Our Custom Trailer

Tumbleweed tiny house trailer
Tumbleweed Tiny House ย Custom Trailer

Well, it is finally here: our new home!!! Or at least the “foundation” I guess…

What you see above my friends is part of the upcoming projects I was talking about a few days ago. Jenna and I are planning on building a tiny house on wheels and use it to travel all around the country.

Tumbleweed tiny house trailer

We purchased this 20ft trailer from Tumbleweed about 6 weeks ago. They are significantly more expensive than what you could find out there but they are specifically designed to have tiny houses built on them. If you have the chance to find a regular used utility trailer for dirt cheap, don’t let me stop you; but you will have to do some serious work on it.

Here are the advantages of the Tumbleweed trailer over a used trailer, or even over a new trailer not designed for tiny houses:

1. You don’t have to take care of a rusty trailer. Consider the time and effort to polish the whole darn thing, fix any major defects and repaint it.
2. It has no unnecessary extras. With any other trailer, you will have to cut off some steel, usually the beam at the front of the trailer, cut off any cute fencing, remove the spare tire rod, etc… have you ever tried to cut through steel? Well neither have I, but I heard it’s really tedious. Regular trailers also come with a bunch of extra wood decking you’ll have to strip.
3. It has all the necessary extras. It comes with the flashing and the subfloor already installed! This saves you time and money vs. a regular trailer that you would have to flash then build a subfloor. It also has heavy-duty threaded rods welded to the frame to secure your house to the trailer. With a regular trailer, you’d have to weld those on or drill big holes through the frame (refer back to the cutting through steel comment). It also includes a scissor jack stand on each corner that allows you to level your house easily.
4. It has dual 5,200lbs axles, both with brakes, and radial tire rated 30,000 miles (vs. the usual cheapo tires that you usually find on trailers). Those axles are also placed on the trailer so that the load of your house is evenly spread and your tongue weight isn’t ridiculous… You know, I’m talking about those trucks that look like they are going to take off for the moon towing their load.
5. They have top of the line hookups, lights and safety features.
6. They are built with pride in the USA; and built specifically for tiny houses.
7. They will be delivered within 250 miles of where you live. Though ours was exceptionally dropped off right at our gate.

Tumbleweed tiny house trailer

It’s up to you to figure out if all of this is worth the extra $1,000 to $1,400. It was a no-brainer for me.

Tumbleweed tiny house trailer

Anyhow, we got really lucky as the trailer was ready to be delivered on the same weekend as Tumbleweed’s workshop. They wanted to showcase it at the workshop and offered to deliver it straight to our place (the site was just 10 minutes away). In preparation for the delivery, I took a bunch of measurements of where we would eventually build it to make sure it would fit. I estimated I would be able to have at least a couple of feet on each side of the trailer to move around. If you can afford it, get way more room than that!!! There wasn’t much of a choice for our project so we’ll have to make it work. I remembered that the overall width of the trailer was 8ft and that would fit through the gate. Score!

I went to the workshop early on Friday to take a look at our new trailer and boy was it beautiful. I never thought I’d get so excited about a steel thing on wheels… This was a good opportunity for me to take a few measurements of the trailer. It is exactly 20ft long excluding tail lights (about 3 inches) and the tongue (about 51 inches). I know it will fit length-wise in my uncle’s driveway (where it will be built). It is about 102 inches wide at the tires which is the maximum width allowable on the road without a permit. Perfect, no problems with CHP! But wait… 102 inches is 8ft and 6 inches and that won’t fit through the gate!

At that point, I had to head back to my uncle’s and see what we could do. We decided to take one of the posts from the gate off as well as one of the threaded rods holding it to the wall. The second threaded rod is about 33 1/2 inches from the ground and I measured the fender height to be 32 inches, so at least that should fit! Once the post was off, we had about 103 inches of width to work with. No matter what, the trailer was getting in… and it’ll get out in a few months!

After Saturday’s workshop and everyone got to see the trailer, Ross from Tumbleweed Tiny Houses came over to deliver it. We started backing the trailer in and lo and behold, it fit!!!!!!! Well, sort of, barely… The tires ended up rubbing on both sides and the fender had an unaccounted for light sticking out just about an inch. That light cleared the second rod by less than 1/2 inch but the trailer was in! We only damaged one succulent (or eight) in the process. They will regrow.

