How to Build the Ultimate Utility Trailer
Everything You Need to Know to About DIY Utility Trailers
How to Build a DIY Custom Utility Trailer
Everything You Need to Know to About Building Your Own Utility Trailers
Utility trailers have an endless variety of uses. From moving equipment from job to job to hauling away trash and debris to transporting materials around a large property, utility trailers make it happen. If you’re a handy person, you may have considered building a trailer yourself. DIY utility trailers are a great option to save money and create the perfect trailer that fits your exact needs. You also get the benefit of learning how to build a trailer and the satisfaction of making it on your own.
Before we get into the specifics about how to build your own trailer and discuss utility trailer plans, let’s explore all the options. You will first want to have a clear understanding of what type of trailer you need. Then, we will review the pros and cons of buying new, buying used, building a trailer from scratch with utility trailer plans, or using a DIY trailer kit. This will help you decide which option is right for you.
How Much Trailer Do You Need?
Before deciding if you will buy or build your utility trailer, spend some time thinking about exactly what kind of trailer you need. The basic considerations are size, weight, towing vehicle, and whether it will be open or enclosed.
Size & Style
Consider the size of the equipment or material you will be hauling. You will want to factor in the space needed between your items, as well. When determining size, keep in mind that you can leave empty space on your trailer, but you can’t add more. It’s best to err on the side of caution and give yourself a little more room than you think you will need.
How do you plan to use your utility trailer? Will it be used off-road, such as pulling behind a side by side or a four-wheeler? Or will you be using it on streets and highways? Keep your purpose in mind as you review your options.
Utility trailer weight is either measured in Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), or payload capacity. GVWR is based on the empty weight of the trailer plus the weight of the contents, giving you the maximum weight of the loaded trailer. Payload capacity is the maximum weight of the contents only. For example, you may see a trailer listed as having a 5,500 lb. capacity. Be sure to choose a trailer that is capable of hauling the weight of what you plan to be moving, plus giving yourself some extra room for unexpected weight. Overloading a trailer is not safe and a good way to damage the frame.
When choosing how much trailer you need, also consider how much trailer your vehicle is capable of towing. It won’t do you any good to buy or build your own trailer only to find your towing vehicle isn’t powerful enough to pull it. You can find your vehicle’s towing capacity in the owner’s manual or through an online search. Your vehicle must not only be able to pull the trailer and its contents, but also be able to stop safely. The slowing and stopping ability of your vehicle should also be factored in; this is not an area where you want have a surprise.
Open or Closed
Will your utility trailer need to be open or closed? If you plan to haul expensive equipment that could easily be grabbed by a thief, you’ll want to consider the extra expense but increased security of an enclosed trailer. If that is less of a concern, or if you’ll need frequent, easy access to your payload, an open trailer will be your best bet. Once you’ve figured how much utility trailer you need, it’s time to decide how you’ll get it. Let’s review purchase options first, then discuss the different DIY utility trailer options.
Buying a Trailer: New vs. Used
Purchasing a trailer that is already built is the fastest way to get your trailer, but just like anything else, you pay for the convenience. The smallest, cheapest trailers start at over $500, and they may not be sufficient for the larger loads most people want to haul in their trailers. Larger, stronger trailers can cost several thousand dollars or more for regular flatbed trailers with no extra bells or whistles. A utility trailer big enough to meet your needs may be beyond your budget.
Buying a used trailer is another option. It will reduce your cash outlay, but your options are limited to what is currently available in your area. There may also be a lot of hidden costs. You don’t really know how the trailer was treated by the previous owner. Was it overloaded or poorly constructed, causing frame damage or problems with the suspension? Are the tires good or will you be looking at costly tire replacement in the near future? There may also be expensive repairs needed for` other worn out, bent, damaged, or non-working parts. Be sure to consider all the costs before assuming a used trailer will be less expensive.
Building a Trailer: Using Utility Trailer Plans vs. DIY Trailer Kits
If you don’t like the cost of buying new and aren’t excited about the potential problems of buying used, you have the option of making your own trailer. A DIY trailer gives you lots of options. You can build your own trailer to the exact size and payload your project needs. Making your own trailer allows you to customize the type of ramp (if you need one), the height of the sides, the quality of materials, and more. You can also save a significant amount of money by doing the work yourself.
