Here at Double D Trailers, we take safety very seriously. That is why owner Brad Heath was downright angry when he learned that some horse trailer dealers are lying to their customers about the safety of their trailers. If you own or plan to purchase a bumper pull horse trailer with living quarters, then read carefully. We’ll explain why these trailers are dangerous to haul and share stories of salesmen putting the ‘sleaze’ in sleazy salesmanship.
Know Your Horse Trailer’s Tongue Weight
In order to understand why bumper pull horse trailers with living quarters are so dangerous to tow, you first need to understand a bit about the mechanics of hauling. In every rig, there are three important components: the trailer, the truck, and the (often disregarded) hitch.
Many times, people will look at the hauling capacity of their growling pick-up truck and assume that it’s strong enough to pull the load. After all, if your vehicle has a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 9,000 lbs, it can surely pull a new trailer that only weighs 6,000 lbs, right? Actually…no! These people are forgetting the third and vitally important component… the hitch.
Hitches are only rated to pull a certain amount of weight and handle a specific vertical tongue weight. This is the weight of your trailer’s front section, or tongue, if you were to walk up to the front and physically lift it off the ground. The tongue weight can be calculated using the trailer’s weight, body length, and axle position. Use this handy tool to make the calculations for you.
A truck hauling a trailer with too heavy of a tongue weight can have some serious problems. Brad explained, “In an emergency braking or emergency swerve situation it could be easier to lose control for the simple fact of having too much weight trying to push the tow vehicle in a different direction than you want it to go. Not to mention excessive tongue weight removes the downward force on the front end of the tow vehicle which greatly reduces stability and control.”
Bumper Pull Horse Trailers with Living Quarters: Know the Dangers
A bumper pull horse trailer with living quarters can be attractive to buyers who like the idea of a quick ‘hook and go’ trailer that doesn’t require the expense of a gooseneck hitch. Brad explained, “A lot of clients may feel overwhelmed with a gooseneck so a bumper pull just ‘seems’ easier.”
It combines the convenience of a bumper pull hook-up with the luxuries of on-board areas for sleeping, cooking, and bathing. These living quarters add a great deal of weight to the front portion of the horse trailer thus increasing the tongue weight.
“While a bumper pull with living quarters may serve the horse and handler with comforts, finding a tow vehicle that is rated to safely tow the trailer is a huge concern,” Brad shared. “At Double D Trailers, we’ve known for years that larger bumper pull trailers with living quarters greatly exceed the manufacturers stated maximum safe vertical tongue weight hitch rating on tow vehicles.”
He continued, “Sure, weight distribution bars will help … but the majority of those are only rated at 1,500 lbs max and bumper pulls with living quarters weight more than 1,500 lbs empty.”
How Does a Bumper Pull Trailer With Living Quarters Compare to an RV?
You may be wondering why these horse trailers are such a problem when people haul huge bumper pull RVs all the time. Bumper pull trailers with living quarters are different from RV campers because of the variability of weight distribution…also known as the horses. “If the RV weighs 5,000 lbs empty and you want to distribute the 15% tongue weight, an engineer can easily calculate the distance/location of the axles so the tongue weight is 15% or 750 lbs,” Brad explained.
“However, on a horse trailer, if the empty weight is 5,000 lbs and we use the same 15% variable, what happens when you add 2,200 lbs of horses to your load? If the horses are standing in front of the axles, suddenly the tongue weight increases significantly. If the horses are behind the axle center, you could end up with a negative tongue weight potentially causing the load to sway and become unstable resulting in an accident.”
For years, Brad has been puzzled as to why companies continue to build these horse trailers knowing in good conscience that uneducated users are dangerously towing. In order to get to the bottom of the issue, he did a little bit of undercover investigation to talk with the sellers of these dangerous trailers.
He concluded, “It was disheartening to find out that dealers would say everything but tell the truth when it comes to tongue weight!” Let’s take a look at three real-life cases where the sellers either didn’t know or outright lied to the potential buyer about the safety of their trailer.
Case #1 – A Seller Who Didn’t Know Her Horse Trailer Was Unsafe
Brad approached a woman named Laurel who was advertising her trailer for sale on a popular online horse trailer sales forum. He pretended to be a man who was interested in buying her bumper pull trailer with living quarters.
Right away, Brad asked for the tongue weight of her trailer so he could ‘ensure his tow vehicle was adequate.’ She explained that she purchased her trailer from a dealer in Virginia and had asked him the same question. “I did ask the dealer the same question and he shrugged his shoulders, looked at my diesel Silverado HD Duramax and said, ‘You got no worries, honey!’”
Eventually, Laurel agreed to weigh her trailer at a weigh station and reported back with a tongue weight of 1,520 lbs when the trailer was empty. With horses on board, the tongue weight would increase by several hundred pounds. Laurel’s Duramax truck and hitch was only rated to carry a maximum of 1,500 lbs vertical tongue weight with a weight distribution system.
It’s lucky she never had an accident while hauling her horses. Each time she loaded up, she was exceeding the maximum carrying capacity of her hitch. She could have been in a serious accident, all because the dealer took advantage of her lack of knowledge.
Case #2 – A Seller Who Lied About the Tongue Weight of Her Bumper Pull Horse Trailer with Living Quarters
Jackie was also advertising her trailer on an online popular horse trailer sales forum. When Brad (again posing as a potential buyer) asked about the tongue weight of the trailer, she replied, “I have pulled the trailer for years with an F150.” With much prodding, she finally shared the sticker on her truck’s hitch and Brad was astonished by what he saw.
Her trailer was the same brand as Laurel’s but was 14” larger in width. Using the trailer weight, length, and axle locations, Brad was able to estimate that her tongue weight was at least 1,700 pounds unloaded with no horses.
If that’s not shocking enough, Jackie’s hitch photo showed that her truck and hitch were only rated to carry a maximum of 990 pounds, YIKES!. This means she was exceeding the hitch rating by almost double the stated maximum capacity.
Surely, she didn’t know of this danger when she was trying to sell the trailer? Actually, yes she did.
Jackie’s response…”Yes I am aware that I have been exceeding the limit, hence the selling of the trailer.”
Buyers beware! This lady will say anything to sell her trailer.
Case #3: A Dealer Who Tried to Mislead the Buyer
Finally, we can take a look at a dealer named Bill in Ohio who sells bumper pull trailers with living quarters every day. Brad (posing as a potential buyer) asked him what the tongue weight was on his trailer to which Bill replied, “The hitch weight is about 800 lbs.”
Brad replied that this seemed low and added that his truck had a hitch rating of 1,500 lbs with a weight distribution system. Bill replied, “I have sold these to people with a 1500 with no problem.”
Brad again insisted that he know the exact tongue weight and the dealer finally admitted, “The tongue weight on an 8 wide is 1,574 pounds…”
This dealer was doing everything he could to skirt the question but finally had to admit that his trailer had an extremely heavy tongue weight that exceeds the maximum hitch rating of almost any half-ton truck on the market.
How can he sleep at night?
What Kind of Living Quarters Horse Trailer is Safest?
These sellers had a bumper pull horse trailers with living quarters with an excessive vertical tongue weight. Brad put it simply. “There is a reason vehicle manufacturers post limits on weight, and it’s to ensure safety…plain and simple. If you exceed the limit, it’s unsafe.”
Any buyers who fall for these lies are putting themselves in dangerous situations each time they hook up their trailer. What’s the take-away message from this investigation? If you love horse trailers with living quarters, make sure you purchase a gooseneck horse trailer instead. Or, consider a one horse bumper pull horse trailer where the variability of weight distribution is less significant. Leave the larger bumper pull with living quarters models on the lot!
Questions: Have you ever met a trailer salesmen that you knew was lying? What questions do you have about tongue weight and hitch safety?