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Tiny house build : How to pick your perfect tiny house trailer

Tiny house build : How to pick your perfect tiny house trailer

 

Choosing your tiny house trailer is usually one of the first decisions that have to be made when starting the planning phase of a tiny house build.  Being the moving foundation of your tiny home, it’s important to get this decision right the first time, as the trailer that you choose is often the most money that you’ll be spending in one go on your build.

Having spent the last 3 months weighing up the different trailer options for our tiny house build, Tom and I have first-hand knowledge of how confusing this important decision can be! Today I wanted to share with you some of the considerations we have been asking ourselves when making this important decision!

Please take note that different countries having different rules and reg’s regarding size and weight restrictions on RV’s/Tiny Houses.  This post is written to be a ‘jumping off point’ for your own research and is based on our Tiny House build in Melbourne, Australia.

 

Can I use a recycled/second-hand trailer for my tiny house?

If you are intending to build your own tiny house then it’s most likely that you are not swimming in excess money.  In our case money is certainly tight and we will be weighing up the cost of all materials throughout our build so as to keep costs down as much as possible.

This being said there are some parts of your build that are just worth spending money on, and your trailer is certainly one of them.  Think of your trailer as the foundation to your new home, and you might start reconsidering the money-saving tactic of purchasing a used trailer.

You want to make sure that your trailer is capable of pulling the huge amount of weight that you will be building on top of it.  Alongside this, you want your trailer to be as resistant to rust and weather as possible.

For us, choosing a recycled or second-hand trailer quickly got crossed-out as an option when we considered just how much weight it will be carrying! Most trailers will be carrying anywhere from 3.5-4.5 Tonnes of constant weight, so you want to go for a trailer that is as structurally sound as possible.  Buying a new trailer ticked that box for us!

 

What style tiny house trailer is best?

There are many different styles of trailer that can be used for a tiny house build.  Below I will outline some of the most common options but it’s worth taking into consideration that tiny houses are about as flexible a building structure as there can be and there are some incredible examples of tiny houses built on weird and wacky trailers.

  1. Utility Trailer – A utility trailer is simply a trailer that was created for purposes other than a tiny house.  There are many trailer manufacturers out there and purchasing a utility trailer can be a cheaper option than buying a trailer that has been manufactured specifically for this purpose.  However, often times utility trailers will have wheels on the outside of the deck which means that you will lose valuable width on your home.
  2. Flat Deck (with wheel arches) – This is the tiny house trailer style that we have chosen.  The deck sits at a lower height allowing for more vertical space in your tiny house (you need to make the most of those 4.2-metre high restrictions!)  The downside is that you will need to incorporate the shape of your wheel arches into your build.
  3. Flat Deck (built over wheels) – With this option you don’t have to contend with awkward wheel arches during your tiny house build, however you do loose around 60cm of headspace.  In tiny houses that I’ve seen that utilised this style of trailer, they really do end up with a cramped loft space and this wasn’t something that Tom and I were willing to sacrifice on.

 

(image courtesy of Tiny Home Builders)

 

What length/weight tiny house trailer should I choose?

The length of a tiny house is usually determined by vehicle restrictions for your country.  Here in Australia we can build up to 12.5 metres in length and 2.5 metres in width as long as we have a truck big enough to tow it! This is something that is different in every country and often even from state to state.

When deciding on the size of our tiny house trailer we had to weigh up quite a few things :

