Can You Handle It?
One of the first things you need to consider, if you plan to tow it yourself, are you comfortable towing a trailer? If you are, that is step one. If not, you need to find someone who is. Either a commercial transport company or a friend or someone who has experience towing an object that size. Towing a large load like a THOW is completely different than towing something like an ATV or other small trailer. Much more consideration needs to be put into things like turns and braking distance. Also, towing on the freeway and open roads is much easier than towing in a city or other crowded streets.
If you are not familiar with towing and you choose to tow yourself, you should find a open parking lot or other large area where you can familiarize yourself with how your vehicle handles. Try forwards and reverse. Backing up a trailer the size of most THOW can be a challenge. The most dangerous drivers out there are the ones that are nervous because they are uncomfortable driving their chosen vehicle. They tend to make poor decisions when it matters most. If you are not comfortable towing a THOW please learn somewhere safe or don’t do it.
Another tip: plan out your route well. Make sure you know where you can stop to get gas and food. Realize that at 13’ high you may not fit under all the canopies at a gas station. If you look for truck stops you will most likely be able to get into their pumps the easiest. Also, realize that towing something as heavy and tall as a THOW is going to kill your gas mileage. That means you will have to plan on frequent stops or to carry fuel with you to use along the way.
A Few Considerations
I owned a 5th wheel that was comparable in size and weight to a THOW, and when towing my fuel economy would go from about 17MPG to 9MPG. This was towing with a ¾ ton diesel. The truck was meant to tow, but that much weight and height really makes the tow vehicle work. Realize that if you are going to be towing it a lot, your gas bill can be quite high. Jenna at Tiny Home Giant Journey said they spent $726 a month on gas in order to tow their THOW a little more than 2,000 miles a month. Something else to consider when building your THOW is how you intend to tow it. If you have a large vehicle designed for towing then you will not have to be as concerned about weight. If you are going to be towing it with a smaller SUV or truck you may want to look into ways you can shave off the pounds. For example, Dodge says their Durango is only equipped to tow 6,200-7,400 pounds depending on the model. If you have a small tiny home, this may be enough but for a mid to large size home it will not likely be enough. Another factor to consider, the larger the vehicle the better it will handle the load and the safer it will be. If you are towing at the extreme limits of your vehicle, it is more likely that the load will be less stable and harder to drive.
Weight Ratings To Consider
- DRY WEIGHT – This is the weight of your THOW without any personal belongings included. This should include furniture and appliances and other items that are part of the home.
- GROSS TRAILER WEIGHT – This is the maximum weight the trailer is designed to hold. This includes the weight of the trailer itself and the THOW and all personal belongings. YOU SHOULD NEVER EXCEED THE GROSS TRAILER WEIGHT.
- MAX TONGUE WEIGHT – This is how much of the weight of the trailer is placed on the tongue of the trailer. This is important because that is how much weight you will be putting on the tow vehicle.
- HITCH WEIGHT RATING – How much the hitch your vehicle is equipped with can tow.
How To Determine Your Trailer Weight
The best way to determine your trailer weight is to find a truck stop or somewhere that has a truck scale. Stop by with the vehicle you intend to tow with and weigh just the vehicle by itself. Then hook up your THOW and return to the scale. Take the total number from the vehicle and the trailer weight and subtract the first number that you got with just your vehicle.
To determine the tongue weight, you have a couple of options. You can either find someone who has a tongue weight scale available, or you can disconnect your trailer at the truck scale so that just the trailer jack sits on the scale and take a reading.
By determining how you want to design your THOW and estimating how much it will weigh you can decide which trailer is right for you. If you are going to keep it pretty minimalistic, the smaller trailers with a lower gross weight rating will probably work. If you want to build a nicer more plush trailer, you may need to consider going with a trailer with a higher gross weight rating. In the event that you are planning on getting a used trailer, make sure you inspect it structural soundness prior to purchasing it. Some DIY tiny home builders have bought old RVs and stripped them down to the trailer frame to use it. This may save money but, as one tiny home builder pointed out, the cost savings may not justify the extra time required. Around the 2 minute mark he said that taking the time to try and scrap it wasn’t worth it. He did say he bought the trailer for $200 and made about $200 in scrap. He also spent a significant amount of time prepping his trailer to be usable.
