Buying a trailer to build our tiny house was a big decision. It’s likely to be the single biggest investment in the process. Taking that step meant we were committed.
The first thing to decide is new versus used. I’ll admit I did search around on Craiglist, but quickly decided that new was the route we should go. Ultimately if you are building a THOW (Tiny House on Wheels) the trailer serves as your foundation. As I’m sure you are well aware, it’s critical to start with a strong foundation so it wasn’t an area I wanted to take chances.
Once we had that decision made we needed to decide the size of the trailer we wanted. We decided on an 8’6″ x 24′ trailer. 8’6″ is the maximum width you can go without having to purchase a wide load permit. Don’t quote me on this, but I believe some states require a CDL (Commercial Drivers License) for trailers longer than 24′. Ultimately though our decision was more about practicality. We wan’t something that was small enough that we could travel with, but long enough to squeeze a lot of features in.
That was the biggest criteria to land on, but we had a number of other things that were important to us as well:
- Weight rating of 12,000 pounds or above
- Thicker reinforced steel to protect against rust
- Weather proof paint (automotive paint)
- Electric brakes and lights (pretty standard)
- Heavy duty, load bearing tires (standard tires won’t cut it)
- Tow chains in case the trailer comes unhitched
- Break away safety system (activates electric brakes if the trailer would get detached while towing)
With that as a guideline we reached out to a number of companies that either sell or build trailers. That group consisted of regular trailer companies as well as those that specialize in “tiny house trailers.” We gave ourselves a time limit of 2 weeks to solicit quotes and feedback before we made our decision.
I was surprised (disappointed) by several of the companies. They were slow to respond, didn’t respond at all, or unwilling to answer questions on the specs above. I didn’t feel particularly comfortable spending thousands of dollars on a product that a company didn’t seem to know much about it.
We ultimately narrowed our decision down to two companies. One company specialized in tiny houses and the other was a major trailer manufacturer. We chose the regular trailer manufacturer because their service was excellent, they really seemed to know their product, and have a tract record of successful business for about 30 years. The other option was significantly more expensive and I just couldn’t get on board with the increased cost for minimal feature enhancement (if any).
We chose to go pick our trailer up and make a mini adventure out of it. We spent a day in Asheville, NC before heading to Kaufman Trailers in Lexington, NC. They offered a 3% discount for pickup and payment with Cashiers Check. The hooked us up, checked that the lights were working correctly.
They all thought that it was cool that we are planning to build a tiny house on it. I exclaimed that we were officially “bat shit crazy.” Everyone had a laugh and we were on our way.