How To Choose A Trailer Size For Tiny Home: Complete Guide

How To Choose A Trailer Size For Tiny Home: Complete Guide

All About Tiny Houses is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

trailer size for tiny home

If you want your tiny home to be mobile, the first thing you need is a reliable trailer. However, with hundreds of trailer products in the market, it can be quite confusing which trailer size is right for your tiny house.

A trailer is perhaps the single most expensive item you need to buy in your tiny home project. Choosing the right trailer size undergoes several steps such as estimating the gross weight of your tiny home. Furthermore, you also have to take into consideration its road-worthiness and overall stability. 

If you plan to build a tiny home from scratch, the first step is usually to select a trailer and build the structure from the ground up. In such cases, the trailer’s dimensions effectively affect the floor space of your tiny home.

The length of the trailer and its load capacity can influence the type of material you should use for the project. For example, if the trailer has a low gross weight capacity, then you may want to use lightweight materials such as wooden frames and glass windows. 

How Much Does a Trailer for a Tiny House Cost?

There are three kinds of trailers that you can choose from based on their condition. You can buy a used unit, a brand new one, and even a customized trailer.

On average, a trailer can make up roughly 20 to 30 percent of the building cost of any tiny home. Used trailers are generally much cheaper than the other two. Consequently, customized trailers are more expensive than a brand new one because of the added material and labor cost. 

Below are the three kinds of trailers you can use for your tiny home:

1. Used Trailer

If you want to save a bit of money, then you can buy a used trailer. On average, a secondhand trailer can be bought for $800 on the low end and up to $2500 on the high end. Several factors can affect the price such as the age of the trailer, its condition, length, and load capacity.

However, there are inherent risks when buying a used trailer, especially since you can’t always determine at first glance some of its issues. Consequently, most sellers won’t immediately tell you of the damages that the trailer has incurred over the years.

Before buying a used trailer, make sure you have done a thorough inspection. One of the telltale signs of an “abused” trailer is rusting on the underside. Worn out components such as bent axles and damaged framing can also indicate the age of the trailer. 

tiny house trailer

2. Brand New Trailer

Brand new trailers can cost $5,000 on the low end and up to $15,000 on the higher end. Many tiny house builders also sell them separately from the dwelling unit. For example, Tumbleweed Tiny houses sell 20-feet long trailers at $5,779, while the 26-feet long ones cost $6,579. 

Much like a used trailer, though, you still might need a bit of modification. The best thing about buying a brand new trailer is that there are no wears and tears on the unit. Hence, you won’t have to initially worry about hidden damages or issues that will rear its ugly head in the next few years.

3. Customized Trailer

While its the most expensive option out there, customized trailers take the least amount of work. As its name suggests, they are made-to-order or customized based on the preference of the tiny home owner.

Customized trailers can cost from $8,000 on the low end and up to $45,000 for the top-of-the-line models. Some of these customized haulers have aluminum frames, which makes it lighter than other trailers on the market.

What makes it more expensive than brand new trailers is the addition of amenities inside, such as power outlets, lighting, air conditioning, and heaters. Additionally, they may also have slide outs and concession doors. 

Limitations of a Tiny Home Trailer Size for Road Use

Because they are often used to travel on roads and highways, trailers have certain limitations in terms of their dimensions. Legally, a trailer has a width limit of 8.5 feet, while its height can’t be taller than 13.5 feet.

Additionally, the length of the trailer can’t exceed 53-feet unless you can get a special permit. Consequently, if you attach the tiny home to a tow vehicle, the combined length of the two, plus the hitch or tow bar must not exceed 65-feet.

Given these limitations, most tiny house trailers you can find on the market are 28-feet and below in length. Furthermore, most hitch or tow bars are at least four to six feet long, on average. 

When buying a trailer, do take note also of its Gross Weight Rating (GWR) which is the amount of load it can carry. This measurement can limit the size of the tiny home structure and the materials you can use. For example, wood is generally the preferred framing material as opposed to the heavier metal frame. 

best trailers for tiny house

To ensure that the trailer can hold the design of your tiny home, consult first with a structural engineer or a tiny home builder. These professionals can give you sound advice on how to best utilize the features and specifications of your trailer and tiny home. 

