A tiny house on wheels (THOW) is different from a camper van largely because it lacks self-propulsion.
What we mean is that while campervans are essentially homes with wheels and an engine, tiny houses are larger than average trailers that require a towing vehicle to go anywhere.
That’s why we’ll divulge the best towing vehicles and the weight that they’ll be able to carry. If you’d like to find out whether you need to consider getting something a bit more powerful to move your house, stick with us as we get into the nitty-gritty.
Figuring out the exact weight of your tiny house isn’t all that difficult since all you need is a truck scale, which can usually be found near truck stops or large gas stations.
Actually, weighing the house, though, is the tricky part. Most tiny homes aren’t much wider than a truck trailer, so they should fit most CAT truck scales unless you have the misfortune of happening upon a narrower scale.
The issue comes from the fact that you’ll need to transport the house to the scale to measure it, and you won’t know if your truck can handle towing it or if it’ll break down somewhere in the middle of the road.
This is why we’d recommend renting a large tow vehicle for the first time that you’re calculating the weight of your tiny house. A vehicle that has a towing capacity of at least 2-3 tons will ensure that you’ll make it to the scale, where you’ll get a much more accurate estimate than we can provide you with.
If we go through the catalog of a few tiny house builders and compare houses of different sizes, we should get a pretty accurate answer to our question. However, this method is by far less accurate than actually putting your tiny house trailer on a scale, and it involves a lot of guessing.
We also won’t be able to consider the exact type of building materials used in the construction of your house. For example, fiberglass roofing or even heavy-duty sheathing on the cables can impact the weight and throw off our estimations by as much as a few hundred pounds at the least.
We’re trying to say that while we may be able to tell you the weight of the average tiny house as well as the weight of a smaller tiny house, you should take these results with a grain of salt and consider that there might be some extra overhead.
The dry weight of a tiny house is just the weight of the structure before you add any personal belongings or items to the inside.
Living with only the most vital personal belongings and not having clutter in your home is a big part of the tiny house movement, so, likely, you won’t be adding a lot of additional weight to the number. However, your electronics, kitchen items, bed, and a wardrobe full of clothing still might actually add as much as half a ton to the total weight.
Keep in mind that this isn’t even taking propane and water tanks into account and furniture and other miscellaneous items. So, while half a ton might seem like a lot, it’s a conservative estimate.
As we mentioned before, the building materials play a significant role in the overall weight of a tiny home, and a don vardo house might be a bit lighter than another tiny home that you could find on the market, but these are still the average weight estimates that you should expect to run into based on the overall square footage.
We divided the houses into the most common vehicle weight limits by groups. For example, the 10-12 sq ft category is an acceptable weight limit for a mid-sized engine vehicle, while the 19-20 sq ft category requires a decent-sized SUV or pick-up truck.
The gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) estimates a vehicle can optimally carry without being over-encumbered or putting too much strain on the engine, the wheels or the trailer connectors.
You might also run into the phrase “gross combined weight rating” (GCWR), which is the total weight that a trailer can add to a vehicle and still allow it to run acceptably well and without any issues. And finally, you also have the phrase “gross trailer weight rating” (GTWR), which is just the weight of your tiny home.
Finding the right vehicle goes like this: you estimate the GTWR and then add it to the weight of your towing vehicle to determine the GCWR. If the number that you come to is larger than the GVWR of your vehicle, then that means that it’s unable to carry your tiny house trailer safely.
One final word of advice that we’d like to give concerns tongue weight. Tiny homes have much better weight distribution than your average trailer, so both the trailer’s tongue and the trailer hitch on the car should be durable enough to support the weight placed on them, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be checked regularly.
However, the bottom line is that tiny house owners shouldn’t prioritize buying a vehicle purely for its towing capabilities since you won’t be moving your house very often, and you certainly won’t be moving it long distances and parking it somewhere that isn’t on your property for long.
If you’re still planning on getting a car that can handle that sort of load, then we hope that our article helped you narrow down your choices a bit.