Best Winch | Ultimate Buyer’s Guide To Top Rated Winches
You’re stuck. Yup, you’ve gotten your favorite toy in a bad spot, and your hands are on your hips wondering, just how am I going to get out of this one? Of course you didn’t realize that patch of ground was quicksand. You just wanted to roll over it to get on to the next adventure. How were you supposed to know that the Jeep couldn’t handle that steep of a slope? It’s a Jeep! And never mind the fact that you can’t get out the same way you got into this mess. Well it’s a good thing you did your research and bought the best winch for the money!
The Best Winch For The Money (Full Winch Reviews Below)
Maybe your car is too far in the ditch that you can’t drive it out. Perhaps you’ve mired your favorite ATV in the mud while on a camping ride through the woods. Chances are you could have even underestimated the rock you were attempting to dominate with your Jeep. Yes, you’re in it good.
In each of these instances, my friend, you need a winch – specifically the best winch!
Having a winch handy can be a lifesaver. Winches are a great tool for moving heavy loads over difficult terrain, or lowering materials at a measured rate. They’ll even be able to pull you out of a sticky situation in no time at all. Applicable on a number of vehicles for a variety of uses, winches are a must if you’re working in a remote area or don’t have access to heavy machinery. Best of all, no one but your buddies will need to know about it.
The nice thing about winches is that most are compact units capable of mounting to your ATV or vehicle. They need relatively little in terms of maintenance and while they may begin as a rather large investment, chances are you’ll find a use for them fairly quickly—and be thankful you spent those extra Benjamins. Because it’s no fun being stuck, and no one likes it when the fun stops. Invest in a quality winch, and banish those bogged-down cares away!
If you’re still new to the heavy-duty recovery world, take a look at the following paragraphs for a quick course on winch basics. The concept of a winch isn’t hard to understand, but in the heat of the moment, a simple task may soon become an hours-long nightmare. Prepare yourself for the worst, but focus on having fun and being safe at the same time.
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Winches come in many sizes, with a nearly never-ending list of uses. Small-scale applications include mounting a winch to an ATV or UTV for around-the-farm jobs, as it’s better to use the pulling power of a winch than risk incurring damage to yourself or others. Whether you’re clearing trees, moving around feed and materials, or tackling a complex job, having a winch means you’ll do less work while your machines do more. You’ll appreciate the helping hand as the work piles up and the day goes on.
Off-road enthusiasts treasure their winch systems, especially when they’re caught between a rock—and another rock. Jeeps and rock crawlers alike require winches in case they find themselves in trouble and need to be pulled out of a tough situation. It’s a bit like pulling with a tow strap, but much more powerful and precise. Just make sure you’re strapping your winch to a strong spot on the vehicle you’re rescuing. It’s all fun and games until somebody’s bumper gets ripped off.
Of course, we can’t forget about the heavy rescue teams whose very lives depend on their winching power. Whether you’ve watched them on Netflix or seen their big rigs drive by, heavy rescue drivers always show up to a job with a winch. From the snowy slopes of the Canadian mountain ranges to the muddy mess of the Outback, a winch can mean the difference between payout and bankruptcy, or life and death.
Okay, so winches are a great tool to have, but what exactly do they do? And how do they do it?
Mechanics of a Winch
Being able to pick out a good winch requires a bit of knowledge about how the winch itself really works, including knowing what all those little odds and ends are. After all, you’ve seen them in action, but what are all those parts doing exactly?
Winches are really just big mechanized spools of cable or rope wound about a drum. In use on tow trucks, winch lines are wound upwards off the main spool through a pulley, which increases leverage during the pull. Now, winches are mostly known for pulling large objects towards whatever the winch is mounted to—be it an ATV, Jeep, or truck—but the winch does move in both directions. You might even think of a winch as a scaled-down version of a crane in some ways. Cranes lift things up and bring them down, just like winches do. The difference is that a crane has a lot more force and strength behind it, if only because it is that much larger than most portable winches.
Now, winches should ideally be placed on a sturdy part of the vehicle’s frame, so that the entire mass of the vehicle can be used to compound the pulling power. In other words, you want to attach your muscle (winch) to a part of the vehicle that can back it up. Also, be sure that when you mount your winch, you think about how that cable or rope is going to pull on your vehicle. Make sure you don’t mount it to a plastic bumper. Chances are you’ll soon have to replace said bumper—and even whatever you were winching. Place your pull intelligently and you’ll have one less headache.
