The size, weight and shape of your load and the maneuverability you need dictate the best trailer for the job.
Need to transport construction or landscaping equipment, an ATV or motorcycle, building materials or other heavy, bulky or oddly shaped items? If you have a towing vehicle at your disposal, a trailer is the go-to solution. But among the different types of trailers available, including the multiple types of flatbed trailers, which is the right one for your hauling application?
The size and weight of your load is the biggest factor in determining the best trailer for your needs. Choose a trailer that’s large enough to accommodate the loads you plan to haul, with sufficient payload capacity to handle their weight without damaging the trailer. Remember that you’ll need to stay within the towing capacity of your vehicle and trailer hitch.
In addition to different sizes and load capacities, trailers come in different types. What you’re towing and the most convenient way to load and unload the cargo dictate the ideal trailer type to use. Trailer prices vary based on their size and type, with specialty trailers generally costing more, so also consider your budget.
6 types of trailers and their uses
Here are six of the most common types of trailers and their typical uses.
Standard flatbed trailer
The standard flatbed trailer is an open, single-level platform on wheels. Highly versatile and used to carry a wide range of cargo, these trailers come in several sizes and provide maximum flexibility for hauling large or irregularly shaped items. As with all open trailers, because there is no enclosure, cargo must be appropriately strapped or otherwise secured to the deck. You can add a ramp for easier loading and unloading.
Tilt trailers, also called tilt deck trailers, have a deck that tilts for easy loading and unloading of powered equipment and vehicles such as ATVs, riding lawnmowers, motorcycles and cars. The tilting deck eliminates the need for a ramp, which can be time-consuming to set up and may prove too steep, causing the vehicle to bottom out. Tilt trailers are also convenient when transporting loads that are too heavy to lift onto a standard flatbed trailer.
Need to dump the materials you’re hauling? Choose a dump trailer, which features an open box bed and a hydraulic lift system that allows you to lift the front of the trailer so the load slides out the back. Dump trailers are commonly used for hauling bulk materials such as soil, gravel, sand and construction debris. They take the place of a dump truck, with less cost and more versatility.
Drop deck trailer, aka step deck trailer
To haul tall loads and still fit under bridges or other obstructions and avoid the need for an oversize load permit, a drop deck trailer may be the perfect solution. These trailers have a short upper deck and a longer lower deck that sits closer to the ground. They are ideal for transporting not only tall loads but also heavy loads, such as forklifts, tractors and excavators. Available risers turn a drop deck trailer into a flatbed trailer with a regular-height deck for normal loads.
For hauling the heaviest loads, such as a large excavator or piece of heavy farm machinery, look to a gooseneck trailer. It’s named after the shape of the trailer tongue, which extends over the bed of the pickup truck that tows it. Gooseneck trailers require a special gooseneck hitch mounted between the cab of the truck and rear axle. The design significantly increases the trailer’s capacity compared to standard trailers by transferring a lot of the cargo weight to the truck.
Gooseneck trailers provide greater road stability than standard trailers, and they can haul more cargo per load and over longer distances. These advantages come with a higher price tag.
Standard utility trailer
What is a utility trailer, exactly? The terms “flatbed trailer” and “utility trailer” are often used interchangeably. While flatbed trailers have open sides (except in the case of a dump trailer) and an open back, a utility trailer may be open or closed. Open-air utility trailers typically have low rails or some type of low side to help prevent cargo from falling out. They may have a gate for loading and unloading.
Landscape trailers are utility trailers tailored for transporting landscaping equipment, including lawnmowers, leaf blowers and gardening tools. They can be customized with compartments and racks for containing or holding specific items, and they typically have a tailgate.
Single axle trailer vs. tandem axle trailer
Many trailers are available in singe axle and tandem axle models.The better option depends on your load size, the terrain and how much space you have to maneuver.
How much weight can a trailer hold? The answer depends in part on how many axles it has. Trailers with multiple axles can carry heavier payloads.
Single axle trailer
Single axle trailers have one set of wheels and are easier to maneuver through tight spots and on narrow driveways than tandem axle trailers. They are suitable for hauling relatively light loads, such lawn care equipment, over smooth terrain. Their lighter weight makes them more fuel efficient than heavier trailers, but they aren’t as stable at high speeds.
How much weight can a single axle trailer hold? One trailer axle can carry somewhere between 1,000 and 10,000 pounds depending on its diameter. This 12-foot, single-axle tilt trailer, for example, has a capacity of 6,000 pounds.
Tandem axle trailer
With two sets of wheels, tandem axle trailers offer increased stability and safety and can handle heavier loads. They are ideal for carrying construction equipment and other large items and are suitable for long-distance hauling. Don’t expect to be able to maneuver in tight spaces or make sharp turns with a tandem axle trailer.
Whether you're a business owner, DIY enthusiast or weekend warrior, a trailer can get your equipment, machines or goods where they need to go. When in doubt about the right type of flatbed or utility trailer for your towing needs or the size and type of trailer that’s compatible with your towing vehicle, talk to a United Rentals representative for guidance.