How to Choose an ATV Trailer

Finding the right all-terrain vehicle is difficult, but learning how to choose ATV trailers can be even more challenging. Hundreds of manufacturers produce ATV trailers, and finding the ideal model for you can take time. Below are some key characteristics of ATV trailers that you should consider and compare when purchasing a trailer to haul your vehicle.

Aluminum vs. Steel vs. Enclosed

When shopping for ATV trailers, you will encounter trailers constructed from steel or aluminum. You will also find enclosed trailers. Each construction method comes with pros and cons. For example, ATV aluminum trailers weigh less than steel trailers, so they are easier to maneuver and offer better gas mileage. However, steel trailers are stronger than aluminum trailers. Because aluminum is easier to bend or break, aluminum ATV trailers won’t provide as much resistance for shifting cargo. This can be a problem when you add several ATVs to the mix. For this reason, ATVs and the trailer itself are less vulnerable to damage in steel trailers than they are aluminum ones.

Though steel trailers provide more protection and weight capacity when trailering your ATV, they do have some disadvantages. Because they are made of steel, they may develop rust and therefore will likely have a shorter lifespan vs. an aluminum ATV trailer.. However, you can prevent or remove rust with regular maintenance.

If you have some extra money to spend on an ATV trailer, you can purchase an enclosed trailer. Enclosed trailers offer extra security for your ATV. With an enclosed ATV trailer, you don’t need to worry about locking your machine in the garage when the trailer is parked at home, nor do you need to worry about the ATV’s security when you are parked away from home.

Rear Loading vs. Side Loading

An ATV trailer can load either from the rear or the side. Side-loading trailers allow you to drive the ATV up one side of the trailer for loading and down the other for unloading. With a rear-loading trailer, you can pull the trailer on to load it, but you must back it off of the trailer during unloading. If you don’t mind backing your ATV off your trailer, than a rear loader may be the best choice. In general, rear loaders are less expensive than side loaders. However, side loaders are more popular with ATV owners who don’t like the idea of backing up during unloading.

ATV Tire Options

When you purchase an ATV trailer, you may also need to choose the width of the trailer’s tires. Most ATV trailer tires are 4 inches wide. However, some manufactures offer tires of up to 8 inches in width. Wider tires offer more stability for your trailer than narrower tires do. Though wider tires may cost a little more, they are usually worth the extra expense. Also, be sure to check the weight rating or ply rating on the trailer tires. These are usually rated with a letter rating and have a corresponding max PSI. See the chart below for an example. You will want to check into this with the dealer or person you are considering purchasing your ATV trailer from.

ATV Trailer Load Ratings

ATV Trailer Load Ratings

Wheel Wells

A wheel well is a portion of a trailer’s surface that must be raised to accommodate the trailer’s tires. The larger your trailer’s tires, the bigger the wheel well will be. Though often overlooked, large wheel wells can cause significant problems when you try to haul an ATV since they typically limit the amount of space available on the trailer bed. In most cases, a flat trailer bed is best on an ATV trailer.

Ramps

Because your ATV must be driven or rolled onto your trailer, you will need an incline. Some ATV trailers have a built-in joint that allows the trailer’s bed to tilt for loading and unloading. Other ATV trailers have ramps that you can pull down from the rear or side, while still others store a pull-out ramp at the trailer’s bottom.

There aren’t many differences between pull-down and stored ramps. After engaging the ramp, the unloading process is virtually the same. Tilt-style trailers, however, do present some problems. When you tilt the trailer, you can’t control the speed at which it drops to the ground. When the ATV is already on the trailer, this can become even more dangerous. For this reason, trailers with separate ramps are usually the better choice. If you do purchase a tilt-style trailer, consider carrying a wooden or metal ramp with you.

Equipped for Tie Downs

Because your ATV will likely move while your trailer is in motion, it’s a good idea to use tie downs to secure it. A tie down is a strap that pins your ATV to the trailer and prevents it from moving around and becoming damaged. Some ATV trailers come with built-in tie down hooks, while others do not. When choosing an ATV trailer, consider the number of available tie down hooks. As a rule of thumb, purchase a trailer with a number of tie down hooks that is at least twice the number of ATVs you will haul. Tie downs are easiest to use if the tie down hook is on the trailer’s bed.

Though ATV trailers may come with tie down hooks, they probably won’t include the straps. There are two main types of tie down straps: crimp latch tie downs and rachet style tie downs. The rachet style tie down will secure your ATV more tightly than the crimp latch tie down. However, rachet style tie downs experience more wear and tear. They also tend to break easily. Crimp latch tie downs last longer and can provide ample security for your ATV if engaged properly.

Axle Weight Rating

The axle weight rating is the amount of weight the trailer can reasonably hold without buckling. Trailers come with considerably different axle weight ratings, so it’s important to choose a trailer that can accommodate your usual load. To determine the minimum axle weight rating you need, combine the weights of your ATVs and any other items you may be hauling on the trailer. You should also add your own weight, since you will need to climb into the trailer to unload your cargo. In general, it’s best to choose a trailer that can accommodate more weight than you intend to haul. If your axle weight rating is too low, the axles may bend, which shortens the life of your tires and puts the trailer at risk for instability.

Capacity

ATV trailers come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s essential that you find one with a capacity large enough to hold your ATV comfortably. Even if the square footage available is sufficient, the dimensions may not be, so make sure that you pay attention to both characteristics when shopping for an ATV trailer. If you intend to haul more than one ATV, make sure the dimensions can contain them. If you plan to haul other types of vehicles as well, such as snowmobiles or dirt bikes, you may need a customized trailer with accommodations for each vehicle.

There are two main frame styles available for ATV trailers: Y-style and T-style. A Y-style trailer attaches to the axle in two locations and offers a broader area of frame to hold the trailer. The T-style trailer attaches the tongue to the axle directly. While T-style frames are less expensive, Y-style frames are more stable and durable.

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