First Trailer Setup Considerations

I’m getting to the point that having a trailer is going to be the next step for me and I’ve been looking online at new and used small trailers. This is something I’ll pull behind my Prius since my wife and I share just one car. Some people occasionally pull 6x10 trailers with mulch behind their Prius and other haul Harleys, so I think as long as I stay small I’ll be okay for doing weekend work.

I’m wondering what you more experience guys think about the two types of trailers I’ve been looking at on Craigslist.

I have seen several trailers for sale that are pressure washing / mobile detailing specific that all have a 200 gallon tank on them. Some have hose reels. Some don’t. Most are rusty and would need to be sanded and repainted. Tires are likely bald as well. But the trailer has a smaller footprint. Price has been ~$800 typically.

I’ve also been looking at used generic 5x8 utility trailers. I see a lot of these for sale around $600 and I know I’d have more usable space, customize-able options, room for adding equipment, etc. It seems that lots of people start with a 5x8 or similar utility trailer.

Just wondering if you guys had thoughts on the pros/cons of the two types at all and if there is any upside to getting a trailer custom designed to hold a 200 gallon tank, hot water skid, and hose reels vs just a flat utility trailer.

Here are examples of the two trailers I’m talking about.


200 gallons is way overkill, typically. Whatever size tank you have, you won’t want more than 10-20 gallons in it while pulling with your car.

I would search for a lightweight utility trailer, 4x8 should be sufficient until you’re ready to upgrade vehicles. Aluminum would be ideal, but if you’re just looking for a temporary solution, a harbor freight special should suit your needs just fine.

I personally would be dubious of towing anything with a Prius further than a few miles to the hardware store once or twice a month. I’m not sure how the batteries and transmission would handle that. I imagine that the people towing 5x10’s only do it on rare occasions.

If I were in your shoes I would search for an affordable 2wd pickup, like an old Toyota or S10. Tear off the bed and build a quick and dirty flatbed setup. Could end up costing you just a little more than a decent trailer, and you wouldn’t have to share with the mrs. :wink:


Thanks Alex. I agree, I think 200 is way too large for me right now. I’ve seen a few harbor freight trailers though. I want something a little longer term. Something I could still use after adding a small work truck like an older Tacoma or something. I appreciate your opinion.

We don’t have the budget for another vehicle right now. We are still both working on our student loans. I have looked for used small trucks and, at least around LA, I’d need to set aside at least $3000 to get anything usable. But I like your idea. The thought of doing my own small flatbed sounds great. The only problem is I’m a little squidish myself (@squidskc). I have never learned how to weld. Not because I haven’t wanted to. I’d love to. I’ve just never had the opportunity.

I’ll keep looking for older small trucks while looking for trailers too though. Thanks!

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That’s what pressure treated lumber is for, lol.

But I get where you’re coming from.

If you’re looking for something that you plan on keeping after upgrading vehicles, I’m not sure you’re going to find anything worthwhile that your Prius can tow comfortably. Unless you shell out a little more for a lightweight aluminum trailer. But even with that, you have to be careful about curb weight, because many of the aluminum trailers are more heavy duty and weigh more than a lightweight steel trailer. It’s not uncommon for a a good trailer to weigh 500-600 lbs empty, and that’s more than half your tow capacity (and that’s being generous - since I don’t think the Prius is rated for towing. But pretty much anything can safely tow 1k lbs or so).

I have an old HB/NorthernTool piece of junk trailer I got on craigslist for a few hundred bucks. It probably only weighs 200-250 empty. But it’s not the sort of thing I plan on keeping a long time. I have my eyes peeled on CL for a decent lightweight aluminum flatbed under 300 lbs.

As far as truck shopping goes, you may need to expand your search area. Depending on the vehicle, I’ve traveled over 4 hours one way to buy a car before. Actually, due to insane NJ traffic, I spent close to six hours Monday night going to pick up a Rav4 for my wife. The drive back only took 3.5 hours, though.

That’s a toughy. If you’ve read Dave Ramsey, take everything you learned from him, and put it through the Mr. Money Mustache ‘filter’. I don’t “endorse” his blog due to his occasional vulgarity, but I find his approach a little more palatable for educated, higher earning people looking to get out of debt. He even touches on aspects of self-employment and hustling additional income in a manner that’s conducive to getting out of debt and not incurring more debt. But he’s not totally anti-debt-of-any-kind like Dave is.

I think he even has a couple articles on beginner welding, lol.

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It’s creepy that you know about that lol. My wife and I did Financial Peace when we first got married. We’ve had setbacks, but we are really working the debt as much as possible lol. I’ll look into this Mr. Money Mustache guy. Never heard of him before.

Also, I’ve traveled enough for car buying lol. I bought 2 cars out of state when I was in college. One I flew from Milwaukee to Nashville and then drove with my dad to Alabama to pick up then drive back to Wisconsin. 2000 Isuzu Vehicross in Proton Yellow.

