Have you been wondering about the different types of trailers that can be towed with a traditional motor vehicle driver’s license? Perhaps you’ve considered purchasing a trailer to make your life easier, but have been under the impression you’d have to take a class or get a certification to be able to haul it? That’s not the case here in CA! There’s actually a HUGE variety of trailer styles that can be towed by a wide range of vehicles from 4 cylinder and 6 cylinder cars to full-sized trucks and SUVs, and you only need a regular Class C Driver’s License to start hauling a trailer today!
We’re here today to break down the ins and outs of choosing the best kind of non-commercial trailer for your needs! Because our family business is located in California this post references CA DMV rules and regulations; if you’re located elsewhere we recommend finding the information regarding trailer classifications from your state’s DMV handbook (most are online).
Many people think of Uhaul’s car dollies or box trailers, or even RV campers when the term “Trailer” gets mentioned…But did you know there’s actually a HUGE variety of trailer styles that anyone with a regular Class C Driver’s License can tow?!
This post highlights the most popular and readily available for purchase trailer styles that can be towed by just about anyone once you’ve determined your vehicle’s towing capacity. (Not sure what the differences between GVWR, Payload capacity or towing capacity mean? Read our Explanatory post here to learn more).
We’ve outlined this post Below, so you can easily find the information that’s most relevant to you:
- What kinds of Trailers Can I Legally Haul in CA?
- Buyer Beware: Avoid Cheaply Built & Priced Trailers!
- The Most Popular Trailer Styles Anyone Can Haul
What Kinds of Trailers Can I Legally Haul in CA?
As with any state, the rules regarding who can tow what are all determined by the DMV. You can access the full handbook to reference in CA by clicking here.
To save you the click if you only have a Basic Class C driver’s license your answer is below:
Quick answer: Your towing vehicle’s curb weight, +plus+ the weight of the fully loaded trailer you tow behind it, must not exceed 26,000 pounds. AND your trailer’s GVWR sticker must also be limited to 10,000 lbs or less.
As long as you’re not hauling a Greater Than >10K GVWR trailer you won’t need a Commercial license to haul it in California!
In some other states you’re allowed a higher GVWR before requiring the Commercial Driver’s license, but here in California we’re limited to only hauling 10K total, and the fines and penalties are very costly for towing too much weight with the incorrect license!
Our expert advice is to make sure you know how much weight you can to haul with the driver’s license you currently have, in order you can make the smartest trailer purchase decision for your needs in the long run (read this post to learn how to determine payload weights for your cargo trailer).
Buyer Beware: Avoid Cheaply Built & Priced Trailers!
If you’re new to trailer shopping and towing you’ll quickly discover a wide range of prices for trailers online; and to the untrained eye these trailers may all look close to the same in their online pictures! So you may be wondering, how do you make the smartest decision and investment with your trailer purchase?
Beware the deception of some online trailer images that can make even the cheapest flimsiest trailer look appealing online (especially with it’s insanely low price alongside the picture you might be tempted to buy it online sight unseen)… Buyer Beware!
99.9% of the time when you go visit these cheap trailers in person their lack of quality build decisions are Blatantly Obvious! You can feel the instability when you touch the sides and apply any pressure. You’ll clearly see messy imprecise welds that’ll fail down the road. You’ll be able to inspect the wiring harness (or most likely a lack thereof; which is another red flag!). We also recommend you inspect the axle on any trailer you’re considering (we only buy American-made axles with E-Z lube hubs because imported axles have a reputation for failing a lot sooner due to being more cheaply made), and tires (trailers with full size 15″ tires are the only ones we’d buy personally).
If any of these red flags are present, we say RUN! Just because a trailer is Cheap to buy now Does NOT mean it is actually a good deal for you; Especially when that “cheap trailer” ends up costing you more, and inconveniencing you more than its slightly more expensive competitor!
Opting to Buy a Cheap Trailer might save you a few hundred (to even a thousand) dollars on your initial trailer expense, but you end up spending hundreds (to thousands) more on that trailer during the time you own it due to cheap faulty parts and sub-par craftsmanship!
