Camping, Travel

Size Matters: Buying a Trailer Part 2

Hello Friends! I am back with part 2 of the considerations for buying a trailer series. If you are new here today, welcome! I would recommend starting with the introduction post here, as it will provide some context for what we’re talking about today. Last week, I encouraged you to consider why you are looking to buy a trailer and how you are planning to use it. This week we are talking about some considerations related to trailer size.

Once you’ve determined why you’re buying a trailer and what you hope to use it for, size is the next important question to consider. This is one of the most important, if not the most important questions to consider, as it will affect and influence almost every other decision you make about the trailer. Before we get to the considerations, let’s define a couple terms.

Dry Weight: This is the weight of your trailer with nothing else in it. When you consider whether your vehicle can tow the trailer of your choice, the vehicle tow capacity must exceed the dry weight of your trailer. Remember that your supplies and equipment will add to this weight.

Tow Capacity: This is the weight of trailer that your vehicle can pull. This weight includes anything that you pack into your trailer, so make sure that the tow capacity includes a cushion for all your supplies.

Tongue Weight: This is the weight that your trailer will put on the tongue. It is equally important to make sure that your vehicle and your trailer tongue weight are in the proper range.

What is your vehicle situation?

VW Bug pulling a small trailer
Wouldn’t it be nice if all trailes could be pulled with a VW Bug?
Image by junki72 from Pixabay

Before we consider the size of trailer that will work for you, we need to talk about vehicles. I think that this is something people often overlook when thinking about buying a trailer, especially in the early stages, but it is extremely important.

Unless you plan to park your trailer and then never move it, you need a vehicle that can pull it. I recently helped my parents research a new vehicle that would work for them daily, and also be able to pull the trailer. We are getting an extremely light trailer. It is lighter than most, if not all, other trailers I researched in it’s size category. Because of this, my parents were able to get a smaller/mid sized SUV with a tow package and not a truck.

Some smaller trailers can be pulled with smaller vehicles and vehicles with a lower tow capacity. But don’t assume that because you are getting a small trailer that it will also be light – do your research! This is especially important if you are specifically in the market for a light trailer. I discovered that many small trailers are still very heavy. Just because a trailer is labelled as “ultra light,” it might not mean the same think you think it means.

We wanted a trailer that was as light as possible. We didn’t want a large SUV or a truck, and we wanted a trailer that was as light as possible for driving. To that end, I was often disappointed when I looked at the dry weights on the “ultra light” trailers only to discover that they were still over 3,500 pounds to start. Because I knew the weight that we were looking for, I was able to eliminate many trailers right off the bat. This can be helpful when you’re in those initial stages, but it can also become discouraging.

I would highly recommend you look into the specs of your vehicle before you start researching trailers. Once you have figured out what your current vehicle can pull, you can figure out if the size of trailer you want will require a new vehicle. Even if you already plan on getting a new vehicle prior to buying your trailer, you’ll still need to know your trailer weight to ensure you pick out a vehicle with sufficient tow capacity.

And remember – at the end of the day it is better to have “too much” tow capacity than not enough. Pulling a trailer that is too heavy for your vehicle is not only extremely unsafe, but it will also destroy your transmission over time. And if you break your transmission because you towed over capacity, you better believe your warranty is not going to cover that. You are going to have your trailer and your vehicle for many years so do yourself a favour and make sure you consider everything related to the size and weight.

Are you looking to park it or travel with it?

Vehicle pulling a small trailer

I’m not going to spend too much time here since we discussed it last week. You should already have an idea about whether you want to park the trailer or travel with it, and you should have already considered some of the size implications related to both options.

If you are looking to park your trailer and then leave it, you may be able to go for a bigger trailer than if you were planning on travelling around with it. You may also want to go slightly bigger if you are going to spend more time there, or treat it like your cottage.

One thing to consider is that if you plan to park the trailer, you may be able to go with a bigger trailer without needing a bigger vehicle. You will need to find a bigger vehicle to tow the trailer to the place where you are going to park it, but you may be able to find a friend to assist with this.

If you plan to travel with your trailer, smaller can be a better option. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go for a tiny trailer. This could mean that you do a bit of extra research and pick the 18’ trailer instead of the 25’ trailer. You may be able to find all the features you want in a slightly smaller trailer, and that might make all of the difference in your enjoyment of towing.

How many people will you be travelling with?

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

This may seem like an obvious consideration, but make sure that it is something you think about early on. How many people will you be travelling with regularly? You may have more or less people that you travel with depending on the circumstances, but as a general rule, how many people will be the norm?

