Tiny Home Trailers – Get Your House On The Move
If you want your tiny home to be mobile, there’s only one way to do it, and that’s to build it on a trailer!
This is something you need to think about right from the start, as it will make a huge difference to the design and materials used in your home.
Tiny houses built on trailers have to comply with certain dimensions to be legal to tow on the highway without a special permit. Everything has to fit within an imaginary box.
How big is this? well in most U.S states, the largest size it can be is 8.5 feet wide, 13.5 feet tall and 40 feet long – 65 feet including the vehicle that’s towing it.
There are many house plans available these days so you can build something to fit whatever trailer size you want. Or you can buy a prebuilt tiny house on wheels so it’s ready to go.
You could of course even design your own but whichever way you go, you need to know all about the trailers that the home will sit on.
Let’s dive in and answer some of your questions on tiny house trailers right now. You can use the table of contents below to go to your most pressing questions.
- 1 Why build a tiny house on a trailer?
- 2 What kind of trailer should I get for a tiny house?
- 3 Deck-Between Trailer
- 4 Deck Over Trailer
- 5 When choosing a trailer check for…
- 6 How do you attach a tiny house to a trailer?
- 7 Can you customize a trailer for a tiny house?
- 8 How wide are tiny house trailers?
- 9 What kind of insurance do I need on a trailer?
- 10 How much weight and/or height can a trailer hold?
- 11 What does GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) mean?
- 12 Are there advantages to using drop axles?
- 13 Where to buy a tiny house trailer?
Why build a tiny house on a trailer?
Making your home mobile is one thing, but if you don’t want to move it around then why would you build a tiny home on a trailer?
The answer lies in the zoning rules most communities and cities enforce. These specify that a permanent family home has to have a minimum amount of square feet of space.
Many areas also stipulate that permanent dwellings must be plumbed into all the utilities.
Tiny houses are too small to qualify for the minimum size and many tiny home enthusiasts like to live ‘off the grid‘.
That means they do not want to hook up to utilities but would rather rely on solar power and rainwater collection for instance.
To get around all this red tape, people started building tiny homes on trailers as most counties then classify these as an RV.
It’s not the perfect solution though as most counties do not allow you to live in an RV, but there are many creative ways around that.
As it stands today, building your house on a trailer is one of the most popular ways to live a tiny life.
What kind of trailer should I get for a tiny house?
Until quite recently if you wanted a trailer for your tiny home, you had to work with a trailer supplier to build one for you. Or you had to take a standard model and get someone to modify it for you.
Some people have built the trailer from scratch themselves just to get exactly the size and shape they wanted.
Now, though, things have changed and there are several manufacturers who specialize in them.
Check out the ‘Where to buy’ section below for some recommended suppliers.
All tiny home trailers are a flatbed design so that the house can be built on top of it using all the available space.
There are some different types, though, the first one is called ‘deck-between‘ or utility type trailer. This is where the deck sits between the wheels.
The advantage of this is that the deck can be 3-4 inches lower as it can sit just above the axles. Great for houses with a loft space.
The disadvantage is that it only gives you around 7.5 feet of usable width between the fenders.
Some manufacturers do now kit out a ‘deck between’ trailer with extra flanges away from the wheels to provide more width. This does mean you have to incorporate the wheel fenders into the house design, though.
Deck Over Trailer
The other type of trailer is known as a ‘deck over‘ trailer. This is where the entire flatbed sits on top of the wheels.
That means it can take full advantage of the 8.5 foot width along its entire length.
The downside to this type of trailer is that it’s 3-4 inches higher than the deck between type so tends to be used for houses without a loft space.
To save crucial inches in the height of the trailer, those designed for tiny homes are built so the metal frame is completely flat.
This allows the frame of the trailer to become part of the subfloor with the actual floor being the decking. This can save 3-4 inches compared to building a subfloor on top of the trailer decking.
It also saves some weight, which is also important, as we’ll find out in a bit.
Most trailers use a standard hitch type mechanism to attach it to the towing vehicle via a hitch ball. There are several sizes of hitch ball but most are either 2 inches or 2 and 5/16 of an inch.
It’s easy to change the hitch ball on your tow vehicle so don’t worry too much about that.
When choosing a trailer check for…
Other things to look for when choosing a trailer are:
Underside flashing already installed. This is essential to prevent moisture getting in underneath. Even more important when moving the house on the road.
If it’s not pre-installed, you will need to fit it yourself which can take several days of hard work!
Scissor jacks on all four corners for easy leveling. Not essential but if you don’t have them you will need to use some other kind of system to get your trailer level.
Brake lights and a braking mechanism. These should connect to the tow vehicle so that when you brake, it applies the brakes on the trailer and signals drivers behind you.
License plate and running lights. Again, the running lights should be connected so they come on when the tow vehicle lights are on.
Heavy duty, offset axles to balance the weight of the tiny house. Usually, you will have at least two and sometimes three axles that can take the weight of the house.
