Many movers choose to drive their own moving truck when moving to a new home. While this does allow for more control over your move, it also means that you have to consider how to get your car from your old home to your new one because you can’t drive two vehicles at the same time.
There are many options when it comes to auto transport. You can select a company from our best car shipping companies to ship your vehicle and not have to give it a second thought. But if you’d rather save a little money, you may be considering using a car trailer or tow dolly to move your vehicle yourself.
But which is better, a car trailer or tow dolly? The answer depends on the conditions of your move. Let’s take a look at the details and help you decide which option is the best for your next move.
Car trailer vs. tow dolly
While car trailers and tow dollies may accomplish the same task, they are two completely different devices. Below we explain more about what each one does and the tasks it is best suited for.
What is a car trailer?
A car trailer is a four-wheel trailer that can hold a vehicle and be pulled by a moving van or truck. When a car is placed on a car trailer, all four wheels are off the ground, limiting wear and tear. Car trailers are especially useful for moving long distances and the transport of larger vehicles.
What is a tow dolly?
A tow dolly is a two-wheel trailer that can hold the front wheels of a vehicle and be pulled by a moving van or truck. When cars are placed in a tow dolly, their rear wheels remain on the ground and roll along with the trailer wheels when the towing vehicle is in motion. Tow dollies are usually one of the cheapest options when it comes to vehicle transport and are excellent choices for short-distance moves.
Car trailer pros and cons
- Less wear and tear: Because none of your vehicle’s wheels touch the ground, there isn’t any depreciation on your tires and less chance your car could be damaged by a high curb
- Can be used for all vehicle types: Unlike tow dollies, car trailers can be used for front-wheel, rear-wheel, and all-wheel drive vehicles
- Easy to load: Car trailers often come with a ramp to help with vehicle loading
- Easy to tow: Even though it may not seem like it, a car trailer is easier to steer, and you are able to reverse, when needed
- High weight capacity: Car trailers typically have high weight limits and are able to carry vehicles up to 5,000 pounds
- Cost: When compared to a tow dolly, car trailers are always more expensive
- Weight: While relatively easy to drive with, car trailers are heavier to tow, so you will need to ensure your vehicle can handle towing both the weight of the car trailer and the vehicle on it
- Slower speed: When towing a car trailer, you won’t be able to drive at high speeds. Most car trailer manufacturers recommend a maximum speed of 55 miles per hour, which can make a long distance move even longer
- May require special towing equipment: Most car trailers require a vehicle that already has specific towing equipment installed
Tow dolly: pros and cons
- Low price: Tow dollies are often half the price of car trailers, especially when renting from a location like U-Haul.
- Better for short distances: If you are moving just across town, a tow dolly will be less stressful than a car trailer.
- Fewer towing requirements: A tow dolly weighs less than a car trailer, meaning you don’t need as heavy a vehicle to tow it.
- Easier for motorcycle towing: When moving a motorcycle from place to place, a tow dolly works well and is more cost-effective than a car trailer.
- Only for front-wheel drive vehicles: Because the rear wheels need to be able to roll while in transport, you can’t use a tow dolly with a rear-wheel drive or a four-wheel drive vehicle. Using a tow dolly with either of these car types could cause damage to your driveshaft.
- Difficult to maneuver and hook up: Tow dollies are notoriously difficult to both load and maneuver. Plus, you cannot reverse your vehicle while a car is attached. This can be challenging if you have a long drive ahead.
- Low ground clearance: The rear portion of your vehicle will be lower to the ground during transport, increasing the likelihood of damage occurring to your vehicle during your move
- Must be checked often: You’ll need to check that your vehicle is still on the car dolly properly every five to 50 miles. This can be a bit much for someone moving across state lines.
- Low towing capacity: Car tow dollies often can’t handle larger vehicles
Car trailer vs. tow dolly: How do they differ?
As you can see by the pros and cons, there are many differences between using a car trailer or a tow dolly for your move. Most of the differences are in terms of cost, accessibility, moving method, and capacity — all of which we will break down for you below.
One of the biggest differences between a car trailer and a tow dolly is the price you will pay. Because they are smaller and lighter, tow dollies are cheaper to rent than car trailers.
Of course, the cost will vary widely depending on the time of year you are renting and the distance you plan to traverse. But the base price for a tow dolly is typically half of that of a car trailer.