There are a lot of DIY trailer kits on the market. These kits are along the lines of IKEA furniture, where they provide you with all the materials and you bolt it together. Kits tend to be designed for smaller trailers, up to around 5×8 in size, with most larger trailers coming fully constructed. Purchasing a kit can cost nearly as much as buying a similar trailer already built.
If you need a larger trailer, the ability to customize, or to be able to say you truly built it yourself, a DIY utility trailer kit is not going to meet your needs.
The best way to build your own trailer and get exactly what you want is to build it from scratch. However, this doesn’t mean you’ll want to go in without a guide. Smart do-it-yourselfers don’t want to waste time making needless errors. You will want to look to see where others have already had success. You can learn how to build your own trailer using a set of utility trailer plans created by a knowledgeable expert.
Utility trailer plans offer a wide range of options and give you the flexibility to customize your DIY utility trailer. Having been involved in every step of the process will give you a greater understanding of your trailer and allow you to more easily fix problems if they arise later. Making your own trailer from scratch using a set of utility trailer plans also allows you to grow your technical skills and confidence by truly building a trailer yourself.
If you already know you want to build your own trailer, professionally designed plans contain detailed drawings and all the information you need to do it. They will save you time and get your trailer going a lot faster. If you’re on the fence about whether or not a DIY utility trailer job is for you, reviewing the set of plans can help you make a decision before you blow your budget on materials, only to find that you’re in over your head.
When choosing utility trailer plans, you want to make sure you’re getting them from a reputable and knowledgeable source. You may be able to find some online for free, but you won’t know who designed them, how many trailers they have built themselves, or if the design is accurate and effective. Anybody can upload files to the internet. This is a case where paying for something is far better than the free alternative, especially when high-quality, tried and true utility trailer plans are not very expensive at all. You can find DIY utility trailer plans that are professionally designed at Gizmoplans.com and get the insight of an expert.
Once you have your plans in hand, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got everything else you need. Let’s discuss the skills, tools and materials you need to build your own trailer.
DIY Utility Trailers
While each design is a little different, there are some basic components you’ll find on pretty much any DIY trailer. These include the frame and bed, hitch, tongue with bracing support, wheels and axle, tail lights, and a license plate frame. Your materials that go into assembling these components will include angle irons, boards to build the bed, side frame, a tail light kit, and tires. Your utility trailer plans will have the specifics on the number of materials and sizes you’ll need.
Some of these components can be purchased already assembled, in kits to assemble yourself, or you can piece them together on your own. You might be able to cut some costs by getting certain components, such as axles, second hand from used trailers or salvage vehicles, but be sure to exercise caution just as if you were considering a used trailer. Your DIY utility trailer will only be as good as its components.
We’ve had good luck sourcing axle kits, axles, wheels and hubs, lighting kits (both new and used) and other components from eBay. Amazon also has good options for wheels and hubs. Don’t forget to check your local discount stores for deals, too.
Do You Have the Skills to Build Your Own Trailer?
If you’re thinking about making your own trailer, make sure you have the right set of skills. You’ll need an understanding of welding and fabrication to create the frame and bed, and basic electrical for the tail light installation. You may need to enlist some help squaring up the trailer and getting the base tack welded together.
If you’re mechanically inclined but don’t quite have all the skills yet, you might check into local classes to get them. You can learn a new skill set that will serve you through your DIY utility trailer project and beyond. There’s no feeling quite like being able to do it yourself.
How to Build a Utility Trailer from Scratch
You’ve got the skills, you’ve got access to the tools, and you know what you’ll need. Now let’s get into the basics of how to build a trailer. Depending on your trailer’s purpose and specifics, you may have additional steps, such as adding a ramp, installing fenders, or adding an enclosed top. But all types of DIY utility trailers plans will include some variation of these six steps
Build the trailer frame and bed
When making your own trailer, you will use structural angle iron steel for the outer frame. Check with your utility trailer plans, as some will be designed using structural steel channels or tubing. Tack weld the side, front, and back pieces together. Care must be taken to keep the frame square. A simple way is to measure the frame from corner to corner and tack weld all other cross pieces into place before completing the welding process. Use C-clamps to keep the frame square and flat while you work. Weld your cross pieces to the main frame. It is best to skip around on the frame when doing the final welding. This allows the welds to cool and minimizes distortion.
