Trailer and trailer hitch basics
August 17, 2017 5:53 AM   Subscribe

We have a 2013 Subaru Forester, and I would like to get a little utility trailer to transport small equipment (mower, snow blower), take stuff to the dump, and to take home bulky purchase from Home Depot (e.g., insulation batts, mulch, plywood sheets). If I'm buying a trailer, I'd likely get an open bed and stay off highways, but I'd like the ability to rent a trailer I might vacation with. A bike rack is also possible. I know absolutely nothing else about trailers and hitches. Help?

What do I need to know about trailers and hitches before getting one?

-Does the trailer need a plate/lights/registration/insurance? (Live in MA)
-Who should install it? I've seen a lot of bad reviews of the OEM Subaru hitch.
-Do brands matter with hitches?
-What size (1.25 or 2?) and class should I be looking for?
-Does it void your warranty/affect safety/reliability that some seem to require drilling or cutting heat shields/fascia (e.g. The eco hitch)
-Why would I want a Hidden hitch (seems to be a selling point of some)
-Anything to look for in the trailer itself (was thinking of one of the folding ones from Harbor Freight)

I didn't grow up with cars and don't know any car people, but I think a trailer would solve a number of practical issues (albeit mostly weekend DIY-related ones).

I don't expect ever to tow a boat or anything like that.

Thanks!
posted by Admiral Haddock to Travel & Transportation (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Who should install it? I've seen a lot of bad reviews of the OEM Subaru hitch.

We had U-Haul (Rt. 9 Eastbound in Natick) install a hitch on my wife's Subaru Outback. They did a decent job, from what I can tell. We've only used it for a bike rack so far so we didn't get it wired up. I don't remember what they charged but I'm pretty sure it was competitive. Landry's bikes is right next door if you're looking for a bike rack.

We had a similar hitch installed when she had a Honda Pilot and I think we had that one wired up for a trailer at one point.

It's one of those square socket hitches so various size balls and racks can be used with it.
posted by bondcliff at 6:38 AM on August 17


Heya,

Just to set your mind at ease, I have a 2009 Subaru Forester, and I have towed a 1500lb tent trailer all over hell's half acre. Its a capable little vehicle. I have a hidden hitch; its what my local place installed. It was significantly cheaper than the Subaru OEM. Honestly, for what you are doing, any properly installed Class II hitch will do the job. Mine is a class II. For a trailer, I prefer something with fixed sides, especially for securing camping gear, so you can securely tarp it. Be aware that most hard sided trailers, once loaded, will be over the tow capacity of your Subaru. You would need to rent a TAB or very ultralight type trailer, or a tent trailer. Happy travels!
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 6:39 AM on August 17


Seconding U-Haul. When I bought my Impreza Wagon even the salesman at the Subaru dealership told me to not waste my time/money having them put one on and just go over to U-Haul. They got mine installed and wired in about an hour and a half for what I thought was a pretty reasonable price.
posted by Ufez Jones at 7:50 AM on August 17


I have a harbor freight fold up trailer for the sort of reasons you talk about. Dumps runs, sheet rock, plywood, 16' long lumber and motorcycles. It is really nice to load and unload from the lower height of a trailer as opposed to a pickup truck, especially motorcycles. I store the trailer so it doesn't get rained on. Your thought that it would be practical is correct. I tow with a smaller car than a Forester. The harbor freight trailer is as low quality as you'd expect given its low price. But if your local junk guy charges $30 per a truck load it doesn't take long for the HF trailer to pay for its self.

You only need the 1.25" class I tow bar. It goes up to 2000 lb and you don't want to do more than that. Higher class tow bars cost more for their additional strength but your car cannot handle it.

Oh here's the important part:
In the past installing the wiring kit was not too bad of a job but now it is a real pain. The newer cars with LED tail lights require a different tow wiring kit that is more work to install. The LED tail lights draw less current so the wires to them are tiny compared to the old filament bulbs. The previous generation of wiring kits just hooked up the the tail light wires and they could handle the additional current for trailer tail lights. The ones for vehicles with LED tail lights need a wire run all the way from the tow wiring kit box to the the battery positive terminal. Without a lift this is not a fun job. Just get U-Haul or some other tow gear shop to do it.
posted by bdc34 at 11:00 AM on August 17


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