I want to build a trailer, but there are so many possibilities — and some are mutually exclusive. How do I narrow my needs, and how do I choose which Trailer Plans to buy?
Many people know just what they want. Others grapple with certain decisions like weighing the benefits of various lengths, or widths, or capacities. Choosing which trailer plans to buy is not always a simple task, so here are some things to assist in the decision.
Guiding Questions To Choose A Trailer
- What will I use it for? (List everything.)
- What are my priorities? (Now prioritize your list.)
- How often will I use it? And, what things in the list above will I use it for the most?
- What vehicle will I pull it with? (Size and capacity.)
- Where will I store the trailer?
- Are there any adaptations that can combine to meet my needs?
All these must enter into the decision, yet it’s impossible to have everything at once. A 5-foot width and a 6-foot width, for instance, are mutually exclusive. A torsion axle or a leaf spring axle are also mutually exclusive. But some options, like trailer sides, don’t have to be exclusive. If you want a flat bed for some things and sides for other jobs, make the sides removable.
There are also things you can do to get a blended benefit without going too crazy. For example, a folding tongue can solve some of the storage issues so a longer trailer is more practical. Using rubber enhanced equalizers for tandem axles can compromise instead of torsions. And these are just a few.
Let’s look at those questions again, but this time with some discussion.
What Will You Use The Trailer For?
This is the big question. If we’re talking about a utility trailer, then there are probably a lot of uses. Yard waste, landscaping, helping the sister-in-law move, hauling lumber, a garden tractor, and the list goes on.
Think about the biggest (most important) thing you’ll haul, then, think about the smallest. For instance, an ATV and a single sheet of plywood. Think about the heaviest thing you’ll haul, then the lightest. (A load of landscape rocks vs. a load of insulation.) The bulkiest, then the most compact. (A load of hay vs. sheets of steel.) Also, the longer distance places you go with things? (Vacation with the family, or fetching firewood with the guys.)
Do any of these things dictate a specific size, or capacity?
If you’re camping in it, then at least one dimension should be longer than you. If you’ll be hauling building materials, the dimensions should be greater than the materials you’ll be carrying. (Or at least accommodate the materials like with this trailer.)
Which Trailer Plans Fit Your Priorities?
From the list of things you’ll use the trailer for, what are the priorities? For instance, if you will be living in your tiny home full time, then having a solid trailer for a foundation is a high priority. If you’ll carry landscaping and yard waste 90% of the time, then occasionally help a friend or someone move, then bias your decision hard toward the things you’ll do with the trailer most.
Some trailers are duty specific — like a tiny house trailer, or a landscape equipment trailer. For those, our experience says don’t skimp on size. If you want the smaller size, but worry that it won’t be big enough, you’re probably right. A little more space is good in many such situations — especially if you have a size quandary.
If most of your needs are small — 5′ x 8′ for instance — but there’s the off-chance you might want to haul a car someday, don’t get a car hauler for a “MIGHT”. Build the 5′ x 8′, and if that off-chance comes, just go rent a car hauler for a day. Your trailer doesn’t have to cover every possibility of what may come. Furthermore, a trailer is not permanent. If you have different needs in 10 years, then make a new trailer to meet the new needs.
For some things there is just not a substitute. If you haul big (especially wide) stuff, then for many, a deck-over style trailer is really the only thing that works.
How Often Will You Use It?
I ask this question because if you will use it all the time, you need to consider more carefully the needs. And, if you do use it frequently, you probably know just what you’ll be using it for. If you won’t use it that often, then it’s likely that you have less sure answers about what you’ll use it for.
So, go back to the “Think About” items in the section above, and ask yourself how often and how likely it is you’ll use the trailer for each of those things. For instance, how much landscaping use versus hauling the ATV?
Thinking through what you’ll use it for along with how often for each thing certainly will help you see what is most important. This is part of finding your priorities.
What Will You Pull It With?
Perhaps this question is a statement of the obvious, but we’ll touch lightly on it anyway. It should go without saying that the capacity of the tow vehicle is a strong determining factor. Please don’t build a 14K tandem axle trailer to pull with your compact SUV.
Look at your vehicle owners manual, then make sure you’re not doing something crazy with the trailer. The last thing you want is the trailer deciding where the vehicle is going. It’s probably not where the driver wants to go — and most times it ends badly. Enough said.
Where Will You Store It?
Trailer storage is something a lot of people forget about until after the trailer is parked in the driveway. What will you do with it when it’s not in use? That can make a big difference in choosing which trailer plans to buy. If you have space for a 4′ wide trailer beside your house, but you build a 6′ width trailer, then suddenly your cost of ownership went way up because you have to pay for storage.
Having a storage location somewhere else (like a storage lot) can be a super benefit. It can also be a hassle each time you want to use it. Thinking about where it will stay might be a big part of choosing the right trailer.
What Trailer Plans Adaptations?
After going through all the possible needs, thinking about priorities and frequency of use, the choices can still conflict. Sometimes the solution for which trailer plans is really an adaption or modification. For instance, the same trailer size can work for both trash removal and ATV hauling, but some accommodation like removable sides might make the difference in how well it works for you.
So, with all your needs, will the larger trailer size work for all the needs? Are there fun accommodations that make the same trailer work better for all needs?
To illustrate: If you think you will need more than 5′ width, then definitely get the 6′ width trailer. If that seems too big, buy the 6′ width trailer plans and build it at 5’6″ width. Think outside the box. We encourage customization to make it fit your needs.
In fact, as you think about your needs, look for inspiration from all around you. There are great things to learn even from old time trailers and thinking.
As far as the axles, they are mutually exclusive. Many styles will do the job well so unless you have a particular bias, I would stick with leaf springs because they are less expensive, repairable, and more universal.
Which Trailer Plans? – Summary
From what I’ve seen, most people have an inherent feel for what they need even if they can’t put words to it. Trust what you feel. Once you make the investment and build it, it will probably end up being perfect.
True, we can always want something a little larger something a little heavier something a little taller or narrower. That said, one principle of happiness is being satisfied with your decisions — knowing that you made the best choice at the time.
It’s your trailer, so make it great — whatever the decisions. It’s not permanent, so if your needs change later, build another.
Good Luck With Your Project !!