A reliable truck winch is an essential tool for those who regularly drive off-road or in icy or muddy conditions. It is often the most effective tool for recovering stuck vehicles, making it a popular accessory for truck owners.
This guide explains what to look for in a truck winch, so you can find the perfect option for your vehicle. We recommend several of the highest-rated truck winches and explain what makes them stand alone.
5 Best Truck Winches
- Editor’s Choice: Smittybilt X20 Gen 2
- Most Durable: Warn Zeon Platinum 12
- Budget Pick: SuperWinch Tiger Shark 9500
- Best Portable Winch: SuperWinch Winch2Go
- Best Speed Mount Winch: Champion Power Equipment Winch Kit
Truck Winch Buyers Guide
For many, even those who regularly drive off-road, a winch is a rarely-used tool. For this reason, it can be tempting to pick the cheapest option. But when you really need a winch, you’ll want to be sure you’re using a high-quality product that won’t fail.
When comparing winches, in addition to overall build quality, some features to consider are:
- Cable Type
- Motor Power
- Gear Train Design
- Power Source
In general, the higher the capacity of your winch, the better. As a general rule of thumb, you should pick a winch that has a capacity of at least twice the weight of your truck. Keep in mind that stronger winches are typically bigger and heavier, so don’t pick something that will overload your vehicle.
Winch cables are either synthetic or steel. In most situations, synthetic cable is generally the better choice. Synthetic rope is lighter and stronger than steel cable. Steel cables can also fray, and are more dangerous should they snap.
That said, steel cable is more abrasion-resistant than synthetic cable, meaning it is less likely to deteriorate from friction (should your winch rub against rocks or other objects). Synthetic cable is also more vulnerable to UV rays. Another disadvantage of synthetic cable is that it is more easily tangled if not spooled tightly.
A stronger motor will mean a stronger winch. However, motor power isn’t the only factor that determines winch pull capacity. If two winches have the same capacity but different horsepower motors, the winch with the stronger motor will operate more quickly under a load.
Winches are often necessary in wet environments and so effective waterproofing is helpful. When describing water resistance, winch manufacturers will often use the term: IP68.
“IP” stands for “ingress protection.” The first number indicates protection against small solids such as dust. Six is the highest number, indicating full protection.
The second number indicates waterproofing, on a scale of 1 to 9, 9 indicating a piece of equipment can hold up to heavy rain or a jet spray. 8 indicates that something can be submerged in a meter of water for more than 30 minutes.
While these standards have been developed by the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission), products are self-certified by companies. For this reason, seeing the IP68 indication is a good sign that something is waterproof, but not a guarantee.
Gear Train Design
The design of a winches gear train impacts the amount of torque it can produce (and thus the winch capacity). The larger the gear ratio, the slower the winch drum will rotate relative to the engine, which will generate more torque.
When comparing winches, it isn’t especially important to compare gear ratios if you’re already comparing winch capacity.
Some winches use a planetary gear train, and describe this as a feature in their copy. This type of gear train consists of placing smaller gears inside larger gears, rather than beside them. The downstream consequence for the consumer is a more robust design. Not only can a larger gear ratio fit into a smaller space, but the gears themselves are less fragile.
Most truck winches are electric, but some are hydraulic-powered. An electric truck winch is easier to install and uses your truck’s battery for power. These can be energy-intensive and will drain your truck’s battery with extended use.
A hydraulic winch uses a hydraulic system for power. These are more powerful and durable than electric winches. However, they are also often more expensive and difficult to set up. For the occasional winch, a hydraulic winch may not be necessary.
All of the winches that we recommend in this article are electric winches.
Whichever winch you choose, it will last longer if properly maintained. This means lubricating where necessary and ensuring all bolts and connectors are fully tightened, especially before use. Whenever you return from an adventure, be sure to fully clean your winch, clearing away any dirt or water that could cause corrosion.
A winch will wear down and possibly fail if it is not properly and tightly spooled to the drum. Winches from the factory may not be properly spooled or have loosened during shipment.
Check the owner’s manual for specific instructions on how to spool your winch. The process generally involves unraveling the rope on your winch and then re-spooling it with a load of at least 1,000.0 pounds. You should regularly re-spool your winch to ensure the line rests evenly on the cylinder
Other Useful Recovery Equipment
Winches are useful recovery tools, but they aren’t the only means to rescue a stuck vehicle. Some equipment, such as snatch blocks and soft shackles, are intended to be used with a truck winch to increase its efficiency and power. Some equipment to consider includes:
- Snatch block: A snatch block (or recovery block) is a heavy-duty pulley that can double the pulling power of your winch.
- Tree strap: Tree straps are thick nylon belts useful in a number of recovery situations. They can be used as a winch when connected to your truck tires.
- Recovery board: Recovery boards are durable planks that can provide tire traction in a variety of situations. They are especially useful in the mud or sand.
- Soft shackles: Soft shackles are thick ropes that act as carabiners and are used to connect recovery equipment. Soft shackles are typically safer than steel shackles and less likely to damage equipment.