Basic Parts for a Tiny Home Trailer

Before you buy a trailer, there are different parts or features that it must have before you can customize it for a mobile tiny home. These parts are needed so you can effectively build the structure around the trailer.

Furthermore, some of these parts are required so that you will be safe to travel on the roads. For example, you may need to attach signal and brake lights on the rear end of your trailer. Doing so will ensure that your whole rig will be safer to drive on national roads and highways. 

1. Flatbed

A full-length flatbed can maximize the amount of space you can use as a deck. A trailer’s deck is where you will build your floor and often dictates the floor area of your tiny home.

2. Steel Flange

This cast ring of steel allows an extra place to bolt the tiny home unit into the trailer. Once fully extended, it allows the maximum width of the deck to be utilized.

3. High Load Radial Tires

Your trailer’s tires will carry much of the weight, whether its mobile or stationary. As such, you need tires that are properly sized and durable enough to carry heavy loads. 

4. Steel Framing

Choose a trailer with rigid steel framing since it will hold much of the structure in place. These frames will also ensure that the house won’t slide off when the house takes a sudden turn. It’s best to stick to a trailer with a belly pan with a good amount of steel so that the trailer can support your tiny house better. 

5. Lighting and Visibility Stickers

You may also want to get a trailer with a complete set of DOT lighting and visible stickers, especially if you plan to travel a lot. These features will also allow you to travel at night without having to worry if your trailer is visible to the vehicle behind you.

6. Wheel Fenders

Also called wheel wells, these parts must have structural fenders that are self-supporting. Well-structured wheel wells will allow you to construct the wall over them without the need to install a lintel or header over the top.

7. Adjustable Coupling

You can find this part at the haul end of a trailer. Its main function is to adjust the height of the bar to match that of the towing vehicle. It’s also attached to safety chains and a break-away system for brakes. These features allow the trailer to break should it become loose from the towing vehicle. 

8. Corner Jacks

These pipe-mount swivel jacks also come with footplates that are sturdier and more crack resistant than those of scissor jacks. They can also fold away on top of the trailer floor or be removed entirely to ensure it won’t drag on the ground when the tiny home is mobile. 

9. D Rings

If you plan to stay in places that are known to be a pathway of storms or hurricanes, then D rings are a necessity. You can use them to tie down or anchor your tiny home to the ground and prevent the unit from tipping over. 

how to tow a tiny home trailer

Different Types of Tiny House Trailers

Aside from its size, another thing you should consider when building your mobile home is the type of trailer. They usually come in different designs and vary in terms of the number of axles and load capacity. 

Trailers that are recommended for tiny homes must be able to carry 4,000 to 15,000 lbs of weight. Often, trailers are also the base of a tiny home, which can significantly influence the layout of your unit. 

Below are some of the most common trailer options that tiny house owners can buy:

1. Bumper Pull Trailers

Bumper pulls are one of the most preferred trailer design for tiny homes. They are also less expensive than other types of trailers like goosenecks. Their layout also allows builders to construct a more traditional house shape units above the flatbed.

Furthermore, most vehicles are capable of towing this type of trailer. You can tow a bumper pull trailer with just a hitch, such as a ball coupler. The hitch can then be attached directly to the vehicle’s rear bumper, provided that the tiny home is on the lighter side. 

2. Deck-Over Trailers

As its name suggests, the flatbed of a deck-over trailer is located right above its wheels. The design allows it to be wider, with the wheel wells not getting in the way. Some deck-over trailers can be eight feet wide, which is still road legal. 

It’s one of the most preferred types of trailers because of the extra space it provides. However, because the deck is on top of the wheel wells, it loses about a foot of headroom compared to other trailers. Thus, while you can expand the space horizontally, it also limits how much you can expand vertically.

3. Deck-Between Trailer

As opposed to deck-over trailers, deck-between trailers have its flatbed in between its two wheels. As such, the deck is located just below the top of the wheel’s base. This design usually has a lower ground clearance, which makes it easier to build a tiny home around it.

Deck-between trailers usually have smaller flatbed because the distance between its two wheels limits it. Thus, you have less room to build your tiny home compared to deck-over trailers.  On the flip side, you have about a foot of headroom to work with if you want to expand vertically. 