Cheap trailers cost you much more than just the money you thought you’d saved initially: Don’t forget the headaches and frustration of needing to use your trailer but not being able to, not being able to find someone nearby or available to work on it, the amount of time you’ll be inconvenienced while it’s getting repaired, as well as any rental fees you’ll need to pay while you wait for your trailer to be ready to get on the road again! All frustrations we avoid by investing the right amount up front to purchase on a well-built, high quality trailer that is built to last!
We’ll break down the basics you need to know about purchasing any of the most popular noncommercial trailer styles below!
The Most Popular Trailer Styles Anyone Can Tow
The most common trailer styles sold today are: enclosed cargo trailers, open landscape or utility trailers, flatbed auto haulers, dump trailers, and animal carriers. The overwhelming majority of trailers anyone can haul is the most common bumper-pull style trailer; but Featherlite Trailers even builds some smaller Gooseneck animal carriers that meets California’s strict GVWR criteria (16’s with a 9600# GVWR)!
Enclosed Cargo Trailers
Also referred to as: Box trailers, Cargo Trailers, Cargo Haulers, or Enclosed Trailers
The Enclosed Cargo trailer brands our family sells at Norco Trailers are the industry leading, high quality, American-made, National Name Brands with multi-year warranties (3, 5 or 10 depending on brand) backed by a Nationwide dealer network with dealers in every state to ensure you’re taken care of regardless wherever you and your trailer end up in the United States! When considering an enclosed trailer, the National Name Brands are building the Best choice with their tube mainframe construction, American-made axles with EZ lube hubs for easy maintenance and the longest lifespan, 15″ Radial tires, LED tail lights, and treated oil & water resistant wood floors all included standard. Choosing a National Name Brand Factory also grants you the ability to custom order your ideal trailer built to your exact specifications by skilled engineers and expert craftsmen building these trailers in multiple states in the U.S.A!
Where do these Quality trailers come from? The factories we order our trailers from (because they’re closest to CA, which means lower freight bills to get trailers shipped to our two stores in Norco, and Escondido, CA) are in Utah for Wells Cargo and Haulmark Trailers, Arizona for Look Trailers and Pace American Trailers, and Featherlite Trailers closest factory is in Iowa. Each of our National Name Brands have multiple factories producing hundreds to thousands of trailers every year!
Buying an Enclosed trailer is the way to go if you want to be able to load your cargo and not worry about it until you make it to your destination. Because the side and rear doors can be locked up, enclosed cargo trailers are considered more secure for your belongings; you also won’t have to worry about losing cargo on the road, or someone grabbing something easily like you risk with an open trailer.
Bumper-pull enclosed trailers that anybody can tow are single axle cargo trailers, and tandem or dual axle cargo haulers; any additional axles and you’d need a commercial license due to the GVWR. Single Axle Trailers are typically Grossed at 3500# or 2990# or 2900# depending on whether or not they’re ordered with brakes (If you’re not sure what that means? Click here to read our post explaining the commonly used abbreviations and phrases when it comes to trailer shopping
We always have a wide range of single axle cargo trailer sizes in stock at our SoCal Norco Trailers stores. The smallest cargo trailers our Name Brands sell are 4′ wide by 6′ long (4′ x 6′), the next size up trailer width increases to 5′ wide by 8′ and 10′ lengths (5′ x 8′ and 5′ x 10’s), the next jump is to 6′ wide by 10′ and 12′ long trailers (6′ x 10′ and 6′ x 12′, even 6′ x 14′ trailers can be custom ordered), and the largest single axle enclosed cargo trailers we stock are 7′ wide by 12′ long; All of these sizes are available now!
The majority of our single axle trailers are ordered without brakes so they’ll have a 2990# GVWR; with the exception of our 7′ x 12′ single axle trailers that have been ordered with electric brakes and a 3500# GVWR sticker.
We also have a Huge Selection of tandem axle enclosed cargo haulers available in stock at all times in both the 7K GVWRs and de-rated 10K enclosed heavier duty auto haulers. 7K GVWR trailers can be ordered as small as 6′ wide x 10′ long; but we mainly stock 6′ x 12’s and 7′ x 12’s as the smallest tandem axle trailers in our inventory. And we have trailers as long as 28′ available in our inventory! Because they’re the smallest tandem axle trailers in stock at our stores, the 6′ x 12′ cargo trailers will be able to haul the most cargo payload weight on the tandem 3500# suspension. Every trailer that’s a little bigger, but still uses the same size axles, will have a smaller payload capacity.
