The big decision: moving a tiny house
When I decided to move my tiny house, there was a lot to learn. First, let me say that towing a tiny house is slightly (or maybe not-so-slightly) terrifying. It’s a big undertaking, and you’re not only moving a big load, but you’re moving your actual HOME.
However, towing a tiny house is no easy job, even for someone who’s experienced. Most tiny house owners either buy a home that needs to be moved to their land or build a tiny house that needs to be moved around the property.
Unless you’re building your tiny home from the ground up on its foundation, you’ll definitely need to move it at least once—more if circumstances change.
Towing a tiny house is pretty nerve-wracking, but with the right truck to tow your tiny home, you can have one less thing to worry about. It’s something that a lot of people don’t think about until after they build their own tiny house.
More importantly, know how often you plan to move and how much your house—and everything in it—weighs before making any decisions. Not every truck is suited to tow this much weight, either, so you must have the right truck for towing a tiny house. After moving the house this last time, I must admit there are a few things I will do differently if there’s a next time.
If you need to move or tow a tiny house, here’s what you need to know.
Understanding truck towing capacity
If you’re towing a tiny house, you need a vehicle that can handle the job. To put it simply, truck towing capacity is how much weight your vehicle can pull—and it can be tricky to figure out. You must account for all the weight, including the trailer, the payload in your truck bed, and even passenger weight if you’re running close to your truck’s limits. You can calculate the weight of your tiny house here.
Once you have determined the weight of your tiny house, contents, cargo, trailer, and passengers, you’ll need to find out what trucks are capable of pulling it all.
Truck towing capacity
In 2015, all the major truck manufacturers—Ford, GM, Toyota, Chevy, and Nissan—adopted a uniform testing and rating method to determine towing capacity. This made it much easier for me when I started looking for the best truck for towing a tiny house.
However, the maximum towing capacity you find in brochures or on the manufacturer’s website isn’t always accurate. Your truck may have features that reduce towing capacity, so you need to check the sticker on the driver’s side door jamb for the towing capacity for that specific build. When in doubt, make some calls, visit a dealership, or consult with an expert to avoid a mistake that may damage your vehicle AND your home.
Towing capacity is determined by two numbers, the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) and the Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR). I’ll explain these two numbers below, but you should understand them before towing your tiny house.
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)
The GVWR is the maximum amount your truck can weigh fully loaded and full of fuel, including the trailer’s tongue weight, tiny house, passengers, and cargo.
The “tongue weight” of a tow trailer is usually 10-15% of the combined weight of the trailer, tiny house, and contents. Tongue weight varies based on trailer design and weight distribution. It doesn’t refer to the trailer’s weight but rather to the downward force the trailer exerts on the hitch.
Also, trailers also have a GVWR. You’ll need to make sure your trailer can handle your tiny house weight as well. In most cases, you’ve likely done this calculation before (but if you need help selecting a trailer, please explore my post on Tiny House Trailers).
Tiny house vehicle weight
Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR)
Gross Combination Weight Rating
The Gross Combination Weight Rating (or GCWR) is the maximum weight of the truck, trailer, tiny house, plus the passengers and cargo. Don’t forget to factor in the weight of the fuel.
Here’s how to determine your truck’s towing capacity:
- Start with your truck’s curb weight. That’s the weight of the truck by itself, with no fuel or cargo. Check the owner’s manual or the sticker.
- Add the weight of passengers, fuel, trailer, tiny house, and its contents, plus any cargo in the truck’s bed. Don’t forget add-ons like a camper shell or roof rack and whatever is strapped to that.
- Subtract the total from the GCWR to make sure you’re under the towing capacity.
Truck gross combination weight rating
On the whole, I would recommend making sure you’ve got some wiggle room too. You want to be hundreds of pounds underweight (not within a narrow margin) just in case your calculations are off. If you need to off-load weight, consider what you can remove from the house, the vehicle, and the trailer. Being conservative with your estimate will give you some peace of mind once you start moving.
The Best Trucks For Towing A Tiny HouseTowing a tiny house requires a lot of power, and the truck’s configuration matters. The size of the engine, type of gear, cab style, length of the truck and bed, number of axles, towing package, and some luxury features will all impact the towing capacity.
Therefore, tiny houses and their contents can vary hugely in weight depending on the size and materials used. I’ve seen simple 10-foot tiny houses that weigh in at 3,200 pounds and 34-footers weighing 14,000 pounds and up.