Why not a small utility trailer?

I’ve been looking for a trailer for our two kayaks. I came across a small utility trailer with a 4X8 foot flat bed for far less than any of the kayak specific trailers I’ve been looking at. It seems to me that the utility trailer could fairly easily be modified in any number of ways to accommodate various needs we might have and therefore would be both more versatile, sturdier and cheaper than the more specific models. The one I’m looking at is at: http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?Itemnumber=90154

So, what’s the down side? Is there some reason a trailer like this doesn’t make sense for kayaks?

Thanks very much.

I’ve used a trailer very much like this one. Don’t see why it can’t be modified to work for you. Vaughn Fulton

While it will certainly work and numerous people have even posted plans to make the conversion, the drawback is the suspension. Even a pair of the heaviest kayaks will not weigh over 200 lbs while most utility trailers have leaf springs designed to carry a 1000-1500 lbs load. With practically no weight, the trailer would bounce unmercifully applying all kinds of bad stress to your boats. A good kayak trailer has a lower weight rating and suspension to match for a smooth ride.

Re. Suspension
Thanks very much, I can see the problem. This model has three leaf springs. If I can remove all but the longest one, might that help?

You may be able to remove a leaf.
You didn’t say how long your kayaks are. Most around here convert either old boat trailers or jet ski trailers. The latter are especially nice. As for utility trailers, while the kayaks alone may not give enough weight to keep the trailer from bouncing, consider other gear you may carry. Many attach a truck or similar tool box to the trailer…sometimes on the tongue, which I don’t like…to much additional hitch weight, or in the bed. Others build side boxes. With the boxes and gear you put in them, there should be enough weight.

I wouldn’t worry too much about the bouncing anyway. Almost any trailer is going to do it a bit. And, if your kayaks are cushioned, it won’t matter. Might not enjoy the bounce from the car, but its not so bad.

Keeperdave, 47 replies plus photo links

Trailer Conversion
When I first started kayaking I had no way to haul kayaks so I bought one of those HF 4x8 trailers.

Put side and end rails on it then made a rack (which would accommodate the two kayaks) I could easily lift on top of the rails. I then straped kayaks rack and all to the frame of the trailer. The floor of the trailer was used for gear and then I needed the trailer for “other things” the rack was off in an instance.

I also saw a set up where the kayaker made a set of saddles that bolted on to the ends of his trailer.

Good luck with your project.

Any day on the water is a great day.


PS: Still have trailer but rack is gone since I put racks on the Chevy Tracker.

hf trailers
the advantage of the trailer is because you can bolt a wooden floor onto it, and it also has brackets that support 8 (?) upright 2x4s, you can make many modifications to the trailer to meet your needs, including storage space and ability to carry more than 2 kayaks.

the downsides are: 1) the tongue is too short, which will reduce your car’s turning radius because the back of the car will bump into the front of the kayaks, 2) the trailer is bolted together so it’s structurally weaker than those single purpose kayak trailers.

the solutions to the 2 are: 1) the safest is probably take it to a shop and have them weld a longer tongue to it. the cost is around $80-ish when i was pricing it out earlier. however, i did see a picture around here before of someone using the stock tongue, they said it was close, but worked for them. 2) since you know it’s bolted together, don’t be crazy with it. a few people around here have hf trailers and have served them well.

i personally bought the boat trailer from hf because of the tongue issue and modified it to carry 3 kayaks. however, if you peruse the forum and look for posts by redmund (or something like it, sorry can’t remember) he’s made a nice trailer from the one you’re interested it.

here’s the link to my trailer:


click on the pictures for further explanation.

Utility Trailers
I’ve used a Harbor Freight 4x8 utility trailer with all the springs (I like to use it for other stuff also). I’ve trailered it over thousands of miles and over several years. All my boats are poly (except the CLC which doesn’t go out often). No problems with the boats or the trailer. I did extend the tongue on it. I think it helps, especially with long boats. I am very careful on railroad tracks.

My daughters family uses one to carry their 4 SOTs and other gear. They haul their camping gear in it too and it takes the place of a pick up truck. I have been looking at the smaller trailer to convert into a kayak hauler to handle up to 17’ kayaks.

I have seen people with other similar trailers who have removed all but one leaf from the springs, but I also know someone who did that and had the one remaining leaf break. He has since given up on the idea of using only one leaf.

Since the quality of many river access roads is absolutely horrible with severe washboarding, I think the trailer suspension is worth some thought – just to keep the trailer from shaking itself apart while you are out in the backwoods (apply plenty of Locktite to those bolts).

I would be interested to see if anyone has come up with a solution that is effective. Maybe make a trailer with some scrapped parts off of dirtbikes?

My combo
Sorry this pic doesn’t really show the trailer very well. It was a real old homemade utility trailer with a channel for a motorcycle on the left. I added a kayak rack on the right (soon to be a double over/under rack).

This works for solo shuttles especially since I live in an area where I don’t have to worry too much about someone messing with my bike when I’m floating or messing with my yak when I’m riding to get the rig. I usually like to detour a while when doing the shuttle on my bike. It has leaf and coil springs as well as shocks and yes it bounces like a mo fo, I have to shorten the overload coils and it will be fine.


can be reduced by running low pressure in the the tires and a longer tongue helps but tuning the springs to the gross weight is the best way to control bouncing. My leaf springs and shocks are perfect but my overload coils come into play when the trailer is loaded so I’ll cut them down a bit. they will only contact when hitting large bumps or potholes. I also use this trailer for hauling logs, rock etc and I need those overload springs.

I just drive slowly
Seems to work for me. The trailer just rolls into and out of the ruts.

Go for it!
Any light trailer is going to bounce around a lot, just cushion your boats well and they’ll be fine. You may have gear in addition to the kayaks you’ll want to carry as well. Also, sometimes you may need a trailer to help a friend move, etc., and it’s better to have a multipurpose one than a specific one that isn’t as versatile.


Dozen’s of kayak trailer pictures.

I built a 4x7 trailer from scratch as my
first welding project. I used 750# springs to minimize bounce. With the motorcycle or any other load over a few hundred pounds it doesn’t bounce but lightly loaded or empty it does. Ideally, rubber torsion suspenders would be used instead of leaf springs. They minimize bounce by dampening axle movement and work independantly. They will be used on the dedicated canoe/ camping gear/ motorcycle trailer I’m going to build this winter. Oh yea, it was my first project so the welds ain’t that pretty!

Small tires like those will require
more monitoring of the pressure. You don’t want them

to be hard and bouncy, but if you lower the pressure

too much, there’s more chance you might lose the air

pressure seal and end up with a flat.

Use a 3/4" treated plywood for the floor, and build

your mounts with treated wood, using nuts and bolts.

Make sure your tail overhang will be within the legal limit.

Use carpeting or foam for padding, good straps,

carry a spare, and go for it!

And get bearing buddies for the hubs.
Makes keeping those bearings greased a breeze. Keep 'em packed. Helps not only with high speeds, but with displacing water should you back into boat ramps to off load with the hubs below water.