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Anchor Points: Selling Aftermarket Winches

Recovery product sales stay on the incline.

  • Warn winch
  • Superwinch
  • Warn winch
  • Superwinch

This article originally appeared in the April 2023 issue of THE SHOP.

Increased interest in off-roading and overlanding means increased interest in the accessories that make trips on the trail safer and more enjoyable. Recovery winches fit that description.

Available for a wide range of vehicles and with various features and accessories, winches are a professional-level product that can be the anchor point of an off-road package or an exciting standalone purchase.

Here, winch suppliers offer insight on the market and ways to increase sales of these in-demand units.


Even if your main clientele isn’t made up of what could be considered hardcore off-roaders, know that most Jeep and 4×4 drivers are prime candidates for winches.

“I would say we have been in a growth mode for the entire winch market since the introduction of the Jeep Wrangler JK in 2007,” says Corby S. Phillips, director of sales, truck aftermarket/OEM for Warn Industries. “The release of the four-door SUV, as capable as it is from the factory, opened the world of off-roading to a much larger group of consumers. Many other vehicle manufacturers took note and followed suit. It’s no longer just the guy in the Jeep—now it is the family in the SUV hitting the trail for a fun day, including the dog!”

And it’s not just men behind the wheel.

“If you attend any of the large off-road events, you will find an ever-increasing number of female owners who love to accessorize,” he adds.

Jane Donnelly, marketing director for TrailFX, explains that groups and clubs are helping bring proper 4×4 upfitting to their members.

“Shops that enter the winch market can expect to develop relationships with the off-road and overlanding communities in their areas, which will inevitably lead to off-road accessory sales and the potential to expand into adjacent categories such as racking systems, rooftop tents and electric bicycles, which are rapidly gaining popularity,” she says.

Businesses can even consider expanding offerings to powersports owners, suggests Cameron Quiroz, regional sales manager for Superwinch.

“The opportunities are endless, with new customers getting into overlanding and the SxS (side-by-side) market,” he says. “These markets are in need of quality recovery gear.”

Regardless of the client, be prepared to answer questions and offer individual solutions for unique needs.

“Education is driving sales in this category,” says Fred Konkle, category manager for Quadratec. “Whether from specific content articles or local four-wheel clubs hosting seminars, we are seeing more and more first-time Jeep owners who understand what they need and why it is important.”


The reliability and accessibility of today’s winch systems and accessories help them fit into a variety of market niches.

“We have seen emerging markets over the last five years, and they continue to develop,” says Phillips. “‘Overlanding’ is a buzzword that has stuck and continues to rise in popularity. This is not only a growth segment for winches, but all the ancillary items you can add to a vehicle to make outdoor living more palatable.”

There’s also a diverse vehicle mix out on the trail.

“I have seen more lifted Subarus and even a lifted Prius on the roads in recent months. I have to believe there is some action in the compact SUV market, due to the lower cost of entry for those vehicles, as well as rising fuel costs,” Phillips suggests. “Then there’s the EV discussion—Rivian, Ford Lighting, Tesla, Hummer, Jeep 4xe. We’ll see who lands on top.”

As vehicle inventories continue to rise back toward pre-pandemic levels, more trail-ready vehicles will need off-road accessorization.

“Right now, the increasing availability of pickup trucks, SUVs and Jeeps—after several years of very low inventory—is driving increased demand in the winch market,” Donnelly says. “In addition, other factors such as stabilizing gasoline prices and the still-growing overlanding trend have inspired casual campers to venture farther with better-equipped rigs. Raw materials are also more available than in recent years, so manufacturers are better positioned to fulfill that increase in demand.”

Suppliers are doing what’s needed to keep shelves stocked.

“Availability seems to be the greatest factor affecting the market right now,” observes Quiroz. “From supply chain issues to shipping delays, we are working to maintain the availability and stock of winches and all the products we offer through these tough times.”


Shops can serve as local experts by taking the time to listen to customers, asking important questions and fully demonstrating the products, Konkle explains.

“Is the customer a serious off-roader, or do they simply go a few times a year with friends? Do they just want a winch on the vehicle for emergencies? Do they know how to pre-tension the line before using and how to operate the winch during a recovery?”

Knowing what to expect on the trail keeps customers safe and helps them enjoy each adventure a little bit more. And there are always more tips to share.

“Tensioning the cable, steel or synthetic, will help keep the cable from knifing down between other cable layers,” notes Phillips. “When the cable knifes down on lower layers, it can kink or damage the cable below. Tensioning the cable is an excellent opportunity to show the customer how to operate the winch. Take them outside and let them use it before final delivery. It’s a chance to educate and further the bond with customers.”

Helping users become familiar with the latest winch technology is also important, Donnelly says.

“Bluetooth-enabled communication devices are now available to connect premium winches to smartphones,” she explains. “Winch operation is controlled through an app that can also monitor load and motor temperature to ensure optimum performance. It also allows the operator to choose the safest position from which to operate the winch.”


When it comes to winch sales, it’s best to remember that not every customer is an experienced off-road traveler, advises Warn’s Phillips.

“It is common to hear that many consumers—especially new vehicle owners interested in off-roading—are a bit intimidated using a winch,” he says. “If a jobber takes the time to demonstrate common winch scenarios and rigging, it will create an educated user and result in an increase in customer trust and overall customer satisfaction.”

Donnelly from Trail FX agrees that shops should make sure customers aren’t exaggerating their off-road skills.

“Some customers may be seasoned off-roaders, but many may not be. Shops should certainly spend some extra time with first-time winch buyers to ensure that they understand how to safely operate their winch in a variety of recovery situations,” she says.

Proper safety accessories should also be introduced during the sale—items that could include snatch blocks, shackles, cable dampers and gloves.

“Beyond that, properly sizing the winch for the expected payload is critical,” Donnelly adds. “Remember to consider weight-adding accessories like aftermarket bumpers and steel racking when calculating the weight requirements.”

Starting with the right-sized system for each application ensures a quality experience.

“Always be sure of the proper weight sizing of the winch,” says Quiroz from Superwinch. “Take into account all the accessories on a fully weighted rig to pick out the proper-sized winch.”

From there, you can accommodate each customer’s individual needs.

“With the overlanding category showing no signs of fading, the best opportunity for growth in the winch market involves providing consumers a wide range of options that feature technology and safety advancements,” says Quadratec’s Konkle. “Things like wireless controllers and/or the ability to utilize a smartphone application to control line speed from a safe distance help enhance user experience and can potentially increase sales. Additionally, lightweight synthetic rope, heat-reduction components and powerful series-wound motors all serve to increase efficiency and make great selling points.”

Jef White

Jef White is the executive editor of THE SHOP magazine.

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