The Complete Guide to Tiny House Trailers
Unlike tiny houses on foundations, tiny houses on wheels are an option for those who want mobility together with the comforts of home. The starting point to building any tiny house on wheels is the trailer bedding. This far-reaching guide will physical and legal aspects of tiny house trailers.
The physical aspects(1st section) will cover the trailer’s physical dimensions, trailer components, trailer types, trailer weight ratings, and towing issues. The legal aspects(2nd section) will mainly cover getting the towing license, titling the trailer, and registering the trailer.
I.Trailer Parts and Classifications
Before going over anything regarding trailers. There are important road laws that determined the maximum dimensions on the size of a tiny house on wheels. These rules are based on the combined dimensions of the car plus towed trailer. In most states, these general values are:
- Width of 8.5 feet(102 inches): This is maximum width for trailers for most roads. This width often takes into account apertures as well; this means that if there are rear headlights attached to the sides of the trailer and they total 3.5 inches, the remaining trailer body has to be about 8.2083 feet(98.5 inches) so the total width is 8.5 feet. While the maximum width is often 102 inches, there are a few states where the max width is about 96 inches(or 8 feet). It may be a good idea to make the maximum width of trailer to be 8 feet to make the trailer be legal for all states.
- Total Length of 65 feet(780 inches): This total length refers to the combined length of both the vehicle and the trailer. Most states m The actual range of the maximum total length per state varies from 55-75 feet; 65 feet is the average length. There are a few states that specify the length of the trailer itself and that usually is around. However, this length is more common for commercial transport trailers. For personal trailers that can be attached behind personal vehicles, common lengths range from 18 feet to 26 feet.
- Max Height of Tiny House on Wheels is 13.5 feet(162 inches): For the combined height of the trailer plus the housing on the trailer, 13.5 feet is usually the maximum for clearance. In few states, the maximum allowable clearance can be 14 to 14.5 feet. Construction-wise, it is better to aim for 13.5 feet maximum to enable to the tiny house on wheels to travel though all states’ roads. Lastly, be careful of adding any apertures on the roof that may add height past 13.5 feet like satellite dishes or solar panels. If these needed to be added, the height of the built tiny house on wheels should be lower before adding these kinds of things on top.
If you want to know more about the maximum legal dimensions for trailers for each state, this trailer dimensions guide from AAA will provide and overview.
A.Components of Tiny House Trailers
To start off, the below diagram of a typical trailer shows all the common components:
In the above image is a model for a 8.5 feet(width) x 24 feet(length) trailer. The 8.5 feet width is within the legal trailer width limit of most states’ roads. Most of the parts like axles and wheel have obvious purposes, other are not.
The trailer bed is to hold the payload(tiny house in this case), the wheel wells are to cover the wheels to help prevent the tiny house from making contact with the fast spinning wheels, and thus avoid damage.
The trailer tongue is to hold the trailer up while coupler at the end connects to the ball hitch on the towing vehicle.
The hitch jack is used to hold up the tiny house trailer while the trailer’s coupler is left disconnected from the towing vehicle’s ball hitch; the trailer jack is removed when the trailer coupler is connected to the towing vehicle’s hitch.
The last thing to notice is that a scissor-type stabilizer jack is attached to underneath each of the four corners of the trailer bed; there are other variations of attached stabilizer jacks besides scissor jacks. While this trailer has attached stabilizer jacks underneath each corner, not all trailers have these. The stabilizer jack is used to hold up the weight at all four corners to prevent stressing and bending of the frame. In fact, for trailers with these stabilizer jacks, the hitch jack may not be necessary. Lastly, these extended scissor stabilizer jacks can act as foundations posts for the tiny house trailer instead of having to rely on putting piled bricks underneath each corner.
B.Types of Tiny House Trailers
There are mainly four kinds of trailers based on its features. The four types of tiny house trailers are listed below. By the way, I wrote in the dimensions for some of them to show scale.
A deck-over trailer bed can resemble as follows:
With this type of trailer, the trailer bed sits above the axles and wheel wells. Without the wheel wells getting in the way, the trailer can be as wide as eight feet. However, though it gives you a little extra room on the sides for your home, it’s a little high off the ground and that makes it more difficult to consider a tiny house that features a loft, meaning that this trailer is better suited for one-story tiny houses.