Trailer Styles – Bumper Pull VS Gooseneck
When it comes to THOW there are typically two types of trailers that our used. The most common is the bumper pull. This type of trailer attaches to a ball at the back of the tow vehicle. They are the least expensive of the two options.
Vehicle Towing Comparisons – SUV
To tow a THOW you will need a larger full size SUV, not the small crossover or Toyota RAV4 style. Here is a idea of some of their towing capacities. All capacities are from the manufacturer’s website and are the max capacities when properly equipped.
Vehicle Towing Ability Comparison – Trucks
All comparisons are using the max towing capacity which may cost more than the base price to get the towing package installed. Capacities are from the manufacturer’s websites. Capacities are also based off a bumper pull configuration. The vehicle towing capacity will be higher if a gooseneck trailer were used.
1/2 Ton Truck Comparisons
3/4 Ton Truck Comparisons
1 Ton Truck Comparisons
3/4 Ton Diesel Comparisons
Small Diesel Truck Comparisons
VEHICLE COSTS – SUV That Can Tow A THOW
New and used prices are listed. Used prices are based off of 3 year old vehicles with 40,000-60,000 miles. Prices will vary based on geographical region. Prices are from KSL which is a local listing for my area.
Vehicle Costs – Trucks That Can Tow A THOW
Here too, new and used prices are listed. Used prices are based off of 3 year old vehicles with 40,000-60,000 miles. Prices will vary based on geographical region. Prices are from KSL.com. The ¾ ton and 1 ton price ranges include gas and diesel vehicles. The diesel vehicles will be the ones on the higher end of the spectrum.
Some people will say that a THOW is more expensive because you have to have an expensive vehicle to pull it with. It is true that you can spend a lot of money on a vehicle to tow your THOW, but you also could buy used and save quite a bit. Also, how many people own and operate these types of vehicles and live in traditional $280,000 and up homes. They buy them just to pull an RV occasionally or a small trailer. Therefore the argument that a THOW is more costly because of the vehicle required is invalid. The cost of the vehicle really should not be considered as part of the cost of a THOW.
Which One Is Best?
If you are going to purchase a vehicle, which one do you choose? Ford? Chevrolet? Dodge? It is really a matter of personal preference. As has been shown in the tables above, each of the major manufacturers has a similar product. You need to look at what is available and what options you need or want in a vehicle. Like with other things, the less you need the less it will cost you. If you are willing to get something that is older with more miles it can be significantly less than what is listed above. Find what fits your budget and go for it. These are just examples to give you an idea of vehicles that are designed to handle the type of load a THOW would place on them.
Vehicle Costs – Rental Options
Rental prices are from Enterprise Car Rental for the SUV and Enterprise Truck Rental for the trucks. They list the trucks as needing to be returned to the same location that they were delivered with very few exceptions. The SUV could be returned to a different location. This is one reason the cost is so high. If it was rented locally it would be less expensive. Also, please note, although I listed the SUV and ½ ton truck prices, the rental agreement actually prohibits them from being used for towing. The ¾ ton trucks can be used for towing with an additional fee. They say you must contact their office for that fee. Due to the fact that when renting a car you are not able to necessarily choose the make and model I just did a price rate for a full size SUV, a ½ ton truck, and a ¾ ton truck. I was not able to find the price for a diesel truck listed on their website.
Stopping A Tiny Home On Wheels (THOW)
I didn’t mention it above but, you really should have a trailer with brakes to tow any THOW. Trailer brakes make for a much safer tow. Most new trucks have the brake controller integrated into the truck. Older vehicles can have them installed. Just check online for a compatible brake controller for your vehicle. Some are super easy and just plug into the existing wiring harness on your vehicle.
If you intend to build a THOW, you need to know how to tow a tiny home on wheels. That is, unless you plan on having a commercial mover or someone else move it for you every time you want it moved. If you are going to tow your tiny home on wheels, you should know what equipment you need to do it safely. I could have gone on a lot longer here, but I hope this has given you a good overview of what you should look at when preparing to build and move a THOW. A THOW can provide a unique opportunity because of how mobile they are. They can provide you with the freedom to travel while still feeling at home. If you are lucky enough to have a job that you can work at remotely they can be even better. A Tiny Home On Wheels is just that, it is a HOME. Being able to pack it up and tow it whenever you want is an added benefit.