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Trailers

Tumbleweed Trailers

A typical flatbed trailer is ideal for building a Tumbleweed Tiny House. They are available at many trailer and RV stores. The picture is a typical flatbed trailer.

Often when you purchase a trailer, it will have sides or ramps. That’s okay, you will just need to remove the sides and ramp. It’s actually pretty hard to find a trailer without some sides built in. Sometimes they are referred to as utility trailers.

Trailer sizes are listed as the size of the actual trailer bed. It does not include the hitch or the wheels. For example, a 7′ x 14″ trailer would be 7′ between the wheels. Almost all trailers are 8’6″ wide when you include the wheels; and as it turns out, this is the widest possible width for road travel without a permit. The bed of the trailer would be 14′ long, and when you add the hitch, it would probably measure 17′ long.

Except for the New Popomo, all of our portable homes require a flatbed trailer where the wheels are taller than the trailer bed. The maximum legal road height in the US (without a permit) is 13’6″. None of our homes are taller than 13’5″. But more important than the legal road height is the height of the bridges. Most bridges are in fact much taller than 13’6″, but to be safe, you can not build on a trailer where the entire bed is above the wheels.

The Popomo does not have a loft, and therefore is designed to fit on a trailer bed that is “over the axle”. The advantage to that design is that it provides for a wider house, albeit shorter.

Most trailers come with a double axle. Usually, each axle is rated to hold 3,500 lbs. However, some axles are rated for 5,000 lbs each (as well as 6,000 lbs each and 7,000 lbs each). Therefore, a double axle trailer will have a total rating of 7,000 lbs or 10,000 lbs. This rating will have a large impact on the price. It is referred to as “GVWR”, which means Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. Keep in mind that the GVWR includes the weight of the trailer.

So if the trailer is rated for 7,000 lbs and the trailer weighs 1,500 lbs, you can put 5,500 lbs on it. On our website, we list the weight of our houses including the weight of the trailer.

Except for the XS-House, all of our homes require a double axle trailer. The XS-House can be built on a single axle trailer if the axle is rated for 5,000 lbs.

Trailers usually include brake lights, a license plate, and a breaking mechanism. The lights and brakes attach to your car/truck, and when you use the brakes, it will also apply the brakes to the trailer.

There are many sizes for hitch balls, but almost all are either 2″ or 2 5/8″ (2 5/8″ are recommended). The hitch ball on your car/truck is easily changable, and probably around $30.

Because the trailer is roughly 18% of the material cost, saving money on the trailer is the easiest way to control construction costs. Consider buying a used trailer. craigslist.org is an excellent place to look for a used trailer. Prices for used trailers range from $500-$1500, a savings of $1000-$2000.

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  • Kate

    I have found a used trailer from a 1989 Sierra RV. I would like to build my tiny home on this. It has two axles. Does anyone know if a RV trailer frames are built lighter then regular trailers? My sense is that a two axle trailer frame is the same regardless. Any info would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks

    • http://twitter.com/DFox58388342 D Fox

      ALL trailers will have a GVWR tag on them. Look on the hitch or near the front on the left side. By Federal law a rating tag is required. The numbers should be there.

      • Cheryl

        I have an 66 chevy pick up truck bed converted into a trailer, how do I determine its GVWR?

    • http://www.facebook.com/howard.little2 Howard Little

      Kate, trailer frames are different, so allways check the tires to see how much they will carry.

    • http://www.facebook.com/robert.hayes.3762 Robert Hayes

      Most important is the axle max weight…here’s a size calculation to help you out in this….2000 lbs axles are bout 1 3/4 inch diameter, 3500 lbs axles are 2 3/8 inch diameter, and 5000-7200 lbs axles are 3 inch or greater in diameter…hope this helps

  • Matt_lachaussee

    Is a flat bed trailer with a Gvwr of 10,000 lbs big enough to build a 16×8 house on? Or would you need a higher GVWR?