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What Makes for a Good Winch?
The heavier the winch, the more pulling power it has. Think of it like a typical truck or SUV versus an 18-wheeler. There are reasons why trucks pull boat trailers and campers, while semis pull long shipping containers; the more mass a pulling object has, the more mass it can move, relatively speaking.
However, depending on your applications, you might not need tons of power. Look at the winch’s pull rating as you’re browsing the top 10 list, and choose accordingly. It’s better to have more muscle and not need it than wish you had purchased a larger unit, so if the rating seems like a bit more than you’re thinking you might need, that’s okay. All the same, you probably don’t need a winch capable of pulling up to 10,000 pounds if you’re mounting it on your ATV. Consider the options available with your application in mind.
While industry giants are a good starting place to establish typical winch standards, a lot of large brands will be pricier than their competitors. As with many things in this world, you sometimes get what you pay for with winches. Along with price, you’ll also want to consider if you’ll need a waterproof winch. Having one that is waterproof is generally a good idea, as most rescue situations don’t necessarily happen in the driest of places. You don’t want to have to worry if your winch can handle a few drops of water when you’re rescuing someone, so choosing a waterproof winch is generally worth any extra cost associated.
Finally, good winches are durable and have a long-lasting steel cable or synthetic rope. Now, there are different applications for both a rope and a cable, each with their own pros and cons. Steel cables are typical in most recovery situations, as the cable is stronger and more durable. All the same, cables do store a lot of energy when tension is placed on them, so releasing that tension can be catastrophic. Decapitation catastrophic. Steel cables can also develop burrs over time, may rust, and can kink during use as well.
Synthetic rope, on the other hand, is safer and lighter. It doesn’t store as much energy as a steel cable and is more flexible in the case that you need that extra angle. Synthetic rope can also be quickly repaired in the field and floats as well. Choosing a rope or a cable for your recovery really depends on the situation and the terrain you’re working with. Having both on hand is a smart, proactive measure, and you’ll thank yourself later, rest assured.
In summary, a good winch is powerful, waterproof, durable, cost-efficient, and capable of using both synthetic rope and steel cable lines. Keep these characteristics in mind as you’re looking at the top 10 winches we’ve compiled here for you, and you’ll quickly realize why these are the top picks of the pack.
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What to Consider When Shopping for a Winch
The first thing you want to think about when window-shopping for a winch is your proposed application(s). Heavier winches have more power, but lighter winches hold their own as well. If you’re just looking for something to put on your Jeep for show, maybe the biggest and baddest isn’t worth the extra money. All the same, if you’re in the recovery business and need a dependable model that’ll put in as many hours as you do, spending a few extra dollars can mean more days on the road—and more money in the bank.
Along those same lines, consider your budget as well. Will your winch pay for itself after a few jobs, or will investing in the next level up ensure better quality and be a smarter buy? In most cases there is a happy medium between price and quality, but these days that can be hard to find. Searching for customer reviews is a great way to see how different winches perform in the field. While it’s smart to take other people’s opinions with a grain of salt, hearing the same issues over and over again can mean there’s an underlying problem. On the flip side, if a brand and/or winch consistently receives praise, it’s generally a good option to consider.
Buying a winch doesn’t end at just the winch either. You’ll need to pick up a few different accessories as well. These include a snatch block, tow straps, chains, shackles, and ropes. You’ll inevitably need some heavy-duty gloves as well, because working with steel cables, synthetic rope, and in various dirty situations isn’t the best for preserving your skin and/or nails.
Finally, you’ll need to choose between an electric or a hydraulic winch. Electric winches are a lot easier to maintain and own than hydraulic winches, which require a hydraulic system to operate. The winches listed here are all electric, and don’t require the specialized maintenance that a hydraulic winch would. Putting an electric winch on an ATV or vehicle is a much more practical application than having to fit either vehicle with a hydraulic system. Suffice it to say that most of the winches you’ll be looking at are electric, unless you’re a tow truck or heavy rescue driver. In that case, the cost and labor associated with a hydraulic winch is well worth it.
If you choose the electric winch, you may need an extra battery just in case. The battery serves to drive the winch motor, so if you’re using the one that powers your car and it isn’t running (i.e. your alternator isn’t recharging the battery), then you’ll end up stranded yourself. You want to be able to get the winching job done and get home too, so draining the battery in your car isn’t an option. Invest in a back-up battery and you’ll be set for any job.