- Hand winch: As the name implies, a hand winch is a self-powered winch. These are often less expensive than electric winches but take more effort to use. They are also much less expensive than electric winches, though not nearly as powerful.
Our Review Standards
To select the winches featured in this buyers guide, our team first combed through dozens of resources such as DIY mechanic and auto enthusiast forums, manufacturer websites, instruction, and reviews from online retailers. We pay particularly close attention to quality reviews and recommendations that highlight the quality of warranties, customer service support, build quality, materials, and overall reliability.
We also factored in the quantity and quality of online retailer reviews from websites such as Amazon, RealTruck, Advance Auto Parts, and more. We looked at factors such as notable customer reviews, prices, meaningful superlatives, and discount shipping eligibility. We did the research so you don’t have to.
Why You Can Trust Us
Since 2020, we have published over 200 auto product reviews in an effort to make shopping for auto products easier. Our team of writers, editors, researchers, and product experts collaborates to thoroughly vet top products. We try to perform in-house testing on real vehicles whenever possible before making our recommendations.
When testing is not feasible, however, our aim is to make your life easier by doing all the online research for you and presenting that research in the form of easy-to-read product comparisons and buyers guides, rather than outright recommendations. For more information on our testing methodology and how we evaluate every product, check out our methodology page here.
#1 Editor's Choice: Smittybilt X20 Gen 2
The Smittybilt X20 is a waterproof, high-capacity truck winch. It is constructed with a durable planetary gear system and backed by a lifetime warranty. In addition to its positive customer review profile and mid-tier price point, we like the Smittybilt because of its waterproof design features such as the use of stainless steel hardware, an amphibious motor, and fully-waterproof solenoid.
We think this is a good pick for most people in need of a winch. The Smittybilt offers high-capacity options (up to 17,500.0 pounds) beyond what most may need and it is built to last. The lifetime warranty also adds some peace of mind for those worried about winch longevity.
- Cost: Around $600 – $700
- Capacity: 10,000.0 pounds, 17,500.0 pounds
- Motor Power: 6.6 HP
- Cable Type: Synthetic
- IP68 Waterproofing
What Customers Are Saying
Amazon Review Score: 4.7 out of 5 based on over 2,400 ratings
According to reviewers, the Smittybilt winch is easy to install, lightweight, and offers excellent value for a winch under $1,000. There are reports of people using this winch effectively underwater, but be aware that no winch is likely to be 100 percent waterproof.
“I’ve used and abused [my Smittybilt]. After 5 years of abuse, [Smittybilt] sent me a new one after they were unable to send me just the parts I needed to fix my issue. Great winch.”
– Djb via Amazon
Though this winch installs easily, the included instructions are confusing to many. There are also complaints that the winch remote often stops working after a couple of months.
According to reviewers, the Smittybilt warranty replacement process can be difficult. Instead of sending in your broken winch for repairs, service agents will try to diagnose any issue over the phone. Reviewers who aren’t familiar with winch construction find this to be a frustrating experience. However, for those more mechanically inclined, this process is ultimately cheaper than shipping a 70.0-pound piece of equipment.
#2 Most Durable: Warn Zeon Platinum 12
The Warn Zeon Platinum 12 is an expensive but reliable winch. It offers a high, 12,000.0-pound pull capacity and is backed by a limited lifetime warranty on mechanical parts and a 7-year warrant on electrical parts. The winch has a 6.0-horsepower motor and a mechanical cone brake, meaning that it can start and stop very quickly compared to other winches.
The waterproofing and planetary gear train design help ensure the durability of the Warn Zeon winch. The remote, however, is not so reliable. Many complain of poor battery life. And while the Zeon includes a lifetime warranty, you’ll have to pay for shipping this heavy winch should you need a repair or replacement.
- Cost: Around $2,000 – $2,500
- Capacity: 12,000.0 pounds
- Motor Power: 6.0 HP
- Cable Type: Steel, aluminum, and synthetic options
- IP 68 Waterproofing
What Customers Are Saying
Amazon Review Score: 4.1 out of 5 based on over 15 ratings
Reviewers mostly describe the Warn Zeon as providing strong power, good torque, and a quick tow speed. It is easy to mount to a bumper and an all-around reliable winch.
“The 12-S is amazing. I have it on my 2019 Ford Raptor and it has gotten me out of a few tough situations. It’s nice knowing you have a winch that can pull just about anything”
– C O. via Amazon
According to reviewers, many of the remotes have poor battery life and die after about two weeks. Warn is reliable about supplying replacements, however. Another common complaint is that when requesting a replacement or repair under the Warn warranty, customers are required to pay for shipping, which can get expensive.
#3 Budget Pick: SuperWinch Tiger Shark 9500
The SuperWinch Tiger Shark is a medium-capacity winch at around $500. While it does not have a waterproof rating, the motor and solenoid are both weather-sealed and the roller is made of stainless steel. The included remote is also rubberized, which adds a measure of waterproofing.