You want to make sure that you have enough space for all of you. This doesn’t mean you need a huge space, but you should make sure that at the very least you have enough space to comfortably sleep everyone.

Most trailers have at least one table that can turn into a bed if necessary. But before you count that as your primary bed for one of your travellers, consider whether you need it to be a table. If you are only going to use that table in the event of rain or inclement weather, then you might not mind putting the bed away in that instance. But if you are going to use the table every day, or even most days, are going to want to put that bed away every morning? This may not bother you at all, but make sure you have thought it through.

If all of you go camping, will your trailer work? Is there someone willing and able to sleep in a tent if necessary? Or does that defeat the purpose of getting a trailer for you. It’s better to think through all of the scenarios and possibilities (or as many as you can) now, instead of realizing a year after you purchase your trailer that it’s not enough space, too much space, or you strongly dislike putting away a bed every day.

Bigger isn’t always Better.

You may have gathered by now that I prefer smaller trailers. I have nothing against bigger trailers, but I am just not drawn to them, and they just don’t feel like camping to me. But this point is not about my personal preference for small trailers.

I want you to consider that bigger isn’t always better. If you are newer to trailers, you may think that the bigger the trailer the more features, or the better the experience that you will get. But this is not necessarily true. I have seen many big trailers that are laid out so poorly that you can actually get more usable space in a slightly smaller, better planned out, trailer.

Before you just jump into a bigger trailer, think about whether you actually need all of that extra space. Sure you may have cabinets coming out of your ears, and that may seem great at first, but do you need to bring all of that stuff with you while travelling? And remember, more stuff means more weight for you to tow. You may find that a smaller trailer, with well thought out storage solutions, and thoughtfully laid out, actually provides you with more than enough storage space for your needs and wants along with providing the right amount of living space.

Will you be happy in that size of trailer (Smaller isn’t always better)

Happy Camper image
This is a Happy Camper. A more modern trailer based on the original boler design
Image by Michelle Churchman from Pixabay

For most of this post, I have stressed the benefits of a smaller trailer, but I don’t want to neglect the important consideration that smaller also isn’t always better. Though I prefer a smaller trailer, this is still something that I fully believe. We are getting a 16’ trailer. This is smaller than many of the trailers out there, but it’s also not a “small” trailer by the definition of some.

When I first started looking into trailers, I was fascinated with Bolers and Trilliums. If you are not familiar, these are older, compact, fiberglass trailers. And they are small. They are about 13’ in length, and they are not overly tall. I love the look of these trailers, and if I were to suddenly find myself with gobs of extra money, I would love to own one. But after fully considering our options, we decided that this type of trailer wasn’t going to be practical for us.

They are just that wee bit too small. We didn’t want to run into a situation where our trailer was too small, or too claustrophobic. There were also a number of features that we wanted in our new trailer that would not have worked in a Boler, even if we fully renovated the interior. There is such a thing as too small for you.

It can be tempting to look at the tiny trailers and see nothing but the advantages. But if you are going with something small, you need to be fully committed to that size of trailer. If you are thinking that you can learn to live with the disadvantages, take some extra time to consider whether you want to learn to live with them. Do the positives that you associate with a smaller trailer outweigh the negatives? Because if they don’t, or if even one of those negatives has the potential to turn into a deal breaker, then you won’t be happy in the long run. Don’t regret your trailer choice because you decided to go with something too small for you.

Our new trailer is small, but it is laid out well and it has enough space for all of the features that we want. Many people will look at our trailer and think that it is too small, and I’m sure there are many that think it’s too big. But because we knew exactly what we wanted, and had a good idea of the general size and weight we wanted, we were able to find something that I think is going to work perfectly for us.

It can seem like there are endless options when it comes to trailer size. It can feel overwhelming to figure out the size of trailer that you need, especially in a time where people are buying giant luxury trailers. These size options have expanded the trailer world to include more people. Even though they might not be for me, these big, apartment style trailers, have opened the doors to people who may not have been interested in smaller options.

Now that you have considered these questions related to the size of your new trailer, where do you see yourself? Are you looking at a small trailer to fit your needs, or do you lean towards something bigger? Do you have any considerations related to size that you would like to add to this list? Which of the items on this list did you find the most helpful in your considerations for a trailer? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Next week we are getting into some of the fun elements of researching trailers – the features!

Until Next Time,

Meaghan Signature

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