Keep these things in mind as you consider the winches on the market. We’ve picked out the top 10 best winches out there right now, each with their own application. Study their features, and choose the one that fits all your criteria.
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The 10 Top-Rated Winches: A Buyer’s Guide
#1 Smittybilt 97495 XRC Winch – Best Winch For The Money
Showing up as the best winch on our list, the Smittybilt 97495 XRC winch is a 6.6-horsepower machine. Waterproof, it has a 3-stage planetary gear system and uses a 500-amp solenoid. Featuring a corded remote, the winch comes with all the wiring required for installation. These are all of the great qualities that makes Smittybilt’s XRC winch our top pick of the list.
Weighing in at 83 pounds, this Smittybilt winch has a 4-way roller rated pull line that can be remotely controlled. This winch comes with a 5/16” cable that is 94 feet long and has a sliding ring gear clutch. The winch’s drum is 2.5” in diameter. With that kind of flexibility, you can tackle jobs in the remotest of places.
Smittybilt offers a limited lifetime warranty on this winch’s stainless-steel products, and a 3-year warranty on the electrical parts. Considering the other warranties offered in this industry, Smittybilt shows they stand behind their products and will replace them if they fail before their time. You can contact the team at Smittybilt via their website or by phone, or you can email them questions as well. While on their website, check out their YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram for videos and pictures of their products in action. If you decide to become a Smittybilt owner, share your exciting videos and pictures as well!
Smittybilt is a brand well-known for quality products that you can depend on. They’re also known for their Jeep accessories, as well as their bumpers and vehicle armor. Check out the Smittybilt brand and the XRC Winch for yourself and decide: would you rate it as the best winch as well?
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#2 WARN 92815 ZEON Platinum 10-S – Best Warn Winch
WARN makes its way onto our best winch list with the ZEON Platinum 10-S. This WARN winch is a customer favorite, and for good reason. Capable and relatively affordable, this winch lives up to the reputation WARN has made for itself. Because paying for dependability is better than having to replace inferior winches over time, and end up spending as much or more than you would have if you’d gone with another brand in the first place.
The ZEON Platinum 10-S weighs in at 83 pounds and winches at a rate of 44 feet per minute. This WARN winch has an IP rating of 67 and the wireless remote control it comes with is also waterproof. With a 10,000-pound pull rating, this WARN winch can yank the biggest jobs out of the muck, with 100 feet of Spydura’s 3/8” Synthetic Rope. Specifically engineered for winch use in jobs pulling over 10,000 pounds, this synthetic rope from Spydura is actually self-tightening.
Impact resistant, this winch’s synthetic rope also comes with a ballistic nylon sliding change sleeve, heat resistant rope coating, and a polished aluminum Hawse fairlead. The advanced wireless remote operates the winch, reads the motor’s temperature, and can also be linked to two other accessories of your choosing. The black satin finish and stainless-steel hardware keeps your winch looking sleek and stealthy.
So, while it may be a pretty penny’s worth for the WARN winch, considering the inclusions as well as the capabilities, WARN might be the best winch for you & your vehicle. Check out WARN’s website for more winches and accessories, but keep reading to find out more about the top-rated winches on the market today.
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#3 Smittybilt 98510 X2O Waterproof Synthetic Rope Winch – Best Waterproof Winch
This Smittybilt winch features a similar 6.6-horsepower amphibious motor found in the XRC Winch mentioned above. However, it has a lifetime mechanical warranty and a 5-year electrical warranty. That’s quite a good warranty for the third winch on our top 10 list. Completely waterproof, this unit uses a 500-amp solenoid and a sliding ring gear clutch. At 64.4 pounds, it’s not the lightest, but it’s not the heaviest either. Therefore, it might be a good option for those looking for the best winch in the mid-tier price range, who want to be able to pull their buddies out of trouble, but aren’t looking to get involved in too big of a job.
The winch’s 3/8” cable is 98.5 feet long and comes equipped with synthetic rope. Textured black for durability and aesthetic value, this winch is a solid choice for those looking for a bit more power without the added weight. Choosing this winch will have you covered for most of the jobs you’ll encounter.
This winch by Smittybilt is a great alternative if you’re looking for a winch installed with synthetic rope. As we talked about earlier, synthetic rope is lightweight, floats, and isn’t prone to rust like steel cables will. There are a few drawbacks, too, but check out this winch if synthetic is the way you roll. If you’re still looking for a winch to fit your needs, keep reading. We’ve got 7 more winches to go!
