Small Trailer Instead Of A Truck?

That sounds like a good idea.  Right?  There are a million good reasons to need the capacity of a pickup truck, but actually, very few people use a Truck as a Truck that often.  Can we get the function we need without all the weight and wasting fuel? Can a small trailer do the job instead of a truck?

That is a great question which has tickled me for a long time.  However, the answer is not simple, so we should explore a little.

Of course, this discussion is a moot point when the truck is a status symbol or a social statement.  There is a lot of that too, but for this article, we will address the hauling / utility functions.

For Transparency  . . .  I have almost always owned a truck, so I only live part of this.  I grew up working farms, driving trucks, tractors, etc..  Most of my life I have been hauling material or equipment for myself, for friends, and for customers.  Seems like I am forever loading and unloading the truck and/or a trailer.  I once suggested trading in the truck, but my wife just laughed, then said “That will never work, you I could not live without a truck.”  Hmmm, from the one who knows me best.

The point is, I believe in using trailers.  I think many people can substitute a trailer for a truck just fine, but for others, not so well.  And, I suppose it really comes down to “How often do you use a truck as a truck?”  In my case, that is frequent.  Also, using the truck AND the trailer together — but that is another story.

Buy A Trailer Instead of a Truck?

Many years ago I came onto a forum that focuses on vehicle fuel efficiency.  They cover a lot of topics surrounding the subject, but the one that caught my attention first is titled  Buy a trailer (instead of a pickup truck).  That thread starts in 2013, and it is still expanding.  If you have time, there are a ton of good ideas in there.  (Also a bunch of nonsense, which makes it fun.)  Most important, the ideas come from a lot of perspectives.

So, what do you think?  Can a trailer really replace a truck?  Can a trailer actually be better than a truck?

Obviously we must make sure our car (or other passenger vehicle) can tow a trailer.  Almost every vehicle can tow something, it is just a matter of setting it up properly.  Like this tiny trailer for his little business, a small car can tow the right type of trailer.  Use this article to find out how much your vehicle can tow.

A Trailer Instead Of A Truck

This is a great example of using a trailer instead of a truck.  Kudos to him.

Trailer Advantages

Of course, a list of advantages for a trailer instead of a truck is full of assumptions.  An advantage for some is a disadvantage to others, so consider the circumstances.  Also, some credit for this list goes to the blog notes above.

  1. Trailers are inexpensive, especially compared to a truck.
  2. Trailers cost much less to upkeep — oil changes, tires, maintenance.
  3. If they do have a problem, or incur damage, trailers are pretty cheap to repair.
  4. Overall, fuel economy can be much better (smaller car, then only use the trailer when you need it).
  5. In most places, trailers cost very little to license.
  6. Trailers are usually within the insurance of the tow vehicle.  No need to buy extra.
  7. Most places don’t require annual inspection or testing.
  8. Towing with a MinivanMost trailers are lower to the ground, and therefore easier to load and unload.
  9. When driving, the weight is lower.
  10. If you need to make changes, trailers are pretty easy and not too expensive to customize or modify.
  11. Pickup trucks have limits for bed size – most on the road are now “short beds”.  On the other hand, even a small trailer (like a 4×8 or 5×8) can often haul more.
  12. When not hauling things, the trailer does not need to go out.  No wear and tear.
  13. Like the trailer in this photo, it is easy to have functional advantages over a truck, like the large tailgate/ramp, the motorcycle wheel cage, and the extra toolbox.

Again, these are subjective, and for some things, like hauling a lot more, require a sufficient tow vehicle.  For large hauling duties, then a truck may actually be required for towing, which is contrary to this discussion.  Anyway, take it within the scope of intent.  There really are a lot good of advantages for a trailer instead of a truck.

Trailer Disadvantages

While the list of advantages is long, there are a few very important disadvantages to consider as well.  When we think about what it takes to substitute a trailer instead of a truck, just one big disadvantage can spoil the plan.

  1. Trailers require storage space.  They are like an extra vehicle (almost), that doesn’t go out very often, and they need space.
  2. Even if the Trailer does not go out very often, it still needs maintenance once in a while.  You have to plan for that — like putting air in the tires after it sits for a long time.
  3. Many people find it difficult to drive and maneuver a trailer.  It is a skill you can learn, however, so don’t let this stop you.
  4. When comparing to a truck, you must be more purposeful taking the trailer.  It is easy to be spontaneous with a truck for ease of instant load carrying access.

Rent One InsteadWe should also point out that some disadvantages can be overcome by renting a trailer instead of owning one.  That way, you have access to many sizes, and you don’t have to maintain it, or store it.  Plus, if you don’t use it very often, it is probably cheaper.  Look for local rentals, not just the big ones like U-Haul.

Truck Advantages

To be fair, we need to look at the advantages of a truck.  While some truck advantages are the trailer disadvantages, it is worth noting the differences.

  1. The opposites of the trailer disadvantages #’s 1, 3 & 4 above.
  2. The common pickup truck of today is not only good at hauling things, they are also pretty good for hauling people.  If we want to save energy with a car, we must also look at this truck advantage.
  3. Trucks can have 4-wheel drive and go places that are difficult with a smaller car, light SUV pulling a trailer.
  4. When capacity really matters, you can always add a trailer to a truck.  And, trucks usually have a higher trailer towing capacity than a car.

Truck and Trailer Advantage

Adding A Trailer Instead Of A Truck

It is one thing to replace a truck with a car and trailer, yet it is quite another if you don’t already have a truck.  If you downsize from a truck there are the obvious moments of missing the capacity.  And, the cost to buy a car is still pretty high.

Very Small TrailerOn the other hand, if you want a truck, or need one occasionally, but don’t have one now, this is a great option.  A new trailer is much cheaper than a truck, and the increases in capacity are instant.

No matter where you fall in the spectrum, the concept of using a trailer instead of a truck is an interesting proposition.  Again, for some it can work, for others, not so well.  If it works for you, and you want to build a trailer, we have lots of trailer plans.

We have just scratched the surface with this topic, so feel free to leave a comment and share your perspective.  Are there advantages or limitations I have missed in the lists above?  Thank you in advance for your contributions.  Have a wonderful day.


Build Your Own Trailer

Here are some quick links to some of the best trailer plans we offer for a things a truck often does:

All of these will haul most of, or more than a truck.  We also have many more sizes, and capacities, so have a look around the plans store.  We wish you the best of luck with your decisions about using a trailer instead of a truck.

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