4. Dovetail

This type of trailer has an angled rear section, which looks like a dove’s tail when it leans to the ground, hence the name. Huge trailers that haul cars, motorcycles, and other small vehicles usually have the same design. The benefit of a dovetail trailer’s ramp is its ability to load things much easier inside your tiny home.

If you plan to build a tiny home with a storage area or open space in the rear to store, say an ATV, then this trailer can be quite useful. However, the unique layout also calls for certain modifications before it can be integrated with a tiny house structure. 

5. Gooseneck

If you can picture how a gooseneck looks like, that pretty much sums up the layout of this trailer. A gooseneck can either be a deck-between or deck over trailer. It has an extended portion on the front, which usually reaches the tailgate of the vehicle.

Most gooseneck trailers have at least 350 square feet of floor area, which is great if you want to build a tiny home on top. Furthermore, the additional space above the tow bar or hitch can be used as a loft or an additional storage area. 

gooseneck trailer


Determining the Trailer Size You Need

Once you have determined the shape or layout of the trailer you want, the next step is to determine its size. Most of the time, the size of the trailer will depend on the design of the tiny home, its materials, and more importantly its weight.

Most tiny homes are built with wooden frames because they are generally much lighter. Other materials used as tiny house frames are steel– which is a bit lighter than wood, and structural insulated panels or SIPs. The latter is lighter than steel and is made of engineered panels of foam and plywood. 

There are two factors that you have to consider before buying a tiny home.

  1. The Weight of the Tiny House Structure- this refers to the combined weight of all the materials that make up the structure– from your tiny home’s floor to its roof. 
  2. Everything You Will Put in the House- this includes appliances, furniture, decorations and, of course, its inhabitants. 

The general rule is that for every foot length of your tiny house, it usually weighs around 450 pounds on average. Hence, a typical 20-feet long tiny home weighs around 9,000 lbs. Using these figures, we have the following estimates:

Tiny Home LengthEstimated Weight 
12 feet5,400 lbs
16 feet7,200 lbs
20 feet9,000 lbs
24 feet10,800 lbs
28 feet12,600 lbs

You can use these estimates to examine if the trailer’s length matches the load capacity to carry your tiny home. Furthermore, you can also use these estimates to check if the capacity of the springs, tongue, jack, and axles of the trailer matches the load requirement of your unit. 

How Many Axles Do I Need for My Preferred Trailer Size?

Another thing you should consider in choosing your trailer is the number of axles and the weight ratings of each tire. Each axle typically has weight ratings of 5,200 lbs and 7,000 lbs. Hence, a two-axle trailer with a 5,200 lbs rating on each tire can carry a tiny home that weighs up to 10,400 lbs.

Doing the math, here are the axle combinations you can use for some of the common trailer sizes in the market:

Tiny Home Length and Estimated WeightAxle Combination 
12 feet; 5,400 lbsOne 7,000 lbs; or two 5,200 lbs 
16 feet; 7,200 lbsTwo 5,200 lbs 
20 feet; 9,000 lbsTwo 5,200 lbs; or Two 7,000 lbs
24 feet; 10,800 lbsTwo 7,000 lbs; or Three 5,200 lbs 
28 feet; 12,600 lbsTwo 7,000 lbs; or Three 5,200 lbs

Always make sure you round up the total weight of your tiny home and the trailer to the next highest  thousandth place. For example, if your tiny home weighs 7,200 lbs and the trailer is at 2,000 lbs– that’s 9,200 lbs! In which case, consider it a 10,000 lbs unit.

Consequently, you may want to add a buffer of 500 to 700 lbs for the things you will place inside the tiny house, such as furniture and appliances.  Then, refer to the table above for the best axle combination.

bumper pull trailer

Build Your Tiny House Trailer Size Tool

Once you have considered all these factors, you may want to get a preview of the trailer that you have in mind. This is where Tiny Home Builders online tool can help you. Their Tiny House Trailer Tool can help you visualize the end build of the trailer based on your preference. 

The tool has at least five components which you can customize, such as:

  • The length of the trailer which ranges from 12 feet to 32 feet
  • The type of trailer you want i.e., Gooseneck or Bumper Pull
  • The axle combination (see tables above)
  • The width of the deck (90-inches or 102-inches)
  • The type of trailer lock

Where Can You Buy a Trailer for Your Tiny House?

