What trailers are best for tiny houses?
If you’re about to embark on your tiny home-building journey but have no idea where to begin when choosing a trailer – tiny houses specific for your build, you’re in the right place.
We’re going to walk you through the A-Z of tiny house trailers, and we’ve even popped together a buyer’s guide.
That way, you’ll leave this post knowing the dos and dont’s of tiny house trailers – and maybe even have one picked out for your dream tiny home build!
Terms you should understand: The tiny home trailers thesaurus
Buying a trailer is pretty straightforward, but one of those off-putting aspects is simply having no clue what specific terms and acronyms mean.
So, let’s remove that barrier by breaking down some of the most common terms! If you already know your trailer lingo feel free to skip past this section
GVWR – This stands for gross vehicle weight rating, which means the maximum weight limit of the trailer when fully loaded.
Tongue Weight – This indicates the weight of the front part of the trailer, where the tow ball that attaches to the hitch of your car is.
Axle – The rod passing between two wheels (or sometimes more) on one line.
Single Axle – A trailer with one axle.
Dual Axle – A dual-axle trailer has two axles.
Tandem Axle – A tandem axle varies from a dual axle as tandem axles are placed closely together to increase the weight capacity.
Tri Axle – A tri-axle trailer has not two but three axles!
Axle Weight – The weight each axle of the trailer can hold; this is important information to have as it impacts the weight distribution in your build.
Gooseneck – A trailer hitch that attaches within the bed of a pick-up truck.
Fifth Wheel – Can be used interchangeably with gooseneck.
Bumper Pull – A trailer hitch that connects to the bumper.
Crossmembers – Beams that run widthways across the trailer, usually a few inches below the frame height.
Flush Crossmembers – Beams that run widthways across the trailer at the same height as the frame.
Breakaway System – An emergency feature activates the trailer’s brakes if it detaches from the towing vehicle while driving.
Dovetail – A built-in partial ramp; essentially, this trailer slopes down at the back and is designed to make it easier to load and unload goods.
Tiny House Trailers From A-Z
Let’s run through the most important considerations when buying a trailer for your tiny house.
Going into your trailer buying experience with some info on what to look out for is vital, and can take your trailer buying experience from stressful to exciting.
After all, this is the first step in putting together your dream tiny living space!
Stationary or Roaming?
If you’re planning on keeping your house stationary, then your primary consideration will be the trailer’s gross vehicle weight rating and structural integrity.
For the tiny roaming house, your primary consideration is weight and size, especially if you’re planning on venturing off of paved roads.
As while many tiny homes are built up to maximum weight before the owners belonging are even added, you’ll need to ensure your build allows weight for all of your possessions while still meeting the towing weight.
Weight and Size
Every trailer has a maximum weight that it can hold, so knowing what you expect from your tiny house build will help inform what capacity trailer you need to buy.
As you put together your layout and design plans for your home, this will help to guide your trailer purchase.
I know it sounds boring, but calculating the weight of your build is something you most definitely need to do.
As you’re weighing up the materials you’ll need, it’s also important to consider added extras such as that tiny house bathtub you’ve been dreaming about or your built-in office space.
As a rule, it’s always better to buy a trailer rated for a heavier weight than you need. Better to be safe than sorry!
With single, double, dual, and tri-axel to choose from, which is better? Well, it depends on how heavy your tiny home will be.
It’s an oversimplification – but basically, the more axels, the more weight your trailer should be able to carry.
Built-In Leveling Jacks
As you’ll probably know by now, when you live in a tiny house on wheels – it doesn’t actually rest on its wheels.
When you park your tiny house in its new stationary home, you place it on jacks or blocks to keep it stable and take the strain off the wheels.
One big pro for built-in leveling jacks is that they’re built-in, but a downside is that by using these, you’re causing wear and tear to the trailer.
My preferred alternative is to rest the house on breeze blocks with wooden planks between the block and the trailer frame.
Flush Cross Members
By looking for a trailer for sale with flush cross members, you can use the trailer itself as a subfloor – popping insulation between the cross members instead of building on top of the trailer to add insulation to.