    • http://twitter.com/DFox58388342 D Fox

      That depends on what your building materials weigh.

    • Joseph

      Not positive about rv trailers but if is over 10,001 lbs need a class a license also would need a commercial grade truck to tow it. Could also look into converting a school bus instead of getting that large of a trailer

  • Rick S

    Top Notch trailers out of Grand Mound, Washington (North of Chehalis Exit 88) builds trailers the way you need them. No wood deck,no fenders,etc all is deducted from the cost. Prices are unbelievabley low!! Rick S

    • Duncan Reid

      Where is this? I can’t seem to find it. Thanks!

  • jackie

    does anyone know the biggest (legal) size trailer you can build on for canadians? Much appreciated if answered. Yes I am a newbie:P

    • http://www.facebook.com/russell.a.weber Russell A. Weber

      Don’t feel bad Jackie, I’m kinda new at this myself. I’ve experience in construction but building on a trailer is a new concept for me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/russell.a.weber Russell A. Weber

    I’m new at this but as I understand it, as long as your GAVWR can handle the extra weight (the longer floor plan, not the extra weight of your family), your 20′ trailer will be fine.

  • Edueck

    Your height on your trailer for U S road ways is 13’6″ because of the Bridges, but there are places that the Bridges are not 13’6″ some are only 12’6″. I drove truck in the U S for a few years, the height of an 18 wheeler in 13″6 legal height. I have been in places where it was to low but you have signs posted on the height of the overpass or bridge.

    I read your article on trailers, I might stick my foot in my mouth, but if you have a trailer 10,000 g v w then you would need a 1 ton truck and heavy duty hitch on it. The truck may have to have a commercial plate as well this creates a new problem.
    This about where you may have to get your road taxes in order if you travel State to State.
    This is just from my experience in trucking, I could be wrong as I am a Canadian the law may have changed and they may be different for Americans.

  • Will

    Excellent comment and one that is likely on the minds of many readers. One does not need a commercial license to pull a 10,001+ lbs. trailer unless one does it for profit. Personal use is exempt. (Look at the many, giant RV’s on the road that are being operated by drivers without CDL’s.)
    The towing unit does not need to be commercial, either. A 3/4 ton to 1 ton should work well. Some half tons may be rated to pull 10,000 lbs, but I sure wouldn’t do it; they don’t have the brakes that heavier trucks have.. Check out the GVWR rating and go from there..

  • http://twitter.com/urban_land_art Ann Armstrong

    Can you build an 8′ wide tiny house on an 76″ trailer bed? Or, another way to phrase the question, what is the minimum trailer width allowable for na 8′ wide tiny house?

  • Ryan

    I don’t see anything here, but have you found any answer for to this question? I’ve been trying to find out about the laws surrounding homemade mobile homes in Canada too and haven’t been able to come up with anything..

  • Todd

    Does anyone know what the tumbleweed trailer deck height is? I’d like to use the tumbleweed plans but have to get my own trailer. I’d like to be able to match the deck height as closely as possible.

    • Harper Wood

      Good question.

    • Wheeets

      Did you ever find that out? If so please do tell…

  • cody

    Can anyone tell me if it is possible to add steel extensions onto a camper trailer?
    I have a 22 foot camper that has been given to me but I’d like to have something around a 26-28 foot where I have 3 in my family.
    Could it be done and just add supports to so it wouldn’t be flimsy?

  • Hannah Tidwell

    I am wanting to find a inexpensive way to buy some land and build a house. I have considered doing a house and barn as a unit, but since I found this give me a better idea. Any advice would be awesome.

  • Matthew

    is the total height from ground or trailer bed?

    • Wheeets

      I wanna know too

  • Sulis

    I have been trying to look to see if I could strip down an old motor home like a 36ft Corsair class A or any other large old Class A motor home and turn it into a tiny home. Is this possible or are there issues?

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