The Different Types of Car Trailers (And the Pros and Cons of Each for Car Shipping)

Choosing a Car Shipping Company

There are many different types of car trailers available as each vehicle type can have very specific shipping requirements. Not all cars are alike in size, value, durability, and not all customers move between the same two locations.

It makes sense that the auto transport industry offers varied, customizable services and a broad selection of trailer options. But until you need to ship a vehicle, you might not realize just how extensive the service can be and how daunting it is to make a decision that’s in your best interest.

With that said, here’s some information you need to know about types of car trailers, how they’re typically used, and what to keep in mind when talking to a local or international carrier.

Open Car Trailers

An open car trailer is one of the most common types of car trailers seen on the road. It’s mainly used for commercial and residential transportation due to its affordability and cargo capacity.

This is one of the different types of car trailers that can carry everything from equipment to tools to furniture and household goods to multiple vehicles. Unlike single car transportation, open car trailer shipping can accommodate many cars and handle large orders.

In fact, manufacturers and dealerships often use these types of car haulers to reduce their shipping costs and ensure timely deliveries.

Individual customers can hire single car carriers or use multi-vehicle types of car hauling trailers to minimize the cost of shipping a personal vehicle to their new home or after selling it online.

Open trailers can have one or two levels, each with a single car lane. The vehicles or any other cargo can be rolled onto the trailer via a ramp or pulley system.

Then, the cargo is usually tied down with special fastening cables, chains, or heavy-duty straps to minimize swaying.

A distinctive feature of open trailers is the lack of protection from the sides. Some open carriers won’t even have roofs to accommodate vehicles of different sizes. This means that the cargo is always exposed to the elements, temperature swings, and road debris.

Open Car Trailer Pros

  • One of the cheapest forms of transportation
  • Large enough to fit multiple vehicles
  • Efficient loading and unloading procedures

Open Car Trailer Cons

  • Little to no protection against environmental risk factors
  • Can delay delivery times for individual customers

The Different Types of Car Trailers

Enclosed Car Trailers

Trucks that carry cars are called enclosed car trailers, at least in some circles. This single car transportation or dual-car hauling method is often reserved for moving luxury, classic, and sports vehicles.

These car trailer types are completely enclosed from top to bottom, protecting the cargo from extreme weather conditions, temperatures, and road debris. They also provide additional security against theft and should even offer more protection in the event of a collision.

Some enclosed types of car hauling trailers are large enough to accommodate eight cars, although not many shippers use them.

Aside from 360-degree protection, an enclosed single car transporter can offer temperature control, more loading and unloading options, and more stability for the cargo. This is arguably the best choice for moving furniture, luxury items, or anything fragile like art, household goods, precious heirlooms, etc.

Enclosed Car Trailer Pros

  • Complete environmental protection
  • Multiple storage options
  • Often comes with extra careful and specialized transporters

Enclosed Car Trailer Cons

  • Can be expensive
  • Significant limitations in car hauling capacity

Flatbed Trailers

Although people tend to focus on two types of car haulers, open and enclosed trailers, there are plenty of other types of car trailers worth considering. Flatbed trailers are a great example.

A flatbed doesn’t have a protective cage and features minimal strapping options. It also doesn’t come in a tiered design to support more vehicles. Even if flatbed trailers aren’t exclusive to single car transportation, they won’t accommodate more than four vehicles.

Affordability is the biggest advantage, while the second is arguably the broad availability. A flatbed trailer is easy to load for the most part, but issues may arise if you’re trying to ship a non-operational vehicle. In addition, you won’t find many flatbed trailers hauling around furniture over long distances due to the lack of safety.

The same applies to bikes, luxury vehicles, classic and exotic cars, convertibles, etc.

Flatbed Trailer Pros

  • Commonly available
  • Cheap to rent due to great mileage
  • Can haul up to four cars

Flatbed Trailer Cons

  • Not ideal for transporting bikes and furniture
  • Much lower load capacity than other alternatives
  • Lacks any enclosure, cage, and outside protection

Flatbed TrailersGooseneck Trailers

Gooseneck trailers are interesting alternatives to flatbed trailers. This isn’t the go-to for single car transportation unless you’re talking about heavy-duty construction machines. Instead, it’s more commonly used to transport two or three cars from point A to point B.

The gooseneck trailer gets its name from its distinctive hitch design. It’s a complex format that works differently from a typical ball and hitch connection. Still, the robust construction of gooseneck trailers makes them ideal for transporting commercial equipment, vans, and other larger vehicles

One of the main benefits of using a gooseneck trailer is the added stability. In addition, these come with a higher load capacity and can be hitched to a powerful truck capable of hauling cargo over long distances.

But the complex setup, extra cost, and some road limitations can cause issues when using these types of car trailers. They have a rather niche use and won’t suit every type of customer.

Gooseneck Trailer Pros

  • Safer than flatbeds for long hauls
  • Can accommodate multiple vehicles, including commercial types
  • Superior stability
  • Higher weight capacity

Gooseneck Trailer Cons

  • Expensive service
  • The larger and wider design can run into road restrictions
  • Always needs specialized loading and unloading equipment
  • Worse mileage due to requiring a truck
  • Lacks environmental protection

Wedge Trailers

What is a carrier trailer that resembles an open trailer and a gooseneck? It’s a wedge trailer. Of all car trailer types, this is arguably one of the strangest.

