One of the worries most future tiny housers share is if they can tow it themselves. Though we can’t answer that question for you, we can say that the majority of the tiny house movement is comprised of people with no previous building or professional driving experience. And every single day, another person successfully completes their build and hits the road on their maiden voyage. Despite the thousands of tiny houses being driven by their owners, we’ve only heard of one single major accident so far. In that particular case, the homeowner’s weight distribution was not appropriate and excess speeds were reached, causing things to quickly go wrong.
If you have good attention to detail, a healthy sense of respect/fear for towing, and are motivated, we would say that towing your own tiny home is absolutely within your ability. In Episode 3 of our Digital Tiny House Workshop (which comes FREE with any plans purchase on our site): How to Tow a Tiny House (17min-44sec), you’ll learn the pillars of a safe and enjoyable towing experience. In brief, they are as follows:
Keeping one’s speed down while towing is the #1 safety measure a driver can take. It’s oh so tempting to go faster once the initial white knuckle experience passes and you get more comfortable towing. And for the most part, if a trailer is adhering to the proper weight distribution rules, traveling at higher speeds will feel smooth and comfortable.
The problem occurs when an obstacle suddenly appears and one must slam on their brakes or swerve. Speeding truly escalates this danger so do yourself and those you share the road with a favor and don’t speed.
A trailer that is properly weighted will tow beautifully; one with a lop-sided weight ratio will sway and swerve, sometimes to the point of flipping the entire trailer over. So what is that “magic” number? The weight ratio you should design your tiny house to is 60/40 with the heavier side leaning towards the front, or tongue, of your trailer. So, 40% of the weight should be placed towards the back of your trailer. This weight ratio is taken from the center point of the axles, meaning that if you have 3 axles, you’ll need to find the mid point of that assembly.
In terms of tongue weight, you want anywhere from 10-15% of the total trailer weight to fall onto the tongue itself. Twelve percent is really ideal. The interesting part is that if you design your tiny house to the 60/40 ratio, your tongue weight will automatically work out.
The side to side weight distribution ratios are also important, meaning you should aim for equal weight on the left as well as the right side of the trailer.
We will cover more on these weight distribution terms in a following lesson of our Digital Tiny House Workshop!
Large side-mirrors are a great addition to safety gear in a towing vehicle. The more time you can buy by being situationally aware with the use of mirrors, the lower your chances of being caught by surprise and needing to do emergency evasive maneuvers.
Seriously! Before you even begin to build your tiny house on its trailer, take the empty trailer out to an empty parking lot and spend a few hours practicing. Set up some cones or obstacles and practice driving through them not just forward but also backwards. Handling a trailer in reverse is very different than driving one in forward; however, with a little practice, you’ll learn the basics and be able to negotiate reverse without panic or incident.
You know those downhill grade road signs you’ve always ignored? If you’re towing a tiny house, those pertain to you now! Your stopping distance will increase dramatically when you’re towing a tiny house and if you’re going down a steep grade, your forward momentum will be all that harder to slow.
Start practicing slowing your towing vehicle by putting it into a lower gear before you reach the apex of a steep hill. The less pressure you apply to the brakes, the better your chances of staying in control during steep descents will be. Use the engine’s gears to slow you down and control your speed before you are in full motion going downhill. Relying solely on the brakes risks them overheating and ultimately failing.
For the full details on how to tow a tiny house safely, be sure to watch Episode 3 (17 min) from our Digital Tiny House workshop. In it we cover the above topics in detail as well as how to deal with some special challenges such as roads/driveways with a large grade change.