Is this really worth going to the trouble of buying a trailer with flush cross members? Yes.
With only 13ft 6in height to work with, even 4 inches can make a massive difference to your day-to-day in your tiny house – especially if you’re building a loft bedroom.
What’s the point of buying a drop axle, and what are they? A drop axle is just what it sounds like; it’s a slightly lower axle that provides a few extra inches of buildable height.
The lifespan of a tiny house trailer
Whether you’re planning on calling this build home for the long-term or short-term, it’s always best to invest in a quality trailer that will last for years.
The bump in investment versus the return will prove worth it and increase your re-sale value if the time comes to sell.
Is a gooseneck or bumper pull trailer better for a tiny house build?
As you start planning your tiny house on wheels, one of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether to opt for a gooseneck or bumper pull trailer.
Many people prefer the weight allowances that come with a gooseneck trailer as these are higher than a bumper pull.
- Better stability and control when towing
- They’re usually longer, meaning more living space.
- Higher weight rating.
But for those looking for a more traditional home aesthetic, the bumper pull provides a better fit, as once the tiny home is skirted, it looks more like a tiny cabin.
- More affordable
- Easier to find
- Simpler to maneuver and park
Why you should avoid Dovetail trailers
Generally speaking a dovetail isn’t a great option for building a tiny house on wheels.
- Reduced Driving Clearance
As a dovetail slopes down further than the main trailer bed, it means that part of your trailer is closer to the ground.
Not a huge deal if you’re driving on paved roads all the time, but to get your house onto a piece of land that’s not perfectly level – it might limit your tiny house parking options.
- Design Challenges
I’ve never personally tried to design a tiny house with a sloped floor – but it seems like a massive headache.
- More Expensive
Opting for a dovetail design usually increases the price of the trailer.
- Designed for Cargo
The dovetail design was specifically made for cargo trailers – it really doesn’t have a reason to be used for tiny houses.
Custom-built tiny house trailers
Did you know that you can buy a custom-built trailer made to your exact specifications? As this is usually a more expensive endeavor – we thought we’d run through the pros and cons.
- Designed to fit your exact needs, including GVWR and dimensions
- High-quality construction with full control over the materials used.
- Custom design allows you to make your trailer as stunning as your home will be.
- Takes longer than buying a ready-made trailer.
- Warranty limitations or none at all.
- More expensive than buying a new or used trailer.
It’s all about choosing the right option for you. If you can find a ready-made trailer to fit your needs, then that’s your best bet.
But, if you can’t find one, aren’t willing to compromise, and have the budget for it – then by all means, buy a custom trailer!
How long will trailer tiny houses last?
This is a great question. After all, the lifespan of your trailer is the lifespan of your home!
A well-maintained tiny house trailer can last for 25 or more years, but a mistreated trailer could have a lifespan of fewer than ten years.
- QUALITY MATERIALS
While maintenance plays a huge role in the lifespan of your trailer, the quality of the materials used in constructing the trailer is equally as important.
- WEAR AND TEAR
Stationary tiny homes on wheels also tend to last longer than their roaming counterparts; it makes sense – they’re subject to less wear and tear from bumping around on the road.
Investing in a high-quality trailer should be high on your list of priorities, as starting with a sturdy foundation will help you to build a tiny home that will stand the test of time!
Can I register my trailer as a house once the build is complete?
One common question about living in a tiny home on wheels is whether you can register your tiny house trailer as a tiny house, once the build is complete.
In short, the answer is – yes, it’s possible.
However, it’s a little complicated as the answer depends on where you live and the local laws.
It’s very common for tiny house trailers to be registered as RVs or manufactured homes, and having this certification is required for living in many RV parks.
What size trailer do I need to build a tiny home?