Tumbleweed trailer barely clearing the gate
Barely Clearing The Gate
Tumbleweed trailer barely clearing the post
Barely Clearing The Post

The life saver in the process (besides everyone there helping) was the trailer dolly I had bought that same morning from Harbor Freight for $59. It’s probably the only time we’ll use it but gosh was it useful. My uncle Matt did a great job pushing the trailer in the narrow alley that goes to the build site.

Matt "dollying" the trailer
Uncle Matt “Dollying” The Trailer

Matt "dollying" the trailer

Now, all that’s left to do is place it well and level it, which will be easy with the included jacks. Oh, and I guess I have to start assembling plywood too… and the roof… and the plumbing…

I was looking forward to start building on the 22nd of July, but something else came up. I’m actually typing this article going 500mph and sitting at 38,000ft toward Hawaii. Yep, you read that right. The build will have to wait at least another 3 weeks as I was offered the opportunity to sail a boat back from Hawaii. John, one of my uncle’s friends is racing to Honolulu in the Transpac race and will need a crew to help him get his sailboat back to Los Angeles. I’m extremely grateful to have been given this one in a lifetime opportunity. Having never been to Hawaii before, I decided to go there a few days early and explore the wilderness of Kauai. Then after that it’s roughly 15 days of sailing back to LA, completely disconnected from the world! More about that later.

– Guillaume

47 thoughts on “Our Custom Trailer”

  1. How did you register your trailer? Were you able to just register the trailer itself then build the house and go on your merry way unbothered by the police or did you have to have the house inspected by the DMV and classified as a travel trailer or RV. Most sites we look at tell us to do the latter so just looking for any guidance. This is the largest grey area in our entire building process.

    1. We had to bring it to the DMV in California and it was registered as a “Coach”… After a year, we went to a DMV in Illinois and we got it registered as a Recreational Trailer, they didn’t need to see it.
      All of this was done with the house almost finished. We never had an issue with that and being pulled over by the police. If you don’t plan on traveling, registering just the trailer could suffice.

  2. Just discovered your blog and though I’m pretty new to the whole “tiny house” movement/idea/thing I’m FASCINATED by it. Greatly looking forward to making my way through your posts!

  3. I came across your blog from the Tumbleweed blog. I’m really impressed. Fist I find out you are building a tiny house, then I find out you intend to travel the US in that tiny house, and finally, I read that you got to sail from Hawaii back to CA? I think we were switched at birth. You are living my life. That’s some very cool stuff, congratulations. (I know this is an old article, but it’s new to me.)
    I have a question…Last year I gave serious thought to building a tiny house from Tumbleweed. I knew I couldn’t convince my wife to go that small, but I thought if I could get her to travel in one it would help sell my case. We do a sport called Flyball with our dogs and travel a lot up-and-down the east coast. I contacted the guys at Tumbleweed to ask them if weekend traveling was a good use for their designs. The response I got was essentially, no, and that you want to minimize travel. They said, first off, they burn a lot of fuel to haul the house around. I seem to remember somewhere around 5 mpg in a big-ass truck (which was required because of the weight of the load). Secondly, driving a lot puts stress on the house. Driving for 4-5 hours on the highway at 60 mph means 60 mph winds hitting your house for 4-5 hours. Long term, that can be very harmful. Most storms have variable wind speeds, versus sustained winds like driving.
    Ultimately, I abandoned my idea because Tumbleweed discouraged it. What are your thoughts on this? I mean, are you using hurricane strapping in the build? I still like the idea of traveling with a Tumbleweed house, but I can’t afford to build one and then risk breaking it.

    1. Hey Kyle, glad to hear that you are enjoying what we have to share!
      We haven’t heard the same from Tumbleweed, though we honestly didn’t ask directly. Those houses are built like tanks! Read our post about Our Maiden Voyage to get a better idea of how solid they are. We also just towed it from California to Illinois in 7 days. The house performed just right. You can read about this adventure in this post!
      We towed it with a 2006 Ford F250 6.0L Turbo Diesel truck and got around 10.5mpg when we drove at 45mph. It goes down from there but we’d probably still get more than 7mpg even at 60-65mph. Our house is about 10,000lbs.
      Those houses are heavy indeed and not aerodynamic. We will be towing ours a lot but we plan on taking our time. I’m not sure how long term use will affect it, but I suspect that the trailer will fail before the framing. Again, the Tumbleweed houses are over engineered and built like tanks if you follow the plans.
      I don’t have first hand experience with regular trailers, but my understand is that they are much better suited for continuous towing then tiny houses are. But tiny houses are way better suited for long term living than campers.
      We are confident that our house will last! I hope this helps.

