Things to Consider When Thinking about Purchasing a Utility Trailer

  • February 29, 2012
  • Blog

Author: Robert L. Mertig

If you need to haul large bulky items on a frequent or infrequent basis, there are a number of reasons you may want to  purchase a utility trailer.  A utility trailer will allow you to transport more than most vehicles can carry.  If the trailer is enclosed, you can pack the trailer over a period of time, and then transport only when you are finished loading.  A utility trailer will allow you to keep the towing vehicle empty to transport passengers while you are transporting the goods in the trailer.  Using a trailer will also prevent damage to the interior of your towing vehicle, and it’s usually a lot easier to load.  And you can avoid the hassle and expense of renting a trailer.

Another good reason to buy a trailer is that, once purchased, there is virtually no expense involved in the maintenance or upkeep. Obviously you will need to  check the air pressure in the tires,  grease the wheel bearings,  and make sure the lighting and turn signals are operating properly. (By the way, most lighting problems originate at the plug from the tow vehicle to the trailer connection). But other than those simple tasks, the trailer is always ready to go.

Another good reason for purchasing a trailer is that licensing and insuring the trailer are easy.  You can purchase a one-time “permanent license” for the trailer from the DMV.  There is  no annual inspection required.  Generally,  no additional insurance needs to be purchased unless you are using the trailer commercially. The automobile insurance covers  the trailer when attached to the towing vehicle.

Choosing a trailer size and type can seem challenging, but you just need to focus on a few considerations.   Think about  your needs and the type of towing vehicle you have.  Depending on what you are transporting, you may want an enclosed trailer or an open one.  From personal experience, for general purposes, I would recommend  an open trailer with dimensions of 5 feet x 10 feet for ease of transporting building materials, riding mowers, bikes, kayaks, ladders, pressure washers and other power equipment.   This size is large enough to transport most everything you want but small enough that it isn’t difficult to tow or park. I also recommend the trailer be equipped with a rear gate that doubles as a ramp to expedite loading and unloading. Keeping your  trailer under cover, either with a tarp or in a garage, will extend the life of the tires, paint, frame and flooring of the trailer. Tires tend to deteriorate if exposed to sun over a long period of time.

Another consideration in purchasing a trailer is choosing and installing the correct hitch for the trailer and the tow vehicle. The hitch must match the capacity of the trailer and should not be too high or low for towing the trailer. Improper balance between the towing vehicle and trailer could lead to loss of control of the tow vehicle and result in an accident. Once the trailer is attached to the ball on the hitch,  make sure it is locked and that the lights are connected and working properly. The safety chains must also be attached to the tow hitch. Always check these items before pulling onto the road.

When using a trailer, you should  be very careful about loading the trailer to properly center and distribute the weight.   Read the manufacturer’s recommendations about loading, and check on-line recommendations on how to load the type of trailer that you have.   One of the biggest dangers is that improper loading will cause  the trailer to fishtail and then cause the tow vehicle to go out of control.

You should also practice driving your tow vehicle while pulling the trailer.  A large empty parking lot is a great place to practice.  Remember that a  towing vehicle and trailer are now a unit, and the turning radius is now wider and longer because of the trailer.  When towing, you must also account for the greater stopping time with a loaded or unloaded trailer behind the tow vehicle.

With a little attention to maintenance and safety, and some practice with towing, you can enjoy many years of using a trailer.  All in all, a utility trailer is a valuable asset for moving and hauling any number of items, and often will pay for itself in a short period of time.

About the Author: Bob Mertig is a claims consultant working under the supervision of Petersburg car accident lawyer Paul Hux. Bob assists clients in resolving their personal injury claims including truck accidents in Petersburg, Hopewell, Colonial Heights and Southern Virginia .