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  • Writer's pictureJim Martin

Sourcing a Trailer

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

Tiny house trailers are not the same as utility trailers or trailers designed to haul vehicles. They really are their own thing. A finished tiny house will weigh between 8,000 and 12,000 pounds--or between four and six tons (depending on variables such as length, water storage tanks, etc.). The basic rule is that you need a trailer with a GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) that will support your house once it’s built and fully loaded.

Trailer diagram, rear view

There are lots of ways to find a suitable trailer. Some vehicle trailers can be re-purposed as tiny home trailers. New trailers designed specifically for tiny homes can be purchased from various vendors around the country. (A Google search will bring up several options.) Or, you can have one built by a trailer manufacturer.

We chose the latter option, and that’s where we hit our first snag.

After calling several local trailer vendors who did not make or sell tiny house trailers, we happened upon a manufacturer with some experience building them. He was able to send us photographs of examples. The photos and specifications looked good to us, so we put down a deposit to have a 20’ tiny house trailer built. The vendor said the process should take roughly six weeks. So exciting!

More than nine months later, after countless emails, and dozens of phone calls, our trailer was delivered. Given that the delay could be measured in terms of geological epochs, the vendor offered us a $250 discount and delivered the trailer for free. Small consolation.

The vendor was kind enough to send us the technical drawing of the trailer, including his plan for how the walls would attach. While this was helpful, the plan he actually sent was for a 24' trailer rather than the 20 footer he delivered. Not a huge problem, but at the same time not instilling a ton of confidence in the manufacture of the single most expensive part of the project!

Trailer diagram, top and side view.

The trailer he delivered was a well-built unit with heavy duty axles. Turns out, everything is looking good.

In the end, here’s what the delivery looked like:

When I watched the builder back the rig through our new gate, I was quite glad he'd offered to deliver it himself for free. Backing that thing in turned out to be like threading a needle! I'm quite sure that had I attempted it myself, I'd have ended up unintentionally remodeling the new fence.

Once the trailer was unhooked and the manufacturer was gone, Jenna and I stood there looking at the foundation for our new house. It was an exciting moment!

Standing there gazing at our new "foundation", I had a bit of a flashback. We've actually built a house once before (more on this later). During that process, I'd been warned that once the foundation (of a traditional house) is poured and the forms are stripped, and you stand there admiring it, it tends to be underwhelming. In fact, it tends to look so small you feel you've made a mistake--designing a house that will end up being too small.

I had that same feeling again standing there looking at our new trailer. It certainly did seem tiny!

Next Steps:

As you can see, the trailer sits too close to the fence (not enough room to work on the back side of the house), and the ground tilts significantly from left to right.

We’ll have to move the trailer a foot or two away from the fence, then level it. Stay tuned...

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