This type of trailer features the flatbed between the two wheel wells. The bed, therefore, sits a little below where the summit of the wheels or wheel wells reaches. An advantage with a deck-between trailer is that it sits nice and low to the ground, this makes it easier to build a taller tiny house which can have the space to put in a loft. There are two variations of deck-between trailers:
The first variation involves putting the wheel wells onto the sides without cutting into the bedding as shown below:
With the wheels always positioned outside the trailer bed, the trailer bed can never achieve an 8.5 feet width that deck-over trailers can have because the wheels’ widths on the sides of the trailer bed count to the total 8.5 feet.
This means that the tiny house built on this type of trailer will feel slightly narrower than deck-over trailers and deck-between trailers with wheels inside bedding(see 2nd variation of deck-between trailer in next section). Thus, there is slight less floor space due to the smaller bedding when compared to a deck-over trailer with similar length. The main benefit, as stated earlier, the the lowered trailer bed enable more head space and a loft.
The second variation includes the wheel wells cut into the frame bed as shown below.
The wheels being cut into the trailer bed enables the trailer bed to legally achieve a 8.5 feet wide bed just like a deck-over trailer. Even better is the fact that this trailer can have a full 8.5 feet width in addition to a lowered trailer bed to allow more head room for a loft. Basically, this trailer’s design helps maximize volume.
While getting this type of trailer, which has the best features combined from the previous two, is ideal; this doesn’t mean that the other two types should be avoided. If only the deck-over and deck-between(1st variation) trailer are available and/or compatible for one’s towing vehicle of choice, then these should be considered as tiny houses can still be built upon them.
This type of trailer you can have either a deck-over or deck-between model. It can also have a gooseneck at the same time(see next section). The main difference between a dovetail trailer and the other types is that it features a section at the rear that angles towards the ground or is a fold-able ramp. The video, instead of an image, below shows an example of a dovetail trailer:
The dovetail feature is usually found on trailers that are used to haul cars, trucks, or other vehicles. With the dovetail section, it’s easier to load these vehicles on to the trailer than with some of the other flatbed trailers. Unfortunately, this aspect also makes it awkward for building a tiny home on the flatbed. If you wish to do so, additional welding may be needed to further modify the dovetail before building.
Goosenecks can also either be a deck-over or deck-between model. Also, a gooseneck trailer can have a dovetail in the trailer’s rear. Its name comes from the special hitch that it employs. In order to haul this type of trailer, the towing vehicle must be a pickup truck. In the bed of the pickup truck, goes a ball hitch. The gooseneck of the trailer then reaches over the truck’s tailgate to attach to the hitch that’s been installed. These trailers are suitable to build tiny houses on. What a gooseneck trailer can look like is shown below:
Additionally, a part of the tiny house can be built over the gooseneck itself for additional tiny home space. Gooseneck trailers tend to be commercial transport trailers and are rarely used as a tiny house trailer. Because gooseneck trailer tend to be much larger than other trailer types, the ‘tiny’ house would be bigger than those on smaller personal trailers. Gooseneck trailer may be better for those trying to house a family while living on a tiny house on wheels. In the above image, despite the gooseneck trailer being shown as 36 feet, it’s possible to find smaller gooseneck trailers with lower lengths like in the 20s.
The weight ratings are important because too much weight can cause bucking and stress. Thus, it’s important to know how much weight a trailer can carry before deciding to build a tiny house upon it. While there are several kinds of weight rating-related terminologies, these ones are the first and basic ones to know:
- Gross Vehicle Weight(GVW): The total combined weight of the trailer and everything on it. This is basically the entire “vehicle” weight.
- Gross Axle Weight Rating(GAWR): This is the maximum distributed weight that an axle can bear. Common values range from 4000-7000 lbs GAWR per axle.
- Gross Vehicle Weight Rating(GVWR): This is the maximum GVW that a trailer can bear without buckling/bending. This should be in the trailer’s specification sheet.
- Gross Combination Weight Rating(GCWR): This the combined total weight of the GVW of the trailer and the GVW of the towing vehicle.
- Tongue Weight(TW): When the trailer is connected to the towing vehicle, some of the weight burdened by the axles is instead transferred to the towing vehicle through the trailer tongue.
