A jog stroller, kid carrier backpack, his and her adult bicycles, and a bike wagon for the little guy. Our family of three is perfectly geared up for a family run, hike, or bike ride, or so we thought.
Christmas this past year was a record warm day, so we decided to try out the new bike wagon and take the little guy on his first ride. We’d take a short drive, and then ride on the beautiful Northwest River Trail which connects several small historic towns along the Susquehanna river in Lancaster, PA. I was ready to get the gear to the vehicle when I realized we no longer own a truck, but rather two small hatchbacks! I returned to the house with a look of bewilderment, as my wife, already in her bike shorts, was filling water bottles, and talking excitedly to the little guy. I calmly stated, “we have no way to transport the bikes!” After returned my blank stare, she replied simply, “oh yeah.” And so our next project was born.
We must now turn our small car into a big car.
I first priced some roof racks but have abandoned that idea, since they can’t accommodate the bike wagon or stroller. Therefore, we are going to put a hitch on the car, and purchase a trailer. I ended up buying a 5x8 utility trailer since it was on sale for only 50 bucks more then the 4×7. This additional size was put to good use almost immediately, as I needed to haul some 4×8 sheets of drywall. They fit perfectly.
I’ll admit, at first the trailer did look ridiculous behind the car.
The salesman at Tractor Supply, chuckled, and said, “I didn’t expect this car,” once I had backed into position. At this point in life, I actually enjoy when others think I’m a bit strange, usually it is a sign that I’ve discovered another of life’s inefficiencies and am now taking positive advantage of the situation. After owning the trailer for about 6 months now, I can honestly say it was been a boon to my existence.
Bikes, wagons, strollers, coolers, and firewood all fit nicely on a camping trip.
I’ve hauled appliances for my properties, and I’ve taken junk and construction debris in quantities greater then my old truck could carry to the trash transfer station. I’ve even hauled a few loads of bricks, which I plan to use for a patio I’m building in my back yard. I’ve done all this with a car that averages 33-35 miles per gallon for our regular work commute. This commuting consumers over 90% of our vehicle use.
Yet, when needed, all three of us can hop in the car (not possible in the two seat truck), and haul anything the truck could have carried.
With a full trailer, the car still achieves around 25 miles to the gallon, which is about a 25% improvement over the trucks fuel efficiency. Really the only negative, is that when traveling over the mountains of West Virginia, I had to use the truck lane and put on the flashers while cruising uphill. This problem is somewhat reduced by the car’s manual transmission which allows me to downshift smartly. Otherwise, its great fun to take your little car and pretend to lug massive loads uphill with the other big rigs.
I just need a CB radio, and an air horn to blast out the window.
Now for those of you who aren’t convinced yet, let me throw some numbers at you. The trailer cost, 550$, and the hitch cost 330$, including the labor to have the garage mount and wire it for me. I had to spend about 30$ for the ball and hitch, along with 120$ for a spare tire. Lastly, it cost 144$ to register the trailer for 5 years. All together, it cost right around 1200$, which is certainly more then a roof rack. However, as a real estate owner, I can’t strap a electric range to the roof of my car, and appliance delivery services are only convenient if you are unemployed, and enjoy annoying phone calls in which you argue over the correct delivery address. Equally annoyingly, now days its frowned upon to hold infants and toddlers on your lap in the front seat, therefore, I have a chicken or the egg problem, in which I’d have to leave my son at home if I wanted to pack camping gear along with his stroller, but why would I need the stroller if he’s left home. It’s a real pickle.
The trailer is able to serve such a wide variety of functions, its utility easily matches the cost.
Lastly, the trailer will surely outlast any vehicle I own, allowing for a cost per use that will surely end up being pennies on the dollar. Unless you need lots of ground clearance, or frequently haul heavy loads for long distances, thus needing a superior braking system, a trailer and a fuel efficient car will more then suit your needs. Just blow and air horn out the window whenever you receive a sideways glance and you will be all set.