Cut your bed boards with a circular saw if you haven’t already done so. Drill holes in the angle iron with a variable speed drill, making sure to use a drill bit designed for metal. Using a bit that isn’t specifically designed for metalworking will cause the bit to dull and possibly even break. It will also be ineffective and may wander while drilling, creating a serious safety hazard.
Bolt pressure treated boards to the frame, parallel with the sides, inside the lip of the angle iron. This will create the bed floor. You may also use steel or expanded metal (mesh) as the deck material. Most utility trailers have side rails, often made of the same material as the deck.
Common Mistakes While Making Your Own Trailer
When you enter into any project, it’s always a good idea to learn from those who have gone before you. When you’re learning how to build a trailer, this is still sound advice. In addition to all the tips, tricks, and best practices you’ll find in your set of utility trailer plans, here are some common problems you may run into while making your own trailer and how to avoid them.
When you are building your own trailer, planning is the first and most important step. Accurate planning will reduce the chance of making errors, or worse, discovering a critical error after you’ve begun to use your trailer. Planning includes choosing the right design for your specific needs, your budget, and takes into account the ability of your towing vehicle.
Not enough room to work
Building a DIY utility trailer is a messy, space hogging task. You will have to deal with a lot of metal, wood, and scraps that will pile up. You will also be using heavy- duty drills, welding machines, cutters, etc. Keeping your work area clean is important to reduce the chance of accidents like tripping on a component lying on the floor. Not having a large enough area to build will amplify these concerns. If you don’t have the space available on your property to build, find the right amount of space elsewhere before building your own utility trailer.
Not Not safety checking salvaged parts
Getting salvage parts is a great way to control your costs, but it needs to be done with caution. You do not want rusted, broken, or worn components to cause problems once you are already on the move in your DIY trailer. Parts from a trailer that has been in an accident may look sound but still have their structural integrity compromised. You’ll want to be diligent about the strength, efficiency, safety, and durability of all the salvaged or reused components of your DIY utility trailer. Also, keep in mind that salvaged or reused parts may require more maintenance than new parts.
When you’re creating a DIY trailer from scratch, you’ll want to research the cost of components, tools, and processes that will be involved. If you are not careful while doing this research, you can quickly end up overshooting your budget and be short on materials. Understanding your budget for your DIY utility trailer and sticking to it with proper research will help you avoid this problem. A word of caution, however; do not try to cut costs and save money on essential components such as the frame, suspension, axle, and coupler. If you obtain any of these items used, make sure they are still in top-quality condition.
It is critical that every part of your DIY utility trailer is strong and sturdy. The durability of the components and connections are vital. If you do not know how to weld or drill, or do not have enough experience with metalworking or electrical wiring, make sure you either get the necessary training beforehand or enlist the help of a knowledgeable friend.
Ignoring safety precautions
Gearing up properly for the building process will keep you and anyone helping you safe. Make sure you are wearing goggles, ear protection, gloves, aprons, steel-toed boots, dust masks, and respirators when needed before you start working. Don’t let your pride create an unnecessary accident. Err on the side of caution so you can keep learning and growing your skillset with DIY projects on into the future.
missing a component or tool
Missing a component or tool Once you have selected a set of utility trailer plans, ensure that you have all the components required to build the vehicle before getting started. Building a trailer will be much easier and smoother if you ensure that you have all the tools that you need for the task at the ready before you begin the job.
Maintenance, Use, and Safety Tips for Your Completed DIY Utility Trailer
Use electric or surge brakes on larger trailers
Bigger trailers and double axle trailers will need electric or surge brakes. In addition to being a common sense safety precaution, in most states trailers with a GTW (Gross Trailer Weight) of 3,000…more
are required by law to have trailer brakes. Electric brakes are simple and offer additional control if the trailer begins to sway, but they require a brake controller inside the cabin of your towing vehicle. Surge brakes
are hydraulic, using the momentum of the moving trailer to activate the brakes so no cabin
regulator is required, but they lack a manual control for swaying.
Use Special Trailer tires
Maintain proper tire pressure
Tighten lug nuts and bolts to proper torque
Keep safety chains tied up
Maintain the wheel bearings
Keep correct load placement
How you divide the weight in the trailer is very important for safe travel. Always keep 60 percent of the weight toward the front of the trailer. This will prevent the trailer foot from fishtailing due to an unbalanced payload.