Tiny house mobility. It is part of the initial lure for so many. Why shouldn't it be though? If you build a tiny house on top of a set of axles, it should move. In fact, it should move when you want and to where you want. Such travel comes with great responsibility though and with the road hazards of today's highways and bi-ways (ill-suited tow vehicles, texting and driving, auto-driven cars, etc) staying safe and observing a few towing rules can make your adventure a positive one each time out!
KNOW YOUR RATINGS
Whether your tow vehicle is a pickup truck or a minivan, an SUV or a U-Haul, your tow vehicle can only carry and haul a certain amount of weight. Burdening your vehicle, tiny house, or both can cause issues with the brake system, suspension system, transmission system, and even tires! Besides meaning a trip to the mechanic and a lot of money out-of-pocket these issues can also cause serious danger! That said, first things first. Look up your vehicle’s tow ratings before you attempt to tow anything and make sure your hitch system matches your vehicle’s towing specs. Become grossly familiar with the following numbers. You can generally find your tow vehicle's specs in the owner's manual and on the lip of your driver's side door. Your trailer's unloaded weight (if an RVIA approved model) can be found on the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) plate. For those unfamiliar with the needed ratings though:
- Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR): The weight limit for your vehicle (including the vehicle itself plus passengers, cargo, and accessories).
- Gross combination weight rating (GCWR): The maximum weight of the tow vehicle plus the loaded trailer, equipment, passengers, fuel, and anything else you plan to haul or carry.
- Gross axle weight rating (GAWR): The amount of weight a single axle can safely bear. It’s important to know this value for both your tow vehicle and your trailer.
- Towing capacity: The amount of weight your vehicle can pull.
- Tongue weight: The amount of the trailer’s weight that is borne by the trailer hitch. Ideally, this should be about 10 percent of the total trailer weight. NOTE: Too much tongue weight will make your vehicle’s steering less responsive. Too little tongue weight and the trailer might sway. Tongue weight can be measured using a specialized scale (available at trailer supply shops).
A good rule of thumb is to also know the combined weight of your trailer plus cargo. To find that out, take your loaded tiny house to a vehicle scale at a weigh station, truck stop, or landfill.
NOT CHECKING LOCAL LAWS
Despite what may be talked about on Facebook groups or forums across the Internet, there are local laws in regards to towing. There are national laws and there are local ordinances. You don't want a ticket for improper towing. If you are traveling through a state take the time to find out if they have trailer light requirements, hitch requirements, lane requirements, mirror requirements, etc. Laws vary from state to state on towing speeds, trailer width, lane of travel, etc. Be prepared. Plot your course and learn the laws.
NOT EQUIPPING YOUR BRAKES
Towing a tiny house gives your tow vehicle a lot of extra momentum. This means it takes longer to reduce speed or flat out stop. It makes good sense (despite any laws) to equip your tiny house trailer with a separate braking system. This will help improve control and will also stop your tiny house if separated from your tow vehicle. You can invest in one of two systems: an electronic braking system which is attached to a controller inside the tow vehicle or actually part of the vehicle's tow package -and- surge which are independent hydraulic brakes operated by sheer momentum.
MISINTERPRETING YOUR LOAD
Make sure your cargo is evenly distributed. You should have 60% of the total cargo weight in front of the axle and the overall center of gravity should be low.
NOT CHECKING THE TIRES
If your tiny house has been sitting stationary for a while or it hasn't spent time on the open road, chances are you need to have the tires inflated and maybe even balanced and/or rotated. Driving a fully loaded trailer with under-inflated tires is serious business. Under-inflation causes friction which can speed up blowouts or even assist in rollover accidents.
Towing a tiny house simply is not a task to take lightly. Know your vehicle. Know your house. Most importantly though, know the law!