Everything You Need to Know About Trailers
If you’ve recently become the proud owner (or plan to become the proud owner) of a powersports vehicle such as a boat, jet ski, ATV/UTV, golf cart, etc., congratulations! One thing you may not have thought about yet is how you transport your new (or new to you) vehicle from point A to point B. Even if you do not plan to transport it more than once a year, it is still helpful to understand what type of trailer you might need and how they work.
Although you can likely rent a trailer or pay someone else to transport your vehicle, there are quite a few benefits to owning a trailer of your own:
- You can transport your vehicle to a different location (bodies of water, trails, etc.) at any time
- You can easily move your vehicle seasonally or if there is inclement weather
- If you permanently trailer your vehicle, you will not have to pay someone else to store it for you
In this article, we will discuss trailers, their ins, and outs, how to pick one, how much they cost, and how to safely use a trailer. So strap in, and let’s get rolling.
- Trailers are an easy and efficient way to transport large items such as boats, ATVs, UTVs, jet skis, golf carts, and more
- Most trailers will cost between $500 and $5,000
- Having the proper equipment (and understanding how to use it) when hauling a trailer is extremely important
Table of Contents
What Types of Trailers are There?
There are actually quite a few types of trailers available. Usually, the best way to figure out what you need is to understand exactly what you need to haul. For example, if you need to haul and boat or a jet ski, they make trailers specific for those vehicles that wouldn’t work for hauling other items.
However, if you are hauling something more like a motorcycle, ATV/UTV, golf cart, etc., a flatbed trailer will likely work for any and all of these vehicle types.
Another way you can differentiate trailers is by weight, material, and size. You will need to understand how you will be using the trailer so you can make an informed choice about each of these options for a trailer.
When searching for a trailer online, you might get stuck finding lots of commercial use trailers (think 18-wheelers, gas tankers, etc.) a key search term you might need to add is utility trailers. These are considered personal-use trailers and are a better fit for hauling items like powersports vehicles or boats.
Types of Utility Trailers:
The Basic Utility Trailer
These come in many different sizes, measured in overall length (you’ll usually want 2 feet more than the item you’re hauling). Utility trailers have a flatbed, a tailgate, guard rails around the perimeter, and two wheels. Utility trailers are great for transporting motorcycles, ATVs, UTVs, golf carts, etc.
Boat and PWC Trailers
Boat trailers are trailers designed to launch, retrieve, carry, and sometimes store boats. There are five types of boat trailers:
- Bunk trailers
- Roller trailers
- Float-on trailers
- Keel rollers
- Jet Ski/PWC trailers
- Bass trailer
- Pontoon trailer
For more information on boat trailers specifically, take a look at our article that covers everything you need to know about buying a boat trailer.
Enclosed Utility Trailers
Enclosed Utility Trailers are basically the same as the Basic Utility Trailer except they are fully enclosed. These are great for vehicles that are not all-terrain, could rust in inclement weather or long-term storage. Sometimes these are also referred to as cargo trailers.
Enclosed Utility Trailers come in many different sizes and have hundreds of possible uses. Remember, if you are using an enclosed utility trailer to haul your powersports vehicle, you still need to strap down the items as they can shift while traveling.
Flatbed Utility Trailers
Flatbed Utility Trailers are pretty much exactly the same as the Basic Utility Trailers except they do not have the guard rails around the perimeter. Instead, they are notable for their fully flat surface, which can make it easier to load and unload certain items.
The great thing about flatbed trailers is their versatility. Think of it as a totally blank canvas. They come in practically any size or configuration you might want and you can use them for almost any hauling project. However, these trailers are a lot less common because it does make tying your items down more difficult and they have fewer safety features built-in.
How Much Does a Trailer Weigh?
There are a few things you need to be aware of related to trailer weight:
- How much does your trailer weigh
- How much does your trailer load weigh
- What is your tow vehicle’s capacity for towing
Don’t forget to include anything that is going inside your tow vehicle (like accessories, fluids like gas, luggage, and passengers) as a part of the total weight. You will also need to calculate the curb weight of the vehicle you are towing. Eg: if you have added extra accessories to your vehicle and its gas tank is full, it will; weigh more than the manufacturer’s reported dry weight.
The weight of each of these items is essential for determining the axles on the trailer. Typically, vehicles over 3,500 pounds required a tandem axle trailer, and vehicles under the 3,500-pound mark can use a single axle trailer. You will also need to determine your tow vehicle’s capacity.
