Choosing a Landscape Trailer

How to choose a Landscape Trailer

Depending on your landscape equipment towing needs, like overall weight and the size of your mowing gear, choosing the right landscape trailer might involve more than you think.

Your options are pretty varied but they start with overall weight and size, you then need to consider the pros and cons of open landscape trailers versus enclosed. Once you have made those choices you can consider upgrades and custom features to add to your trailer. This last consideration, the custom touches, are what makes your trailer work exactly the way you want it.

Trailer weight

Let’s start with the overall weight issue, this will also dictate the overall size to some degree. The first thing you want to know is the total weight of all your equipment. This would include mowers, leaf blowers, trimmers, tools, fuel storage etc. While you can “guesstimate” some of these items the mower(s) weight should be more than a guess. Most mowers list their weight in the paperwork that comes with them, if you bought a used mower you might be able to find an accurate weight number online by searching by model number.

Since the mower will be the heaviest item, its weight will factor in for both the total weight the trailer can carry as well as the total weight the trailer’s ramps can support.

At this point you should make an inventory list with weights for each item you intend to carry and then simply add them all together. This amount becomes your payload weight and it’s what you will want to add to the empty trailer weight to determine the gross trailer weight (GTW, also sometimes referred to as GVW or gross vehicle weight).  This number is important for a number of reasons. The first is that it should not exceed the trailer’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). In other words, the trailer’s weight plus your payload needs to be less than what the manufacturer says the trailer can weigh in total.

If your payload and trailer weights exceed the GVWR for that trailer then you need to look at a bigger trailer or at carrying a lighter load. GVWR for a single axle trailer is also the same as GAWR (gross axle weight rating). If you have a double-axle trailer it means that the GVWR is about twice the GAWR.

Some of the total weight is going to end up being carried by your tow vehicle because it’s important that the trailer is nose heavy so that the trailer’s tongue presses down on your tow vehicle’s hitch. This amount of weight is usually about 10%-15% for ball hitch towing setups and 20%+ for goose neck hitches. Let’s just assume though that you are towing with a standard ball hitch behind some kind of truck.

Whatever the amount of weight you have pressing down on your hitch should NOT be subtracted from the GVWR because that amount will change while you drive over bumps and uneven pavement.

The last weight consideration should be what your tow vehicle is rated to pull. The goal here is not to max out every number, you want some spare capacity so that you aren’t stressing out your trailer and truck with every single mile. Towing is going to impact your gas mileage and brake life as well. It’s better to have a decent amount of spare capacity in the whole system for the sake of safety.

Knowing the payload weight and your vehicles towing capacity are critical here, with those numbers you will know quickly whether your trailer choice can handle the load (trailer weight plus payload weight should be lower than the GVWR) and the GVWR needs to be less than the towing capacity of your tow vehicle.

Most trailers are going to have a GVWR that is the weight of the trailer and then anywhere from 1.5X to 3X the trailer weight in payload. Open trailers tend to carry a higher multiple of their empty weight in payload than enclosed trailers because they are simply made of less material (no walls, no roof etc.).

Trailer length

Armed with these numbers you should have a pretty good idea of what you are looking for in terms of GVWR so let’s look at the size you might need. Most trailers are going to come in fairly uniform lengths like 10 or 12 feet, up to 16+ feet and beyond. The width is going to likely be from 5 feet wide to as much as 8 feet in some cases. Generally speaking, the longer the trailer the wider it will be.

Width matters when it comes to the width of the deck on your mower and how much clearance that requires. If there are wheel wells in the trailer that make the bed narrow at any point you need to know that, so that the minimum bed width in the trailer still exceeds the maximum width of your mower.

Most people have a general feeling that bigger is better but with everything there are tradeoffs. If you get a large trailer you aren’t stressing its axles since it’s not working near its GVWR but your tow vehicle might struggle because the trailer itself is heavy due to its size. You have to consider where you are driving as well. If you have to pull in and out of tight places length can be an issue. There is going to be a sweet spot and its basically in this question:

Is the trailer I want to buy big enough for my gear with organized storage space, strong enough to carry the payload easily, not too demanding on my towing vehicle, easy enough to maneuver where I go and at a price I can handle?

Now for the shameless plug: This is where we come in at Elm City Trailer, because this is a discussion we have every single day with people looking for landscape trailers.

Enclosed landscape trailers

Opting for an enclosed landscape trailer is becoming a more popular option these days because having an enclosed trailer offers benefits that an open trailer doesn’t. Since we are in New England let’s start with the weather.

You don’t landscape or cut grass when there is snow on the ground but your gear needs to go somewhere, why not the trailer? As soon as you unhitch an enclosed trailer you have just created a weatherproof storage shed. With an open trailer, you can leave it outside but your gear will suffer, so it will need to go out of the elements somewhere. Why not keep it all together in an enclosed trailer? Even in the summer you get the benefit of protection from rain and you protect your gear from road hazards while towing as well.

Enclosed trailers can also be fitted with locks to secure your gear from theft and prying eyes. You can also use all that surface area for advertising your business in a way you can’t with door signs on your truck, it’s a rolling billboard if you choose to put your logo and contact information on it.

Lastly, an enclosed trailer is a swiss-army knife. It works better than an open trailer if you decide to move furniture, it has many other uses that an open landscape trailer doesn’t and is therefore easy to re-purpose and re-sell. It can also be used to haul loose debris that would blow out of a regular landscape trailer.

Open landscape trailers

Let’s start with their profile, they are low to the ground and therefore have a lower center of gravity. They are easy to see over, easy to back up, less effected by wind on a highway and lighter relative to their GVWR. You can reach into and over them from anywhere if you just need to grab something.

It can be used to carry odd-sized loads like a tree stump that can’t be easily maneuvered into an enclosed trailer but it isn’t as good carrying things like piles of branches that might fly loose.

They also cost less. It’s really simple, they just use less material for the same GVWR making them more affordable.

Customizing your Landscape trailer

Today there are as many options available to customize your trailer as there are trailers to choose from. For landscape trailers the ones that matter most relates to equipment storage. There are racks for trimmers and blowers, racks for gas cans, tool storage, shelving, lighting, etc.

For tie-downs there are D-rings that can be installed anywhere as well as ratchet strap anchor points. You can even lay down strips of E-Trac that allow you to anchor tie-downs every inch or less along a floor or wall. E-Trac acts as a universal mounting rail that can be used for any number of things. If you want an electric jack stand that ties into a battery box and that also powers LED lights it’s all available.

Now that we have covered “landscape trailers 101” if you would like to learn more and maybe find the perfect trailer for your landscape business give us a call or stop by and see for yourself what’s possible. We always have landscape trailers in stock, both open and enclosed. We also have a whole showroom full of accessories that will help make your trailer exactly the way you want it.