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With over 20 meters of stainless-steel cable included, this WARN winch is a powerful and competitive option. That’s nearly 66 feet! The winch features a power in and power out motor for positive load control. You’ll be able to delicately maneuver the load with ease. Because when you’re winching, every inch counts.
WARN does offer electric and hydraulic winches, made for small-job DIYers all the way to professional recovery teams. Known worldwide for dependable quality, WARN is to winches what four-wheel-drive is to the off-road industry. It’s a hard package to beat, and with so many great options out there, it’s easy to see how WARN has made such a big name for itself.
The powerful, waterproof Albright motor featured in this winch is incredibly efficient. At 65 pounds, this WARN winch can tackle some big jobs without sipping too much power or weighing you down, or power through smaller jobs with ease. The low-profile design and tactical look of the new convertible control pack makes this winch a conversation piece on any Jeep, truck, or SUV. A one-piece tie plate replaces the tie rods found in most winches to add strength and rigidity. A best-in-class cone brake holds the load for precise movements and better control.
With enhanced styling and upgraded performance, this WARN winch is backed by an industry-leading 7-year electrical and limited lifetime warranty on all mechanical parts. If something on your winch is going to go out, it’s probably going to be your electronics, so having that 7-year timeframe is crucial for some folks.
See why industry experts choose the WARN winch and order yours today!
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The automatic load-holding feature and 4-way roller fairlead are just a few of the great features of this winch. Capable of pulling up to 12,000 pounds, X-BULL’s electric winch sports a high-tensile steel cable that is quiet during operation. Resistant to corrosion, this winch has tons of power.
Though this winch company might not be as well-known as the industry giants, there’s something to be said for up-and-coming underdogs. Having made it on the top 10 winch list, this could be the first of many quality products to come out of X-BULL. Only time will tell, but we can tell you that the Electric Recovery Winch from the guys at X-BULL is a solid buy. That’s why we’ve featured it on this list.
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The Champion winch is powered by a 1-horsepower 12-volt DC motor which can winch up to 3.3 feet per minute under load, and 10.5 feet per minute when free. The super-duty 5/32” aircraft cable is 49 feet long. With a 1.2” by 2.9” cable drum, this winch is compact enough to fit on an ATV or side-by-side without taking up too much space.
This winch kit includes a mounting channel, remote control, and roller fairlead. The roller fairlead ensures a smooth pull, and the planetary gear system and free-spooling clutch provide precise control during the winching process. Dynamic braking is also a feature of this winch’s drum. With a 2-year limited warranty and free lifetime technical support, this winch is a solid purchase for any ATV/UTV owner.
Champion is a brand known worldwide, offering a slew of powerful products. Originally headquartered in California, they’ve since spread out as their reputation grew. Champion strives to stay ahead of the game and provide customers with the latest in power technology—with a smile. Happy for your business, Champion is a brand sure to give WARN and Smittybilt a run for their money.
If you’re looking for a smaller winch for your ATV/UTV, or simply looking for a tiny helper for lifting and pulling jobs, check out this winch kit from Champion.
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Founded by two gentlemen bent on providing customers with tough products and a memorable experience, Tuff Stuff stands behind their process. Made by enthusiasts, for enthusiasts, this brand has come to stand for quality and durability. Their Econo Recovery Winch is no exception. Let’s take a closer look and you’ll soon see why.
The extremely durable and affordable winch is great for any operator, no matter their experience. It offers a single-line pull capacity that has passed nearly every quality control test possible, at least according to Tuff Stuff experts. Weighing around 70 pounds, this is a winch you’ll want to bring along on any type of recovery—and one you can depend on to get you unstuck and back in the game.
Tuff Stuff offers a 1-year warranty on this winch, which includes all mounting hardware when shipped. A remote control feeds the 12-foot cable in and out, with a power in and power out function available for precise pulling. A 4-way roller fairlead and 6 feet of positive and negative electrical cables add to the list of amazing features. This affordable, easy-to-use unit is a must on small-scale pulls.
While it may be a bit noisy, the price is hard to beat. Check out this capable winch if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative that can still put out top-of-the-line performance. Tuff Stuff has you covered.
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This WARN winch is manufactured in China and is capable of lifting and pulling up to 1,000 pounds. The variable speed control trigger with electronic load limiter has an LED indicator so that a single operator can do a lot more work, and actually see what they’re doing. Weighing 25 pounds, this WARN winch is a light-weight recovery option for those looking to have some pulling power on small to medium jobs. The 15 feet of 7/32” rope has you covered in even the longest of pulls, and WARN also offers this winch in a cordless model.
