Hauling it Right! – Choosing the right powersports trailer

Hauling it Right! – Choosing the right powersports trailer

Story by Stefanie-Galeano Zalutko, photos courtesy of the manufacturers

There’s nothing like putting a little hair on your chest, eh? Some prefer a shot of Crown, while others opt for a pure adrenaline rush. Can’t we choose both? You’re right, the whiskey probably isn’t a great idea whilst operating one of these highly-capable machines, but it was a thought worth thinking.

For those of you slaying it in the sand dunes, crawling Moab, or ripping through a new Canadian trail on one of these bad boys, this feature is for you. Because as thrilling as it is to tear into the technical specs of such exhilarating units, they’re of no use without a proper trailer to get you to where you’re going.

With a sea of brands and products from which to choose, a back-to-basics approach will help narrow down any selection to the very best options for your personal situation. Haulmark®, whose philosophy is to Get More, Go Further, breaks it down into four essential categories: brand reputation, construction, suspension, and warranty, with industry veteran Bryan Grigsby of Driven Performance Brands adding intended use, weight and vehicle tow ratings, as well as budget.


Built to Last

Brand reputation and quality construction go hand-in-hand. “How a trailer is built goes far in determining how long it will last and whether it’s appropriate for your needs,” said Haulmark®. An integrated systems approach makes sure all parts are combined in such a way that guarantees maximum performance, as opposed to trailer options assembled from a random collection of parts.

Also important, “the frame supports your entire trailer and is usually built from I-beam, tubular, C-channel, or L-shaped aluminum or steel. Generally, the more metal in the frame, the stronger it will be. So, a tube will be stronger than a C-channel, which will be stronger than a L-beam,” continued Haulmark®.

A tip from Featherlite Trailers, “Look for heavier I-beams that are closer together and span the entire width of the trailer. Be sure that all of the components—floors, side walls, and roof—are extruded to fit together like a puzzle and then welded together, not just welded together as individual pieces. This adds safety and solidity to the trailer’s structure. It also adds to the overall finish of the trailer.” Whatever trailer type you choose, ensure the frame is sturdy enough to transport the planned cargo.

Wall construction is another important factor when shopping for an enclosed trailer. Are they insulated, how close are the studs, and is a corrosion-inhibiting moisture barrier being used? These are important considerations for snowmobile or Jet Ski trailers. “Look for a ‘pierce and roll’ rivet system so no rivet fully pierces into the roof, reducing opportunities for water leakage. The last thing you want is a wet interior. Unfortunately, standard riveting can create hundreds of holes in the roof of a trailer where water can infiltrate if rivets or openings become worn. This ‘pierce and roll’ rivet system used in the aircraft industry is just one example of a smart design that delivers down the road,” added Featherlite Trailers.

The exhaustive list of questions before purchase continues with what features are included to keep precious cargo secure? Ask about ramp styling, as well as E-tracks, D-loops, or other devices for securing a load. “Find out if wiring runs through rubber grommets in the walls and/or roof to reduce wear and the likelihood of short circuits. Check if the locks and hinges are attached with tamper resistant hardware,” added Haulmark®. In addition to safety and security, “Is it a 5- or 6-lug? What about the deck—is it full metal, wood, or a steel diamond-plate? Consider straight vs dove tail and drive-over vs drive-between fenders,” said Grigsby, whose greatest advice is to research extensively before signing on the dotted line.


Minimize Weight

Aside from general trailer construction, Grigsby warns to be very cognoscent of weight ratings, as highway patrol, at least in the U.S., is actively pulling haulers over to issue tickets for being overweight. Remember that weight ratings don’t just include the trailer itself, rather the total load. One trend, he said, is a shift toward aluminum-based trailer companies that provide a stronger, but much lighter product.