If you decide against using an auto transport company due to the cost, looking at a tow dolly is the natural next step, particularly if you have a short move.
After cost, another big difference between these two methods of car transport is how they carry your vehicle. A tow dolly is smaller, only carrying two wheels of your car while the two rear tires roll on the ground. A trailer, on the other hand, carries the entire vehicle, and no parts of your car will be on the road.
Because vehicles on a tow dolly must have rear wheels that can roll, this means they are only designed for front-wheel-drive cars. Using any other type of car on a tow dolly will cause damage to your vehicle.
Even though using a tow dolly with a front-wheel drive car won’t cause damage, it still increases the risk that your vehicle will be damaged in transit. For example, you can still pop a tire or scrape your bumper going down a high curb.
Auto transport trailers reduce this risk because your entire car is placed in a flat towing setup — meaning no tires touch the ground, and the car trailer would help protect your car from damage when traversing curbs and other hazards of the road.
Car trailers are more accessible than tow dollies because they can tow all types of vehicles. Remember, a tow dolly cannot be used for an all-wheel drive car, meaning most owners of SUVs won’t be able to use it.
Even if you are the owner of a sedan, you will want to check that your vehicle isn’t rear-wheel drive before choosing a tow dolly.
Although car trailers are accessible to more vehicle owners, it’s important to note that not all vehicles can tow a car trailer. Because car trailers are heavy, you may need specialty equipment to tow one. Car dollies, because they are smaller and more lightweight, can usually be towed by a wider range of vehicles.
Car trailers have a much larger towing capacity than car dollies. While car dollies may be okay for a sedan, they typically cannot carry vehicles over 3,000 pounds. A car trailer, however, can often carry a 5,000-pound vehicle or more.
This means if you have a large vehicle, a car trailer is probably the better choice, even if you are just moving across town. But if you have a smaller vehicle, the choice between a tow dolly and a car trailer will depend on the specific circumstances of your move, like the distance you are traveling.
Car trailer vs. dolly: How to choose the right car shipping method
Are you struggling to know whether a car trailer or a tow dolly is the better choice for your move? We’ve got a selection of different moving situations below to help you make your choice!
Use a car trailer if:
- You are making a long-distance move
- You have a heavy vehicle to transport
- You have a rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive car
Use a tow dolly if:
- You are moving a small sedan or motorcycle
- You are moving fewer than 50 miles
Other car shipping options
Whether you choose a car trailer or tow dolly, moving your own vehicle can be a hassle on top of the regular stress of moving. If you would rather not deal with towing your own vehicle, look into these other auto transport options.
- Hire a professional auto transport company. A professional car shipper can move your car in a flatbed or enclosed trailer from your old home to your new one, and you don’t have to lift a finger. If you have a rare or high-value vehicle, you may want to consider getting quotes from the best enclosed car shipping companies.
- Hire a professional driver. There are some services where you can hire a driver to drive your car from one state to another. While this option can be costly, in really long moves, it can still be cheaper than using an auto transport company.
- Use Amtrak. The Amtrak train system has a vehicle-moving option for those moving up or down the East Coast.
- Ask a friend. If a friend has offered to help you move, see if they would drive your vehicle for you. You’ll probably have to buy their return plane ticket, but this could be a decent option if you are moving from one large city to another.
- Drive your car yourself. Consider hiring one of our best interstate moving companies so you don’t have to worry about driving the moving truck and can drive your vehicle instead. Many full-service movers also provide car shipping at an extra cost.
What is the difference between a tow dolly and a car carrier?
A tow dolly is a car towing option that only lifts two wheels off the ground. The other two wheels of your vehicle will roll on the ground as you drive from place to place. A car trailer is a more heavy-duty option in which your entire car is lifted off the ground during transport, similar to a flatbed trailer.
Is it better to tow a car with a dolly or a trailer?
It is better and safer to tow your car with a car trailer than a car dolly, although a car trailer will cost more.
What are the benefits of towing a car with a dolly?
The two benefits of using a tow dolly to move your car are the low cost and the fact that it is lightweight, meaning a smaller SUV can usually pull it.
Is it cheaper to tow a car with a trailer or a dolly?
A tow dolly is a cheaper vehicle towing option allowing you to move your vehicle from one place to another for only a few hundred dollars. It has limited compatibility, however, so you will want to check that your vehicle is compatible before booking a tow dolly for your move.
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