How to rent a car trailer

It’s cheaper than a third-party transport service and reduces wear and tear on your car

Author pictureAuthor picture
Author picture
By:
Author picture
Edited by:

Where are you moving to?

black car on open trailer

If you are moving to a new location, chances are, you also need to move your car. While there are alternatives to how to move your car, renting a car trailer (also called a car carrier or car hauler) is one reasonably priced option you can consider.

A car trailer is a four-wheel carrier that allows you to tow your car behind your moving truck or full-size SUV with all four wheels off the ground. Renting a car trailer is often cheaper than other options, but it does require some preparation and planning before the big move.


Key insights

The cost to rent a car trailer for a day typically ranges from $95 to over $200.

Jump to insight

You can haul heavier vehicles in a car trailer as compared with a tow dolly, but that also requires a towing vehicle with a higher towing capacity than a standard vehicle.

Jump to insight

A major benefit to using a car trailer is that you won’t add unnecessary mileage to the vehicle-in-tow.

Jump to insight

Always read the instruction manual before using a car trailer. It lists important details to keep in mind like the maximum speed limit a car trailer can safely travel.

Jump to insight

Moving a car yourself vs. hiring transporters

There are several ways you can move your vehicle. Essentially, each alternative falls into one of two categories: moving it yourself or paying a company to move it for you.

Your options for moving your car yourself:

  • Drive it yourself: This could be a good option if you plan on hiring a moving company that will drive its own truck. For long-distance moves especially, driving your car allows you the flexibility to arrive at your destination in your own time. The only costs you should incur are fuel costs and wear and tear on the vehicle.
  • Rent a tow dolly or a car trailer: Both options allow you to transport the vehicle behind a moving truck or another vehicle capable of towing this particular weight capacity. Not every vehicle is powerful enough to tow a car trailer; you’ll need a full-size SUV or a pickup truck. The difference between the two is the trailer design and the types of vehicles it can haul. A tow dolly lifts and carries the car's front wheels while allowing the back two wheels to stay on the road as it's towed. On the other hand, with a car trailer, the entire vehicle is rolled up onto a platform. Tow dollies can also have lower maximum weight capacities than car trailers and may only transport certain types of vehicles (like those with front-wheel drive in certain cases).

If you plan to hire transporters, you have two options:

  • Booking an auto transport service: An auto transport service will ship your vehicle via truck to your new place. You schedule the pickup date, and the company will provide you with a delivery timeline. Depending on the distance, your car could be delivered within a few days of pickup.
  • Hiring a professional driver: You could also hire a professional to drive your car for you, which may be an option to consider if you need to transport pets as well because some companies offer that service too. Also, you can ride in the vehicle too if you prefer as opposed to riding along in a moving truck.

Pros and cons of renting a car trailer

One significant benefit to using a car trailer instead of a tow dolly is that all four wheels are off the road, which won’t add mileage to your vehicle. Also, you may feel like you have more control operating the towing vehicle because car trailers tend to sway less on the road. Regarding cost, car trailers are typically more expensive than tow dollies to rent, but not by a lot. We found daily rental rates of $99 for a car trailer compared with $79 for a tow dolly.

Before renting a car trailer, however, keep in mind that it may be a bit more difficult to turn into tighter spaces than if you were using a tow dolly because it’s larger and can carry heavier vehicles. Also, you’ll need a heftier vehicle (e.g., a pickup truck or moving truck) to be able to tow a car trailer compared with a tow dolly, which smaller vehicles can pull.

Pros

  • Reduces wear and tear on the vehicle by allowing you to tow your car behind a moving truck or pickup truck and keep all four wheels off the ground (The benefit to this is that no mileage is added to your car.)
  • Works with many different types of cars
  • Sways less on the road than tow dollies and may be more suitable for long-distance trips
  • Generally less expensive than a car shipper or private driver
  • Can handle more weight than a tow dolly
  • No wait time for a driver to deliver your car

Cons

  • More expensive to rent than a tow dolly
  • May be difficult to turn and maneuver
  • Requires higher towing capacity for towing vehicles (Towing capacity is how much weight a vehicle can safely pull behind the towing vehicle.)
  • Unable to haul vehicles with low ground clearance (Low ground clearance refers to vehicles that have 6.5 inches or less between the lowest point of the vehicle and the ground, like some sports cars.)

Costs of renting a car trailer

Several companies offer car trailer rentals, like those that provide moving and storage services. Typical daily rental rates can range from $90 to over $200.

Rental prices can vary depending on a few factors, including:

  • Style: Car trailers can either be enclosed (with an aluminum frame on all sides and on top) or open (just the platform on tires). Enclosed trailers aren’t as widely available and tend to cost more to rent than open trailers.
  • Date: Demand for trailer rentals can be higher during peak moving season, which falls between May and September. As a result, you could pay more for a rental if your moving date is in the spring or summer. Rental companies are less likely to offer discounts or promotions then.
  • Duration: Rental companies typically offer hourly, daily or weekly rates. When you book for a week or longer, you may receive a discounted rate. For example, one rental company the ConsumerAffairs Team researched offered daily rates of $90 (or $630 total for a week) compared to weekly rates of $600.
  • Additional services: You can rent a trailer for less if you bundle it with other services, like a moving truck rental.

While renting a car trailer is generally more expensive than a tow dolly, it can be the safer alternative for long-distance moves. A car trailer will generally sway less on highways and roads, making it easier for you to control the towing vehicle at higher speeds.

Also, you can’t back up a truck with a tow dolly because it could damage the hitch system. This may not be ideal when you’ll need to put the truck in reverse to park or unload the vehicle-in-tow.

What to keep in mind about trailer rentals

There are several things to keep in mind as you search for car trailers to rent. First, consider your budget and how much you can reasonably afford. Gather quotes from multiple companies, including national moving companies and local trailer rental businesses.

Remember that some moving companies may only rent out a car trailer with a moving truck reservation. Before you research options, know ahead of time whether or not you plan to rent a moving truck or another towing vehicle as well.

Also, take some time a few weeks before your trailer rental to ensure you have all the necessary requirements to tow a vehicle.

Brian Smith, vice president of global marketing for freight and shipping software company Cota Systems, advises consumers to verify their insurance will cover towing. Smith added that it’s important to “practice hooking up and driving with the trailer, and carefully plan your route to avoid roads with towing restrictions.”

Smith continued: “Also, the first couple of times you stop it's worth checking your hitch hookup if it needs to be tightened. The chains that act as a secondary safety measure should have slack in them to make turns but not so much that you're dragging them creating sparks on the road.”

The hitch

You’ll need the right hitch to connect the car trailer to your towing vehicle. A hitch is a device attached to the towing vehicle to pull the trailer. If you rent a moving truck from a rental company, it comes equipped with the proper hitch for towing a car trailer. The company may also help you hook up the trailer and show you how to load and unload the vehicle.

If you plan to tow with your own vehicle, check the hitch requirements listed in the car trailer’s instruction manual. You’ll also need to check your vehicle’s manual for the type of hitch it may already come equipped with. The hitch you’ll need will depend on your vehicle’s year, make and model, as well as the weight of the car and trailer you plan to tow. Some moving truck rental companies, like U-Haul, also offer hitch installation services.

During your trip, make sure to check the trailer connection and hitch at each stop. Elliott Helm, owner of Sterling Interstate Moving Company, told us, “it's worth checking your hitch hookup if it needs to be tightened. The chains that act as a secondary safety measure should have slack in them to make turns but not so much that you're dragging them creating sparks on the road.”

Tips for operating a car trailer

  • Read the towing instructions in the owner’s manual before attaching the trailer.
  • Ensure that you have the proper towing hitch ahead of time to connect the trailer.
  • Check the tire pressure.
  • Don’t top off the gas tank for the vehicle-in-tow. Keep about one-quarter of the tank full (otherwise there will be too much weight).
  • Have someone ride in the towing vehicle with you to help check for blind spots when backing up.
  • When loading your car, drive up the trailer slowly.
  • Make sure the vehicle-in-tow is in the correct gear as you load it onto the car trailer.
  • Make sure the parking brake is engaged on the vehicle-in-tow.
  • Drive the truck at speeds no higher than 55 miles per hour or below depending on the posted speed limit.
  • Brake slowly and sooner than usual.
  • Be overly cautious and practice defensive driving techniques.
  • Check the trailer and connection during pit stops.

Where are you moving to?

FAQ

Do rental companies charge for mileage with car trailers?

No, you generally won’t be charged a mileage fee when you rent a car trailer. For example, U-Haul’s company website states that unlimited mileage is included with all trailer and towing rentals.

Should I rent or buy a car trailer?

Renting a car trailer is the cheaper option if you only need one for a single move. You can rent a trailer at a starting daily rate of $90. Keep in mind that a car trailer can cost $4,000 or more when purchased brand new. You may consider buying one only if you plan to haul your vehicle several times in the next few years to make the savings in rentals worth the initial investment.

What is the best way to insure your belongings when you rent a car trailer?

When it comes to coverage for the vehicle-in-tow, check with your auto insurance provider for details on your policy before renting a car trailer. Scott Hassell, vice president and insurance agent for The Hassell Insurance Group, told us, “If the vehicle being towed on the trailer has full coverage (comprehensive and collision) on the owners’ personally held auto insurance policy, then nothing else is needed and that is the recommended approach.”

However, Hassell recommended that consumers consider purchasing additional insurance from the rental company. In the event you need to file a claim, it won’t negatively impact your personally held policy.

For personal belongings in the vehicle-in-tow, Hassell added that home insurance may provide coverage, depending on the policy.

Bottom line

Renting a car trailer may be a budget-friendly option if you’ve already secured the appropriate towing vehicle. Make sure you’re comfortable with hauling a heavy load, though, as driving can be much trickier with a car trailer attached. However, if you’re in a time crunch and don’t feel prepared to move your car yourself, consider other options like car shipping or hiring a professional driver.

» COMPARE: Best moving companies


Article sources

ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:

  1. Professional Drivers, “Car Transport.” Accessed May 2, 2024.
  2. Amtrak, “Auto Train.” Accessed May 2, 2024.
  3. AutoStar Transport Express, “Tow Dolly vs Auto Transport vs Car Trailers.” Accessed May 2, 2024.
  4. Penske, “Towing Equipment.” Accessed May 2, 2024.
  5. Kelly Blue Book, “Towing Capacity Guide: Everything You Need to Know.” Accessed May 2, 2024.
  6. All My Sons Moving & Storage, “When is the Cheapest Time to Move?” Accessed May 2, 2024.
  7. U-Haul, “Tow Dolly User Instructions.” Accessed May 2, 2024.
  8. U-Haul, “Auto Transporter User Instructions.” Accessed May 2, 2024.
  9. Car and Driver, “Car Insurance Trailer: Everything You Need to Know.” Accessed May 3, 2024.
Did you find this article helpful? |
Share this article