Buying a Tiny House Trailer? Do these Four Things First:
1. Design your tiny house
It can be rough, but it does have to be to scale. Think about how many people you’ll need to fit in your house and make some lifestyle decisions about things that you can and can’t live without. For example, do you need a desk for somewhere to work? Do you cook heaps? Do you have a Great Dane that needs its own doggy entrance? These things can greatly impact your tiny house design and ultimately your trailer needs to accommodate the everything you need. Once you’ve got your tiny house trailer, it’s hard to build an extension on it. So you’re kind of limited.
Fred had his trailer before he met me, so his tiny house design suddenly had to make room for a bathroom and we didn’t have enough space for two kids’ beds. So by the time we had our second child we out-grew our tiny house. Like everyone, his design options were limited from the moment he ordered the trailer.
If you can refine the functions and priorities for your personal tiny house, it’ll be much easier to order one with confidence!
It’ll also help you determine the type of trailer you’ll need, be it a protruding wheel guard or flat top trailer. For extra height in your design, choose the protruding wheel guard. For ease of building the floor and walls, choose the flat top trailer.
2. Decide on your power source
Will you be connected to the grid or be going off-grid? It makes a big difference in weight… think about 500 kg for a decent solar array and battery bank if you’re going off-grid.
This is roughly how it goes:
Less than 7.2 meters long:
For tiny house trailers that are shorter than (and up to) 7.2 meters long we are confident that we can build you a tiny house on it and still have enough weight allowance to safely carry the off-grid equipment inside the tiny house during transport.
This is because we know our weight estimates on our building methods and materials. We can’t assume that everyone building a tiny house on wheels will be able to meet the weight limitations of the trailer with an off-grid capacity.
More than 7.2 meters long: If you want a tiny house trailer longer than 7.2 meters it gets difficult to make the tiny house and the off-grid equipment and your stuff fit within the 4500 kg weight limitation. You can of course get a trailer rated to carry more than 4500 kg but you’d need a towing vehicle that can pull that, a special license and hydraulic brakes on the trailer.
3. Do a weight estimate
You’re probably getting the picture now that weight is a determining factor. You’ll need a weight estimate of your materials, your stuff and appliances. That will give you an idea about what weight rating you’ll need for your tiny house trailer and if you need to trim your design at all.
If you have a vehicle that is rated to tow a 3500 kg load (like a recent Mazda BT50, Toyota Land Cruiser or Ford F-Series or Ranger for example) then you might like to make your tiny house really lightweight so you can safely tow it with your own vehicle. To do this, consider the length of your tiny house (go shortish), the materials you use and connecting it to mains power. We recently made an on-grid 6 meter tiny house that weighed just shy of 3000 kg, which was great because the owner could tow it with her own vehicle even with 500 kg of her stuff in it. Have a look at it here.
4. Due diligence. Research your tiny house trailer
There are heaps of safety considerations to make when building a tiny house on wheels, because the tiny house is a vehicle, not a building. There are also heaps of shonky tiny house trailer manufacturers out there selling dangerously poor quality products to unsuspecting tiny house enthusiasts who are hoping to save money on their trailer purchase.
We encourage everyone who is thinking about building or buying a tiny house on wheels to get informed about what makes a strong and safe trailer design. By doing your due diligence, you will hopefully be able to recognise a high quality trailer when you see it and avoid buying a dangerous foundation for your precious tiny house.
Here are a few pointers.
Things to look for when buying a tiny house trailer:
- Does the “A” Frame part of the trailer reach to the front suspension hanger? If it doesn’t, then it is an inferior design.
- Does the trailer manufacturer provide you with a way to attach the tiny house to the trailer? If so, is it a sound connection method?
- Has the trailer been wired with extra cabling for installing legally required outline marker lights?
- Does the trailer’s design provide for usable space on the draw bar? If you’re not careful, the jack stand can be located in a place that precludes a clever use of the draw bar space.
- Does the trailer’s design help or hinder the installation of underfloor insulation?
- Does the trailer’s design include underfloor storage?
- If you’re planning an off-grid tiny house, does your trailer’s design include a protected place between the axles to house your bank of deep cycle batteries?
In case you’re wondering, yes, Fred’s Tiny House Trailers do provide all these things.
Fred has worked in collaboration with VASS engineers to design his tiny house trailers so that they are the strongest, most reliably crafted tiny house trailers on the market. They all feature a comprehensive attachment system that holds onto your tiny house as it travels down the road. Fred teaches his Unified Construction Method™ in the workshop series to inform DIYers how to build the tiny house so that the trailer and house become one unified whole.
If you’d like more explanation on what we’re talking about here (because there’s a bit of trailer-talk in it) come along to a workshop called All Things Trailers: for DIY Tiny House Builders. You’ll learn how to trailer-talk like a pro and everything will be explained from scratch. No experience necessary. The workshop is designed for people who know nothing about trailers and it will teach you enough to be an informed tiny house trailer consumer in 3 hours.
Here’s a video explainer too:
“I can buy a tiny house trailer for $5000 elsewhere. Why should I pay more?”
Yes, it’s tempting to save money on a trailer so you can spend more on the house materials. But first make sure of a few things:
1. Make sure you’re comparing apples with apples
- Make sure weight ratings compare between trailers. The definitive number you’re looking for is the weight rating on the compliance plate. Don’t be fooled by sales pitches like ‘6000 kg rated axles’, it doesn’t mean a thing if the trailer’s ATM is 3500 kg.
- If the cheaper trailer is built for a caravan, steer clear. Caravan trailers are structurally inadequate to support a tiny house, because caravans are much lighter than tiny houses.
- If the trailer has no way of attaching the tiny house to it, take that very seriously. It may greatly impact the safety of your tiny house construction and towing ability. It would be a total nightmare to be the person whose tiny house broke or fell off the trailer while being towed down the road! Don’t believe it’s possible? Read more about it here.
- Compare the suspension types. You’ll need a “rocker roller suspension”, which is a kind of suspension which shares the load between your axles. That’s a good thing. Look out for non-load sharing suspensions, such as “eye & slipper” or “eye & eye” suspensions. These are totally inadequate for a tiny house.
Unfortunately, since the tiny house industry is unregulated at the moment, anyone can sell any trailer in any condition with the label ‘Tiny House Trailer’. It relies on the consumer to be informed and diligent in their research to make a good purchase.
So when comparing trailer prices, just make sure you’re comparing apples with apples.
2. Does the cheaper tiny house trailer provide the features listed above?
In the section above, “Things to look for when buying a tiny house trailer” we’ve outlined some ways of identifying a well built tiny house trailer. Check them over. If the cheaper trailer doesn’t provide those features, it’s up to you to add them on later which costs time, effort and money. So that will even out the price difference significantly.
3. Are you being quoted on a ‘base model’ price before ‘optional extras’ are included?
Just like buying a ticket for a flight on a budget airline website, it’s easy to be wooed into a cheaper ticket price, only to find out that once you’ve added everything you actually need (called ‘optional extras’) you’re going to pay the same amount as the more expensive ticket on a different airline. What a pain!
Same with tiny house trailers. For example: You’ll need cables wired in to the trailer so that the brake controller works and you can install the outline marker lights on your tiny house. These make your tiny house able to be registered as roadworthy and therefore able to be insured. All of Fred’s Tiny House Trailers come with these as standard, not an optional extra.
To find out more about our trailers, or to reserve your spot in the trailer building queue, call us on 03 5472 2130 or visit Fred’s Tiny House Trailers. We manufacture near you!
Fred’s Tiny House Trailers manufacturing locations