“Aluminum is today’s choice because trailers made from this durable alloy are lighter and easier to tow and allow for more payload capacity. A lighter trailer can save wear and tear on the tow vehicle and increase fuel efficiency,” commented Featherlite Trailers. “Aluminum trailers also withstand corrosion better than steel trailers and, with just routine care, traditionally hold their value much better than steel counterparts,” said the company. In fact, after years of use, many Featherlite owners have reported selling their units for the same price as, or even slightly more than, the original sticker value.

When choosing to purchase an aluminum trailer, preferably one with an all-aluminum unibody construction, make sure to check, double check, and then triple check. “Many companies produce ‘aluminum’ trailers that are only aluminum sheeting over a heavy steel frame, which will rust if exposed to the elements,” added Featherlite Trailers. Therefore, even if the steel is painted or powder coated, things like rocks and debris, or the constant flex of the trailer unit as it travels, can erode the outer coating and, as Featherlite mentioned, make the steel vulnerable to moisture.


A Smooth Ride

Just like the suspension on a vehicle—the better the quality, the smoother the ride. But in this case, an upgraded suspension protects the trailer itself, the cargo, and the tow vehicle from excessive shock. This makes for a far more comfortable towing experience all around. “It is advisable to buy a trailer with a higher-performance suspension if you plan to tow often, transport heavy loads, tow as part of your business or carry valuable cargo,” said Haulmark®.

Leaf springs and rubber torsion suspensions are two factors to keep in mind. “Leaf springs are the traditional suspension systems. They are widely used in vehicles and trailers of all sizes, including trucks and semitrailers. While less expensive than most other types of suspension, leaf springs give a bouncier ride. Plus, metal-to-metal, inter-leaf friction results in more noise and faster wear. These features can impact the handling, especially on sharp corners and when the trailer is not fully loaded,” the company added.

Overall, Rubber torsion suspensions provide an improved ride quality in comparison. For example, torsion suspensions act as a better cushion when encountering bumpy travel. “Unlike leaf springs, which are connected to each other by an axle, rubber torsion suspensions work independently so road impacts on one side of the trailer are not transferred to the other. This provides a significantly smoother ride for the cargo, trailer, tow vehicle, and driver,” continued Haulmark®.


The Right Brand with the Right Warranty

It goes without saying that a trailer—even an entry-level flatbed utility option—is an investment. So, invest your time in a brand with staying power and partner with the right dealer to secure said brand in a trustworthy environment with a proper warranty.

BigTex Trailers, AzTex Trailers, Rice Trailers, Sky Trailers, Ultra Santek, Fleetwood, RageN, Winnebago, Weekend Warrior MVP, and FunMover are only a few of the many examples of tried-and-true brands that offer a number of options from entry level all the way to luxurious.


Vehicle Tow Ratings

Think about it: whatever powersports trailer you decide to pack up and take home, whether it be an open or enclosed option, it’s likely on pavement for 200-300 miles at a time. After which, it must be durable enough to survive another 5-6 miles, at the very least, on unpaved roads that are often poorly maintained at best and an off-road obstacle of their own at worst.

A proper flatbed utility trailer, travel trailer, or enclosed toy hauler is useless without the right rig doing all the hard work up front. Actually, it’s a great way to kill a tranny, blow a motor, or damage an axle and, subsequently, ruin a perfectly good n’ reckless weekend getaway.

Intended use, intended use, intended use, reminds Grigsby. “Number one and number two, select something that fits your needs and budget. Number three, if the budget allows, swing for a trailer that gives you room to grow as your hobby does,” he added. “That all comes back to intended use, doesn’t it?” Communicate to the dealer what recreational vehicles you’ll be towing, what you’ll be hauling them with, as well as what kind of locations you’ll be frequenting and how often. “Bottom line,” said Grigsby, “the most important lesson here is to do your homework.”

Once it comes time to shop ‘til you drop, never feel limited by what’s on the lot and don’t be bullied into a purchase that doesn’t fit your needs. Now, we reckon it’s about time to make your opponent suck some dirt (or mud, gravel, sand—whichever you prefer). Just promise us that you’ll leave the Crown back at the trailer…

Categories: Features, Off-Road Plus