Our family would be happy to custom order any size–Length and GVWR–Enclosed Cargo or Car Trailer perfect for your needs if we don’t have the one you want in stock! Send us a message here to discuss your custom trailer needs
You’ll need to plan ahead to custom order, because custom enclosed trailers from the Name Brand factories can take anywhere from 10-16 weeks (or upwards of 26 weeks) depending on the number of options desired, and number of trailers currently on order with the factory already.
This classification encompasses a wide range of categories that anyone can haul including: utility trailers, flatbed auto haulers, landscape trailers, dump trailers, and watercraft trailers.
We’re proud to represent two open steel trailer brands that provide us with great quality, long lasting trailers at competitive prices and back them up with a dealer network spanning this half of the United States. Playcraft Trailers are built in Arizona, and they’re building Competitively Priced Open Trailers in a huge range of styles and sizes; All backed up with a 1 year warranty and Lifetime guarantee on their welds! Innovative Trailer Mfg. trailers are built in Utah, and they’re building our rugged workhorse of an open trailer that weigh and cost a bit more than competitor’s trailers, but are well worth the investment for a well-built long lasting trailer that you can use and beat up for years to come without issue.
We’re also especially proud of the only All Aluminum trailer brand we carry: Featherlite Trailers aluminum alloy trailers are the Best on the Market! These beauties cost a pretty penny on the initial purchase, but are well worth it featuring only the highest quality American made parts (including Dexter’s smoothest riding torsion suspension) and they’re backed by a Nationwide dealer network in Every state for 10 whole years! Featherlite trailers are known for providing the smoothest riding, most convenient and lowest maintenance trailers to own and tow, and some of the Longest lasting trailers available on the market; Purchase a Featherlite Trailer once and you won’t need another trailer like it again for decades!
We regularly swap out already ordered open trailers, for customer’s custom ordered trailers to get shipped on our next loads instead… This means you could custom order a superb quality open car or utility trailer and get it within 4-12 weeks depending on the number of upgrades you want added, and the amount of time left until our next full trailer load. Open trailers are ordered in stacks of 6-15 trailers depending on their size, so an entire semi-truck load of trailers must complete production before a custom ordered open trailer will get shipped from the factory, but even factoring in the additional time to arrange transportation of a full semi-load, open trailers usually have a substantially quicker turn-around time to build than enclosed trailers.
Also referred to as side rail trailers, open cargo trailers, ATV trailers
Utility trailer is the term used to describe the open trailer style that has approximately 1′ tall open railing around the front and sides, and often includes a full width ramp gate or alternative ramp storage. Utility trailers cost nearly half the price of the same sized enclosed cargo trailer; but as far as open trailers go this style is usually a bit more expensive than its counterpart: the same sized auto hauler flatbed style trailer without railing.
The utility railing around the sides of the trailer not only adds stability, but also provides a variety of tie down locations (if you’ve purchased a quality built utility trailer like the ones we carry). The two styles of utility trailer top rails our brands use are angle iron or tube. Tube railing weighs and costs a bit more, but is significantly stronger than angle iron, and is preferable if you’re hauling heavier cargo.
Non-commercial utility trailers are available in both single axle and tandem axle varieties, and are subject to the same GVWR limits as enclosed trailers. Single axle utility trailers also start as small as 4′ x 6′ and jump up in the same 2′ length increments; however with utility trailers there’s a lot more width options than offered by enclosed trailers: 4′, 5′, 6′, 77″, 82″-83″ wide, or 102″ wide (requires drive-over fender upgrade).
Utility trailer lengths come as short as 6′ to as large as 28′; though we try to always keep the range from 6′ through 24′ length utility trailers in stock at our stores.
Also referred to as open box trailers, enclosed side trailer, or simply the umbrella term “utility trailer”
Landscape trailers are a sub-category of open utility trailers that still offer a much lighter curb weight than enclosed trailers, but add a bit more to the weight of a standard utility trailer by enclosing the sides and increasing the side height on the trailer.