They are also offset (i.e. not in the middle) to balance the weight of the trailer and house when towing.
Last in this list is to make sure you get special high load radial tires. These are an upgrade on normal trailer tires and are made to handle heavier loads.
How do you attach a tiny house to a trailer?
Once you have your floor down on the trailer, then the frame of the house will go up next.
This attaches to the actual trailer using several long bolts or threaded rods. This is where the planning of your house becomes very important.
If you have your plan all drawn up and you know exactly where the main upright studs are going to be, then you can attach the bolts to the frame beforehand.
The best option is to weld bolts to the frame and again, a trailer supplier who knows tiny homes will be able to do this for you. You could, of course, get a professional welder to do this as well if you already have the trailer.
The other option is to drill holes in the frame and attach the bolts yourself. This allows you to make adjustments should the house design change after the trailer has been built.
Whichever method you choose make sure you follow your plans and provide enough anchor points. The last thing you want is for your home to blow away in a storm or whilst driving along the freeway!
Can you customize a trailer for a tiny house?
Although there are some standard sizes for tiny house trailers, you will find that most suppliers are happy to supply a custom fit.
As long as the overall size fits within the regulations then you will not have much of problem finding the right size for your house.
Other customizations might include positioning of the axles, different heights or a strengthened frame. You can change it up pretty much to you want as long as it stays legal.
You can also opt to have a gooseneck tow hitch instead of the standard ball type. This type attaches to a truck fitted with a ball hitch that sits in the bed of the truck.
This makes for a much more stable way to pull a tiny house trailer so if you have access to a truck, it’s a great option.
How wide are tiny house trailers?
As we have already looked at, a trailer can be a maximum of 8 foot 6 inches wide to comply with Department of Transport requirements in most states.
Most tiny homes on trailers will use as much of that width as they can to get the most inside space.
What kind of insurance do I need on a trailer?
Insurance has been one of the main sticking points of tiny home ownership in recent years and still is to some extent.
Regular insurance is available from many providers for the trailer itself, but of course, it will usually be a part of a tiny house at some point.
This has presented some problems to tiny home owners in the past as insurance has been difficult to find.
Putting your tiny home on a trailer so its classified as an RV has helped, as many RV insurers will be willing to cover these.
If you get your house RVIA (Recreational Vehicle Industry Association) certified it can also help to get access to insurance services.
Once your trailer and home are covered under RV insurance you will also need to make sure you have liability insurance. This is usually covered by the towing vehicle but check with the insurer to be sure.
Also, check that your RV insurance is comprehensive and covers theft and ‘Acts of God’. Collision damage should also be included in case something hits your house or the other way around!
How much weight and/or height can a trailer hold?
A trailer is rated for a certain GVWR (explained below) and this will determine how much weight it can take.
Trailers with triple heavy duty axles would usually be rated at 21,000 GVWR. This means it can carry that much weight, less the weight of the trailer itself.
All trailers will be able to take the maximum height allowed in most US states, which is 13 feet 6 inches (including the height of the trailer).
What does GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) mean?
As we now know, GVWR is a rating to tell us what a trailer is capable of carrying. It’s down to how much the axles can take that decides what the GVWR is.
For instance, a trailer with two axles rated at 5200lbs would give you GVWR of around 10,000. 3 axles rated at 7000lbs would give you a 21,000 GVWR and so on.
Just remember that this rating includes the weight of the trailer itself.
That’s a rather simple view of GVWR and there are a few other considerations to take into account when actually towing the house.
The manufacturers we recommend below will make sure the trailer has the correct GVWR for the house you are building. They will also be able to advise on the type of vehicle you will need to tow it and what else to take account of.
Are there advantages to using drop axles?
There is another option to consider when looking for a trailer to put your tiny home on. You could look at having something called drop axles.
Drop axles are a special type of axle where the connecting axle is at a lower height than the hub of the wheel.
These allow the bed of the trailer to be around 3-4″ lower, giving you several advantages:
More space inside the house, especially in the loft where headroom is important.
Lower entrance height makes it easier to get in and out of your house.
Unfortunately, it does cause a few problems with ground clearance, especially with longer trailers. It also reduces the usable space between the fenders by about 4″.
Drop axles do tend to add to the cost of the trailer, but not by a huge amount (around $100 – $350 per axle).
Where to buy a tiny house trailer?
Now that you know all about trailers for tiny homes, you will no doubt be very keen to find out where you can buy them.
Our other recommended supplier is Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. They also supply a large range of custom trailers built just for building your tiny house on. Check out their site for lots of help and information.
We hope this introduction to tiny home trailers and where to buy them has helped you find exactly what you need.
There are lots of options out there but if you go with the suppliers we’ve found, then they will offer some great help and advice on choosing the right trailer.
They also offer a complete service on all things to do with tiny houses and tiny living.