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How to pick the best tiny house trailer for your build

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If you want to build a tiny house on wheels, then a trailer is a must. Wondering how to find the best tiny house trailer for you? While it seems like this should be straightforward, it can be overwhelming with so many options–more than ever before! 

Is it better to have a 5th wheel/gooseneck, bumper pull, deck over, or custom tiny house trailer?  Go with used or new? And what about tiny house trailer plans?

I hate to break the bad news, but tiny house trailers aren’t cheap. Not quality options anyway.

If you’re going with new, you can expect to spend $3,500 to $6,500, depending on size and type. This will most likely be your biggest expense during your build.

Let’s break down all your options with top considerations to keep in mind before buying.

Thinking you may want a prefab tiny house? Check out this post: 12 Amazing prefab tiny houses for sale

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Should you go used? Tips on buying a used tiny house trailer

A man works on his tiny house trailer.

Going the used route when searching for the best tiny house trailer can undoubtedly save a ton of cash. However, if the trailer isn’t the right fit for your specific build, a used trailer can make potential future repair expenses much higher than the initial savings.

Make sure to look for the weight rating placard

The most important thing to look for on a used trailer is the weight rating placard. Usually, they are located on the neck of the trailer. You need to ensure that the frame and axles are rated highly enough to support your tiny home on wheels adequately. 

If a used trailer doesn’t have this placard, there’s no way to know what it’s rated for. Therefore, we recommend you immediately walk away from the deal…no matter how sweet it may seem. 

Is the trailer customized for a tiny house? 

Beware that if a used trailer isn’t customized for a tiny house, then it might be in your best interest to make adjustments. I’d recommend that you hire out for any metalworking or welding work, which will eat into your initial savings and take more time.

An RV trailer usually isn’t worth the trouble

A word about used RV trailers: though it’s very tempting to dismantle an inexpensive or free RV to refurbish the trailer, keep in mind that RV building materials are considerably lighter than those used in most tiny houses.

In virtually all cases (unless somebody is using ultralight materials to build their tiny), an RV trailer won’t be adequate for a tiny house build. 

In some cases, you can reinforce a used RV trailer to strengthen it. Again, this should only be tackled by those with extensive metalworking experience. 

Another way to save money is to look for a tiny house trailer for sale from someone who decided not to build, or from a tiny house builder with excess inventory.

How to choose a tiny house trailer

blue tiny house on a tiny house trailer

The first step to choosing the best tiny house trailer for you is to know what size and kind of tiny house you want to build.

Begin by searching Pinterest, Instagram, and of course, watching tours on YouTube. What speaks to you? 

Maybe you like an elevated living area in a gooseneck tiny house layout, or perhaps you dig a downstairs bedroom, often found in longer floorplans. These various design features dictate the size trailer you’ll need, as well as the style–flat or two levels.

Browsing tiny house plans for sale is another great tool to help you identify what you need. Each listing will include the type and relevant tiny house trailer plans specifics, like if custom size is required.

Next, you need to know all your available tiny house trailer options.

Bumper Pull Tiny House Trailers

A “bumper pull,” aka “tongue pull,” refers to a trailer with a standard towing hitch which affixes to the rear portion of a vehicle. These are distinct from 5th wheel/gooseneck trailers that connect via a hitch located inside a pickup truck bed. Here are your tiny house bumper pull trailer options:

Car Hauler

Some of the first movable tiny houses were built on car hauler trailers since there wasn’t much of a market for custom tiny house trailers back then. The usable portion in these trailers falls within the width of the wheel wells. This means that the width of the buildable deck is narrower than that in your other trailer options.

Having stayed in some tiny homes built on car hauler trailers, we’ve found them to be a bit too narrow for our liking.

One advantage of car hauler trailers is that they can often be found in standard trailer supply stores. Another is that they afford plenty of head height for those wanting a lofted tiny house. 

Deck Over Trailer

This trailer option can also be found pretty easily off-the-rack. Deck over trailers allow for maximum width on a tiny house build. No wheel wells protrude into the building deck, so no special design modifications need to be made, saving you time and money. 

The most significant disadvantage with deck over trailers is that the building deck sits reasonably high off the ground, meaning that you likely won’t be able to have a loft, and your entire tiny house will need to remain a single story. If you don’t want a loft, though, this may be your best option out there!

Custom Tiny House Trailers

As the popularity of tiny houses has increased, a new market sector has emerged. Custom tiny house trailer designs have taken the best aspects of standard trailers and modified them for THOW builds.

The good news is there are now numerous tiny house trailer manufacturers to choose from. Not that long ago, there was only one option.

Custom tiny house trailers typically have lower decks than deck over trailers and more width than car haulers; the best of both worlds! One disadvantage to a custom tiny house trailer is a potential delay in receiving your finished product. Since many of them truly are custom built, it can take some time to receive it.