A couple years later I sold the Vehicross to a guy in LA, shipped it out of Chicago, flew from Chicago to Long Island, bought a Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V, then drove back to Michigan for a new semester.

I’ll just buy semi local cars from now on lol. All that would be hard now that I’m married. Good adventures being single though lol.

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I sell trailers as my full time job. If I had a potential customer tell me they wanted to pull a trailer with a Prius, I would politely tell them to find another dealer to buy from. I’m not sure the tow capacity of the vehicle but, you would have to put a 10 inch rise on your hitch just to be able to tow the trailer level.

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Thanks for the advice. You are correct. My Prius is not rated to tow. But it’s generally accepted on prius forums that it can be done. Should be done is a no. But from what I’ve read, people have no issues pulling lighter loads under 1,500 lbs or so. I feel comfortable using a small trailer behind the Prius. But yeah, I’m aware that Toyota says not to. However, the new wavy gravy Prius is actually rated to tow a light load by Toyota.

Sell the Prius and buy used Tahoe, truck or something that would pull a trailer. Going in debt just to buy stuff not good, going in debt to buy an asset that will give you a positive ROI not bad, in fact almost a necessity. Not a successful businessman alive who hasn’t borrowed money at some point.

One housewash per month would cover a truck payment.

As far as trailers go, anything smaller than a 6 by 8 is a waste of time, if you’re serious about the business. You’ll outgrow anything smaller in just a few months.

If I had to start over I’d follow Alex’s advice , get a pickup and build my system in it. Pulling a trailer around in LA not going to be fun.

Thanks a lot racer. I really appreciate you sharing your experience. I thought you really liked your trailer set up. After all, you went from one trailer to a larger trailer. Why not switch to a truck yourself then? Too much equipment?

I do love my trailer setup but I could do probably 80% of my normal jobs with a truck mounted setup. There are a fair number of places up in the mountains near me that I can’t access because of trailer, either too narrow, too steep or not enough room to turn around. I’m having to drive about 2 hours tomorrow round trip to look at 2 roof jobs just to see if I can get into them or not.

A lot of times if it’s just a simple HW or roof cleaning a pickup system would work fine. I’d like to have both along with a flatbed also, lol. Also, the Proportioner has changed the dynamics since you no longer need a large mix tank to do roofs.

And though traffic is bad here sometimes, nothing compared to LA.

Yeah, the traffic here is undoubtedly some of the worst in the country. That’s all good info to have about the truck/trailer. I honestly don’t think a truck is something I can do any time soon, though I’d love to. My wife and I have decided that we aren’t getting another vehicle until we have to. And that means that if I can find a light enough trailer to pull behind the Prius, and if it works, and even though Toyota says not to, that’s what I’ll do for now anyway. I really do like the thought of having the setup in a truckbed or a work truck with flatbed on it.

The funny thing is my wife and I just sold our 2008 F150 FX4 in June. That would have worked well for this. But it was a bit of a lemon for us. Before selling, we added up our repair costs for the 2.5 ish years we owned it. $11,000. To put that in perspective, I paid $16,500 for the truck. And spent $11,000 in less than 3 years. And thats just repairs. No lift kits, mod, big tires, exhaust, custom anything, or even oil changes. It was killing us. We decided we had to go to something small and reliable.

Anyway, a truck will come back into my life one day. :slight_smile: Probably just not for another year or two.

Sounds like you just had a lemon. But it was a Ford, so what can you expect? LOL

Part of me says my next truck should be a chevy, part of me wants a toyota, but most parts of me all agree a Raptor would be frickin sweet! First world problems, I suppose.

Yeah, same here, lol. If it wasn’t for already having a fairly successful window cleaning operation, and I was starting out with a focus on power washing, I would definitely go this route.

This is all you need to know. They’re unkillable. As soon as your budget allows, get yourself an old pre-tacoma pickup. 2wd, stickshift, standard cab. No bells and whistles. Just find one without rust :wink:


That’s the tough part. I’m a Toyota truck mega fan for sure. My Tundra will roll over 200k this year, but she ages like wine.


Nice to see that other people think they are reliable. I’m just not sure how well a 6’3" me would fit into an older Tacoma. Even the newer ones are tight for me lol. The Prius is actually really spacious. I guess I’ll find out when I start shopping for one one day. Nice to know about the truck setup tho. I thought all you guys went with trailers for the “if the truck goes in the shop I can still wash by pulling my trailer with another vehicle” reason for the most part.

No, the repair scenario is a valid concern which is a reason I like a trailer. Had that happen this Spring, just went to rental agency and rented a truck for a couple of days. But pretty much anything full sized vehicle can pull a trailer, at least for the short term, reason I’ll always have. But as I said before, my next build will be on a truck, but probably a long bed. Looking for a good used 2500 with 8’ bed now but hard to find that aren’t just stupid prices.