Towing a tiny house can be complicated. Tiny houses range in size and they are often built with materials that are different than the ones used to build standard RVs.
Because of this, it can be difficult to determine whether or not our vehicles are capable of towing a tiny house.
When analyzing the vehicle you already have, you probably wonder, can this vehicle tow a tiny house?
In this post, I’ll tell you everything you need to know to answer this question yourself.
Towing Basics You Need To Know
Before you can determine whether or not your vehicle can tow your tiny house, you have to know the basics of towing.
Towing capacities are determined by weight and all manufacturers will have recommendations as to how much your vehicle can safely tow.
You can usually find this information on the side of your vehicle just inside your door frame.
To find it, open your driver’s side door and look on the side. If you can’t find this information here, you may want to contact your manufacturer.
You’ll need to follow your manufacturer’s guidelines carefully as failure to do so can make any insurance claims you make invalid.
Not only this, but you might even open yourself up to other legal issues as well.
For example, you decide to tow a tiny house that is too large for your vehicle and you end up in an accident. This accident was caused by your inability to stop. The survivors of this accident could sue you and you could even be subject to criminal negligence charges.
Furthermore, you might be asked to stop your RV at a weigh station and then you need to be sure you are towing within the legal limits.
Avoid these issues by reading the rest of this post where I’ll tell you how to find the right vehicle to safely tow your tiny house with.
Start With The Dry Weight
The first place you may want to start is with your tiny house.
How much does your tiny house weigh?
You’ll want to find out the dry weight which is the weight of the tiny house without any water tanks filled. If your tow vehicle can safely tow this then you’ll be OK as long as you drain all of the water tanks before each trip.
Here you can read 9 examples about how much each tiny house type weigh.
If you’d like to travel with full water tanks, you’ll need to determine how much the tiny house weighs with the additional weight of the water you’ve added to your tiny house.
For instance, a gallon of water weighs in at around 8 pounds. If you have a 50-gallon freshwater tank, you’ll have to add an additional 400 pounds to the weight of your tiny home.
Any gear you add after your tiny house has been made will also add to the weight of your tiny home.
You can determine this weight by weighing each item before you bring it into your home or by getting the tiny home weighed at a weigh station after it has been filled with everything you plan on storing inside of it.
Know The Hitch Weight
Another area of concern is the hitch weight of the tiny home.
The hitch weight is the weight of the front hitch by itself. This can be determined by placing the hitch onto a hitch scale.
The hitch weight of your tiny home needs to be within the limits of your tow vehicle’s capacities as well as the limits of the weight of the tiny home itself.
Most experts recommend that the hitch weight be between 5 – 10% of the weight of the entire tiny home.
This means that if you have a 5,000 pound tiny home, your hitch weight should be somewhere between 250 pounds and 500 pounds.
Sometimes a tow vehicle will meet your maximum weight requirements but it won’t meet the hitch requirements. Be careful to check both of these numbers before towing your tiny home.
Equipment You Will Need
In addition to knowing the weights of your hitch and your tiny home, you’ll need to have the right towing equipment.
At the very least, you’ll need a brake controller and a hitch mount on your vehicle. For more information on trailer brakes see our post titled, “Do Campers have Brakes“.
Typically, you’ll also need a weight distribution hitch and anti-sway bars to safely tow your tiny home.
These items will help to keep your tiny house from moving from side-to-side while you drive. They’ll also evenly distribute the weight of the trailer throughout your vehicle’s axles so you won’t have to worry about damaging your tow vehicle’s axles.
Some large tiny homes will also call for a transmission cooler as well as airbags for the suspension.
Tiny House Weights
We’ve gone into detail about how much tiny houses weigh on our post “How Much Does A Tiny House Weigh” but here are a few examples to get you thinking.
The 24′ Simple Terra Tiny House (10,000 pounds)
This tiny house offers 200 square feet of living space as well as an additional 120 square feet of loft space. It has a shower, toilet, and sink vanity. The camper is built from treated wood which can be stained in a dark color or a light color depending on your preference.
