The Ultimate Guide to Transporting Your Tiny Home
Late last year, we decided to move Tiffany to a new place for the first time. That post went into some detail on our preparations for moving, but we skipped one crucial step - the move itself!
Some tiny home owners may be old hands at moving their structures around, but a lot of folks are likely to be far more acquainted with the intricacies of tiny home living than tiny home moving. With that in mind, and help from an old pro Tom, let’s go over some options for moving a tiny home that can accommodate both the do-it-yourself type and the less transport-inclined.
Preparing your tiny home for a move
I covered pre-move prep in detail last November, but it’s critical to highlight the importance of securing everything you possibly can - and packing up everything you can’t to be transported in your personal vehicle. Large appliances should be strapped down so they can’t slide around, and cabinet doors should be secured with child locks or other restraints.
On the outside, you’ll need to secure all the water, sewage, and electric hookups that might dangle or drag beneath the tiny home’s trailer chassis. You’ll also need a trailer license plate and a set of tail lights which you’ll have to connect to your tow vehicle, for legal and safety reasons while it’s on the road. Most tiny home owners (like us) prefer to remove these things when the tiny home isn’t being moved, for better aesthetics.
Do-it-yourself tiny home transport
Tiny homes are typically built on trailer platforms for easier transport, but there are limits to what you can move without jumping through a lot of hoops. The maximum width a towable tiny house can be for towing without special permits and equipment is generally 8.5 feet. The vast majority of tiny homes are built with this width in mind, and they’re 40 feet long at the most, and are no more than 13.5 feet tall from the ground to the top of the roof (1).
Anything wider or longer than this will involve special permits - and often, specially-designed moving trucks that are built to tow mobile homes. If you have a building that’s larger than 8.5 feet wide and 40 feet long, you’ve probably got a mobile home, not a tiny home. At that point, you’d want to start researching reputable mobile home moving services.
Towing with a heavy-duty pickup truck
A tiny home that’s under 8.5 feet wide and 40 feet long can be towed by a heavy-duty pickup truck, which is the vehicle of choice for all but the absolute smallest structures. There are two main trailer styles for tiny homes (2). The standard trailer profile is low to the ground and connects to the rear of the truck at a standard ball hitch attachment beneath the rear fender. Some larger tiny homes are built on gooseneck trailer platforms, which rise up at the front and arch over the truck tailgate (this is the “gooseneck” part) to connect with a hitch mounted in the bed of the truck. You’ll want to make sure you have the correct hitch, which is properly connected to your vehicle and rated to hold the weight of the tiny home and its trailer.
Permits and licensing
Even if your tiny home doesn’t require special permitting to be road-legal, it may require some kind of permit and/or equipment, depending on the states you’ll be towing it through. Be sure you check with the DOT or DMV in the state(s) through which you plan to drive - to ensure that you’ve got all your legal and licensing ducks in a row before heading off (3).
How you define or classify your tiny home makes a difference in the permitting required. It could be a travel trailer, a recreational vehicle, or even a trailer-mounted art sculpture - and each definition brings with it different legal requirements. Therefore, some due diligence is essential before you even hook your tiny home up to your truck.
Once you’re ready to move, you’ll have to consider a few more things, such as the weather on your route. High winds can be dangerous for a tiny home’s stability, as its height and narrow profile make it somewhat prone to tip over if it gets particularly gusty. If you encounter a lot of rain, you’re also liable to have a more difficult time driving your truck with the tiny home’s weight pulling behind it.
Stowing movable items
You’ll want to ensure that you’ve got enough space to stow all the movable items in your tiny home, so they won’t slide around and get damaged. Some people prefer to box everything up and strap it down inside the tiny home, but on longer journeys with uncertain road conditions, you’ll probably want to put these belongings in a safer place. Some people even rent U-Haul vehicles, which offer the dual benefit of ample space for your items and a solid tow hitch. If your daily driving vehicle is a small sedan not suited for towing, renting a U-Haul could address both your towing and stowing capacity needs.
Budgeting for your move
You’ll also want to make provisions for the cost of the move, such as gas (it’ll get expensive towing a house that weighs several tons), potential maintenance and insurance (in many cases the insurance on the truck will cover the tiny home as a “tow load”). You'll also need to budget for meals, and potential overnight stays at hotels or motels - if it gets extremely hot or cold and you’re not able to hook the tiny home up to electricity on the way to your destination (4).
Hiring a moving service
There are a number of options available if you’re not the do-it-yourself type, or if you’d simply rather leave the task of moving your tiny home to someone guaranteed to have the tools and expertise to do it right. There are also upsides to this route beyond the simple issue of skills. If you don’t own a capable pickup truck, hiring a mover will address that problem while also providing peace of mind. An experienced mover will also be better able to plan for contingencies, like an unexpected tire blowout on your tiny home trailer.
A-1 Auto Transport, Inc. provides moving services for all kinds of wheeled vehicles, including trailers with tiny homes on top of them - and they’ve put together a page that highlights other advantages of hiring a capable mover. It covers a number of issues I mentioned in the do-it-yourself section, but one aspect of professional transport that I overlooked is the possibility that your shipper will use their own trailer to move your tiny home. This eliminates the risk of tire blowout on your part or the possibility of damage to your tiny home’s undercarriage. There’s also a section that helps you look up regulations pertinent to your destination - so you can make sure that you’ll be in compliance with state and local laws when you arrive.
It may be possible to move your tiny home overseas, but that will depend heavily on how it’s built and what codes it adheres to. Some tiny home professionals will point out that the most cost-efficient type of tiny home to transport internationally, is one built inside a shipping container (5). There are few of these types of tiny homes because of the low ceiling height inside standard shipping containers, but they’ll be easiest to load and unload onto a ship - as they’re already built to dimensions that are standard across the international shipping industry.
For tiny homes like ours, experienced shipping companies offer Roll On/Roll Off (RORO) transport via ship, and the vessel can receive direct delivery of the tiny home from the truck that towed it to the port (6). In other words, you can drive it right onto the ship, and then drive it off once it reaches the destination port.
Of course, getting it onto a ship is only the first step. With any dwelling, you’ve got to make sure that your destination will approve its use under its building codes, and under any other relevant laws and regulations (7). For instance, a European country may have stricter building standards than the United States, and may not allow you to live in it once you arrive. There’s also the issue of connections - standard electric voltage currents, and outlet configurations are different in many other nations abroad than they are in the US. This doesn’t even cover the possibility that your water and sewer hookups may be incompatible, if you move your American-made tiny home to Germany, Brazil, Indonesia or some other destination. For these reasons, it's best to be well-prepared before going ahead with your international move.
Moving your tiny home is a major undertaking, whether you want to move it to another town or another continent. Make sure you do plenty of research and verify that you’ll be able to use the tiny home legally at your destination, before you decide to just pack up and go. Then choose whether moving it yourself or hiring a professional moving company is the right choice for your situation. This will ensure that your home reaches its new destination safe and sound, with the bare minimum of fuss and hassle possible.
This article was made possible by our friend Tom Masters of A-1 Auto Transport, Inc. If you have any further questions, or would like to use his services, visit his website! If you found this article useful, follow us on social media for the latest in tiny living!