Here are the following approximate equations to show hot these terms are related as well as some commentary:
i.) Equation to Approximate the GVWR with GAWR
Function(1): GVWR ≤ (number of axles) x GAWR(assuming each axle is the same)
If a trailer had two axles with a GAWR of 6000 lbs each, then the maximum gross trailer weight is around 12000 lbs. However, the axles already have to carry the trailer weight. If the trailer’s body weight is about 2000 lbs, the about (12000 lbs – 2000 lbs) = 10000 lbs is left over. This means the cargo weight can be at maximum 10000 lbs.
Note that this is all theoretical. Many consumers and vendors/sellers incorrectly interpret that the sum of a trailer axles’ GAWR is equal to the trailer’s legal and specified GVWR. The GVWR is often specified as less than the total GAWR. This is possibly due to the fact that there the trailer bedding frame cannot hold as much as the total GVWR minus its own weight. Another possible reason is adverting; this means minimize possible complaints if the trailer stresses when the weight nears the GVWR value so the value is purposely lowered. Even if one sees the GAWR one the specifications sheet, avoid using the total GAWR as the GVWR. If the trailer is weighted according to its legal GVWR instead of the total GAWR, then the trailer owner can hold the seller/vendor accountable if the trailer stresses/buckles under a GVW of less than or around the specified/legal GVWR. Ultimately, you want to use the above equation purely as a guide to understanding a GVWR’s capacity when the specified GVWR isn’t immediately available.
ii.) Equation for Gross Weight of Tiny House on Wheels
Function(2): GVW = trailer weight + cargo(or tiny house) – TW; GVW ≤ GVWR
This above equation shows the GVW at any given time for tiny house on wheels. The GVW, as stated before, mainly consists of the trailer weight and cargo/tiny house. The TW reduces the GVW of the tiny house on wheels by shifting some of the burden from the axles to the towing vehicle via connection junction. It is not a good idea to rely on TW to justify putting the GVW above GVWR as the trailer’s tongue neck isn’t connected to the towing vehicles at all times.
To further elaborate on the tongue weight, first imagine that the area where the trailer’s axles are are like a fulcrum. On this “fulcrum” is the trailer bed frame; on this frame lies the cargo(or tiny house). Because the axles are often not in the center of the bed but a little further to the back, part of the weight is shifted further to the front and though the trailer tongue to the tow vehicle as TW.
A rule of thumb is that the TW should be 10%-15% of the tiny house on wheels’s GVW. This can be achieved if one arranges the inside of a tiny house on wheels to make the transfer 10-15%. If the TW is too little, the coupler-hitch connection becomes unsteady causing “trailer sway” during driving; if the trailer tilts backwards, it’s even possible for the towing vehicle’s rear to be lifted upwards. If there is too much weight on the coupler-hitch junction, then excess TW would overweight the vehicle’s rear lower the ground traction at the front; this means awkward steering or worse.
The above equation is mainly used to to help figure out the trailer gross weight capacity along with determining how much additional weight can be added on top of the trailer without breaking the GVWR and while taking the tongue weight into account.
iii.) Equations for Gross Combined Weight
GCWR = Maximum of (GVW of Car + GVW of Trailer/Tiny House on Wheels)
The GCWR can be found from vehicle manual or from car manufacturer if necessary. Under no circumstances can the sum of the car’s and trailer’s GVW surpass the tow vehicle’s GCWR. Another way to look at the GCWR equation is as follows:
GCW(Gross Combined Weight) = vehicle + people + trailer + tiny house and all items and features; GCW ≤ GCWR
Here is an example showing GCWR application assuming the GCWR for a personal truck is 16000 lbs:
GCWR= vehicle + people + trailer + tiny house and all items and features
16000 lbs = (5000 lbs vehicle) + (2 people in car ≈ 300 lbs) + trailer + tiny house and all items and features
tiny house and all items and features = 10700 lbs.
Taking the GVW of the tow vehicle aside, that means a trailer with a GVW of 10700 lbs or less can be pulled. Getting a trailer with a GVWR of 10000 lbs is enough for most tiny house on wheels. If the trailer bed weighs 1800 lbs, then 8200 lbs is left over for the tiny house and all its internal items like the kitchen, bedding, shower, toiler, fridge, and etc. If very feasible to make a tiny house for two with all necessities under 8200 lbs.