Check out Tiny Home Builders for custom tiny house trailers.

That said, sometimes a custom builder or trailer manufacturer will have inventory on hand. If the stars align, it may meet your specific needs. It’s certainly worth calling around!

An interior bedroom shot of a tiny house on a tiny house trailer
5th Wheel Tiny House Bedroom.

Gooseneck/Fifth Wheel Tiny House Trailers

The popularity of gooseneck trailers has increased in the last few years and with good reason. You can build a spacious room atop the protruding trailer “arm.”

I’ve toured numerous tiny houses built on these trailers and have been impressed by the generous headspace in those rooms. It’s enough for a tall person to stand up, something not possible in a lofted bedroom. 

Another benefit, fifth-wheel trailers tow much more easily than tongue pull trailers. They also make for a safer towing experience because their weight is distributed mainly over the truck axle.

So, what’s the difference between a gooseneck and fifth-wheel trailer? It comes down to how it connects to a pickup truck. A fifth wheel uses a kingpin and pin receiver, instead of a ball and coupler.

One challenge may be renting a truck that can tow one, meaning you may need to hire out the haul or buy your pickup truck.  Also, box truck rentals are not an option with this kind of trailer.

Wide Load Tiny House Trailers

Most tiny houses on wheels are 8.5 feet wide, for maximum mobility and parking options. Though typically most tiny homeowners only move 1-3 times ever. 

If this is your plan, consider the benefits of building a wider tiny house. It can have ADA access (wheelchair accessible). Also, wider translates to larger framing members (2×6 rather than 2×4 walls), creating a better insulated tiny house.

My favorite perk of a wide load tiny house is how easy it is to make space for a downstairs bedroom. No more sore knees from crawling around in a loft, and no more crouching over while getting dressed and moving around. Finally, wider makes it easier to add luxury items such as a big soaking tub, a larger dining room table, a full-size couch, or bigger appliances.

Again, this size tiny house trailer is not meant for frequent moves.

One big reason is that any trailer over 102″ (8’6″) is required to get a permit to be legally towed. It doesn’t matter how far of a distance you are traveling. Further, for each state line you cross while hauling a wide load, you’ll need a separate permit. 

The interior of a wide load built on a tiny house trailer.
Interior shot of Wide Load Tiny House.

Applying for permits typically happens over the phone, at which time you will be asked a lot of questions about your trailer load, including specs about your axles and trailer, travel dates, routes, etc. Your fees will generally be in the $35-70 range per trip, per state. 

Be aware that most states don’t allow wide loads to be towed after dark or even on weekends. Before you consider even towing a wide load trailer, you need to plan your entire route.

Make sure that any small roads you want to travel on can support your tiny house’s weight. When you add these factors up, you can see that it’s a bit of a hassle to line up all of the details.

Because of how complicated it is to tow a wide load tiny house, I highly recommend that you hire a hauling company to move it. They will handle all of the permitting, trip planning, and of course, hauling.

What are the best tiny house trailer manufacturers?

Choosing the best tiny house trailer manufacturer is a lot like selecting the right builder. First, review their product offerings. Do they have the size and style you’re looking for? 

tiny house in the snow on a small tiny house trailer

Most importantly, you need to vet them. Look them up on the BBB, check online reviews, and ask for references. If anything negative comes up, respectfully ask the manufacturer about it. There are always two sides to a story.

From my talks with tiny house dwellers around the country, I’ve heard positive reviews about the manufacturers below. But don’t take my word for it.

Do your due diligence. 

Tiny House Trailer Manufacturers:

“Our wheeled foundations are specially designed for the rigors of tiny house transport. THF custom trailers are available in lengths from 16′-40 widths and up to 10′ wide. We also accommodate special requests such as bump-outs and GPS units for theft prevention.”-Tiny Home Foundations

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Should you build a tiny house onto a trailer?

Yes! One of the most critical aspects of your build is attaching your tiny house frame to the trailer.

One of the best ways to connect your framing to the trailer is to use threaded rods. These are welded to or bolted through the trailer. Then attach a Simpson tie to secure the structure/trailer connection further.

A couple works on building their dream tiny house trailer.
Couple works on building their tiny dream home on a trailer.

Though, some tiny houses are transported on top of a flatbed trailer and then set on a foundation. A significant disadvantage of this structure type is the height allowance.

The max legal height in most states is 13’6″, but when you account for the flatbed height of 5′. This leaves with 8’6″  as the max height of your tiny home, about two feet lower than a tiny house built onto a trailer.

Conclusion on Choosing the Best Tiny House Trailer

Remember, after you establish your tiny house design priorities, your trailer selection process will become much easier. Also, don’t take my word for it when choosing the best tiny house trailer manufacturer for you!

Do your due diligence.

HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST TINY HOUSE TRAILER

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