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Buying the right trailer to build your tiny house on is crucial. Use this complete guide to pick the right trailer that fits your dreams and design of your tiny home on wheels.

A Complete Guide to Buying a Tiny House Trailer

Cartoon truck pulling tiny house

A Complete Guide to Buying a Tiny House Trailer

37% of Americans would rather have a smaller house than a large one. Why are so many people looking to downsize? The answer depends on the person, of course.

Younger Americans, like millennials, still dream of homeownership. They've adjusted their dreams to make sense in the modern world with high student debt loans and inflation growing.

They're not interested in sprawling suburban housing plans.

Are you looking to downsize to live an affordable and sustainable lifestyle? A tiny home might be right for you. To get the most out of it, you'll need to invest in a tiny house trailer. If you're using a tiny house builder for your tiny home build then they'll likely have their own supplier they work with. However, if you're hiring a contractor or considering DIY style then you'll need to source it yourself.

Not sure where to start? Read on to learn about the advantages of different types of tiny home trailers and how to pick the right one.

Sweet Freedom

Among many other reasons, people invest in tiny homes because they're easier to care for, more eco-friendly and much cheaper than buying a traditional home. 63% of millennials say they'd rather live in a tiny home.

A downsized home highlights what the younger generations prioritize. Sustainability and life experiences rank as much higher priorities than a large house full of possessions.

Now as you probably know, not all tiny houses are the same. You'll need to buy a solid tiny house trailer to experience the best aspect of your domicile. You want the freedom to take your home wherever you want!

A tiny house on wheels gives you incredible flexibility.

  • You're no longer tied to a location
  • You don't have to worry about selling if you need to move
  • You're no longer encumbered by high utility bills
  • You don't have space to fill with mindless purchases
  • It's easier to clean and take care of

Though there are drawbacks for some, tiny homes are fast becoming a sought-after living arrangement. Freedom isn't only the ability to live in any region you want. It's about removing the financial bonds of modern life.

Trailer Chassis Types

When investing in a trailer, you must figure out which type fits the needs of your long term vision and portability needs.

There are two main trailer types available Gooseneck and Bumper Pull as seen below.

Bumper Pull trailer and 5th wheel Gooseneck trailer

Bumper Pull

These are traditional trailers and the most popular platform for a portable house, tiny homes on wheels and of course RVs. As you can see in the top graphic in the picture above, they attach to a ball hitch located just off the bumper of your car or truck. They are typically substantially less costly than a gooseneck.

These trailers are typically smaller, less complicated to build which ends up being less expensive. Here are reasons why so many people use them.

  • Allows for a more traditional house build
  • Attaches to any ball coupling trailer hitch(just make sure the ball size is correct!)
  • Lower cost means more investment in the home itself
  • They're more commonly available so if you're renting a truck to pull your tiny home this is much better

A bumper pull tiny house trailer doesn't offer the same maneuverability as a gooseneck. Nor does it give you the same raised platform bedroom design options you see in many small homes.

Some people do not like the aesthetics of a tiny house that looks like an RV. A bumper pull trailer is a perfect foundation for most tiny homes that are under 30 feet long and that you don't plan moving too often.

Gooseneck or 5th Wheel

As you can seen in the above picture, the trailer that attaches in the bed of the pickup truck(bottom graphic) is a Gooseneck or 5th wheel type trailer connection. Gooseneck and 5th wheel trailers have a lot of similarities but also some smaller differences. We'd usually prefer a 5th wheel as they typically have a stronger connection with better stability. However, they do take up a considerable more amount of space in the back of your truck.

Gooseneck and 5th wheel trailers are costly, but they have their advantages over traditional pull trailers for tiny homes.

  • Raised hitch allows for a secure attachment inside a truck bed
  • Plenty of buildable space for a roomy tiny home
  • Raised connection point that's further up on your truck increases maneuverability while driving
  • Gooseneck construction creates a platform and livable space above the hitch, which makes the perfect bedroom.
  • Trucks can pull much bigger and heavier tiny homes or RV's via 5th wheel compared to bumper pull
  • Easier in general to hook up and tow.

Ultimately, gooseneck trailers work best for those who plan on moving their tiny home more often. Their driving ease makes them the best option if portability is your primary concern.

They are also a much better option if you're considering a tiny house over 30 feet long due to weight and maneuverability issues that start adding up with a tiny house that big!

Gooseneck and 5th wheel trailer connections
Source

Options for your trailer type selected above

Deck-overs

Deck-overs are a type bumper pull trailer, but they have a few differences to consider over traditional bumper pulls. The trailer has a flat surface that makes a sturdy base. To achieve the flat surface the actual "deck" of the trailer is raised up over the wheel wells. This allows for no wheel well intrusions into your tiny home interior however it restricts the total height of your small home.

  • Perfect for smaller homes
  • Attaches to a rear bumper hitch the same as a traditional bumper pull
  • Raised deck height allows for a better stair entrance
  • The flat surface makes for a steady foundation
  • Better ground clearance
  • No wheel well intrusions into your house
  • Usually cheaper

These trailers are less popular than traditional bumper pulls because you lose height. That doesn't mean you shouldn't consider them. They work great for a one-person home where you don't need a loft. The mass majority of RV travel trailers are built on deck-over trailers.

