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Single-Axle vs. Dual-Axle Trailers

Mar 23, 2022

One of the first factors to consider when investing in a towing unit is whether you need a single- or double-axle trailer. Knowing the differences between these two configurations can help determine which is ideal for your situation. Each trailer type has pros and cons for different applications, but that doesn’t mean one is a better choice than the other. Choosing the right unit depends on your needs for load capacity, usage, budget and maneuverability.

Here is a look at single- vs. dual-axle trailers to help clarify which may be best for your operations.

What Are Single-Axle Trailers?

A single-axle trailer has one axle with a wheel on each end. This simple rig design attaches to the trailer with clamps or springs. Compared to dual models, single-axle trailers are smaller and have one set of wheels. Despite its smaller size, the single-axle configuration can haul a multitude of loads — whether you own a landscaping business or pull off-roading vehicles during the weekend.

Because of their size, single-axle trailers are easier to maneuver in tight spaces and around buildings. If you’re trying to park in an area with limited room or need to get around sharp corners, a single-axle trailer gives you more leeway. The unit’s adjustable towing angles and lower weight may make towing more manageable.

A single-axle trailer’s compact size also makes it more fuel-efficient. The trailer has fewer parts to maintain, which may make upkeep less expensive. Maintaining and replacing two tires and their components is more economical compared to four.

Pros of Driving With One Axle

The streamlined single-axle trailer design makes this configuration a cost-effective solution for a range of industries and recreational uses. Advantages of working with a smaller unit include:

  • Better fuel economy
  • Fewer components to maintain
  • Improved maneuverability
  • More affordable purchase price
  • Less weight to manage

The lightweight rig helps improve steering and is especially beneficial when stopping. Hauling a trailer with one axle may allow for shorter stopping distances, creating less wear on your truck or mid-sized vehicle.

Cons of Driving With One Axle

While single-axle trailers have many benefits, a few drawbacks of the units include:

  • Potential for greater wear: With only one set of tires holding up the unit, a single-axle trailer may undergo more stress from absorbing the weight of the load. Moving heavy loads with a single-axle unit may wear out the trailer tires faster because there is more weight on each wheel.
  • Less load capacity: Single-axles have less load capacity, which limits how much equipment or material you can haul.
  • Less stability: If a single-axle trailer doesn’t have suspension, you may not have as much stability or load cushion when traveling over bumps.

Another concern for single-axle units is that they may not have brakes. A trailer’s braking system depends on its weight. Small rigs carrying less weight can often operate securely at higher speeds without a separate brake structure. Plus, it’s not always feasible to manufacture every unit with brakes. If you’re hauling a lightweight trailer and cargo, you can likely rely on the brakes in a modern vehicle to stop the truck and trailer safely.

Most states necessitate independent braking systems when trailers exceed a gross weight of 3,000 pounds, although some states have smaller or larger thresholds. Check your state’s trailer braking system regulations to ensure you’re both compliant and safe with a single-axle unit.

Uses of Single-Axle Trailers

Single-axle trailers are ideal when you have smaller loads and lightweight cargo. Though they may not be the biggest option on the lot, they can still get the job done for many people. A single-axle trailer may be good for hauling the following items:

  • Large appliances
  • Building supplies
  • Furniture
  • Lawn care equipment
  • Motorcycles
  • Landscaping materials, like mulch, dirt, stone and sand
  • Off-roading vehicles
  • Small tractors

It’s important to understand a single-axle trailer’s weight limits and avoid overloading them. If you know what type of cargo you want to haul, be sure to look for a unit that can support its weight. Placing too much load on the rig can cause problems with the hitch and affect your towing vehicle. Overloading a single axle can also increase your risk of tire blowouts and accidents.

Without exceeding the gross weight limit of the trailer, you can haul just about anything. If you opt for an enclosed trailer, your assets will be secure. If you choose an open-bed unit, make sure you properly strap down your freight.

What Are Dual-Axle Trailers?

A dual-axle trailer, also known as a tandem-axle, has two sets of wheels. The second axle is positioned directly behind the first, and both axles have a wheel on each end. With four tires holding up the unit instead of two, a dual-axle trailer can evenly disperse the weight of your cargo.

Because of its boosted support and higher load capacity, a dual-axle trailer can increase your range of applications. Dual-axle units give you more room to haul massive loads, making it the perfect solution if you’re looking to expand your company in the future. Investing in a dual-axle trailer gives you room to grow, no matter if you’re extending your fleet of equipment or towing items in bulk.

Although the larger units are often more expensive than single-axle rigs, they usually deliver a higher return on investment over time. Their increased stability also allows you to haul heavy payloads, even when driving at highway speeds.

Advantages of Dual-Axle Trailers

A dual-axle trailer may be a good fit if you need to transport heavy loads or carry multiple items. A tandem-axle trailer is also ideal for traveling long distances. This could be helpful if your company needs to make interstate exchanges, or you need to travel several hundred miles to pick up heavy equipment.

Additional benefits of a dual-axle trailer include:

  • Improved stability: A dual-axle trailer offers improved weight distribution due to its four tires and suspension system. This improved stability reduces the amount of swaying you experience. When your truck and trailer are steadfast, you can improve hauling safety for both you and the other drivers on the road. If you’re looking for even more trailer stability, you can install anti-sway bars for help driving through wind-prone areas.
  • Built-in braking system: In most cases, tandem axles have independent braking systems. The two types of trailer braking methods include electric and hydraulic. Electric versions rely on your vehicle’s electrical system for power, while hydraulic surge brakes are self-contained in the trailer. Hydraulic brakes activate in response to the towing vehicle. Brakes make towing safer and improve stopping distances when hauling hefty weight.
  • Fewer tire repercussions: Because double-axle trailers have four tires, a flat tire may have less of an effect on your unit. Changing the tires on a larger trailer can also be easier if you experience a blowout because you may not have to use a jack.

Disadvantages of Dual-Axle Trailers

With a more complex design, a tandem-axle trailer tends to cost more and weigh more compared to its smaller counterpart. Relying on a bigger trailer to carry your large cargo may have a few other disadvantages, including:

  • Higher fuel usage: Because of its size and weight, the unit will also increase your fuel usage. However, one way to combat poor gas mileage is to invest in a trailer engineered with quality composites. They can help create a lighter and tougher build compared to typical materials.
  • Increased maintenance expenses: Your maintenance costs relate to the number of tires, as well as the size of the trailer. In both cases, a double-axle unit could cost more to maintain.
  • Less navigable: Unlike a single-axle unit, a dual rig won’t be able to fit in tighter parking spaces or make sharp turns. It’s important to be especially careful of your surroundings when maneuvering a large dual-axle trailer.
  • Higher toll payments: If you plan to use your trailer on toll roads, you may pay a higher fee for a dual-axle trailer. Some toll roads determine their prices by the number of axles in your vehicle or the vehicle’s weight. Either way, a dual-axle unit may cost more than a single-axle trailer.

Another consideration for dual-axle trailers is the level of your freight. Level towing means your products are level at all times. It makes for a safer operation, and it also increases the lifespan of your tires.

Uses of Tandem-Axle Trailers

A tandem solution can carry many of the same items as a single-axle trailer, but at much heavier weights. For example, with a tandem-axle trailer, you could haul larger ATVs, a higher volume of materials or several large appliances. Typical uses specific to a dual-axle trailer include:

  • Bulk items
  • Generators
  • Heavy equipment
  • Industrial machinery
  • Multiple vehicles
  • Race cars
  • Tractors
  • Trucks

The heavier the item you’ll be hauling, the bigger the trailer you may need. Make sure to reference the equipment’s manual and ask the experts for a trailer’s load capacity before purchasing. Like single-axle trailers, you should avoid exceeding the maximum weight limit on a dual-axle rig to avoid accidents, damage to the unit and damage to your vehicle.

Single-Axle and Dual-Axle Similarities

Both a single and tandem-axle trailer can transport a wide range of cargo within their weight limits. You can choose between open or enclosed solutions with both configurations, too. Aside from a few other similarities like required maintenance and customizability, both trailer types require special attention to braking.

Hauling a trailer of any size increases the stopping distance of your entire rig. Once you attach a trailer to your truck, SUV or another vehicle, you need more time and distance to come to a complete halt. Braking with added weight behind you also wears out your vehicle’s brakes faster.

Talk to a professional to figure out what kind of brakes may work best for your trailer size and driving experience.

Single-Axle and Dual-Axle Differences

Single- and dual-axle units have the same purpose: hauling cargo safely. However, the differences are what you want to focus on when deciding which matches your expectations. Three main differences to examine include the gross combined weight rating, the tongue weight and the hitches.

1. Gross Combined Weight Rating

Weight is an important variable when considering trailer types. In addition to a trailer’s payload capacity, you should consider your setup’s gross combined weight rating (GCWR). This term refers to the total combined weight your setup can handle safely.

To calculate a potential GCWR, add the following values:

  • The weight of your towing vehicle
  • The weight of any vehicle occupants or luggage
  • The weight of the loaded trailer

You can check your calculated GCWR against the number given by your vehicle manufacturer to ensure you are within a safe range. The GCWR of a single-axle trailer will be less than a heavy-duty tandem-axle. Staying within your GCWR can help make sure your towing and braking are effective and safe.

2. Tongue Weight

When comparing the two configurations, you’ll also want to consider tongue weight. Tongue weight describes how much of the load is on the hitch. Between 5% and 15% of the trailer weight should rest on the hitch. If you undershoot this weight, the joint may sway more than usual. If there’s too much pressure on the hitch, steering may become more difficult.

Calculating your tongue weight may look different depending on whether you have a single- or dual-axle trailer. For example, you may be able to prop a standard bathroom scale on a cinder block to measure the tongue weight on a single-axle rig. You may need to purchase a specific tongue weight scale to measure the weight on a dual-axle trailer.

3. Hitches

Single- and dual-axle configurations require properly sized hitch balls. The size of the trailer corresponds to the size of the ball — so a more compact rig will need a smaller hitch, and a larger trailer will need one that matches its size. An ill-fitting hitch ball could cause your trailer to detach while driving.

Which Trailer Is Best for Your Operations?

The best trailer for your operation depends on how much weight you’re pulling, the maneuverability you need, the type of towing vehicle you have and your budget. Before you invest in a trailer, be sure to calculate the weight of what you’ll be pulling and check how much your truck can handle. If you think you may be hauling heavier weight in the future, it may be wise to select a larger trailer that can grow with you. If you commonly tow items within a smaller weight range, compact, single-axles are a good option.

Trust All Pro Trailer Superstore for Your Trailer Solutions

If you’re unsure which trailer configuration best suits your application, you can rely on our team of experts for support. We’ll partner with you and learn about your situation to narrow down an optimal make, model and size of trailer from our wide selection. In addition to our new and used single- and dual-axle trailers, we also offer repairs, finance support, customization, inspection and a range of other services.

Take a look at our trailer inventory or talk to a Trailer Superstore rep for help today.

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