So my project stalled for the better part of a month because I was unable to decide on the most crucial piece of the house: the trailer. The trailer is the most integral part of your miniature home and is what distinguishes your abode as a portable living space. I intend to drag my house all over the continental U.S., therefore I need my trailer to be up to the task.
When I first started conceptualizing my project, I thought the only relevant consideration was the length of the trailer. However, I soon discovered there were many different decisions to be made.
– New vs. Used
– Trailer Length and Width
– Steel vs. Aluminum
– Single vs. Double Axel
– GVWR Rating
New vs. Used
I spent several weeks scouring Craigslist ads and Facebook marketplace for suitable trailers, and much to my chagrin I couldn’t find a trailer that met all of my criteria at a decent price. I also came to realize that if the trailer did not come from a certified dealer, I ran the risk of future complications if the owner did not possess the title to sign over or if there was undisclosed damage. It quickly became a headache trying to find a used trailer, and if buying from a dealer, I wanted to pay a few hundred extra for a new trailer in tip-top shape. I had also considered buying from a company that specifically makes tiny house trailers, but these companies usually jack up the price by $1500 for the customization. In the end, I decided to buy a new trailer from a local dealer.
Length and Width
My next problem was the size of the trailer. After several Pinterest boards and YouTube videos later I discovered that tiny houses are getting bigger and bigger, and can range anywhere from 8’ to 48’ in length! I quickly got caught up in the larger designs during my early planning and concluded that I needed a 20’ trailer. I then hesitated on my decision, and started considering 16’ and 18’ designs, thinking they would be easier to move. Then I realized that having to rent a truck to move my trailer every single time would be an extreme hassle, and my future dream car is only rated for towing 3500lbs. Thus, I resigned myself to choosing between 12’ and 14’ designs. Width wasn’t too big of a concern, as I planned to build out over the wheel wells and grant 6.5-7’ of interior living space. And weirdly enough, I started becoming obsessed with seeing how small I could get my design down to, which I believe is the true origin of tiny houses. My final decision was a 12 X 6 trailer.
My ultimate goal for this trailer is to be able to easily pull it around the country without having to rent a truck between locations. I also didn’t want to give up on buying my dream car (Jeep Wrangler) to do it! Therefore, I needed to build a tiny house that weighs 3500lbs or less (Wrangler Tow Capacity). Thus, I believe all I will need is a single 3500lbs Axel for my tiny house. This axel can always be replaced with a 5200lbs Axel in the future if need be.
Steel vs. Aluminum
I struggled with deciding what material I wanted my trailer to be, and unfortunately, there weren’t many posts online debating the choice specifically regarding tiny house projects. Steel felt like the comfortable choice in the beginning because it felt familiar. It is super sturdy, easy to repair, and exudes the feeling of strength and integrity for the foundation of your tiny house. However, steel also has a few downsides, most notably the weight! Steel trailers can weigh three times as much as their aluminum counterparts, not to mention they are susceptible to corrosion.
Aluminum trailers have many benefits, including their lightweight build up to 1/3 the weight of Steel trailers, non-corrosive, behaves elastically upon impact, and are weather/UV resistant. I was worried, however, that aluminum would be too weak for a tiny house build. Those worries were assuaged after some research, and I discovered that the aluminum in trailers is mixed with other alloys to improved strength, and in general strength profiles of aluminum trailers are similar to steel. After more research, the only real deficit to aluminum trailers was the price, which can be several hundred dollars more depending on the dealer.
My decision? I went with a 12 X 6 Silverwing Aluminum Trailer rated for 3500lbs . The trailer has removable side rails, and closed wheel wells so I will have no problems building my subfloor over the wheels. My decision to purchase an aluminum trailer came to my desire for my tiny house to weigh 3500lbs or less. This trailer weighs 400lbs as compared to 950lbs for the steel counterpart, saving me 550lbs on my build. Additionally, I liked the security of non-corrosive materials, and a built-in flatbed so I do not have to flash the entire underbelly of my subfloor. Additionally, the Aluminum trailer cost $2400, which was only $500 more than the steel trailer. I figured if I was forking over that much cash, I was going to get exactly what I wanted.
* Model: SW12S
* Usable deck space: 72″x144″ (6’x12′)
* Deck height: 21″
* Tongue: 46″
* Total length: 190″
* Total width: 90″
* Distance between fenders: 72″ (6′)
* Trailer weight: 400 lb
* Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR): 2995 lb (3500lbs with installed brakes).
Let me know your thoughts on my trailer decisions, and if you have any questions feel free!