A trailer is a container on wheels pulled by a car or another vehicle. You can use them to transport a wide range of things, from a few boxes to heavy-duty machinery. Choosing the right one for your needs will save you a lot of time, effort, and money. But with so many different types of trailers to choose from, how do you find the right one?
This article will look at the most commonly used types of trailers and their characteristics. We’ll also provide some valuable tips to help you find the best trailer types for your needs.
We’ll be looking at the following different types of trailers:
- Open trailers
- Utility trailers
- Enclosed trailers
- Cargo trailers
- Concession Trailers
- Flatbed trailers
- Landscape trailers
- Travel Trailers
- Goose-neck trailers
- Car trailers
- Teardrop trailers
- Camper trailers
- Conestoga trailers
- Lowboy trailer or double drop trailer
- Medical trailers
- Single axle trailers
- Tandem axle trailers
- Step deck trailers
- Extendable deck trailers
- Hazardous material trailers
What types of trailers are there?
Trailers come in a vast range of shapes and sizes, each with its own set of unique features. Homeowners, small businesses, and large corporations use them to facilitate the transportation of various goods, items, and products. With so many trailer types to choose from, finding the best one can be a challenge. In this list, you’ll find some of the most common types and what you might want to use the different types of trailers for.
1. Open trailers
Open trailers are open on all sides and generally have a plank floor on wheels and metal rails that run along three of the sides. They tend to be one of the most affordable types of trailers, but you must remember that they offer no protection from the elements.
- You can use this trailer for home, recreational or business use.
- Transportation of boats and other small marine craft.
- Carrying your family's bicycles and gear.
- Loading and unloading building materials.
- Affordable but at the same time durable.
- Easy to use.
- Can hold and haul a wide variety of objects.
2. Utility trailers
Utility trailers are beneficial types of trailers to have, and they are great if you want to transport a large item easily. They can be either open or enclosed and tend to have a robust steel frame that allows them to carry heavy loads. You can use a utility trailer to transport a wide range of things such as a motorcycle, ATV, construction, or landscape equipment.
- Hauling power equipment such as lawn care or construction machinery.
- Moving furniture.
- Removal of trash and debris.
- Transportation of supplies.
- There’s a choice of open or enclosed utility trailers.
- Available in a range of sizes, colors, and shapes.
- You can use them to transport a range of different items.
3. Enclosed or a Dry Van trailer
An enclosed trailer uses a container to enclose the load. Dry van trailers are also very common, and you can use them to transport almost anything. Compared to some other types of trailers, an enclosed trailer is very affordable. There are many benefits to using a dry van trailer. They keep the content protected from the weather and other security threats. You don’t have to worry about the extra cost of a tarp. Space inside a dry van can be enhanced using shelves and storage cabinets. All these benefits make them a worthwhile investment.
- Hauling luxury, custom, classic, and expensive vehicles.
- Transporting large quantities of cargo and goods.
- Use it as a mobile workstation or emergency headquarters.
- A dry van trailer is waterproof and offers complete protection from the weather and other elements.
- You can make good use of the space inside van trailers by adding shelving and storage.
- The freight weight limit is 42,000 pounds.
- Van trailers vary in length from 48 to 53 feet.
4. Cargo trailers
Cargo trailers are a type of enclosed trailer and can be either simple or come with a range of different features. The most common sizes are 5 feet by 10 feet or 6 feet by 12 feet. You usually find this type of trailer has a door on one side. The back end will also drop down to make loading and unloading much more straightforward. It’s a versatile trailer to use because it can be used in all weathers.
- You can use it to haul cargo for your business.
- Take your cargo trailer camping and transport your tent, supplies, and gear.
- Moving furniture, appliances, and housewares.
- Enclosed for added protection and security.
- Very affordable trailer.
- Provide extra space for equipment.
5. Concession Trailers
A concession trailer is a stand-alone kiosk, stall, or stand that you use to vend foods, such as cold beverages, cotton candy, burgers, popcorn, and pizza. You might see this type of trailer at a state fair, festival, music event, car show, or carnival.
- They are used as mobile food vending stalls.
- Available in a wide range of sizes.
- Should include an independent power and water source.
- It needs to be easy to clean.
- Features include extra space for concession equipment, storage, and service.
6. Flatbed trailers
Flatbed trailers are one of the most commonly used types of trailers. Flatbed trailers are incredibly versatile, and you can use them to transport almost anything. A flatbed trailer is open on all sides and doesn’t have a box to cover the load. To keep any cargo protected, you have to use a tarp, which can be tricky. Flatbed trailers are straightforward to load and offload either with a fork lifter from the side or a crane from the top.
- Flatbed truck trailers transport a wide range of objects on a flatbed trailer, from hay bales and boxes to steel coils.
- Use a flatbed trailer for the transportation of vehicles.
- Towing bulky commercial loads such as heavy machines.
- Carrying oversized loads or products with unusual shapes.
- Flatbed trailers open from all sides.
- Easy to load and off-load.
- The maximum freight weight you can load is 48,000 pounds.
- Length range from 24 to 53 feet.
7. Landscape trailers
A landscape trailer is very similar to a utility vehicle. You can use it to haul equipment, carry other small vehicles, haul supplies, and pick up/haul garden waste. They are the perfect choice if you own a landscape business and need to move lawnmowers, lawn power tools, and other power equipment from client to client.
- Hauling landscaping equipment.
- Can be open or enclosed.
- Wide range of GVW (gross vehicle weight available).
- Single or double-axle trailers are available.
- Various towing setups to choose from.
8. Travel Trailers
Travel trailers are one of the most popular types of trailers known as non-motorized RVs. You regularly see them being pulled on the highway, hitched to a pickup or car. They come in all sizes, from tiny jelly bean-shaped models with a kitchen in the rear to massive house-on-wheels with picture windows and a sliding patio door.
- Allow you to enjoy the comforts of home while enjoying an outdoor vacation.
- There are models to suit all budgets.
- You can tow a travel trailer with your everyday car or truck.
- Solid walls and locking door for security.
- It can be tailored to fit your needs, including floor plan layouts and extra features.
9. Removable Gooseneck trailers
A removable gooseneck trailer is a type of enclosed trailer that has a long neck. The neck attaches to your vehicle by way of a ball hitch. It is usual for this type of trailer to be towed by a truck, but specific, non-standard equipment is required for the connection. The towing capacity of goose-neck trailers is very impressive. One of the benefits of a removable gooseneck trailer is that it won’t wobble or sway when pulled.
- Gooseneck trailers are commonly used as a livestock trailer, horse trailer, and to tow equipment.
- Gooseneck trailers are lightweight and easy to operate.
- The coupling mechanism is simple.
- The connection is solid.
- Gooseneck trailers have up to 30,000 pounds of freight weight capacity.
10. Car trailers
Many of the trailers in this list can be used to transport cars. But if you want to transport more than one, special multi-car truck trailers are required. There are two types: single-decker and double-decker trailers. Which types you should use depends on the number of cars you want to transport.
- Transporting multiple vehicles
- Single or double deck versions.
- Vehicles are secured to ensure they do not get loose.
- Car transport companies commonly use them.
11. Teardrop trailers
Teardrop trailers are small, towable types of RV. You’ll be able to recognize one instantly, thanks to its distance shape (round on one end and tapered on the other). They are small, lightweight, and easy to tow. The basic teardrop trailer will be just a bedroom on wheels. Larger models can include a bed, kitchen and dining area, and wet bath.
- An affordable way to travel if you want to see more of the country or take a road trip.
- Some teardrop trailer types have a bathroom.
- Typically weighing less than 4,000 pounds.
- Can be towed by smaller vehicles and even some motorcycles.
12. Camper trailers
Camper trailers make a great home away from home if you want to travel around the countryside. They are compact yet open up or fold out to create a comfy camping space and allow for several creature comforts.
- Allows you to immerse yourself in the wild but still enjoy some creature comforts.
- Smaller and lighter than a travel trailer.
- More rugged.
- Include solutions for electricity, water, and storage.
13. Conestoga trailers
A Conestoga Trailer combines the benefits of a flatbed trailer together with those of an enclosed trailer. It is typically a flatbed trailer with a rolling tarp-on-frame system. It is easy to load and unload, like a flatbed trailer. However, it also offers the same protection as an enclosed trailer because you can roll the tarp back to allow access to a crane or forklift.
- Transporting heavy machinery that you need to load from the side.
- Offers protection from weather, dust, and dirt.
- Easy to load and unload with a forklift.
- Utilizes a tarp-on-frame system.
14. Lowboy trailer or double drop trailer
This type of trailer is known by several different names. You’ll hear it referred to as a low loader, float, double-drop, or low-bed trailer. It is a semi-trailer with two drops in the deck, hence the name double drop. One drop is just behind the goose-neck, and the other is just before the wheels. A double drop trailer sits very close to the ground. A lowboy trailer is commonly used for transporting large items such as heavy-duty construction equipment.
- Hauling large and heavy machinery and equipment.
- A lowboy trailer sits very close to the ground.
- The freight weight limit is 40,000 if the lowboy trailer has two axles.
- The number of axles can be increased for a maximum weight limit of 80,000 pounds.
15. Medical trailers
Medical trailers are used when a company wants to provide medical services and equipment to people on-site. They will have the essential medical equipment installed inside and cater to basic medical emergencies and situations. They are common in health camps and often used for mobile blood banks.
- Providing medical services and equipment on-site.
- Can be a range of sizes and shapes.
- Equipped with all the necessary medical equipment the mobile service requires.
- Need special permits and licenses to operate.
16. Single axle trailers
A single axle trailer has one axle with a wheel connected on each end. The axle is usually attached to the vehicle via springs or directly to the trailer bed with clamps or supporting hardware. It is an excellent trailer for towing lighter weights and short distances. It is often less expensive to buy.
- Suitable for smaller loads such as transporting furniture.
- Weighs less, so it is more economical to tow.
- Easy to maneuver and park in a tight spot.
- Easier and cheaper to maintain as there are fewer tires, bearings, and brakes.
17. Tandem axle trailers
A tandem axle trailer has two axles placed close to each other. This helps to disperse the weight load of the cargo. They are more suitable if you want to tow over a long distance or carry a heavier load. However, they do tend to cost more and will be more challenging to maneuver.
- Hauling larger items such as a 20-foot boat.
- More stable at highway speeds.
- Tend to have better suspension.
- Rated to carry 1600 pounds to 6600 pounds.
- Will bounce less and be less prone to swaying when properly loaded.
18. Step deck trailers
A step deck trailer is very similar to a flatbed trailer, but it has a higher maximum legal freight height. You can use a step deck trailer to transport large cargo because the low deck means it is lower down, thereby avoiding freight height restrictions. The trailer has two deck levels, an upper and a lower one, and ramps for loading and unloading.
- Transporting large and heavy equipment and machinery
- Has no sides, roof, or doors
- Resembles a platform
- Has two deck levels
19. Extendable deck trailers
An extendable deck trailer is what you need if the items you want to transport are too long for a standard deck trailer. They tend to have a lower max weight rating but can legally carry over-length shipments from 48 feet to 80 feet long. The trailer has no walls or roof and no container. To extend the trailer, a pin joining the two sections is released. The truck brakes are then applied, which releases the expandable portion of the trailer bed.
- Transporting oversized machinery and equipment
- The capacity of the deck can be increased to 80 feet.
- The trailer is open to the elements.
- A special permit may be required to transport oversized loads.
20. Hazardous material trailers
These are a common sight on the highways and are cylindrical in shape. You use them for carrying petrol, oil, diesel, and other hazardous or flammable materials. Hazardous material trailers are also used to transport chemicals. They are specially designed to carry dangerous liquids and typically need additional permits.
- Safely transporting hazardous materials such as gas, oil, and chemicals.
- Specialist equipment to deal with spillages.
- Trailers are specially designed to contain hazardous materials safely.
How to Choose the Proper Trailer Types for Your Needs
If you’re in the market for a trailer, there are many choices and options available. With so many types of trailers to choose from, knowing what to look for will make the decision much easier.
Before you start looking for a trailer, you first have to know and understand your vehicle’s GVWR or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. This number is important to towing because it tells you the exact maximum weight of cargo and passengers you can carry in your car, SUV, or pickup truck.
GVWR is the vehicle’s total combined weight, including all passengers, fuel, fluids, and cargo. It is engineered when the vehicle is manufactured and remains the same, regardless of what you tow. You’ll most likely find the towing capacity of your vehicle in the vehicle owner's manual.
How a trailer is constructed plays a crucial role in determining how long it will last and whether it’s sturdy enough for your needs. Some of the features you should pay close attention to include:
- Frame: It should be built from I-beam, tubular, C-channel, or L-shaped aluminum or steel. A general rule of thumb is that the more metal in the frame, the stronger it will be. Following this rule, a tubular frame will be stronger than a C-channel, which will be stronger than an L-beam frame.
- Walls: Depending on the type of trailer you’re purchasing, wall construction could be a deciding factor. Check whether the walls are insulated, as this is an essential factor for some cargo trailers.
- Safety features: Does the trailer have any safety features to keep your cargo safe and secure. Components such as D-loops, E-tracks, and other devices can be used for securing the load. Do the locks and hinges have tamper-resistant hardware? Is the entrance ramp strong enough to support the weight of the cargo you’re unloading?
The smoother the trailer’s suspension, the better it will protect your trailer, the cargo, and your towing vehicle from excessive shock. It also gives you a smoother towing experience. If you plan to tow a lot, look for a trailer with a high-performance suspension.
Leaf springs are the most traditional suspension systems. They are more commonly used, less expensive but give a bouncier ride and are noisier and quicker to wear.
You will enjoy a much smoother experience if your trailer uses rubber torsion suspension. It cushions the bumps and rough spots better, is much quieter, and lasts longer.
Ideally, the warranty should cover the trailer frame and critical components. Also, check the length of the warranty period. The longer it is, the more confidence the manufacturer has in the product.
Another factor to consider when looking at types of trailers is that the warranty covers a large area, so you can receive support if you move to a new location or need assistance while traveling far from home.
A large trailer brand sells more trailers for a reason. Their brand has a good reputation. Check whether the brand you’re considering has a good reputation for customer satisfaction and quality. Do they honor their warranty claims? Are the dealers that sell the brand reputable?
Now that you know a little bit more about the different types of freight trailers, it should be a lot easier for you to decide which one is right for you. The purchase of a trailer could be a significant investment, so it’s vital that you get the best deal for your money.