These last two equations are most useful for the following reason(s):
- If one has a towing vehicle with a specific GCWR, it can then be decided what kind of trailer(and its GVWR) can be pulled. Keep note of this for the table shown later that shows the compatibility between tow vehicles, hitches, and trailer weights.
- If one already has a trailer, one can then decide what kind of towing vehicle to buy after determining the final GVW of the tiny house on wheels without breaking the trailer’s GVWR.
- If one already has a tiny house on wheels and a vehicle with a large enough GCWR, one can then determine what kind of hitch can be installed is the vehicle doesn’t have one.
Sources and Recommended Further Reading:
- Base Curb Weight, GVW, GVWR, Tongue Weight. What does it all mean?
- Determining Towing Capacity
- Tow Vehicle Tips
- Tow Vehicle Sizing
D.Couplers, Hitches, and Towing Vehicle Choices
First of all, for definition’s sake, we will define a hitch as composing of a hitch receiver, a hitch mount, and a hitch ball. When the coupler on the end of the trailer’s tongue is connected to the hitch on the vehicle, the vehicle can tow the trailer. Below is a diagram that shows the basic components of this critical junction:
The hitch ball and the hitch mount are part of the trailer. Everything else is the whole coupler which is attached to the end of the trailer’s tongue neck. The ball socket is where the hitch ball settles in; note that the hitch ball cannot be too big or to small and must fit almost perfectly in order for the connection between vehicle and trailer to be stable after locking it in with the latch. When the latch closes, the underjaw holds in the hitch ball within the ball socket. When the latch is opened, the underjaw goes down allowing enough space for the hitch ball to exit the ball socket.
The above coupler shown is a latch-type coupler. While latch-type couplers are the most common, there is a another type of coupler called a screw-type coupler. Like its name implies, a screw is used instead of a latch. Tightening the screw presses the underjaw against the hitch ball; loosening the screw losens the underjaw allowing the hitch ball to leave the ball socket.
ii.) Hitch Receivers & Towing Vehicle Choices:
Some vehicles with towing capabilities have a hitch already installed at the back-bottom of a vehicle. Others may only have just the hitch receiver; which is simply an empty port where an appropriately sized hitch mount can be fit into.
For cars that don’t have complete hitches or hitch receivers, a hitch receiver has to be installed by bolting one underneath a car. A hitch receiver has to be strong enough to handle the tongue weight and pull. Hitch receivers usually come in four grades from I to IV with grade I hitches for low GVWR trailers and grade IV hitches for trailers with high GWVR. Additionally, depending on the weight of the trailer, the vehicle choice also matters because some vehicles can handle higher tongue transfer weight than others.
Here is a table giving a rough idea of what hitch receiver and towing vehicle choices are suitable with different trailer GVWRs:
|Hitch Receiver Class||Hitch Receiver’s GVW Range||Vehicles with Suitable Towing Power for the Hitch Type’s GVW Range|
|Class I||Trailer hitch capacity of up to 2000 lbs of GVW(combined weight of trailer bed and cargo(or tiny-house in this case)) and 200 lbs tongue weight||Subcompact and Compact cars|
|Class II||Trailer hitch capacity of up to 3500 lbs of GVW and 300/350 lbs tongue weight. Also sometimes used to refer to a hitch with any 2″ receiver, regardless of rating.||Sedans(or a similar like car) and Minivans|
|Class III||Trailer hitch capacity of up to 5000 lbs of GVW and 500 lbs tongue weight||Vans and light-duty pick ups trucks|
|Class IV||Trailer hitch capacity of up to 10000 lbs of GVW and 1000-1200 lbs tongue weight. Many times, any hitch with a capacity greater than 5000 lbs gross weight is referred to as a Class IV.||full-sized vans and heavy-duty pick up trucks|
|Class V||Trailer hitch capacity limit can be as high as 16000-20000 lbs of GVW and can be up to 2000 lbs in tongue weight.||certain heavy-duty pick up trucks and commercial trucks|
To start with, tiny house trailers can weigh around 1500-2500 lbs. By itself, this rules out vehicles with only class I & II hitch capacity strength since a leftover payload capacity would be too small to support a tiny house. These kinds of vehicles are better suited for pulling small utility trailers which are lighter and smaller than trailers beds used for tiny houses; these small utility trailer could resemble wagons. Small utility trailers can be used to carry are things lawn mowers, generators, and other items/devices which are too big for the tow vehicles’ trunks but not too big and heavy as to require a heavier trailer that would overwork the vehicles with only class I & II hitch weight capacity.