The Terra is 24′ long, 8′ wide, and 13.5′ tall. It is built to withstand earthquakes, 100mph winds, and heavy snowfall. With all of this stability comes a lot of weight.
This tiny house weighs 10,000 pounds.
In order to tow a tiny house like this, you would need to have a large full-size truck.
The 16′ Austin Tiny House (5,000 pounds)
This tiny house is only 80 square feet but it still has enough space for a galley kitchen a bathroom and a small living room. There are also two loft areas that you can use for storage or sleeping.
The camper features a sink and a hot plate in the kitchen but lacks most modern kitchen amenities. There is space left over so that you can add your own refrigerator or stove.
The length of this camper is only 16′ and the weight ended up being less than 5,000 pounds.
While this tiny house is much lighter than the Terra, it is still quite heavy. In order to tow this tiny house, you’ll need a small truck or large SUV.
The 18′ Escapade Tiny House (7,500 pounds)
This tiny house features a beautiful kitchen with plenty of counter space. It also has room for a small table with seating for two.
The living room features a small loveseat and coffee table while the bathroom features a composting toilet and a shower. A small staircase leads up to a loft area for sleeping.
This house is built on a double-axle 18-foot long trailer and is 185 square feet inside. The weight on this tiny house is around 7,500 pounds.
Large SUVs and mid-size trucks can tow this house but you’re better off towing it with a larger truck as you will get a lot of wind resistance while traveling with a tall tiny house like this.
As you can see, tiny houses do not have tiny weights attached to them. In fact, they’re often two or three times heavier than similarly sized campers.
Because of this, people with small tow vehicles will have to upgrade to a larger vehicle, buy a camper instead, or rent a tow vehicle each time they decide to move their home.
Vehicle Towing Capacities Of 4 Popular Trucks
1) Ford F-250
These vehicles start out at around $33,000.00 and can quickly go up in price from there.
The benefit of owning a large truck like this is that you’ll have some additional towing capacity when adding gear and other personal belongings to your tiny house.
A brand new Ford F-250 has a towing capacity of over 12,000 pounds.
This makes them perfect for towing most tiny houses.
Remember, every item you bring into your tiny house will increase its weight. Also, if you want to use the tiny home while traveling you’ll probably want to put some water in the water tanks which will also add to the weight of the vehicle.
2) Chevy Tahoe
A Chevy Tahoe is a large SUV with one of the highest towing capacities on the market right now. Even so, this vehicle should not be used to tow most tiny homes.
The towing capacity on a Chevy Tahoe is around 6,000 pounds.
This vehicle will cost you upwards of $50,000.00.
3) Subaru Outback
The Subaru Outback is the most reviewed crossover on the market.
It is all wheel drive and is great for people driving on mountain roads. This vehicle is the largest vehicle Subaru currently has to offer.
However, you’ll still only be able to tow around 2,500 pounds with this vehicle.
Crossovers are great vehicles but they aren’t suited for towing tiny houses. In fact, you won’t even be able to tow most campers with them. If you want to keep your crossover, you’re better off with a popup camper than a tiny house.
4) Chrysler Pacifica
These vehicles come standard with a 1,500-pound towing capacity.
If you add in a towing package you may be able to get this number up to 3,500 pounds.
However, you’ll still be dreadfully underpowered for towing an average tiny house. You’ll end up paying around $30,000.00 and you won’t be able to tow anything larger than an ultralight camper.
As you can see, most vehicles simply aren’t meant to tow a tiny house. Tiny houses are built with heavy materials and as such, they weigh much more than your average camper. When considering a tiny house, you may also want to take into account the cost of moving it.
Will you be traveling often with your tiny home?
Are you going to live in a tiny home in one place? Is the tiny home only going to be moved once every year or two? These questions will determine whether or not it is even necessary to worry about buying a tow vehicle for your tiny house.
For instance, if you plan on leaving the tiny home on your property, you may never have to worry about towing it at all. If you only move it once every year or two, you may be better off hiring someone to move your tiny home for you.
