How To Select A Tiny House Trailer In New Zealand
Selecting a tiny house trailer is a scary decision. It's the most critical part of your house, and there are bajillions of options available. It's enough to drive any sane person round the bend.
I remember feeling downright frazzled with all the choices that were swimming around in my head. Brakes, Heights, Weights, Wheels, GVM's etc. etc.
After hours of researching and exploring and debating, we eventually realized that we'll never know until we try. So we took the plunge and bought a trailer that we hoped would work for us.
It turned out perfectly!
And now that we've been through the process, built the house, moved the house and are living in it, we are in a better position to offer some advice. So if you'd like to hear our tips about how to buy a tiny house trailer, read on...
Buying Our First Tiny House Trailer
From what I've seen, trailers are much cheaper in the U.S. than they are here in New Zealand. When I first started looking for trailers, I had to adjust my expectations...and my budget!
In the beginning, we wasted a lot of time trawling through trailer listings online. We saw many trailers that weren't quite up to the spec we wanted. We also ended up buying a trailer and then cancelling that purchase when we realised it still wasn't what we needed.
Eventually we realised it would be easier, and probably better long term, to buy something new. Something that would suit our needs, even if it was a bit more expensive.
We ended up buying from a guy online who had been researching how to build tiny house trailers. Perfect!
We spent a big chunk of our budget on the trailer. But we're really happy with it. It was rigid, square and easy to build on. It also conveniently had the metal "joists" spaced every 600mm, the same as our subfloor framing. This made the floor simple to bolt down.
Here's a picture of our (not so tiny) tiny house trailer. We were blown away when we saw it the first time. 7.2m by 2.4m felt huge!
Stay Legal By Following The NZTA Guidelines
Our trailer is classed as a light simple trailer.
Yours will be too. Unless you have a truck that looks like this...
A lot of the information we learned about selecting a trailer in New Zealand came from this NZTA document. It contains all the specifications for light simple trailers. It specifies maximum weights, lengths, widths and more. These are the limits you are up against when it comes to maximising the space of your tiny house.
For a light trailer, the maximum gross vehicle mass (GVM) is 3500kg. This is the combined weight of the trailer and the load it is carrying.
We don't know the exact weight of our trailer house, but I calculated that it must be pretty close to 3500kg's. We needed every last kg of strength we could get.
That's why I would recommend getting a trailer that can handle this maximum weight. Obviously if you have a smaller house then you won't have as many issues surrounding the weight. But it does give you more flexibility when choosing building materials.
For some reason, most trailers that you can buy are 2.4m wide. This is what I thought the maximum was when we bought our trailer. I have since learned that you can get trailers 2.5m wide. If you're looking to push your building envelope out to the max, then you may want to go for this extra width.
The length of the deck of our trailer was 7.2m with an additional 1m or so for the drawbar. This length is plenty of room for us.
The maximum allowable length of trailer from drawbar to end of the load is 12.5m
It's a real balancing act deciding on the length. Every extra metre...
- Costs you more
- Hinders easy towing / manoeurving
- May not be necessary
Try to think about how much room you need. You might be surprised at how much you can fit into a tiny house.
There is a "maximum height" of 4.25m. However this isn't really a maximum. You are legally allowed to tow trailers over this height as long as you check your route properly and follow a few easy guidelines. Check out this document...
In general it is easier - and less nerve-wracking - towing something that is less than 4.25m because you can almost be guaranteed to not hit anything. Ours was a smidgen over that height and it was pretty scary thinking that we might take out a power line by mistake.
The lowest power line we enountered was just outside our section and it was 4.4m low. Too close for my liking!
You will probably need a braking system for your trailer. Any trailer over 2000kg requires brakes.
Brakes are an added expense, but they do have benefits. Braked trailers...
- Reduce the risk of accidents
- Can be towed with lighter vehicles
- Save the brakes of the towing vehicle
I don't know much about the different braking systems available. But apparently many of them are hardwired to a specific vehicle. This wasn't suitable for us because we don't own our own vehicle for towing the tiny house trailer.
Instead, we had a bluetooth braking system installed on our trailer. With this system, you just plug into the cigarette lighter of whichever vehicle you're driving. It senses if you are braking and applies the trailer brakes accordingly.
Our trailer also has a breakaway system which applies the brakes if for some reason the trailer comes unhitched. This is a legal requirement of trailers over 2500kg's.
Our trailer has got 2 axles which means 4 tires. These are light truck tires and they each have a weight capacity around the 900kg mark. This gets us up to 3600kg capacity. Just enough to cover the weight requirements when fully loaded.
Galvanized vs Painted
To be honest, we didn't really give this good consideration when we bought our trailer. We just made a quick decision to go with painted, for cost reasons.
Next time, I would probably go for galvanized. It means the trailer will last longer with less maintenance.
Towing the trailer
On our first moving day I really wanted to tow Lucy myself. But it is surprisingly difficult to find rental vehicles in New Zealand that are capable of towing 3.5 tonnes.
Eventually we ended up getting a tow truck company to move it for us. They only charged $180... Probably much the same price as it would have cost to hire a vehicle and tow it ourselves.
The tow truck driver said the trailer towed beautifully.
Where to Get Your Trailer
Finding a good place to buy your tiny house trailer is not easy. We got some outrageously high quotes from trailer manufacturers in Auckland. We also saw some pretty dodgy workmanship too. So it pays to do your research and get someone who knows what they're doing.
The guy who built our trailer has stopped taking on new orders for now. However, we have been talking with a trailer company and putting together some ideas for ways to get quality trailers for a decent price. Click here for more details
And that is pretty much everything I have learned about tiny house trailers. Hopefully it helps make this difficult decision a good one.
P.S. I'm super excited for you because it only gets more fun from here on out :)