      1. You mentioned that the houses are pretty heavy – have you seen a tiny house built with a steel frame? I’ve been reading about using steel instead of wood, should help with the weight, but am hesitant because I haven’t seen anyone use this yet. (Our family is in the beginning stages of going tiny and are trying to decide on the best place to get the trailer and frame.)

        Thanks for your help! I really appreciate this blog – it is a wonderful resource!

      2. Have you heard if this is a viable option? I’m hearing that it helps keep the weight down and helps if you when you are towing? (My husband feels like this would be better than a standard wood frame model.) I’ll check out the link you suggested though. ๐Ÿ™‚

      3. Perfectly viable. Lighter, stronger (though wood is plenty strong), more expensive, not as DIY friendly, subject to thermal bridging. They both have pros and cons but both are relevant. If weight savings is of the utmost importance, steel studs is a good answer.

      4. I’m not sure what your question means. You might want to talk to a company that makes steel studs directly, or a tiny houser that has worked with them. We’re not really experts in that field. There are many posts online about steel framed tiny houses. Look up Volstrukt too.

  4. WOW…
    ์ž‘์€์ง‘์„ ์ง“๊ณ  ์‹ถ๋„ค์š” ๋‹น์‹ ๋“ค์€ ํ–‰๋ณตํ•˜์‹œ๊ฒ ๋„ค์š”…

    1. ๊ฐ์‚ฌํ•ฉ๋‹ˆ๋‹ค! ๋‹น์‹ ์€ ์ž‘์€ ์ง‘์„ ์ง€์„ ๊ฒƒ์ด๋‹ค. ๋‹น์‹ ์ด ํ•  ๋•Œ ์•Œ๋ ค์ฃผ์‹ญ์‹œ์˜ค.

  5. Thanks for sharing! My fiancee and I are currently finishing up college in the Atlanta area, and we’re strongly considering building one of these. I’m hoping to begin work within the next 10 months or so, as I’m still in the researching/planning stage right now. I look forward to reading the rest of your blog to see what worked and didn’t work for you guys. Happy travels! -Jonathan

  6. Is there anything in particular that makes this trailer custom? I have been trailer shopping for months now and this seems to be the best. I was worried that my house may be too heavy for the axles that the tumbleweed trailer is built on. (I want to stay well under capacity) Now they offer a 24″ on 3 axles with 15,000 lb capacity. Does the trailer seem to be well built? They build on demand, so I have to pay for one, (close to $6000) before I ever see one. Kinda scary! So if you had to do it again would you buy a tumbleweed? Worth the premium?


    1. Hey Drew,

      Very good questions. If we could do it again, we’d buy the Tumbleweed Trailer again in a heartbeat. I’m not sure what 24ft and 3 axles go for in the market so I can’t speak for those but for our 20ft 2 axles, the premium was definitely worth it. We saved some time, sweat and headaches. The trailer already has flashing, it already has a subfloor (you gain 3.5inches of headroom inside), threaded rods welded to it, is full-featured and has radial tires. I don’t know much about trailers in general but I think it’s very well built. The only issue I could find was that some cuts still had sharp edges, but that’s being very picky.

      Please keep in mind that we bought this trailer and are building a Tumbleweed Fencl on it. So they are designed to work together.

      The only thing I can’t speak for is durability as we haven’t towed it yet. But I heard that everyone at Tumbleweed would buy one of those for their houses instead of finding something else. And Tumbleweed is now getting their houses RV certified so they must believe that those are very durable.

      I hope this helps!

  7. Thinking of building one in Vancouver Canada. Just need to look into the logistics. Will enjoy reading about how it went with yours.

  8. Wow! Your photos really highlight how very tight that fit was – so glad you made it work! Good luck with everything, and I look forward to talking with you and Jenna about your adventures very soon.

  9. To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t think I would have read a blog post about a TRAILER, if I hadn’t visited you from the Ultimate Blog Challenge!!! But – guess what? – to my surprise I actually enjoyed reading it. Good luck with your exciting project!

  10. I love tiny houses and am a fan of Tumbleweed. Where I am living is the best financial decision for me now, but who knows – someday…
    You are inspiring me even more.

    1. Thanks! Seeing that people can be affected positively by our decision to change our life is one of the best compliments you could give us. Let me know if you decide to pull the trigger and stay tuned for more updates.

  11. I’m taking parental bragging rights here because I am so proud of you for living your dream and inspiring others to do the same. You and Jenna are off to a fabulous start!

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