Alternatively, you could rent a tow-vehicle and move it yourself each year.
Even if you spend $2,000.00 a year moving your tiny home, this is still probably less expensive than buying a $40,000.00 truck.
How to Tow Your Tiny House
If you decide to tow your own tiny house, you’ll want to start off by purchasing the correct tow vehicle.
Remember higher capacity tow vehicles are always better as you never know how much weight you may want to add to your tiny home in the future.
Having a 2,000 – 3,000-pound buffer will give you more options and will reduce the stress you have when you do go to move your tiny home.
Also, if you haven’t bought your tiny home yet, you may want to consider your use of it before choosing a model.
While it might be great to have a massive 40′ tiny home parked on your private land, it won’t be so great if you have to tow this massive 40′ tiny home each week.
Tiny Home Towing Tips
Now that you have your tow vehicle and your tiny home it is time to think about actually towing your tiny home. Here are some tips to get you started.
- Plan your trip out carefully.
- Keep an eye out for bad weather.
- Secure everything inside of your tiny home.
- Cover up any windows when necessary.
- Drive slow.
Before setting out on your trip, you’ll want to take a look at the route you’ll be using. Remember, tiny homes are quite tall and you may not be able to pass under certain bridges and tunnels (click to read more).
This probably won’t be an issue on major highways but it could be on smaller back roads or in towns.
In fact, you may even have to worry about older towns that still have overhead power lines. A tall tiny house can get caught on these power lines and you could end up knocking out somebody’s electricity for the day.
I once lived on a street where trucks would knock out our power lines from time-to-time. This was frustrating as there was clearly a sign at the end of the street that warned truckers about using the street. Watch out for these signs as you drive as they may apply to you if your tiny house happens to be on the taller side.
Know Which Gas Stations You Can Stop At
Also, you may not be able to stop at just any gas station along the way.
In most cases, you’ll be restricted to gas stations that are made to accommodate large trucks. Highway rest stops and state-sponsored rest areas will usually have enough room for you to safely park your tiny house.
Just keep in mind that in most cases you won’t be able to stay for more than 4 hours at one stop.
Rest areas are for resting and not for sleeping or camping. A short nap is fine but doesn’t plan on staying overnight.
Finding truck stops to rest at along the way is a great way to ensure that you’ll be able to stop frequently and you won’t have to worry about running out of fuel along the way.
Remember, your tow vehicle’s gas mileage will go down with towing so you may have to stop more often than you’re used to.
Check The Weather Carefully Before You Go
You’ll also want to check the weather before you head out on your trip. Just last week a bridge near my hometown was off limits to large trucks.
The reason for this was that the winds were too high for trucks to safely drive through.
Tiny houses are especially tall and when you tow a tiny house you’ll want to make sure you are doing it on a day with limited wind speeds.
So you need to know the exact width, height, and length of your rig!
Before you head out, you’ll also want to make sure everything is secure in your home. Sudden stops can send items flying around your tiny home.
It would be a shame to arrive at your destination only to find that your television is broken and your kitchen items are all over the floor.
Windows should also be secured before heading out. Remember tiny homes are often built to be stationary and the windows may be in locations that are susceptible to rocks.
Cover these windows with boards or shutters and you won’t have to worry about broken windows when you arrive at your new location.
Be prepared to drive slowly on your journey.
Legally, you shouldn’t be towing at a speed higher than 55 miles per hour and sometimes even this speed will be too high to safely transport you and your tiny home. This is especially true in rain, snow, and high winds.
Tiny homes are heavy and you’ll probably need a truck to tow your tiny home.
In addition to this, you’ll need all of the proper towing equipment on both your vehicle as well as your tiny home.
Keep in mind that many tiny homes are not built to be towed frequently so if you plan on doing a lot of traveling you’ll want to carefully consider the type of tiny home you choose to buy.
Christopher Schopf is an avid camper, hiker, and an advocate for a better environment. He likes to write about alternative lifestyles and small spaces.