What You Need To Know About Tiny House Trailers

When constructing a tiny house on wheels, without a doubt one of the most important things to consider is your trailer. In the early days, tiny homes were generally built on converted car hauler trailers. Nowadays though, tiny homes on wheels tend to be constructed on custom, or specially designed tiny house trailers, specifically engineered to take the unique weight distribution and forces which are associated with a home which travels on the road.

Tiny homes are designed to move and when being transported on the road they are faced with enormous pressures from both the vibration and movement of being on the road as well as wind resistance. In fact, driving your tiny house at 60mph down the highway is the equivalent of subjecting your home to a magnitude 8 earthquake and a category 3 hurricane simultaneously.

It’s because of these enormous forces, that tiny house trailers need to be well engineered. It’s my strong advice never to skimp on your tiny house trailer, if you spend money anywhere on your home, let it be on the foundations. Because it travels on the road, a tiny house should be considered a vehicle first and a house second. Ensuring your tiny house has a solid foundation (trailer) is not only an investment in protecting your home, but also ensuring the safety and well-being of both yourself and those who you share the road with. It’s only going to take one poorly constructed trailer to come apart on the highway and cause a serious accident before the future of the entire tiny house movement will be put at risk.

I have constructed tiny homes in both the USA and New Zealand. The engineering of each house trailer is very different, largely due to the difference in legal weight limits between the two countries. For the purpose of this article, I will focus on my North American tiny house trailer and create more content around tiny house trailers which relates to New Zealand, Australia and Europe in future articles.

My tiny house was constructed on a 16ft bumper pull trailer from Tiny House Foundations. It’s a braked duel axel trailer, rated to 10,000 pounds (roughly 4,500 kg). Here, I will go over some of the key design features of my own trailer and also mention some design considerations for those looking to get started on their own tiny house journey.

Trailer Design

The first thing that you may notice about this tiny house trailer, especially if you’re used to seeing trailers from New Zealand like I am, is that there is a tremendous amount of steel in it. Foundation Trailers are constructed to be incredibly sturdy and are solidly constructed to take the weight of a tiny house. The belly pan (sheet metal welded to the base of the trailer) is already included, making it simple to insulate the trailer and prepare it to receive the sub-floor. All trailers from Foundation come with the required DOT lighting and visibility stickers included.

The wheel fenders (or wheel wells) on this trailer are structural, which is an important consideration. Having a structural fender, essentially means that it is self supporting, allowing you to construct your wall over the fender without needing to install a header (or a lintel) over the top.

At the haul end of the trailer, there is an adjustable coupling, allowing your to adjust the height to match your towing vehicle. There are safety chains attached, and a break-away system for the brakes. This system applies the breaks to the trailer should it ever come loose from the towing vehicle and is a necessary safety feature. Here, you’ll also find a sturdy tongue jack.

Your corner jacks are also an important feature on a tiny house trailer. Unless your tiny house is very small and lightweight, these are not designed to lift the weight of the trailer off of the axels and wheels, however they are used for stabilising and helping to level the tiny house trailer when parked.

It’s good to use high quality jacks. Unlike scissor jacks, these pipe-mount swivel jacks with footplates are generally more sturdy and are less likely to rack. One consideration, as in the case of these corner jacks, is that they can fold away above the trailer floor, or be removed from the trailer entirely to ensure that they don’t ever drag on the ground when traveling, or get destroyed should the trailer ever bottom out (which they sometimes do).

It’s a great idea to also think about tie down points for your trailer, such as the D rings which are located on all four corners of my trailer. Should you ever be parked up in a high wind area, or if your tiny house is in the way of a storm, these tie down points allow you to safely anchor your tiny house to the ground so that it doesn’t tip over.

Trailer Engineering

The engineering of your trailer is incredibly important. Make sure that you talk with your trailer manufacturer regarding the plans for your home prior to ordering your trailer. This ensures that the axels can correctly be placed in order to balance the load and make sure it safe to tow. This also allows for the trailer to be engineered with the correct elements to take the expected weight of your home. You don’t want your trailer to be under-engineered!

Standard Bumper-Pull, Deck-Over or Gooseneck

One of the main things to consider when choosing a tiny house trailer, is whether to go with a standard bumper pull trailer, or a goose neck. Both come with advantages and disadvantages.

A bumper-pull, like mine above, allows for your tiny house to be towed by a wide variety of vehicles. It’s much more common for a vehicle to have a standard tow-bar than a gooseneck hitch in the bed of the truck.

Bumper pulls can be either standard, or deck-over. If you don’t want to deal with working around the trailers fenders, it’s possible to also opt for a deck-over option, where lower profile wheels are used and sat beneath the trailer deck.

The main reason you may wish to choose a gooseneck trailer over a bumper pull is stability on the road. A gooseneck trailer is designed to transfer the weight of the tiny house into the bed of the truck, dramatically increasing the stability of your trailer.

I have towed both bumper-pulls and goose necks and I can absolutely testify to the difference between the two. The gooseneck tiny home I towed, despite being over twice the length of my 16ft bumper pull was an absolute dream. It’s much more intuitive, and you can feel the difference in the stability of the trailer behind your vehicle. If you plan to do a lot of travel with your tiny house, I would recommend you talk with your manufacturer about the possibility of building on a gooseneck trailer.

Despite this, I did still choose to use a bumper pull for my own tiny house, largely so it could work in with my intended design and because I was constructing such a small home. Care and consideration was taken to ensure that my tiny house was well balanced on the trailer and thus my tiny is still no problem to tow.

More Information

If you’re interested in finding out more information regarding tiny house trailers in the USA or Canada, I recommend you get in touch with the team at Tiny House Foundations who will be able to address all of your questions.

In the video below, you can see my tiny house being built on a Foundation Trailer together with the team from Tiny House Chattanooga.