If you are in process of purchasing your first utility trailer for a commercial vehicle and have no experience in doing so, the options can be overwhelming.
There are a bevy of questions you need to ask yourself when looking for a utility trailer to ask including:
- Do I need an enclosed or open-air trailer?
- What kind of warranty does the seller offer?
- What type of cargo will I be hauling?
- What’s the difference between a gooseneck hitch or a bumper pull hitch?
These are just a few of the many questions you should ask yourself. The veterans at Camco Wheel & Axle understand the challenges that come with choosing a utility trailer. That’s why we want to make the process as easy as possible. With over 20 years of experience and knowledge in upfitting the right utility trailer for the job, our experts are more than happy to share some insight on what to look for when purchasing a utility trailer.
Consider the following information.
1.Know the Specifics of the Frame
It’s all in the construction. How a utility trailer is constructed will not only tell you how long it will last but also if it is the right fit for your cargo.
To get a good feel on whether the trailer is right for you, take a look at its frame. Does it support the entire trailer?
Normally, there are three main shapes of steel that are used to make the frame of a utility trailer: box tubing, channel iron, and angle iron. Always aim for box tubing. Yes, it will be a little more costly, but box tubing won’t give in and twist under pressure. A compromise between some box tubing and some channel iron can be made if needed.
For safety precautions, we wouldn’t want to encourage you to look underneath the trailer, so it would be better to ask the representative about the cross-members. What are cross-members? They are, in a sense, support beams made for your trailer.
A sturdy trailer will have cross-members positioned at the correct measurements—such as 16” or 24”–to support your cargo. Any cracks or cross-members that are too spaced out could cause the trailer to give way to the weight of your cargo, causing damage to both.
Lastly, look at the tongue length. A long tongue will make it easier for a towing vehicle to steer, easier to reverse; they do require about 10% of the cargo’s weight to be on the ball though. Shorter tongues that need 15% of the cargo’s weight on the ball will be a little harder to steer and a little more difficult to back up.
2. After you’ve inspected the frame, decide if you will be purchasing a closed trailer or an open-air trailer.
This all depends on the type of cargo that you will be loading and hauling. Is it something that can stand the elements? Does it need to be insulated?
If you are purchasing a trailer for your 4-wheeler, then insulated walls won’t be necessary. At the same time, loading 4-wheelers or lawnmowers will require a rear door that has a ramp. Don’t forget about the tie-down straps and D-rings to secure it to the trailer.
As far as walls go, it all depends if you are looking for a closed trailer or an open-air one. While open-air trailers are more economical, lighter, provide less aerodynamic drag, and are more suited for hauling materials, closed trailers offer protection from theft and from poor weather conditions.
3. Let’s talk about the suspension.
A good suspension system will protect your towing vehicle, your cargo, and your trailer from excessive shock while offering a smoother towing experience. A high-performance suspension is nearly a requirement if you plan on using your utility trailer often, carry valuable cargo, transport heavy loads, or use your trailer as part of your business.
While leaf springs are more commonly used in utility trailers and vehicles alike, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are the best suspension system your money can buy. It is, however, inexpensive so replacing and repairing isn’t as costly, but the metal-to-metal, interleaf friction that occurs within a leaf spring can cause faster wear and a lot of noise.
Rubber torsion suspensions may be your best bet. They provide a better ride than leaf springs do, as they cushion bumps and all the rough spots with ease. While leaf springs are connected to each other by an axle, rubber torsion suspensions aren’t, giving each one the capability to function as normal should one of them fail.
Take a look at this post we did a while back for both of the pros and cons of these suspension systems.
4. To brake or not to brake?
Electric braking systems are the most common braking system around. It puts the driver of the towing vehicle directly in charge should the need arise to bring everything to a complete stop.
Simply put, these types of braking systems connect the trailer’s braking system to the towing vehicle’s braking system with a brake controller. Once the controller senses the driver is using the brakes in the towing vehicle, it too will activate the brakes on the trailer.
The other type of braking system deals with hydraulic surges. Trailers with this type of braking system rely on an actuating cylinder that is integrated within the tongue. When the towing vehicle applies the brakes, the “surge” of the trailer behind the decelerating towing vehicle compresses the surge actuator. Once the actuator is compressed, force is applied to the master cylinder which then makes its way to the braking cylinders, ultimately slowing down or stopping the trailer.
Electric brakes are much more preferred over hydraulic surge brakes because it leaves control with the driver. Should, for any reason, the brakes fail in the towing vehicle, electric brakes can still be activated to slow the whole thing down. Hydraulic surge brakes can’t activate if they are going the same speed as your towing vehicle.
5. Warranty is just as important as any other spec in a utility trailer.
Warranty may, in fact, be the most important thing to consider when purchasing a utility trailer.
A warranty can tell you a lot about the manufacturer. A 3-year long warranty that covers the frame of the utility trailer and other important parts shows that the manufacturer has a lot of confidence in the quality of their trailer. That’s how you know you are buying something really special.
Of course, it also covers you should any component on the trailer fail during that time frame, too. Look for a manufacturer that offers a long-term warranty, has a vast dealer network, and has a great customer service reputation.
Camco Wheel & Axle has all the brand name utility trailers parts and upfitting services you need.
Now that we’ve covered some of the basic information you need to know before making a utility trailer purchase, come on down to Camco Wheel & Axle in Pharr, Texas and take a look at all of our utility trailer accessories you will need to make that next long haul a bit easier.
For more information on what we have in stock, contact us at (956) 781-4800 today.