What are the Basics of Cargo Trailers?

October 12, 2019 by

What are the Basics of Cargo Trailers?

There are several different types of trailers on the market and when you start looking for a new or used trailer for sale, it is important to know what is out there. Knowledge allows you to make informed decisions and before you buy a trailer, you need to familiarize yourself with what is on the market; the types of trailers, their parts, and components as well as the various accessories and what they are used for.


Open or utility trailers are, as the name suggests, open and there is nothing to protect the cargo from the elements. Open trailers can be accessed from all sides and are ideal if you are transporting sand, stone, grass or garden waste.
Cargo Trailers are typically enclosed trailers where the cargo is protected from the elements. Cargo trailers can be used to transport high value cargo, vehicles, motorbikes or sports equipment like jet skis and ATV’s. Landscaping companies often have cargo trailers to safely transport and store their mowers and equipment.


There are different ways to attach your cargo trailer to your tow vehicle, but most trailers are either gooseneck trailers or bumper pull trailers.

A gooseneck trailer is attached to a hitch ball that is mounted on the bed of the truck over the rear axle. Gooseneck hitches are typically used for industrial trailers and are often rated up to 30K.
A bumper pull trailer is attached to a hitch ball that is mounted on the frame of the tow vehicle and is common for recreational use.


There are several different weight terms that you need to be aware of to ensure that you stay safe on the road and don’t overload your trailer.

The trailer weight is the weight of the empty trailer when it is driven off the manufacturers’ lot fully assembled with all its accessories and extras.

The payload capacity is the total weight of the cargo that the trailer can carry.
The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is the total combined weight of both the trailer and cargo when the trailer is fully loaded.

The tongue weight of a trailer is the weight that is transferred to the tow vehicle through the tongue or gooseneck hitch of the trailer.


Towing needs to be taken seriously. If you have never towed anything before you shouldn’t just buy a trailer, drive it off the lot, load it up and hit the road. You need to approach towing with the right attitude and allow think safety first, or you will be a danger to yourself and other road users.

When you buy a trailer make sure you know the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) and never overload your trailer. Overloading can damage your trailer but even worse, it can lead to unsafe towing conditions. An overloaded or incorrectly loaded trailer can be incredibly unstable on the road. It is also your responsibility to ensure that your fully loaded trailer does not exceed the maximum tow rating of your vehicle or the capacity of the tow hitch.

When you load your trailer make sure that the load is balanced across the trailer but slightly heavier towards the front. You also need to ensure that the load is securely fastened especially is you have an open utility trailer. You obviously do not want your load flying off on the highway, but an improperly fastened load could also shift and cause the trailer to rollover.

Before you leave home, do a walk around and check that your safety chains are correctly attached, all the lights and indicators are working, and inspect your tires for deformities, bulges, cracks, cuts or other damage. You also need to check the pressure of each tire with a tire pressure gauge.

When you are on the road you need to drive smoothly and steadily. When you are pulling a trailer your braking distance increases so you need to be aware of what is happening on the road ahead and leave more space between your vehicle and the one in front of you.

McFarlane’s can help you find the perfect used trailer for sale and give you advice on safe towing.