Landscape trailers can be found with solid steel sides, or expanded metal sides that weigh less but don’t offer as much protection of your cargo as the solid sides. Playcraft Trailers’ landscape trailers have a tube top rail that provides the perfect spot to cover your cargo with a tarp to protect it from the sun and road elements during your travels.
The landscape trailers we usually keep in stock have 2′ tall sides, but they can be ordered as tall as 4′-5′ tall depending on your unique needs. Landscape trailers fall into the estimated build time of other open trailers, but do take a little longer to complete production than the simpler flatbed auto haulers or standard utility trailers.
To see all of the Landscape trailers currently in stock, Click Here
Flatbed Auto Haulers
Also referred to as: Equipment trailer, Flatbed trailer, car trailer/ car hauler, or open deck trailer
As with everything that comes with entry-level or more upgraded models there’s a wide range in prices you’ll see for open car trailers online depending on the style. We made this handy infographic showcasing currently available units from our long lasting brands in order for you to compare the wide variety of styles and budgets you’ll find on the market today.
The most common auto haulers anyone can haul will either be rated at 7K or 9.9K GVWR; as you’d expect trailers with 3500# axles cost less and requires less framing than trailers with 5200# axles equipped, which usually means you’ll find 10K open trailers costing at least $900 more than the same size 7K GVWR trailer (if not more depending on the other feature upgrades between the models).
Deckover Equipment Trailers
Pictured in our infographic above includes the most common flatbed trailers everyone uses to haul cars and trucks, but there’s another style of flatbed trailer better equipped for hauling pallets, or other wide large equipment. This style is called the Deckover or Deck-over trailer, and has a flat deck that is the widest you’re allowed on the roads without special licensing (102″=8.5′ wide). The full deck runs above the axles, so you aren’t hindered by the fenders or wheel wells on the standard Flatbed auto haulers (usually 83″ or so). We usually order 20′ Deckover trailers in 10K GVWRs minimum, but shorter sizes (16′) are available in 7K GVWR as well.
Deckover trailers sit higher of the ground than standard auto haulers, because the entire deck must run above the axles and tires. This means the load angle will be more severe when you’re loading onto a deck-over trailer versus a drive-over fender trailer that also offers 102″ of drive-able width. If you’re hauling large machinery, or loading pallets onto the bed with a forklift this taller deck height shouldn’t be an issue. If it is, our brands also build low profile deck over trailers in Gooseneck configurations as well. Send us a message with a description of your hauling needs and we’ll help you figure out which style is best for you.
Also referred to as dumpbed trailers, hydraulic trailers, lift trailers
Dump trailers cost the most out of pretty much all other open trailer styles, but that’s for good reason! Dump trailers offer the enclosed sides that’ll protect your cargo from escaping on your drive, especially once you’ve covered your load with a tarp (required by CA law).
Dump Trailers offer more convenience for anyone hauling landscaping materials (like sand, dirt, stone, slab, broken concrete, refuse, etc.) than a landscape trailer because once you’ve loaded all of your cargo it can all be quickly and conveniently unloaded with the press of a button whenever you’re ready!
Of course this is the case when you’ve invested the appropriate amount into buying a great quality Dump Trailer…You can save a couple thousand dollars if you buy a cheap dump trailer with light gauge steel floor and walls, and a cheap single or dual ram hoist or even a minimally rated scissor hoist, but you’ll end up spending way more time dumping your cargo and oftentimes you’ll end up having to help the dump trailer clear the load.
I don’t know about you, but speaking personally, if we’re going to spend the time and effort manually filling up a dump trailer with project materials (instead of using a landscape trailer we’d have to unload manually), then we expect the dump trailer to do ALL of the unloading work quickly, efficiently and with minimal effort on our part when dumping the load. If you’re not familiar with dump trailers you may assume that’s a reasonable expectation to have of Every dump trailer that’s for sale, but sadly that’s not the case! So many of our customers come in and have shared so many horror stories of all the different ways cheap dump trailers have failed on them (usually when they were needed the most); these customers learned the hard way that you get what you pay for in the trailer market!
In order to guarantee an effortless dump experience, we choose to spend a little more up front to purchase a rugged, overly-built, all 10GA steel dump trailer that equips a Scissor Hoist with a lift capacity that is Greater Than the trailer’s GVWR. With a set up like this you’ll never need to help your dump trailer do it’s job!