Vehicles with class III hitch receivers tend to be better at hauling larger objects like boats and dune buggies. Any of these items plus the trailer weight could easily be around 5000 lbs or a little less. With regards to tiny houses on wheels, an 1800 lbs trailer would leave a payload weight capacity of 3200 lbs. Fully equipped tiny houses on wheels include shower, toilet, fridge, kitchen, bed, pipes, furniture, walls, ceiling, and etc. It would be arguable difficult to fit all this into a 3200 lbs payload capacity. However, 32 lbs may be enough to support a partially equipped tiny house where some necessities of full-time living can be left out to lower the weight; this kind of tiny house would be more similar to a small RV trailer which is suitable for temporary living and/or require the use of outside services to compensate for unavailable home features.
Vehicles with class IV hitch receivers would make the best tow vehicles for tiny houses on wheels. A 10000 lbs GVWR trailer could weigh around 2000 lbs leaving a 8000 lbs payload capacity. This should be enough for a fully equipped tiny house for full-time living, as described, earlier for 1-2 people.
A heavy-duty vehicle with a class V hitch receiver is often excessive because a tiny house on wheels should not have to reach a GVW of 16000-20000 lbs. However, if the trailer was a long and heavy gooseneck trailer, a heavy-duty vehicle with a class V hitch receiver would make sense because a gooseneck trailer alone could be around 10000 lbs. Because a goose neck trailer can reach 30′ in length or greater, a relatively large “tiny” house on the gooseneck, that is fully equipped, can cause the GVW to reach 16000-20000 lbs. If there is leftover payload capacity, this kind of tiny house can hold a family of 3-4 people.
Some Sources and Recommended Further Reading:
- Sizing up Hitches and Couplers
- How to Choose the Right Trailer Hitch Class
- What are the different types of hitches?
- Trailer Hitch Glossary
II.Legal Hurdles and Tiny House Trailers
Here are some of legal processes that should be taken care of before or after getting a trailer. Much of this has to be taken care of at the DMV. If these are not taken care of, owning and utilizing the tiny house trailer can be illegal.
A.Having the Proper License
If one wants to have a tiny house on a trailer, one has to have the corresponding driver’s license(s) for it. Because driving a tiny house on wheels is different from driving a car or van, there is bound to be a separate license(s) involved just like there is a separate license with driving a bus or cargo truck. There are the four general classes of licenses which are:
- Driver’s(or Learner’s) Permit: this is the first type of license that must be obtained before getting a regular licence. As known to most, this provisional/restricted license is only used to allow a learner to practice road skills with his/her car; this is not a full-fledged license. This is obtained for a period after passing a written test on the rules and traffic of the road.
- Driver’s License(or Non-Commerical Driver’s Licence in some places): This is the full-fledged license given to those who passed the road test. Depending on the state, the license may be divided into classes or not. For example, the Virginia DMV only offers ‘Driver’s License’ and no classes. California, on the other hand, offers Class C Driver’s License for passenger cars & vans, Class B for RV/motor-home for up to 45 feet long, and Class A covers not-for-hire travel trailers, 5th wheel travel trailers, and livestock trailers for weight ranges of >10,000 lbs., >15,000 lbs., and >10,000 lbs. & <15,000 lbs., respectively. In the other states where the driver’s licenses are divided into classes, Class A, B, and C may have different car/weight classifications.
- Commercial Driver License (CDL): This applies for anyone who drives vehicles for transports for hire either products or people. Unlike non-commercial driver’s licenses, CDLs classes are defined by federal law that there are three classes of CDLs which are:
- Class A: Any combination of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GWVR) of 26,001 lbs or more, provided the GVWR of the vehicle(s) being towed is in excess of 10,000 lbs, including any under Class B and C.
- Class B: Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 lbs or more, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 lbs GVWR, including any under Class C.