Towing capacity refers to how much weight you can safely pull behind your vehicle with a trailer. You can find your truck’s towing capacity in the owner’s manual or calculate it on your own. To find your truck’s towing capacity, subtract your truck’s curb weight from its Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating (GCVWR). The GCVWR is the maximum weight of your loaded truck and the weight of its attached trailer.
How Much Horsepower Do I Need to Haul a Trailer?
In general, you will need one horsepower to tow 25 pounds. You will need at least 100 horsepower to tow a 2,500-pound trailer. Please be aware that there are other factors that affect how much a tow vehicle can pull beside the horsepower.
Pro Tip: Not all 100-hp engines can pull such a 2,500-pound trailer. Also, keep in mind that the weight of the trailer is only one part of the equation. You also need to know the weight of the item you are hauling and any additional weight added to your tow vehicle (passengers, luggage, etc.)
How Do I Pick a Trailer?
The best way to decide which trailer you will need is to know how you will be using the trailer. Here are some questions to answer before you begin your trailer search:
- What will I be hauling?
- How often will I haul this vehicle(s)
- What are the dimensions and weight of the item I need to haul
- What is my budget for a trailer
- What tow vehicle do I have access to
- Does my vehicle have any special needs (eg: covered transportation, boat, etc.)
- How far am I willing to travel to purchase a trailer
Combined, these questions should help you narrow down the type of trailer you need.
Top Trailer Brands by Category
When selecting a boat trailer, you might feel overwhelmed by the amount of selection available. Most of the time, your manufacturer will have a preferred brand to use with their boats, or the boat dealer will be able to select some top choices for you. Nonetheless, here are some of the most common boat trailer brands on the market today:
Bass Cat Boats
Bear Trailer Manufacturing, Inc.
BoatMate Trailers, LLC
Coyote Manufacturing Company
EZ Loader Boat Trailers, Inc.
King Trailers, Inc.
Load Rite Trailers, Inc.
Midwest Industries, Inc
Rogue Jet Boatworks, Inc.
Skeeter Boats, Inc
Trailmaster and Vanguard
Venture Trailers, Inc.
Waterland Manufacturing, Inc.
Yacht Club and Eagle Trailers
Jet Ski Trailers:
ATV/UTV/Golf Cart Trailers:
USA Cargo Trailer
Flatbed Trailer World
PJs Trailers (ATV)
The USA Trailer Store
Tow Smart Trailers
North Star Trailers
How Much Does a Trailer Cost?
Trailers can cost anywhere from $500 up to over $10,000. Although that is a huge range, it really depends on what you need the trailer for and most powersports/boat owners don’t necessarily need all the bells and whistles or the largest trailer around. Here are some pricing examples of different trailers currently on the market:
|LAMAR 83 x 12 UTILITY TRAILER||Utility Trailer||2021||12 ft||1||$3,400|
|LAMAR 83 x 16 TANDEM AXLE UTILITY TRAILER||Utility Trailer||2021||16 ft||2||$4,600|
|Carry-On 6 x 12 Enclosed Trailer – Ramp Door||Covered Utility Trailer||2007||12 ft||1||$3,499|
|American Hauler 7 x 14 Enclosed Trailer – 7′ Interior Height||Covered Utility Trailer||2021||14 ft||2||$12,999|
|RICE TRAILER | 76 X 12 TA STEALTH UTILITY W/GATE||Flatbed Utility Trailer||2022||12 ft||2||$4,169|
|LOAD RITE TRAILER||Boat Trailer||2022||24-27ft||2||$5,599|
|BEAR PONTOON TRAILER||Pontoon Trailer||2021||16 ft||1||$2,190|
|Haul Rite PWC
|Jet Ski Trailer||2021||Single Jet Ski||1||$1,899|
|KARAVAN DOUBLE JET SKI 8.5X15 PWC TRAILER||Jet Ski Trailer||2021||Double Jet Ski||1||$2,199|
How Do I Use a Trailer?
The first thing you need to think about when gearing up to haul a boat using a trailer is your tow vehicle. You need to have a vehicle available with a towing capacity to carry both the trailer’s weight and the fully loaded (gassed up, water tanks full, gear on board) weight of the watercraft. To find your vehicle’s towing capacity, consult your manufacturer or your manufacturer guidebook for your vehicle.