A wedge trailer has a gooseneck hitch but also a wedge component that resembles a level of an open hauler. Still, if you choose this kind of trailer, you won’t be able to transport more than four vehicles, with three vehicles often being the optimal load.

Trucks that haul wedge trailers should have at least one ton and plenty of power. However, stability is key due to how each wedge is connected to another. This is a cheap method to transport vehicles but not the safest, as a single mistake could damage all of the vehicles.

Wedge Trailer Pros

  • Affordable solution
  • Accommodates up to four cars
  • Minimal specialized tools required
  • Robust gooseneck hitch

Wedge Trailer Cons

  • Susceptible to a domino effect over the slightest error
  • Limited fastening options
  • Less stable
  • Unsuitable for larger vehicles

Drop Deck Trailers

These types of car hauling trailers can be used as single car carriers or as haulers for large commercial equipment. You may also see them referred to as lowboy trailers or step decks.

The design starts with a semi-trailer platform featuring open sides. However, the trailer has two flatbed levels, hence the drop deck designation. It’s not exactly a multi-tiered open trailer but close enough in design and scope, with more advantages for commercial applications.

You can use the initial level for standard-sized cars and smaller equipment. The lower level is useful for hauling taller equipment or cars.

This design with different elevations should make loading and unloading easier, even with minimal equipment. But the platforms offer little protection from the sides and don’t feature roofs or cages.

One advantage over an open car trailer would be a reduced risk of spills or car parts coming down from the upper level onto the cars secured on the lower level. In terms of stability, drop deck trailers fare better than many different types of car trailers.

However, they’re not cheap, especially for residential customers.

Drop Deck Pros

  • Best suited for industrial and commercial applications
  • Rear and front cargo protection.
  • Built-in locking ramp
  • It can support very large vehicles and equipment

Drop Deck Cons

  • No protection above or from the sides
  • Expensive setup

How to Choose Between Different Types of Car Trailers

To the average customer, an enclosed single car transporter seems like the obvious choice. But there are many things to consider before getting a quote from the different shippers in the industry.

Tip No. 1 – Think About Your Vehicle

The type of car you want to transport should provide ample insight into the kind of trailer you need to move it from point A to point B efficiently and safely.

For example, shipping one or more average-sized vehicles is best done using an open carrier or even a flatbed. You can use these methods for inner and outer state transportation. Covering the car and strapping it down tightly should be enough to protect it against bad weather and road debris.

Besides, the carrier’s insurance should cover minor scrapes and dents.

However, luxury cars almost always demand enclosed transportation. Some cars can be so expensive or impossible to fix in the event of an accident that you may need extra protection.

Vans, buses, other commercial vehicles, and heavy-duty equipment like tractors, excavators, and compactors may need beefier trailers. This is where drop deck and gooseneck trailers can come in handy.

These aren’t just capable of supporting the load but are also designed to help avoid height restrictions and other issues.

Tip No. 2 – Know the Trailer Limitations

Learn what each trailer can do and what it takes to operate the different types of car trailers. Those that require extra equipment or can’t load non-operational vehicles might not be a good fit if you’re shipping a broken car or piece of machinery.

Consider other needs you might have, such as shipping other cargo alongside your vehicle and whether the trailer you want to use can even reach your pickup location.

Remember that some trailers are more limited in terms of what roads they can take. This could affect your entire schedule and raise the shipping cost. Weight capacity, protection, and strapping options are other important factors to consider.

Enclosed Car Trailers

Tip No. 3 – Consult With an Experienced Shipper

The best thing you can do is consult with an experienced shipper. If you give a shipping company representative the details of your cargo, destination, and particular requirements, they can point you in the right direction.

Shippers know how to transport everything from scooters to classic and luxury cars to industrial machinery in the most efficient way possible.

That’s why quotes are often unique for each customer, and the service is personalized.

Shippers can explain whether you need single car transportation or alternative types of car haulers and offer quotes for different scenarios.

Tip No. 4 – Consider Distance and Costs

Open-style trailers offer little to no protection. But that’s not always as big of a drawback as it seems. If you commit to a good season with little chance of bad weather and get an experienced transporter, everything can go smoothly and drastically lower the price of the quote.

Of course, open-style trailers are sometimes the only option, especially for larger vehicles. Yet even then, you might not need to splurge on a better trailer if you’re moving something over a short distance with low traffic and good roads.

Weigh Your Options Carefully

Learning that there are six types of car trailers, and depending on who you ask even more subtypes, can be overwhelming. But the good news is the auto transport industry can move pretty much anything you need locally, nationally, and internationally.

Familiarizing yourself with multiple trailer types now will serve you well in the future, help you make more informed decisions faster, and save money on transportation costs. If you stick to the three tips presented previously, you should have no problem finding the right trailer and carrier to cater to your needs.

If you’d like more information or a quote, feel free to contact Shipvehicles for further assistance with your residential and commercial transportation needs.