WARN truly has made this winch a jack of all trades, as it can be used for projects like construction work, equipment maintenance, garage work, and machine shops, as well as farms and ranches. Take this WARN winch along with you as you hunt in case you get stuck in a sticky situation.
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The drum on this winch is versatile in that customers can allow it to free-spool when they want to pull out line to set up for a recovery, or lock the line in place once the pulling begins. A 3-stage planetary gearing system ensures a smooth pulling action as you go. The low-gearing ensures you’re applying torque to maximize your pulling power.
The 3/8” rope on this winch is abrasion-resistant and also 87 feet long. That’s a lot of rope! A wireless remote control works the winch so that you can freely move all over the recovery scene, because sometimes having a view of all the angles provides a better, faster solution. All the mounting hardware comes with this easy-to-install winch, so you won’t have to go digging around for any specials screws, nuts, and bolts.
Driver Recovery Systems is an up-and-coming brand that also makes winch accessories. You can buy ratchet straps, D-rings, trailer hitches, slip hooks, snatch blocks, and more, at an affordable price. For those buyers looking to invest in a winch but without deep enough pockets to purchase a WARN or Smittybilt, this winch from Driver Recovery Systems is your answer.
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The winching cable on this unit is 85 feet long and is about 5/16” thick. With custom gaskets, you can be sure all your critical components won’t be damaged by water. The motor has 1.8 horsepower, plenty to get you unstuck and on your way. You can buy the Arksen Recovery Electric Winch from a variety of different online outlets, so check out this final winch on our top 10 list.
There you have it! If you’re in the market for a winch, these are 10 viable options you’ll definitely want to consider. Depending on what you’re looking to buy a winch for, what your budget is, and the types of accessories and features you’re seeking, there’s probably a winch out there for you.
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Winch Maintenance: Protect Your Investment
No matter what winch you end up purchasing, keeping your investment in tip-top shape is key to prolonging the life of your winch and prevent having to replace it prematurely. While at first glance it may not seem like a tool you’d necessarily need to look after, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Because when push comes to shove and you desperately need a winch, you’ll want to have the security of knowing it’s there, working properly for you. Otherwise it’s game over.
Really, winch maintenance starts before you go out trekking across the landscape. You’ll want to thoroughly check your winch before gassing up and heading out. Check your electrical connections and make sure the motor is working. If you think you’ll need an extra battery, take one if you’ve got the room. Chances are, if you’ve got a winch you’ve also got a bag full of accessories to assist when the going gets tough. Make sure all those parts made their way back into your carry bag or whatever you’ve designated to store them in. Once you’re prepared, you can leave your cares behind and prepare for some fun!
Like with all things mechanical, and definitely electrical, you want to make sure you’re keeping your winch clean and free of debris as much as possible. Most manufacturers will house the most crucial parts in protective materials that can take a beating, but that’s not to say you should drop the winch off a cliff and expect it to pull you out of a gulley ten minutes later. Winches will work better if they aren’t clogged with rocks and pebbles, and though most of the winches here are waterproof, you don’t want to keep the unit in water for a long period of time. Winches are durable, but they should still be treated with respect.
Keeping your winch clean includes maintaining the line as well. Most synthetic lines don’t need lubrication, but keeping the line clear of any debris will prevent hang-ups when you’re reeling it up after a pull. However, steel chains should be lubricated. Some people like to grease their winch lines to ensure a smoother release for the next pull and to prevent rust. While there are differing opinions out there about what exactly to use for lubrication, a lot of owners use WD-40. You’re welcome to use a lubricant of your choice, just make sure you’re not over-lubricating the line. Slippery line makes for a harder recovery.
Winch lines should also dry out completely before they are spooled back onto the drum. This ensures your lines won’t rust, in the case of steel cable, and that no debris will stick to the lines either, thus clogging up your drum and creating a huge headache. You want your line to go back on the drum smoothly, so that next time you need it it’s not going to get stuck or tangled—and increase your problems. Winding the drum properly will also ensure a smoother pull the next time you find yourself needing a winch.
Now that you know a bit more about winches and how they work, and have seen the top 10 winches on the market today, check out some of your favorite options and invest in a winch you can depend on. Whether you’ve got an ATV/UTV, truck, or Jeep, there’s a winch out there for you!