Who makes such a beast of a dump trailer that’s well worth the investment? Innovative Trailer Mfg. based in Richfield, Utah and proudly sold at Norco Trailers stores in Norco, CA and Escondido, CA! These rugged workhorse dump trailers use Champion’s American-made Scissor Hoist that is capable of effortlessly dumping nearly double the dump trailer’s payload capacity!
There’s many different reasons Innovative Dump Trailers are equipped with such over-rated scissor hoists, but the top 3 are:
- Safety: Innovative and Champion care about the safety of their users. Using an extra-large Scissor Hoist makes the dump trailer considerably safer to use. Think about it like this: if you have to stand in front of your loaded dump bed trying to shovel out the rest of your load a lighter duty hoist couldn’t clear, then you’re more likely to get injured while unloading your cargo. However, if your trailer never struggles to fully dump your loads, then you have no reason to be in the back of the trailer, and you’ll never be put in such a compromising position!
- Warranty: Champion actually required Innovative to use far larger hoists than necessary (per NATM guidelines) in order guarantee their Hoists with a 3 Year Warranty!
- Faster, More Efficient Unloading: Because Time is Money, especially when you need to use a dump trailer for work, investing in a larger hoist than necessary will ensure you’ll have maximum efficiency unloading your dump trailer with the most minimal effort (the simple press of the control button).
To learn more about how to discern High Quality Dump trailers from Cheaply Built ones that’ll put you to work more, or eat up more of your money down the road: Read our Guide to Dump Trailer Shopping Here.
Also referred to as Horse Trailers, Livestock trailers, stock trailers, and animal trailers
The final category of trailers we’ll consider in this post is the Animal carrier. Animal carriers can range from small bumper-pull trailers to large gooseneck trailers (some even have full living quarters areas that rival the ritziest motorhomes and camper trailers).
Norco Trailers was founded in Norco, CA: Horsetown USA, and as you might expect you can find quite a few horse and livestock trailer dealers in our hometown. As animal lovers and Horse owners, the safety and comfort of the animals being transported is our #1 concern, so when we decided to sell animal carriers in addition to the rest of our trailer styles, we didn’t want to sell just Any animal carrier… We only wanted to represent the One brand that considers the animals it hauls to be the most precious cargo that deserves the smoothest, most comfortable ride possible. A brand that has long been considered the Best Quality, longest lasting trailer brand on the market, endearingly nicknamed the Rolls Royce of the Trailer industry: we chose Featherlite Trailers aluminum trailers! Featherlite Trailers focuses on building a superb quality trailer you’ll buy once that lasts a lifetime!
It’s currently 2018 and we still regularly order minor (usually aesthetic) parts for Original Featherlite owners who purchased their trailers in the 1980s and ’90s! And when you ask these owners how their trailer’s held up, every one we’ve heard from has raved about how easy to maintain and tow the trailer has been for decades, and oftentimes they mention not needing a new trailer yet because theirs still does it’s job so well! Isn’t that the kind of experience you want from of the hunk of metal on wheels you’ll be trusting the lives of your precious animals to while travelling?
Did you also know Featherlite has the industry’s Longest Nationwide backed warranty: offering 3 years of bumper to bumper support and 10 years backing up the structure of the trailer!
There’s too many reasons you should choose to buy a Featherlite, but the one con customer’s mainly cite about them is the initial price. It’s true, Aluminum trailers in general cost quite a bit more than than the same size trailer from a steel manufacturer; however like other Featherlite Trailers owners have found, the initial investment is well worth it for the peace of mind, ease of towing, lighter-weight (meaning better fuel economy), and rust and corrosion resistant strong as steel aluminum alloy trailer on the smoothest riding Dexter torsion suspension!
Why burn through 2, 3 or even 4 lesser brand trailers, when 1 Featherlite Trailer can last a lifetime (and more)?
Want to learn more about the differences between steel and aluminum trailer? Or more about Why you should purchase a Featherlite Trailer? Follow either of these links to additional information… Or give one of our Norco Trailers locations a call and we’d be happy to help you better understand the trailer options you have and determine which would be best for you.
If you’d like to learn more about each of our brands and download brochures from our manufacturers, Follow this link to our website then click the image of the Brand Name you’d like to learn more about.