom Line

Hydraulic winches don’t come cheap, so it is always good to have options that keep your budget in mind. It is a bonus when that product does not compromise on quality and performance, and this unit is perfect for that. With this unit, you get everything you expect from a 12,000-pound industrial hydraulic winch.

Best Mile Marker Hydraulic Winch:
Mile Marker 70-52000C H Series

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

PROS

  • Two-speed spooling
  • 12,000 pounds capacity
  • Can be used underwater
  • 100-feet steel cable included
  • Corrosion-resistant construction

CONS

What Recent Buyers Report

This winch gets nothing but good reviews from its users. It is a very high-speed and powerful unit that gives a noticeable improvement in performance over electric winches. The steel cable also meets the standards and is highly dependable.

Why it Stands Out to Us

It stands out to us because it uses 100 feet of galvanized aircraft-grade cable. This is a highly durable product that is corrosion and water-resistant, so you can use it in underwater applications.

You can mount it on either the front or the back of the vehicle with a permanent or detachable recovery system. It is two-speed spooling makes it extremely fast at 48 feet per minute. It also has a two-year warranty for the winch and a five-year warranty for the motor. Make sure to mount it in either the feet down or feet forward position.  

Bottom Line

Overall, this product has made it to our list because of its speed, capacity, durability, and the ability to work underwater without getting ruined. Using stainless steel for its fasteners and tie bars and galvanized steel for its cable, it becomes a rust and corrosion-free product.

Best Hydraulic Winch for Skid Steer:
WARN 30281 Series 9

WARN 30281 Series 9 Hydraulic Industrial Winch

PROS

  • Automatic operation
  • Positive clutch locking
  • Meets international standards
  • 28.5 feet per minute spooling speed

CONS

  • Lower pull capacity 

What Recent Buyers Report

If you don’t require pulling stuff that is 12 or 18 thousand pounds, then this dependable winch will do the job. It is still more powerful than its electric counterparts. It is also cheaper in comparison to other hydraulic winches.

Why it Stands Out to Us

You don’t always require extra pulling capacity, so instead of wasting money on that, you should go for this winch with a 9000-pounds capacity. It has a 4.9 cubic inch motor with an anti-clockwise rotating drum.

Its other features are similar to WARN’s hydraulic winches. This includes a planetary gear train, automatic disk brake, positive locking clutch, and lifetime warranty for the mechanical parts.  

Bottom Line

If you are looking to save some money and stay within the budget, this industrial standard winch would be a good option. It gives a constant and dependable performance and is backed by a good warranty.  

Best Hydraulic Winch for Truck:
Mile Marker HI-Series HI10500

Mile Marker HI-Series 12 Volt DC Powered Hydraulic Truck Winch - 10,500-lb. Capacity, Galvanized Aircraft Cable, Model Number HI10500

PROS

  • Usable underwater
  • Galvanized steel cable
  • Two-speed variable motor
  • 10,500 pounds pulling capacity

CONS

  • Requires vehicle specific adapter kit

What Recent Buyers Report

The two-speed motor and high pulling capacity of the winch makes it great to tow and use with trucks. It is highly dependable, and after years of use, it requires little maintenance. You don’t have to worry about rust with this product either.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This winch uses a two-speed motor, giving it a 48 feet per minute line speed at high gear. It gives 1500 PSI pressure and has a rated pull of 10,500 pounds, which is good for most heavy-duty towing works.

It is also corrosion-resistant and can be used underwater. Its 100-feet cable is made of galvanized aircraft-grade steel. Its mechanical lock and stainless steel construction all make for a dependable and long-lasting product. 

Bottom Line

With this winch, you will need an adapter kit to install it, and then you are good to go. It comes with a high-quality cable and makes for a good investment for your truck. Any pulling capacity above 10,000 pounds is well worth the money. 

Pros and Cons of Hydraulic Winches 

That was our list of the best hydraulic winches. These are all industrial-grade heavy-duty products. But like everything, these have their good and bad points, and you should be aware of those as well before investing in anything.

Pros 

Let’s first see the benefits they provide:

Durable

Hydraulic winches are used for heavy lifting or pulling weight, and for that reason, they are made to bear the extra weight. The material used is of industrial standard and needs to follow the safety requirements. Therefore, you will see these winches will have longer warranties.

Heavy Pulling Capacity

These products follow the pascal principle in which a large force is generated by a smaller one. So, these winches can handle heavy loads and are used for applications on ships as well as on tow trucks.

Run for Longer Periods

Because they don’t use electricity, they can run for longer periods without getting hot. They are more reliable in this sense and don’t leave you stranded during long jobs that require a lot of power.

Cons

On the other hand, some drawbacks include:

Installation

One major con of this type of winch is that you need to buy extra parts with it like the hydraulic motor, and they need to be installed separately. Once installed, it also takes a lot of time and effort to take it out.

Speed

Compared to electric winches, the line speed of these is much slower.

Hydraulic vs. Electric Winch - Comparison Overview 

Both of these winches have their place and time of use, and in their field, they both work well. But how do you know which one you need? Let’s compare them both.

Working

Electric winches require electric motors to work. They will use the battery of the vehicle they are attached to for operating the motor, which then turns the drum of the winch. Some other electric and mechanical details are involved, but that is the gist of it.

Hydraulic winches, as we discussed above, use hydraulic systems to work and are much more efficient in their power usage. 

Durability 

Since electric components are bound to cause problems after some time and since electric winches are made for lighter loads, you will find them less durable and unable to constantly work. They run the risk of overusing the vehicle’s battery and overheating.

Hydraulic winches don’t depend on the vehicle’s battery and run longer and have a greater lifespan.  

Capacity

Electric winches have a lower capacity and are used with all-terrain vehicles or ATVs. On the other hand, a hydraulic winch is used for maritime work, towing, trucks, etc.      

Conclusion 

In conclusion, hydraulic winches come out on top in heavy-duty works. The end choice you make depends on how much pulling capacity you need. All of the products on our list are high-quality and follow the safety standards. Just remember to check the installation requirements and compatibility.