  1. How often do we want to tow it?  If you are moving regularly and also want to be able to tow your home yourself, then you are better off sticking to a tiny house that is 7.2 metres or under.  This allows you to tow your home with a ‘light truck’, something like a standard 4×4, which means that you are far more likely to be able to tow it yourself.  That being said weight is also an important consideration here too.  Most tiny house trailers are only licensed to carry up to 3.5 tonnes of weight which is the maximum legal weight than a standard 4×4 or ‘light truck’ can carry.  Keeping below this 3.5-tonne weight restriction is tricky, so we ended up choosing a 7-metre trailer that is licensed up to 4.5-tonne and dealing with the fact that we will need to pay a company to tow us to new rental sites when necessary.  This works for our situation as we don’t plan on having to move too often.
  2. What amenities do we want inside our home?  For our situation, our tiny house needs to be completely self-sufficient and include a kitchen and bathroom.  For other people, they may choose a ‘dry’ tiny house that doesn’t need to be plumbed or include a bathroom.  This would reduce the amount of space that you would need and you could choose a smaller trailer.  In our experience, a 7-metre trailer was the smallest that we were comfortable to go whilst including the space for a functioning bathroom and kitchen and plenty of living space alongside it.
  3. How much parking space do we want to take up?  If you are like us then you won’t have a nice block of land to permanently park your tiny house.  In this case, it’s important to not only consider the ease of moving into new parking spaces but also how much space your tiny house would need on someone else’s property.  We wanted to keep our home as compact as possible so as to allow us to rent smaller spaces of land or fit into more urban environments.  These are all considerations that are very personal to your build.
  4. How much money are we willing to spend? It kind of goes without saying that the length of your trailer will have an effect on the overall cost as well, however when we were researching trailers I was quite surprised by the price jump between trailer lengths.  For us, we found the minimum length that we were happy with (that turned out to be 7-metres) and stuck with that, which would not only save us a fair amount of trailer money but would also save on the extra material costs for the extended length as well!  There are a couple of reasons why we’ve chosen to purchase a 7-metre trailer instead of a 7.2-metre trailer: Firstly, the trailer manufacturers we have chosen charge the same price as an 8-metre trailer for anything over 7-metres (because the steel lengths come in metre lengths).  Secondly, because we want to be roadworthy we needed to include a small amount of external space for guttering so we’ve allocated 20cm of external space for this.
  5. Do you need to register your tiny house as a vehicle? We didn’t realize until researching it that there was any other option but to register your tiny house as a vehicle and thus jump all the bureaucratic hoops that this process comes with, so as to get your home on the road.  However, having looked at the rules here in Australia, we found that it was actually possible to buy permits to move your ‘oversize vehicle’ and this way get around having to register your tiny house and make it road worthy at all.  This option would only really work if you had your own land and just needed to move your tiny house from your build site to its final resting spot which wouldn’t work for us, but may be an option for many others!

 

Is it worth paying for a Galvanised tiny house trailer?

We’ll say it again, your tiny house trailer is the foundation for your home.  When researching ourselves if it was worth paying the extra $1000’s for a galvanized trailer, we found that this step was not something that we were willing to save on.  I know it’s tempting to go for a un-galvanized trailer and hope for the best, but the risk really isn’t worth it!

In our case, Tom and I are planning to park up by the sea sometime in the future and with that strong salty air, we knew that paying the extra money for a galvanized trailer was an absolute must.

By buying a galvanized trailer, you are adding a layer of rust and weather protection around the foundation of your home. As far as we are aware there are 2 different forms of galvanization that are used regularly on tiny house trailers; hot dipped and painted.  Hot dipped galvanisation seems to be the strongest form of protection but is also the most expensive as it involves dipping a fully built trailer into a pool of molten Zinc, which I imagine is NOT an easy task!  From what we’ve been told, there is also the concern that hot-dipping will warp the finished shape of your trailer and you’ll end up dealing with a trailer that may not be square.  This really isn’t something that we wanted to deal with during our build and I don’t think you would either!

Because of these factors, we chose a painted on galvanized trailer, which adds a good amount of weather protection to our trailer whilst also not warping the finished shape.

 

So… in conclusion

Choosing your tiny house trailer is a completely personal process, just as your completed tiny house build will also be completely personal to you; that’s one of the joys of building yourself!

We really hope that you found this post useful and that it gave you some ideas to start considering and moving forward with on your own build.

In regards to our tiny house trailer, we’re happy to say that we’ve put the deposit down on our brand-new galvanised 7-metre flatbed trailer (with wheel arches), which we are purchasing through the wonderful folks at Tiny Houses Australia.  Our trailer will be ready to pick up in early January and Tom and I couldn’t be more happy with Darren & Lisa’s wonderful service and support!

If you’d like to read more about our tiny house build then consider reading my post on ‘How we are funding our Tiny House‘.

Until next time,

Bex



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