As you shop for a trailer for your tiny home on wheels, you’ll notice that there are some common sizes to choose from; these are
8ft Wide Trailers
- 8’ x 20’
- 8’ x 24’
- 8’ x 28’
8ft5in Wide Trailers
- 8.5’ x 20’
- 8.5’ x 24
- 8.5’ x 28’
10ft Wide Trailers
- 10’ x 20’
- 10’ x 24
- 10’ x 28’
These are the most common sizes as they fit within the maximum size for driving your tiny house trailer on the road without needs for additional permits, such as wide load permits.
So what are the maximum dimension for a tiny house trailer?
For those wanting to be able to tow their homes without the need for any permits.
Did you know that the maximum road-legal trailer dimensions vary from state to state?
To fall within the allowed limits nationwide, your tiny home trailer and build would need to be no more than 8ft wide, no taller than 13.6ft tall, and no longer than 28ft.
What’s wild is that in Wyoming, this jumps up to 8ft 6in wide, 14ft tall, and a gargantuan 60ft in length!
For those tiny living fans who feel that around 8ft is just too tiny for their liking, it’s easy to find 10ft wide tiny house trailers, and with over 90% of tiny home owners remaining stationary – this can be a better option.
Should I buy a new or used trailer to build my tiny house on wheels?
If you’re looking to save some money on your build, then chances are that you’re trying to save some pennies on the singular most expensive item – the trailer!
But before you make that big decision, let’s run through the pros and cons for both:
New Trailer Pros:
- Highest Standard
Brand new trailers have the huge benefit of being built to the latest industry standards.
Most trailers will come with a nice warranty that can provide real peace of mind.
Many trailer companies will offer full and partial customization options.
New Trailer Cons:
- More Expensive
Brand-new trailers are almost always more expensive than their used cousins.
- Lead Times
Ordering a trailer doesn’t mean that it will be in stock, so there may be some waiting.
- Material Quality
Buying used can mean you have the budget to buy trailers made with higher-quality materials.
Used Trailer Pros:
- Save Money
Buying a used trailer can be a great way to save money on your build.
- Word of Mouth
Opting for a trailer that’s been around for a while means that it’s easier to find reviews and ask fellow tiny house owners what their experience has been with the brand or model.
- Budget for Higher-Quality
By opting for a used trailer you have the budget to splurge on a better model!
Used Trailer Cons:
- The Unknown When you buy a used trailer, you really don’t know how well it has been maintained over the years.
- Hidden Damage Some dodgy sellers will sell trailers with hidden structural damage and this is incredibly dangerous.
- No Warranty Most of the time when you buy a vehicle from a private individual and not a company, you won’t get any form of warranty.
Whether you opt to buy new or used, please make sure to do your due diligence.
Only buy a new trailer from a reputable dealer, and only buy a used trailer that has been fully inspected by a professional.
Can an SUV pull a tiny house?
Yes – SUVs and trucks are the most popular vehicle choices for towing tiny houses.
For bumper-pull tiny house trailers, SUVs are a great option.
Whereas for gooseneck tiny house trailers, you would need a truck with a gooseneck hitch.
As the towing capacity varies by vehicle – you will need to check that your SUV or truck is rated to handle the full weight of your tiny house.
Do I need an additional driver’s license to tow a tiny house?
No. Unless you’re traveling with a vehicle and trailer weight of over 26,000 lbs, you do not need an additional license to tow a tiny house.
You do need a valid driver’s license, and if your combined vehicle weight does exceed the 26,000 lbs limit – then you will need to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL), but it’s not common for that weight to be exceeded by a tiny house and towing vehicle.
In Europe – it is very common for drivers to require an additional license to tow a trailer.
In the UK, this means that if you obtained your driver’s license after the 1st of January 1997, you can only tow a vehicle up to 750kgs (1650 lbs), and if you wish to tow anything heavier – you need an additional license.
What’s the weight limit for a tiny house?
With tiny homes being popular the world over, we wanted to run through a breakdown of the weight limit for tiny homes in the US, Europe, and Australia.
- 8000 – 15,000 lbs
- 5500 – 7500 lbs
- 6600 – 9900 lbs
This covers the average weight range for tiny homes in each area, but it’s always best to check maximum road legal weight limits in the specific area that you live.