Though the SuperWinch is relatively heavy for a 9,500.0-pound capacity winch (around 80.0 pounds), it is nonetheless easy to install. Based on the high volume of positive reviews, the Tiger Shark appears to be a reliable winch that stands up well to regular use. It has a capacity suitable for most vehicles and situations unless you’re trying to winch the heaviest of trucks.
- Cost: About $550
- Capacity: 9,500.0 pounds
- Motor Power: 5.2 HP
- Cable Type: Steel
What Customers Are Saying
Amazon Review Score: 4.4 out of 5 based on over 260 ratings
Reviewers comment that this winch is powerful, easy to install, and stands up well to regular use. Several have commented that Superwinch customer service is quick and helpful.
“I wrote this review in 2016 and it’s the end of 2022. These winches (I have three of them) continue to perform flawlessly. As part of an off-road recovery group, this winch has seen a lot of use”
– Mark Twain via Amazon
A few complain that this winch is a little heavy for the capacity. Many also stress the importance of re-spooling this winch after you get it. There are some reported quality control issues, with a few people receiving damaged or defective units. Lastly, this winch can get hot when forced to operate for extended periods of time.
#4 Best Portable Winch: SuperWinch Winch2Go
The SuperWinch Winch2Go is a portable winch that can be mounted to a vehicle or stored in the included carrying case. In addition to the carrying case, this winch includes:
- Three shackles
- Two straps
- Pulley block
- Handheld remote
- 10.0-inch battery leads
- SuperWinch leather gloves
Though rated for 4,000.0 pounds, this winch can effectively pull up to 8,000.0 pounds when used in conjunction with the included pulley block (see our buyers guide for more info on pulley blocks).
The portability and reported reliability of the Winch2Go make it a good pick if you don’t want to permanently mount a winch to your vehicle.
- Cost: Around $450 – $550
- Capacity: 4,000.0 – 8,000.0 pounds
- Motor Power: 1.4 HP
- Cable Type: Steel
What Customers Are Saying
Amazon Review Score: 4.4 out of 5 based on over 190 ratings
Most agree that the Winch2Go is handy and portable. It offers what most feel is an excellent value for the relatively low cost. Many are surprised at the Winch2Go’s weight capacity, given its small size.
“The winch did everything I needed to do to load a car into my 24[.0-inch] enclosed trailer. I also used it to pull a fire safe up and incline into a trailer.”
– MinnCanoeGuy via Amazon
Many complain about the tool box construction, specifically, the plastic latches that easily break. Some don’t mind the low-quality cases, while others might consider purchasing an alternative carrying case. Another issue some mention is that the leads for the battery cables are too short.
#5 Best Speed Mount Winch: Champion Power Equipment Winch Kit
The Champion Power Equipment Winch Kit comes with a speed mount 2.0-inch hitch adapter. If you have a trailer hitch on your vehicle, this kind of winch can be attached quickly and then removed when not in use.
Champion is a reliable brand and this winch in particular is backed with thousands of positive reviews relating the power and reliability. It also includes a two-year limited warranty and a lifetime of free technical support (which, also according to reviewers, is helpful).
- Cost: Around $600
- Capacity: 12,000.0 lbs.
- Motor Power: 6.0 HP
- Cable Type: Synthetic
What Customers Are Saying
Amazon Review Score: 4.5 out of 5 based on over 5,100 ratings
Many reviewers claim this is a reliable winch and that Champion Power Equipment offers fast, reliable, and informative customer service support. While this winch does not have an IP waterproof rating, several have mentioned using it in wet situations (including full submersion) without issue.
“[The Champion Power Equipment Winch] has pulled me out of the mud and also helped me move some logs. It’s been 1 year and still working as it should.”
– Mike G. via Amazon
There are complaints about the mounting plate. Apparently, the holes for the mounting plate don’t always perfectly align with the winch. Reviewers also complain about the poor quality of the remote, which doesn’t always work.
There are many people who report years of reliable use, but there are also a good number of reviewers claiming that their Champion Power Equipment winch began to fail after about three years.
Best Truck Winch: Bottom Line
Finding the right winch depends largely on your intended use and budget. For many, a simple yet reliable winch is all that’s required. Even if it’s a seldom-used piece of equipment, it’s important that a truck winch doesn’t fail when you do need it.
We think that Smittybilt, Warn, and SuperWinch generally manufacture the most reliable truck winches.
Truck Winches At A Glance
|Winch Make/Model||Approximate Cost||Capacity||Motor Power||Cable Type(s)|
|Smittybilt X20 Gen 2||$600 - $700||17,500 lbs.||6.6 HP||Synthetic|
|Warn Zeon Platinum 12||$2,000 - $2,500||12,000 lbs.||6 HP||Steel, Aluminum, Synthetic|
|SuperWinch Tiger Shark 9500||$550||9,500 lbs.||5.2 HP||Steel|
|SuperWinch Winch2Go||$450 - $550||4,000 lbs.||1.4 HP||Steel|
|Champion Power Equipment Winch Kit||$605||12,000 lbs.||6 HP||Synthetic|
Truck Winch: FAQ
*Data accurate at time of publication.