- Class C: A Class C vehicle that carries hazardous materials; or, with endorsements, a 16 passengers or more capacity. This includes the driver
- Motorcycle Licenses: These are licenses for those who ride motorcycles. Between moped, scooters, and etc., it can get confusing as to which types of electric bikes are consider motorcycles; and thus require a license. These licenses are classed as “M”. A state like California has sub-classes of M1 of M2. With an M1 license, one can operate any 2-wheel motorcycle and any motorized vehicle withing M2. The M2 license is mainly applicable for operating any motorized bicycle or moped or any bicycle with an attached motor or a motorized scooter. By the way, while outside the scope of this article/post, there are some trailers that can be attached to a motorcycle. In this situation, getting a motorcycle license becomes something to consider.
For those who need a license to pull a trailer, this should be found within the Driver’s License category or one of its class sub-categories. If you want to know more about finding out if an appropriate license is needed for your tiny house trailer, please go to this dmv.org apply for license link. It’ll show a map of the U.S.A. with highlight-able and clickable states as shown below:
B.Titling and Registering Trailer
Just like cars and houses, titles are also required alongside trailers as a proof of ownership.Some states require one to obtain both a registration and a title. Others require one or the other. And, in some cases, neither is required. However, even within a state, there are variations about which trailers need to be titled, depending on the weight, size, and type of the trailer.
i.) Determining if Titling and/or Registration Required
Some states require one to obtain both a registration and a title. Others require one or the other. And, in some cases, neither is required. However, even within a state, there are variations about which trailers need to be titled, depending on the weight, size, and type of the trailer.
To determine the titling and registering circumstances for the trailer by state, follow these instructions:
- Right-click this link, and open the page in new tab. It should show a color-coded map of the states (similar to the one shown before).
- Select the state from the color-coded map, or the drop-down menu, and click to open the car registration requirements for the selected state.
- On the page that shows the registration requirements for the “other vehicles” in the state, type Ctrl+f to open the find box and type in “trailer”. The text around that selected area should explain how the titling/registration specifics and restrictions for that state.
ii.) Obtaining a Trailer Title if Needed
If you did not know, a title(or title certificate) is a legal form establishing a person or business as the legal owner of a vehicle. A trailer title includes information like the vehicle ID number(yes, trailers each have a VIN like cars), trailer license plate number, registered owner(s), issue/expiration date, body type model, and etc. Here is an Sample Trailer Title to give you an idea. There are mainly two ways to get a title:
Getting Title via Sale: When one purchases a trailer from a seller/vendor, a title can and should be sold alongside the trailer with the appropriate information fields filled.
Getting Title via DMV: If one buys or receives a trailer and doesn’t get the title with it, the trailer will have to be register though the local DMV. Because it is cheaper to buy a trailer without the title as opposed to a trailer with the title, many people purchase trailers without realizing that the title is needed. When a person receives a trailer from a friend, that friend should also pass on the title so the receiver can re-register the title under a new ownership. If one cannot get the trailer’s title, one must speak with his/her local DMV for specific instructions.
There are two kinds of untitled trailers that one could title and they are:
- Company Made Trailers: These trailers have a make and VIN number. When one obtains this kind of trailer without a title, the process of titling at the DMV can become notoriously difficult for many. This is due to the fact that it is possible for the trailer to have been stolen if no title was transferred. This can be further complicated by the fact that many states legalize selling trailers(w/out a title), but some of the local DMV branches may refuse to title it due to this basis. When the titling is possible, a bill of sale(receipt) is absolutely necessary to help claim that nothing the owner did not do anything illegal; additionally, a police inspection of the trailer is needed as well in order to help justify to the local DMV to title the trailer.
- Homemade Trailers: There are folks who make their own trailer using spare trailer parts. Because the completed trailer was not originally manufactured by a company, there is less of a basis for a local DMV branch to refuse to title the trailer on the basis of it being possibly stolen. However, the receipts for the individual parts, or any proof showing how the parts were obtained, may need to be shown to the DMV as an assurance. Additionally, police inspection may not be needed here.
While it is possible to obtain a trailer title from the DMV, it is always advisable to get the title during the trailer sale(or transfer) even if one has to pay more to get a trailer bed with a title than without. In the case where the state doesn’t require a title for the trailer, then there is no need to worry about the consequences of obtaning a trailer without a title.
iii.) Vehicle(or Trailer) Registration Process
For states that require trailer registration at the DMV, here are the following The Following Steps:
- Start with conducting some initial research by contacting the DMV where you live. This starts with asking which license are applicable for a (tiny house) trailer so one can starting applying for that license; being accurately aware of the(eventual) total weight of the tiny house on wheels will play a part in applying for the right license.