Pros and Cons of Building on a Trailer
So you’ve got your heart set on living in a tiny house, but still haven’t decided whether you’re going to build it on wheels.
Here are some of the pros and cons to consider before making your final decision.
Tiny House Trailer Pros:
- Roaming Home
One of the greatest advantages to building your tiny house on top of a trailer is that can always bring your home with you.
Building a tiny house on a trailer is far cheaper than building on a foundation.
- Easier Permits
In many areas it’s far easier to obtain a permit for a recreational vehicle than a permanent structure.
Tiny House Trailer Cons:
- Teeny Tiny
As you’re working with the size constraints of a trailer, you do have limited space to build.
- Weight Considerations
Building on a trailer requires careful weight management to ensure you’re not using any materials that are going to cause your build to go overweight.
- Driving and Parking
If you’re not used to towing a trailer, learning to safely hitch up and drive your home can be a real learning curve.
How to insure your trailer during your tiny house build
Before you buy your trailer and begin your tiny house project, it’s important to know what the plan is for keeping your investment safe because, let’s be honest, tiny house building isn’t cheap.
There are three stages to a well-insured tiny house project to make sure that you’re fully protected.
- Insure Your Trailer Before you even pick up your trailer, you’ll want to have an activated insurance policy. The best place to find this is through an automotive insurance company or an insurance company that you already hold other policies with (they sometimes give discounts for additional policies!).
- Builder’s Risk Insurance During the construction phase of your tiny house project, you’ll be working with a lot of expensive materials and tools. Builder’s risk insurance covers all of this, plus any unexpected disasters.
- Tiny House or RV Insurance Once your build is complete, you’ll want to switch from your trailer and builders risk insurance – to a proper tiny house or RV insurance. Oftentimes you can get discounts on your insurance if you join a club like AAA or KOA!
At every stage of insuring your trailer, build, and completed home – make sure to provide all of the details.
Some tiny house insurance companies charge an extra fee for any day that the house will be towed and not stationary.
That means if you don’t inform them in advance – you could be driving your very expensive rolling home with no insurance if anything goes wrong. Yikes.
How to build a tiny house on a trailer
Building your own tiny home trailer on wheels can be a challenging yet rewarding process.
It’s important to have a well-thought-out plan before leaping into such a large project.
Reading as many tiny house books as possible is a great place to start, and can provide insight into what you can expect along the way.
32’ Trailer for sale
Looking for a longer-than-average tiny house trailer? There are a few good places to start your search.
- Trailer manufacturers
- Online marketplaces
- Tiny home builders
How to build a tiny house with no money
Quite the challenge, but it is possible to build a tiny house with little or no money – all you need is some creativity, resourcefulness, and a lot of time on your hands!
Your best bet is to use reclaimed materials, barter or trade for expert help, and be patient!
How much does a tiny house build weigh excluding the trailer
It depends on the size of trailer you go for and the materials used – but you’re looking at approximately 2500 – 5000 lbs for the trailers alone.
With the average tiny house build weighing 8000 – 15,000 lbs in total, that means that the build for many tiny homes weighs around 3000 – 12,000 lbs.
What’s the lightest trailer I can buy for a tiny house build?
If you’re looking to build a very simple tiny home, perhaps one that won’t be used full-time and year-round, it is possible to go pretty small with your trailer choice.
For an 8’ x 16’ trailer, these can start at around 2000 lbs.
Which trailer for a tiny house will last the longest?
It’s hard to say for sure, but the general consensus is that steel-framed or aluminum-framed trailers tend to last the longest.
Buying a trailer for your tiny house requires research, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
Learning trailer-specific terms and acronyms is worth the few minutes it’ll take!
There are features you should absolutely look for, like flush cross-members, and steer clear of like dovetails.
Weights and sizes aren’t always optional and they vary by country and state.
You might need an additional driver’s license, you definitely need to follow the 3-stages of insurance, and last but not least – we answered your most asked tiny house trailer questions!
Keep Living Tiny xx