How To Determine The Right Size Trailer?

truck towing a trailer with 4 wheeler on the trailer

When towing there are three things to consider

If you’ve never purchased a trailer before, understanding different trailer sizes can be confusing. At Leonard, we’re staffed by a team of trailer experts who can help you determine the right size trailer for your unique application. Whether you need to haul a truck, building materials, all-terrain vehicles or anything else, there’s a trailer size to suit your specific needs. If you’d like us to walk you through the sizing process, please give us a call today at (877) 458-1001 or send us an email.

In order to determine what size trailer you can tow, you need to gather a few important pieces of information. First of all, find the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle you plan to use to tow the trailer. Next, determine your specific or broad needs. What are you towing? Can your haul be exposed to the elements? How far do you plan to travel? These questions will help you determine which type of trailer is best for your needs.

The guide below will help you figure out the right trailer size for your specific applications. Read on for the best advice based on your vehicle and usage.

1. Towing Vehicle

You need to know and understand GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating). It is important to towing because it tells you explicitly the maximum weight of cargo and passengers you can carry safely in your pickup truck, SUV, or CUV. GVWR is the total combined weight of the truck, including all passengers, fuel, fluids, and cargo. GVWR is engineered in when the vehicle is manufactured and remains constant, regardless of what you tow.

The tongue weight must be included in the GVWR. You will need to know how much weight capacity you need to have “leftover” for when you hook up your trailer.

For example, if you have a 5,000-pound truck with a 6,300 pound GVWR, you can safely carry 1,300 pounds in the vehicle. If you are towing a trailer with a 300-pound tongue weight, the amount of passengers and gear you can carry is reduced to 1,000 pounds.

You most likely already own your vehicle, and that will be a major factor in deciding what size hitch & trailer to get.

2. Trailer type & size

For some, this is an obvious decision, for others, maybe not. Trailers are divided into several classes, and the two most common for consumers are Cargo/Enclosed trailers & Utility/Open trailers.   Both Cargo and Utility trailers are offered in a wide range of sizes at each Leonard location. Your first consideration is the dimensions and weight of the biggest and heaviest stuff you may need to haul.

It may help to see the available sizes for both Cargo Trailers (enclosed) and Utility Trailers (open). We set up two tables below by width and length. Then we looked at the last 12 months of sales data and ranked each size by the number of units purchased. To show popularity for each size (Width x Length), we plotted the rankings on the table. From the chart below, you can see that our top three size sellers for cargo trailers were: 7x16, 6x12, and 6x10.

Cargo Trailer Popularity by Size

The mix is a bit different for open utility trailers when comparing the same 12 month period sales data in units. Here we see that the most popular three size utility trailers are: 5x8, 5x10, and 6x12

Utility Trailer Popularity by Size

Just like your vehicle, each trailer has a GVWR, which lets you know the maximum weight of the trailer, which is confusing. First, the manufacturer sets the GVWR and usually determines this weight based on the weakest component. This gets tricky because the axles also have a weight rating called GAWR or Gross Axle Weight Rating. With these residential-class trailers, most trailer manufacturers set their GVWR at the same weight of the GAWR to be safe and because the DOT usually has restrictions based on GAWR.

In some cases, the GAWR will be set lower than its actual capacity to ensure the trailer stays under a restriction level. The trailer and vehicle posted ratings will be the values enforced; therefore, this rating will determine your payload. Payload is generally what we want to know. We want to know, "How much more stuff can I cram into/onto my trailer after I load that refrigerator?"  

Payload capacity is calculated by subtracting the weight of the empty trailer from the GVWR. Example: a trailer has a GVWR of 2,999 lbs and has a deadweight of 1,000 lbs - that means you are allowed to haul 1,999 lbs on that trailer assuming your hitch and vehicle weight ratings will allow it. By the way, we have professionals at each of our Leonard locations to help you out with all of this, so stop by when you get an opportunity, and we will work it all out for you.


3. Determining the right hitch system

Check back soon to see our next post, "Determining the right hitch system."

Talk to a representative with any questions!

Phone: (877) 458-1001

Check out some of our other articles that may help in your purchase decision.

What's The Benefit In Buying An Aluminum Trailer?

Featured Products

Sold out

Sold out

Sold out

Sold out

Sold out

Sold out