A lot of tiny house builders or construction companies also sell trailers specifically for mobile homes. The great thing about buying from these builders is that most of their trailers were built or customized specifically for tiny houses to be put on top of them. 

Hence, many, if not all, of the basic features and important parts of a tiny house trailer are included in their products. Below are some of the places where you can get a tiny house trailer:

  • Tiny Home Builders

Website: https://www.tinyhomebuilders.com/

Address: 6060 Hickory Hills Rd. 30041 Cumming, Georgia

  • Tumbleweed Tiny House Trailers

Website: https://www.tumbleweedhouses.com/

Address: 1450 Valley Street, 80915 Colorado Springs, Colorado

  • Tiny House Basics

Website: https://www.tinyhousebasics.com/

Address: / 5433 Clayton Rd Suite K#306 Clayton, California

  • Sierra Tiny Houses

Website: https://www.sierratinyhouses.com/

Address: Reno, Nevada

Aside from tiny home builders, you can also get a trailer from one of the biggest names in the industry- PJ Trailers. They have roughly 250 trailer dealerships scattered around the US and Canada. 

What Vehicles Can Tow a Tiny Home Trailer?

Depending on the size of your trailer, it can be towed by a variety of cars, such as Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs), pickup trucks, and commercial vehicles. Cars have a towing capacity that can range from a two thousand pounds and up to 15,000 lbs depending on its size and engine.

The average tiny house usually weighs anywhere between 5,000 to 10,000 lbs, including its occupants and everything inside it at any given time. Add to this the trailer, which weighs 2,000 lbs on average and you get roughly 7,000 to 12,000 lbs of trailer that needs towing.

Fortunately, several vehicles can tow this much load or weight. Below is a list of SUVs that can tow a tiny home:

  • Dodge Durango- 7,400 lbs
  • Toyota Sequoia- 7,400 lbs
  • Toyota Land Cruiser- 8,100 lbs
  • Nissan Armada- 8,500 lbs
  • GMC Yukon- 8,500 lbs
  • Chevrolet Tahoe- 8,600- bs
  • Lincoln Navigator- 9,000 lbs
  • Ford Expedition- 9,300 lbs

However, if you need to haul a larger tiny home then we highly recommend pickup trucks for the job. These utility vehicles are known to be tough and are made to pull objects at great distances. Here are some of the best pickups that can easily tow a tiny home:

  • Toyota Tacoma- 6,800 lbs
  • Chevrolet Colorado- 7,700 lbs
  • GMC Canyon- 7,700 lbs
  • Nissan Titan- 9.600 lbs
  • Toyota Tundra- 10,200 lbs
  • Chevrolet Silverado 1500- 12,500 lbs
  • GMC Sierra 1500- 12,500 lbs
  • RAM 1500- 12,750 lbs
  • Ford F150 – 13,2000 lbs
  • Tesla Cybertruck (tri-motor)- 14,000 lbs 

To increase the pulling power of your vehicle, you can also buy a towing package from car dealerships. However, this added equipment may set you back from $1,500 to $3,000. 

vehicles for towing tiny houses

Conclusion

Choosing the right trailer size is a crucial step when building your tiny house unit. Because tiny houses are built from the ground up, the size of the trailer can affect the floor size of your dwelling. Furthermore, the type of trailer you choose can also set the design of your tiny house.

Hence, it’s one of the initial steps of the tiny home building that you should not take for granted. If you have a design in mind and are unsure if the trailer size you choose can hold the structure in place, its best to consult a structural engineer. 

Related Questions

Can You Order a Trailer from the US and use it in Canada; and vice versa?

Yes, you can order a tiny house trailer from the US or Canada and use it in either of these countries. Most US-made and Canadian-made trailers follow the same specifications. However, importing the trailer may be subjected to additional custom fees. 

How do you keep your tiny home trailer secure?

There are numerous ways to keep your tiny house trailer safe from thieves and other criminal elements. You can make the unit immovable by removing the wheel or replacing the adjustable coupler with security bolts. If you have an additional budget, you may install tiny home security systems like CCTV and GPS trackers. 

All About Tiny Houses is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *