Enclosed Trailers

If you are considering an enclosed trailer, educate yourself before buying the 1st trailer you see for sale.  If you have one custom built, the manufacturers build and sell more in the spring, so expect longest wait times in the spring, and shortest in the fall.

Sizes

There are many sizes available, but due to standardization, the list is usually contained to certain sizes.

Widths come in 5′, 6′, 7′, and 8.5′.  When you have something that is 8.5′, the wheel wells are inside of the trailer.  8.5′ trailers are often used to transport cars and called car haulers.

Lengths come in 8′,10′, 12′, 14′, 16′, 18′, and 20′.   Larger lengths are available too, but the trailer usually becomes 5th wheel style or gooseneck style.  24′, 28′, and 32′ are often available as bumper pull or 5th wheel/gooseneck style. 36′, 42′, 48′, and 52′ are only available as 5th wheel or gooseneck style.

Heights

Older heights were standardized at 6′, but many people were found to have to duck while walking around.  In the last 5 years, this height has been standardized to 6’6″.  Few people will have to duck and even if you install an overhead air conditioner, the number of people ducking doesn’t increase much, although there’s a chance 1 or 2 people hit their head on a light or air conditioner.

7′ ceilings will accommodate 99% of your customers without having the fear of anyone hitting their heads.  You can also have 2 rows of racks without having the top rack too high and the bottom rack having items rub on the ground.

V-Nose/Flat Front

There are different front configurations of the trailer.  These are not typically options, but a complete different manufacturer.  V Nose trailers often get better gas mileage and have more interior space, but they take away space on the trailer tongue.  People often use that space for storing propane tanks and/or generators.  If you go with a V-nose, you may want to pay extra to have an extended tongue.  With a flat front, you have a large advertising space that people from both sides of the trailer can see.

Rear Door

The 3 most common options are ramp doors, double doors, or no door.  The ramp door is for bringing large objects into the trailer, such as a car.  This style often has the most resale possible uses. If you plan on using the ramp as the entrance, you will need an extra 6′ or so of space behind the trailer when parking.  The double doors are also called barn doors.  They are 3-4′ doors that open up in the back.

If you don’t feel the need for a rear door and don’t mind making the trailer less resellable, you can delete this door completely.  Oddly enough though is that when deleting this option, no money is typically saved.

Side Door

These have many options for size and location.  On larger trailers, the standard is a 36″ door.  Many RV doors are only 28, 30, or 32″.  With those sizes you can get screen doors designed for RVs, while the 36″ door does not seem to have that option.

Also, determine where you want the door.  If you plan on having changing rooms in the very front, you may need to request the side door will be pushed farther towards the wheels.  The doors are exclusively on the passenger side of the trailer, so while very uncommon, you could request a door on the drivers side too.  If you are parked on a road, you don’t want people opening a door into traffic, so do not get rid of the side door on the passenger side unless you plan on using rear entry exclusively.

Axle Rating

The most common axles are rated at 3,500 lbs.  The next higher is 5,200 lbs.  The highest is 7,000 lbs.  The trailer manufacturer will normally determine the number of axles, but the shorter trailers use 1 axle, while the longest 5th wheel trailers may have 3 axles.  The weight of the trailer plus any contents must be less than the rating of the axles.

Axle Braking

Brakes are typically added when you have at least a single 5,200 lb axle or tandem 3,500 lb axles.  This feature is available on almost any axle configuration, but should be required when your towing load is going to be more than half of your vehicle weight.  If you have brakes on your trailer, you vehicle must also have a brake controller and a 7 pin wiring harness installed.

Torsion vs Leaf Springs.

The standard configuration for trailers is leaf springs.  Grandville Trailer.Net has a good write up on the differences, so I’ll let you choose on your own.

Tires

Radial tires should be your standard choice.  Bias tires might be used on smaller trailers, but should be upgraded to radial.  Your only option are typically rim style.  This is for looks only.  Unless you are experience with pulling a trailer, I’d recommend using the stock tires as there is a chance you will hit a curb and bend a rim at some time when you are towing.  Also, you might be used to filling your car tires, but the trailers are often filled up to a minimum of 50 psi and sometimes up to 80 psi.  Do not be alarmed, they were designed for that and will not blow out from the high pressure.

Siding

The choices for siding are type, color, and thickness.

Thickness is 0.024″ for standard.  Stronger siding is 0.030″.  The strongest siding is usually 0.040″.  The stronger siding will keep larger rocks from putting a hole into the siding.  If you make contact with a tree, building, or vehicle, even the stronger siding will get holes or tear.  To repair a hold with welding, a much more advanced welder is needed for the 0.024″ than the 0.040″, while even many welders can’t even repair the 0.040″.  Both can be fixed with an RV type caulk.

The colors come in almost any choice you want, but other than black, white, or silver, the choice will have an additional cost.  That cost could be offset as a certain color may attract with use of vinyl stickers without the use of a complete wrap.

The last choice is siding type.  This is often more related to manufacturer than as a choice.  Screwed siding has screws every 16-24″ depending on the support spacing.  Semi-screwed siding has screws every 4″ at the edge of a sheet of siding.  Screwless siding has screws along top and bottom trim pieces and often use some sort of glue to help hold the siding in the middle of the trailer. Screwless siding has the flattest surface for a full wrap and will not have any screws protruding through the design.

Tongue Jack

If you plan on hooking up and unhooking the trailer often, it might be useful to get an electric tongue jack.  It can get tiring using it a lot, but it isn’t hard work raising and lowering it.  You existing jack might not come with a foot on it, so you might need to buy that.

Beavertail

If you are buying a custom trailer, delete this option.  The rear interior of the trailer has a slant to have a gradual incline for vehicles.  A customer will be leaning in the back if this is not deleted.  If you are buying a used or stock trailer, the flooring may need to be removed and built up to have a level floor.

Walls

Typical walls are plywood or luan board with plywood or luan trim.  Plywood is very course and if you have clothes rubbing against them, the clothes will have a tendency to pill and possibly tear.  You can sand the plywood down, but plan on spending a couple hours per sheet of plywood.  Luan board is much smoother, but still will require sanding.  Painting these will help a little, but to really get a smooth surface, you will need to put some sort of seal coat such as polyurethane which will be smooth as long as you have already sanded down the very high points.

Optionally, I’d recommend a different wall type.  Most manufacturers offer metal walls which is basically the same siding as the exterior.  You can also use vinyl siding or wainscotting sheets.

Insulation

Rigid foam board and spray foam are the most common choices.  If you are going to be operating in hot or cold environments, this is probably required unless you have very good heaters or air conditioners.

Electricity

You will need to have some sort of electricity in your trailer.  You choices are either Direct Current (12 volt DC provided by a battery) or Alternating Current (120 volt or rarely 240 volt AC provided by a generator or power source) or a combination of Both.

120 V AC is required for larger appliances such as as electric heaters, air conditioners, tv screens, etc.  240 volt  AC is almost never used in a trailer, but is used as a two 120 volt sources to provide twice as much power.  DC is used on anything that is listed as 12 volt.  Small exhaust fans, some propane forced air heaters, lights, etc.

You can get a power center that converts AC to DC, but the only way to get AC from DC is through an inverter and either a large battery bank or a generator.

It’s nice to have some of your lights connected to DC, so if you have an unexpected or quick stop, you can turn them on without having to worry about turning on your generator.

Generator

There are many brands and types.  The best for boutiques are Inverter generators.  They are quiet and ramp up and down to meet the electric requirements.  Champion makes a quality generator at a reasonable cost.  Certain models are available for use with Propane and gasoline.  You can easily store a days worth of power in a propane tank, while bringing multiple gas tanks may not be feasible and you might end up with hands that smell like gasoline.

Onan also makes quality generators often used in the mobile market, but they often use noise insulation boxes to keep sound volumes down.  They have high quality but come at a high cost.  If you plan on running 2 ACs plus other electric items, this might be one of your choices to go with.

Most generators are wired for 120 volt, but some may be 240 V.  Many 120V generators have a parallel wire kit available to wire two separate generators together to create 240 V.

You may need to add a generator compartment in the trailer to house a generator as most sized large enough for an air conditioner weight over 100 pounds.  Alternatively, you could mount it on the tongue if you have enough space.

Click here for more details on generators

Stabilizer Jacks

If you have a smaller trailer, you may want to consider installing stablizer jacks to make sure the trailer doesn’t tip up.  If you have a larger trailer and weight somewhat evenly spaced, you should not have to worry about tipping, but the jacks would still make the floor seem stronger and less movement would occur.

After Market Items

Many items are cheaper to install after you purchase a trailer.  Many are easy to install even if you aren’t a qualified DIY’er.  Click for aftermarket items.