- Prepare for the registration of the trailer by bringing all necessary forms of identification before going to the DMV. Acceptable forms of identification include driver’s license, military identification card, or another other valid photo identification card.
- One requirement to register a trailer is to have an official bill of sale(or receipt) to show ownership. Types of information contained on the bill of sale include the year, make and body style in addition to the weight and identification number. Information about the buyer and seller should also be present.
- Provide a certificate of title when registering the trailer. A ‘certificate of title’ is the same as the ‘title’ mentioned earlier. If you recently purchased the trailer and do not have the certificate of title then you must follow the procedures set forth by your Department of Motor Vehicles for obtaining one.
- The trailer may have to be examined and submitted to a safety inspection. Most DMV branches can offer vehicle safety inspection/evaluation on-site. Until the safety evaluation is done, your DMV branch may provide a termporary registration. The temporary registration length and fee(s) is determined by the local DMV.
- Complete the application form for registering the trailer bed and pay the required fees. Fee types can vary depending on location and these include registration fee, title fee, safety plate fee, and administrative fee, as well as sales tax if your region charges one.
- Realize that the length of the registration for the trailer will depend on the laws and regulations set by the local DMV. As an example, the registration period for utility trailers within the United States is generally about 2 years.
- Get adequate insurance for the trailer and anything that is placed on it, like a boat or tiny house, when towing and driving on the open road. This for accident protection; by the way, a tiny house on wheels can be put under similar insurance as RV trailers due to similarity. Also, after completing the application process and getting the trailer registered, the license plate should be attached to the trailer as a proof of registration so the trailer can be insured legally.
While these are general steps, if you want state-specific details on trailer registration, please open this Other Vehicles DMV Registration click map(similar to map image shown before) on another tab. Then by clicking on the home state, a page showing instructions on how to register other vehicles(trailers included) for the selected state.
First, the trailers parts and types were explained. Then, weights ratings, some equations, and a table were used to explain how to make informed choices regarding tow vehicles, hitch capacity, and trailers. Finally, the legal processes involved to legally utilize a trailer like licenses, titles, and registration were covered. Altogether a solid foundation on understanding tiny house trailers have been provided and would help anyone on their way to making their own tiny house on wheels.
Lastly, at the beginning, I mentioned how tiny houses on wheels help provide legal obscurity by avoiding building codes and zoning laws that plague tiny house with foundation. I didn’t explain the details of how that works here, but I hope to do so in the future.
If you liked this post, make sure to share(via social media bar) and subscribe for email updates(if you already haven’t). Leave a comment below regarding your thoughts, ideas, and experiences from having to deal with tiny house trailers frames from a hands-on and legal standpoint.
Image Attributions(You may skip this):
- Header Image: “Towing the tiny house down the road. September 4, 2012″ (CC-BY-2.0) by Tammy Strobel via Flickr
- Example Deck-Over Trailer: A screenshot from Sketch-Up with attribution written in. This can only be fair use if the copyright remains on the image(or attributed), and the image is linked to this post as the source. This is also described in the “Content Reuse And Attribution Policy” page link at the footer menu/row.
- Example Deck-Between Trailer Variation#1: Same as Image #2
- Example Deck-Between Trailer Variation#2: Same as Image#2
- Example Gooseneck Trailer: Same as Image #2
- Coupler and Hitch Diagram: Transformed and colored by me. I reserve all rights to this image and under no circumstances can anyone else legally use this.
- Waiting Line at DMV image: “Queens DMV” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by scriptingnews via Flickr
- Click-Map Screen Shot from DMV Website: Click map from this DMV site page
- Document Signing Image: Image by jarmoluk from Pixabay.com under Public Domain
- Sample Trailer License Plate: Trailer Registration Plate via Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0
- Hidden Pinterest Image(visible with Pinterest Browser Button): I reserve ALL RIGHTS to this image as I created this for my Pinterest sharing needs. This composite pin image is made up of the following:
- The header image used in #1
- Screenshot of the trailer at ~1:27 minutes into this YouTube clip
- Facebook and Google+ Posts’ Header Image: I also own all rights to this composite image as I made this for my other social media sharing needs. The composite header image made up of: