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Bumper Pull Living Quarters Trailers: Know the Dangers

A living quarters horse trailer is the perfect solution for horsemen who want to spend longer weekends away with their horses.  However, some buyers make the mistake of purchasing a living quarters horse trailer built with a bumper pull configuration.  

In most cases, when you buy a bumper pull living quarters you are putting yourself and your horses in danger every time you hitch up. You are also missing out on the advantages of a gooseneck horse trailer

Buyers often make this purchase because trailer dealers say whatever it takes to make the sale. 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 bumper pull living quarters trailers. 

If you own or plan to purchase one of these trailers, then read carefully.  We’ll explain 5 reasons why you should never buy a bumper pull living quarters horse trailer.  Plus, we’ll share a few stories of salesmen putting the ‘sleaze’ in sleazy salesmanship.

All of this information does you no good without one final piece of the puzzle… some safer alternatives! So, we’ll wrap things up with an explanation of why gooseneck is better and reveal the one and only type of bumper pull living quarters trailer that is worth your money.

In this article....

Why Do People Want Bumper Pull Living Quarters Trailers?

So, what’s the appeal anyway? 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.  Unfortunately, these living quarters add a great deal of weight to the front portion of the horse trailer which cases all of the problems you’ll see below.

“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 manufacturer’s tow ratings on most trucks.”

This leads ups to our first reason why bumper pull living quarters trailers are so unsafe…

horse trailer towing

1.  They have an extremely heavy vertical tongue weight.

To put it in the simplest terms: Bumper pull horse trailers with living quarters are not safe to tow because the vertical tongue weight of these trailers is often extremely heavy.  It exceeds the hitch capacity on most tow vehicles. 

excessive trailer tongue weight

Since, the front of the trailer is loaded with features like a kitchenette, bathroom, and sleeping quarters.  This means the living quarters horse trailer has a much heavier front end than a regular bumper pull trailer with a dressing room.

Many people make the mistake of checking their truck’s towing capacity, seeing a large GVWR value, and assuming they are good-to-go. They forget to check the tongue weight capacity of their 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.

tongue weight calculator

For example, we found one woman who owned a bumper pull living quarters horse trailer built by another manufacturer.  Using the trailer’s weight, length, and axle locations, we were able to calculate that the tongue weight on her trailer, when empty of horses, was around 1,700 lbs.  

The hitch on her Ford F-150 truck was only rated to carry 990 lbs.  When she added another 2,200 lbs. of horses into the mix, she was likely exceeding her hitch’s maximum capacity by almost double!  This is a very dangerous situation.

Most hitches, even with weight distribution bars, are only rated to haul around 1,500 lbs. of vertical tongue weight, so this trailer is bad news regardless of who tows it.

Now, before you ask… No, you cannot just get a larger hitch!

Your truck has a certain payload it can handle based on the braking capabilities, engine size, transmission, tires/wheels, and chassis.  So, even if you have a larger hitch, the payload of your truck may still be exceeded.  Exceeding this payload can cause significant damage to your vehicle – especially if overloaded consistently.

2.  Horses cause variability in the weight distribution.

If putting living quarters on a bumper pull horse trailer is such a bad idea, why are enormous bumper pull RVs so common on the road?  Do these camping enthusiasts have some sort of secret that horse people don’t know about? 

Actually yes…their secret is that they are not hauling horses.

horse trailer

Adding horses to a bumper pull vehicle adds in a great deal of variability.  RV designers can easily look at the placement of features in relation to the trailer axles to perfectly balance the load.  Their goal is to achieve a 15% tongue weight.  This means a 5,000 lb. RV would have an ideal tongue weight around 750 lbs. that is easily handled by many hitches.

Brad Heath, owner of Double D Trailers, helped explain the difference between RVs and horse trailers.  “On a horse trailer that has an empty weight of 5,000 lbs., we can also work to achieve a 15% tongue weight.  However, this load distribution is completely thrown off when we add 2,200 lbs. of horse to the mix.”

“If the horses are standing in front of the axles,” he continued, “then the tongue weight increases significantly.  If they are standing behind the axles, then suddenly, you are at risk for a negative tongue weight that results in a swaying load or unstable driving conditions.”

Despite this fact, many horse trailer manufacturers have continued to build bumper pull living quarters horse trailers to meet the demands of consumers.  It’s been a major point of concern for Brad who values horse trailer safety above all else in his business.

3.  You will have reduced steering and handling in your tow vehicle.

trailer hitch

You may be wondering, "What’s the big deal if I exceed my hitch rating by a few hundred pounds.”  Does matching the tongue weight to a proper hitch really matter that much?  The answer is, “YES!” 

If you have a trailer that is pushing down too much on the rear of your tow vehicle, you are at risk of a complete hitch failure.  Brad explained, “There is a very good reason that vehicles manufacturers post limits on weight, and it’s to ensure safety…plain and simple.  If you exceed that limit, it’s unsafe!”

Next, an excessively heavy load pushing on the rear of your tow vehicle also serves to lift the front end of your tow vehicle up slightly off the road.  It’s just like a see-saw.  Push down on one side and the other side goes up.  This slight raising of the truck’s front end is enough to impact the steering on your tow vehicle.

4.  You can’t always trust a salesman to be honest.

bumper pull horse trailer

If these trailers are so dangerous to tow, then why do people keep buying them? 

Unfortunately, many consumers are simple misinformed…okay, let’s be blunt…they’re lied to.  Sellers take advantage of inexperienced buyers and convince them that their truck can handle the load with no problem.

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. 

They tried to avoid answering questions and gave as little information as possible to try to reassure the buyers that their trucks could handle the trailer’s weight.  

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!’”

unsafe horse trailer

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.

unsafe trailer loads 

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 1,500 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? 

5.  There are MUCH Safer Options Available to Purchase

Living quarters horse trailers are certainly wonderful to own.  They give you a warm and dry place to sleep after a long weekend showing the horses or traveling cross-country.  It’s like a home-away-from-home.

Many people like knowing they’ll have a warm and dry place to sleep for the night without the hassle of packing a tent or finding a nearby hotel.  Plus, it’s downright convenient to shower off the mud of the day and cook a hot dinner right in your trailer.

If you are determined to own a living quarters horse trailer, check out one of the much safer and still affordable options below.

Affordable Option #1: Trail Blazer Gooseneck Living Quarters Trailer

The Trail Blazer Living Quarters Horse Trailer is one of our most popular models because it allows you to pick and choose where you spend your money.  Rather than buying one of the fancier models, this trailer comes with a base model ready to haul 2 or 3 horses up to 16.2 hands in height. 

The mid-sized living quarters has a short wall that ranges from 7 to 9 feet and can be towed by most 3/4 pick-up trucks.  This gooseneck trailer hitches to your pick up using a hitch in the bed of your truck so it is much safer than the bumper pull models described in this article.  When you have a correct hitch combined with a well-matched tow vehicle, you can be sure you won’t exceed either the hitch capacity or the payload capacity of your truck.

Best of all, it comes with all the safety features you’d want on a Double D Trailer including: Z-Frame technology, Galvalite skin, SafeBump “No Leak” Roof, temperature regulation, and SafeKick Wall Systems.

This gooseneck trailer also includes the patented SafeTack storage area.  Unlike most conventional slant load trailers, SafeTack trailers have a rear tack storage area that swings out like a second door.  This leaves you with a wide open doorway for loading and unloading in the rear of the trailer.  There’s enough room that many owners will simply turn their horses around to walk off the trailer without ever having to back up.

Make this a true walk-on-walk-off trailer by adding a side loading door and ramp.  Then, it because easy to turn this into a reverse-load trailer.  Horses load from the side door into a rear facing stall. Then, the telescoping dividers open to allow the horse and handler to walk off the rear of the trailer to offload.  Scientific studies have shown that rear-facing trailers result in less stress and fatigue in horses.  In other words, horses naturally prefer to travel in the rear facing direction!

The interior of the trailer comes with vinyl wrapped cabinets and a fold out sleeper sofa.  You can also customize the kitchen area and layout to match your preferences.  Since this trailer model can be customized, you can choose where and how you want to spend your money.  You’ll have the option to upgrade the interior design of your living quarters or increase the size of the horse area for your bigger breeds. 

If this model is still out of your price range, you might consider the next affordable option…

Affordable Option #2: Gooseneck Horse Trailer with Hang Out Living Quarters Package

One of the biggest reasons why people shy away from a full living quarters gooseneck trailer is the price.  So, why not start with a basic gooseneck trailer and add ONLY the features you really need?  That’s what you can do when you add the Hang Out Living Quarters Package to your trailer.

Imagine this, start with a basic dressing room and add a small kitchenette with a two-burner cooktop.  Then, add a flat screen TV, a few wooden cabinets, a refrigerator, and a small wardrobe.  This hang out package gives you just enough comfort features so you can truly hang out in your trailer over a long weekend with your horses. 

It’s not a full living quarters, but a lot of horse owners don’t need the frills and thrills of full living quarters.  The hang out package provides just enough at a price that is affordable.

Best of all, this type of trailer model is much safer than the bumper pull living quarters models described above.  You can design one of these trailers to haul between 2-6 horses.  Just like with the model above, it comes with all the safety features you’d want in your Double D Trailer.

The cost is much less than a full living quarters and the end result is a trailer you’ll love.  If that option still doesn’t feel right, we have one more safer and affordable option for you…

Affordable Option #3: One Horse Bumper Pull with Living Quarters

one horse bumper pull with living quarters

Yes, you read that right… bumper pull with living quarters (but it is for only one horse!) 

It is always our goal to build the perfect trailer for every type of horse owner out there.  That’s why we’ve designed a new SafeTack One Horse Bumper Pull Horse Trailer with Living Quarters.  This particular model has some really great advantages you may want to consider if you are looking for a new home away from home for you and your horse.

Is a SafeTack One Horse Trailer With Living Quarters Right for You?

First, the obvious — this trailer may be ideal for you if you own just one horse.

In addition, you’re looking for a comfortable place to sleep or hang out while spending a weekend away at a show or camping trip.  You’d rather not use a hotel or the back of your truck, so you’re looking for a comfortable home on wheels.

Sure, you could buy a larger gooseneck trailer with living quarters, but that seems like too much when it’s just you and your horse.

As a better alternative, this single horse trailer with living quarters gives you a small but comfy living area complete with a toilet, cooking area, dining area, and even a place to sleep.  It’s the perfect little oasis for a single horse owner on-the-go.

1 horse bumper pull with living quarters

Download this floorplan (PDF Document)

Plus, you can use this indoor (and air conditioned) space to relax and take a break from the sun during long days at a show.  If you do happen to have a spouse or small family supporting you and your horse, then this living quarters can act as “home base” with space for a larger tent outdoors.

We feel that this particular trailer design does a great job of addressing the needs of those who think that one horse is the perfect amount.  As Double D Trailers owner Brad Heath explained, “You can have the amenities for “roughing it hotel style,” but keep it in a small compact bumper pull that is very safe to tow and easy to maneuver.”

Why is This Bumper Pull Trailer with Living Quarters Safer than Others?

trailer tongue weightIf you’ve read above, you know that 2 horse bumper pull horse trailers with living quarters are very unsafe.  We definitely do NOT recommend them or build them. (Emphasis on the “two horse…”)

The biggest problem with this trailer type comes with the weight distribution.  The extra weight from the living quarters on a bumper pull design can throw off the balance of the trailer’s weight over the wheels.  In order to maintain a proper balance, the trailer designers need to position the axles and tires in the proper place so that the load is safely handled by the tow vehicle.

With a two horse bumper pull with living quarters design, there is a great deal of variability with where the horses will be standing.  Owners may choose to load two horses, one horse in a front stall, or one horse in a rear stall.  Since horses weigh around 1,200 lbs., this can greatly throw off the balance of the trailer as a whole.  

Some dealers and manufacturers might claim they are moving the axles forward to balance out the tongue weight, but this is not a sound solution. They will say anything to make a sale, but we urge you to be cautious.

The axle needs to be positioned towards the rear of the horse trailer near where the horses are standing in order to avoid a negative tongue weight and trailer sway. With the axles positioned farther back, this results in a very heavy tongue weight that may exceed the hitch ratings or payload capacities on most SUVs or half ton trucks.

The point is this - with a two horse bumper pull trailer with living quarters, there is no “safe” place to position the axles.  You just never know exactly how the horse’s weight is going to be positioned.

We’ve seen a great number of complaints for other horse trailer brands that sell two horse bumper pull trailers with living quarters.  When they try to move those axles too far forward, the tow vehicles may experience dangerous sway conditions while driving.

Just so you understand, this only applies to 2 horse trailers…one horse bumper pull trailers with living quarters are perfectly fine.  

Let’s summarize the differences below…

2 horse bumper pull horse trailers with living quarters are UNSAFE because:

  • Extremely heavy vertical tongue weight. - The large living quarters in the front of these 2 horse trailers creates a very heavy vertical tongue weight that often exceeds a reasonable hitch capacity and payload capacity for your truck.
  • Horses cause variability in weight distribution. - With space for two horses, the trailer designers are unable to know for sure where the horses’ weight will be in the trailer.  Owners may choose to load two horses, one horse in the front stall, or just one horse in the rear stall.  Each scenario changes the weight distribution.
  • Reduced steering and handling with tow vehicle. - A very heavy tongue weight will push down on the rear end of your tow vehicle lifting the front end slightly off the road.  This isn’t enough to see with your eyes, but it will impact your steering.

1 horse bumper pull trailers with living quarters are SAFE because:

  • No variability for the horse’s position. - Since there is only one horse and one stall, we know exactly where that horse’s weight will be located during travel.  This lets us easily position the axles relative to the trailer’s living quarters for safer towing and a reasonable tongue weight.
  • Reasonable tongue weight.  - Again, since we know the horse is going to be exactly within their 40” stall, we can engineer the entire trailer for proper load distribution.
  • Safer driving with tow vehicle. - Since this is a bumper pull trailer, it will be easier for you to simply “hitch and go” when you are ready.  The overall length of this trailer is only going to be 15.5 feet, so it is not overly long or hard to maneuver.

Check out this in-depth video where Double D Trailers owner, Brad, breaks down this topic even further.

More Reasons to Consider a One-Horse Trailer

Now that you understand why this living quarters horse trailer model is safe for the road, let’s take a look at some more of the one horse trailer benefits you can enjoy.

1. Easier to Tow

As we mentioned before, this is a relatively small trailer at only 15.5 feet.  Since we are leaving out a second stall, we can reduce the length by 3.5 feet compared to a two horse trailer.  This shorter length results in more visibility and easier maneuvering compared to a longer trailer.

2.  More tow vehicle options.

If you were to buy a two horse gooseneck trailer, you would be a bit more limited in your selection of tow vehicles.  First of all, you would be forced to buy a pick-up truck to accommodate the gooseneck.  Second, a smaller trailer means you’ll also have a lighter towing load.  Again, this gives you more options when it comes to choosing your tow vehicle.

3.  Save on gas and trailer cost.

If you compare this single horse trailer with living quarters to a more typical 2 horse gooseneck horse trailer with living quarters, you will likely be spending less money for the initial purchase.  Plus, since it is a smaller and lighter load, you can save on gas as well.

4.  Avoid the liability of towing a friend’s horse. 

If you only own one horse, but you own a 2 horse trailer, then you may be used to friends constantly asking you for a ride.  Of course, this may be perfectly fine with you (assuming you enjoy your friend’s company).

But anytime you transport a friend’s horse, you are opening yourself up to some potential issues.  What happens if their horse is injured during transport?  What happens if their horse damages your trailer?  Who pays for damage or vet bills?  Both of these situations can be a little tricky to handle.

For that reason, you may prefer to have just a single horse trailer.  This way you can do your own thing and enjoy your friends’ company once you’ve reached your destination.  They can find their own ride to the event.

5.  Safer loading and unloading with SafeTack design.

safetack horse trailer

Unlike a typical slant load horse trailer, our SafeTack trailer has an enclosed tack storage area that swings out like a second door.  This allows you to open up the entire rear portion of the trailer for loading and unloading.  For many horses, there is even enough space for the horse to fully turn around and walk off the back of the trailer in the forward direction rather than backing.

This loading configuration has helped many nervous horses get over their fear of loading and unloading.  In addition, we’ve put a great deal of attention on the interior of the trailer to make it feel airy and light.  The horse area is fully insulated with a SafeBump roof and white interior to help control the temperature on hot days.  Plus, our trailers come with SafeKick walls, Z-Frame construction, and the option for Rumber flooring.

6.  Customizable living quarters.

Last, but certainly not least, is the living quarters.  This trailer design would use the “hang out living quarters” package with a cowboy (or cowgirl) shower rather than a conventional shower.  It then has room for a toilet, small cooking area, and 2-person dinette.  The table can fold down into a bed.  Finally, there is an interior door that leads directly back to the horse area.

Overall, this one horse bumper pull trailer with living quarters provides a great option for horse owners who only have one horse.  Read here to learn more about the specifications and safety features. You can click here for a full video tour of our new model, or click here to read a testimonial of a customer who purchased our 1 Horse Bumper Pull Living Quarters!

If you have any additional questions any of the topics covered in this article, feel free to contact Brad



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