Deck-Between or Drop Axle

Like deck-over trailers, deck-between trailers feature a flat surface that's easy to build a house on however the "deck" of the trailer is dropped down below and around the wheel wells. By using drop axle kids it allows for the deck to be dropped lower between the wheels which ultimately allows for more head height in your tiny home!

These trailers have other advantages that make them amenable to house building.

  • More common trailer type that tiny home trailer manufacturers offer
  • Lower point of gravity makes for a sturdier home
  • The lower deck gives you more head height inside

Because of its low ground clearance, a deck-between trailer isn't ideal for traveling in areas where the road conditions are less than ideal. It complicates building the subfloor system, and it unfortunately makes any maintenance needs in the subfloor space extremely difficult.

However, the 6-9 inches you gain in head height are typically well worth it—especially if you're building a lot!

How Much Weight Can A Tiny House Trailer Hold?

No matter the type of house, you can't start without your foundation. Like a traditional house foundation, you have to have a rough plan of the rest of your home to establish what you'll need for your foundation.

Every trailer has a specific weight capacity they cannot exceed which will largely be determined by the material type and amount of axles. Structural integrity and your ability to tow are high priorities.

Trailer Materials

Tiny home trailers, and trailers in general, are typically build with either aluminum or steel.

Steel is much stronger and heavier.

Aluminum is typically not as strong but is much lighter.

We'd usually recommend, and usually see most other builders using, steel tiny homes trailers due to their strength.

How many Axles should your tiny home trailer have?

Your trailer axles will play a massive part in how much weight your trailer can hold. Axles have all sorts of different ratings.

The two most common trailer axle weight grades are 5,200 lbs and 7,000 lbs. A two-axle trailer with 5,200 weight grades can support a home up to 10,400 lbs.

Typically, what we'd recommend is two 7k axles on tiny homes 22 feet and under and three 7k axles on tiny homes that are over 22 feet long.

The more axles you have the stronger and more stable your tiny home will end up being. However, the trade off is additional costs and maneuverability. The more axles you have the less tightly your tiny home can pivot or turn which can make a big difference if you're trying to maneuver it into a tight location.

Estimated Weight

The overall weight of your finished tiny home will vary depending on the materials used to build it, appliances, and the amount of stuff you'll put in it.

You'll have to estimate how much your house will weigh when buying a trailer. Use these numbers as a guide, and make sure you overestimate. Underestimating the weight of your tiny home has structural consequences.

These numbers are based on the length of your tiny home once completed.

  • 12 feet is 10,000 lbs
  • 16 feet is 12,000 lbs
  • 20 feet is 14,000 lbs
  • 24 feet is 16,000 lbs
  • 28 feet is 18,000 lbs

Remember, this is an estimated DRY weight. Then you have to add everything you'll put into the home, like furniture, bedding, etc.

Also, keep in mind, every home is designed and built differently. With additional and abnormal materials, it can add a lot of weight extremely quickly so these should absolutely and only be used as very rough estimates to get started with. Calculating the weight of your materials and how your design effects the weight of your home is essential. If you're having a tiny home builder design and build your house, you'll want to ensure that they are taking into account the weight and positioning of weight so that your tiny home will tow well when it's all finished!

Carrying Capacity

Once you have a rough idea of the material weight of your tiny house, you need to match it with the carrying capacity of the trailer. Again, the carrying capacity is calculated on the axles and their weight grade.

Use the above weight estimates to determine the type and amount of axles you'll need for your trailer.

Tiny House Trailer Cost

The tiny house lifestyle is one of minimalism and freedom. You want to downsize and save money in the long term. To do so, you'll have to invest a considerable amount of cash upfront.

The typical cost for a tiny house trailer will be about 20%-30% of the total cost to build your home. You have three options when buying a trailer.

Used Trailer Chassis

Used trailer chassis can save you some money. You can find trailers as low as $800, but the typical market price is anywhere from $1,500-$2,500. Age, wear and tear, and load capacity determine these prices.

Like anything else used, second-hand trailers come with a certain amount of risk. There could be damage or other structural issues you can't see with the naked eye. A dishonest seller might not disclose these issues.

When buying used, make sure to have an inspection performed by an expert before making the final purchase. Look for rust, bent frames, and axle damage.

HOWEVER, WE WOULD NOT RECOMMEND BUYING USED TINY HOME TRAILERS CHASSIS.

New Trailer Chassis

New trailers chassis are a sound purchase for your tiny home. They're pristine, have no structural issues, but they are more expensive.

Depending on the type of trailer, length, and load capacity, a new trailer may cost you from $5,000 to $15,000. The extra money you spend on a new trailer is an investment in peace of mind.

Custom New

Some trailer manufacturers offer custom trailer builds. If you have a unique design in mind for your new tiny home, a custom trailer gives you the foundation you need.

With a custom trailer, you get to choose every aspect of its construction to suit your needs. Do you plan on traveling with your tiny home? You can construct your trailer with lighter-weight metals like aluminum.

Given that they're customized, these cost a lot more. Your trailer can cost anywhere from $7,000 and up to $20,000 plus depending on the options you choose.

The Right Tiny House Trailer

The right tiny house trailer is one of the most vital aspects of house construction. The proper trailer gives your new home a solid foundation and allows you to explore the freeing possibilities a tiny home brings.

Tiny home trailers can be expensive but are a key aspect of a Tiny Home on Wheels. Make sure your trailer can support your home's weight and needs.

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