Another way to determine towing capacity for your vehicle is to follow these steps:
- Find out the curb weight of your vehicles, which is located on the VIN sticker
- Add the weight of passengers, fuel, and cargo to the curb weight
- Subtract this number from your vehicle’s GCWR, which is also found on the VIN sticker (you may have to look this up using your VIN# if it’s not on the door sticker)
= Your vehicle’s max towing capacity
The second thing to think about when towing a boat using a trailer is your hitch. This is what connects the trailer to your vehicle. Boat trailer hitches are rated by ‘Class,’ ranging from Class I, Class II, Class III, Class IV, Class V. Class I hitches are for smaller lightweight boats under 2,000lbs. Class II hitches are good for loads up to the 3,500lb mark. Class III hitches are for boats up to 5,000lbs. Class IV goes up to 12,000lbs, and Class V can tow as much as 18,000lbs. The capacity of the hitch includes the weight of the boat and the trailer’s weight.
Okay, now that you have all the properly fitted materials, it’s time to hook up the trailer to your tow vehicle. Here are the steps for this process:
- Align the hitch and ball, then lower the trailer hitch down over the ball.
- Close the latch and insert the safety pin.
- Pro Tip: Never tow without the safety pin in place because the hitch might pop off the ball when you hit a bump
- Cross the safety chains, and attach them to the tow vehicle. They should always be crossed so if the hitch fails, the chains will support the trailer tongue, and it won’t dig into the asphalt.
- Safety chains are underneath the ball and hitch and criss-cross each other. They hook into a specified area to ensure that if the ball and hitch fails, you still have a backup safety measure, so the trailer doesn’t fall on the road or crash.
- If your trailer has brakes, attach the safety line to the tow vehicle. (This will engage the brakes if, for some reason, the trailer comes free from the vehicle)
- These are safety brakes that are built into the trailer itself. If the vehicle becomes disconnected from the trailer, the wire will be pulled, and it will activate the trailer brakes so it will slow down. Think like the bracelet you wear on your wrist when you ride a jet ski that turns the machine off if you fall off.
- Plug in the lights, and run a full check to make sure they’re all working.
- Your vehicle should be compatible with towing, which means there will be a clear place to plug in the trailer’s lights, which is a wire that comes with every trailer. Simply plug this into your vehicle (like plugging in a power cord) and then test them to ensure it is working correctly.
Tips and Tricks for Safe Towing
Towing anything can be a challenge. It adds a lot of length to your vehicle, making turns and high speeds more difficult. We highly recommend practicing in an open parking lot or area before you tow anything on the road. To ensure you are towing a trailer as safely as possible, we have some general guidelines and recommendations to follow:
- Always check your vehicle and the trailer to ensure everything is in street-ready working order.
- Connections are all tight
- Walk around vehicle
- Ensure you have a chalk block
- Check all the lights (hazards, brakes, etc)
- Make sure the load is secure, and everything is strapped down
- If you sense swaying when towing, stop and recheck everything.
- Make wide turns to avoid clipping a curb or other obstructions.
- Leave extra following room between your vehicle and those in front of you. When towing a heavy load, the braking distance may be significantly increased.
- When wind-blast shoves your rig sideways, you can minimize the effect by taking your foot off the accelerator. Do not step on the brakes.
- Learn to use your side-view mirrors and not your rear-view mirrors. Consider getting an extender for your side-view mirrors if you need additional visibility.
- As soon as you arrive at your destination, walk back to the trailer hubs and check that they’re cool to the touch. If they’re hot, your bearings aren’t functioning correctly and need to be serviced immediately.
- Practice! This is not something anyone knows how to do well without some practice. Practice making right and left turns, practice backing up, and practice accelerating.
Check Out More Helpful Powersports Guides and Articles
Deciding on a trailer is not always the most exciting part of the decision-making process when you own a powersports vehicle or boat, but it is an important one. There are lots of other decisions you will need to make when you invest in a powersports vehicle or boat that are necessary, such as insurance, financing, storage, cleaning, maintenance, etc.
Not all of these questions are riveting, but they are essential to ensure you get the most out of your investment. We’ve gathered some resources to help you quickly and easily get some of the questions answered so you can spend less time worrying about it and more time out enjoying the breeze and sunshine.
- How to Wash a Motorcycle
- ATV Tires: The Ultimate Guide
- Everything You Need to Know About Financing a Boat, RV, Motorcycle
- How to Clean a Boat
- Boat Trailers: Everything You Need to Know
- How to Winterize Your Boat
- Guide to Golf Cart Batteries
When you’re ready to find your next powersports vehicle or boat, be sure to check us out at GoRollick.com.
- See nationwide inventory, specs, and incentive information
- Get an upfront, transparent price on your desired vehicle/boat
- Receive special offers on both the powersports vehicle/boat as well as additional accessories
- Take advantage of Bonus Savings plus the option to Buy From Home from select Certified Dealers
- Shop at one of our Certified Dealers who are committed to providing an exceptional buying experience
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