Dump Trailers: 3 Best Types and Sizes

There’s a lot to know about dump trailers. The only way to find the best dump trailer for your use and make an educated purchase decision is to research all the variations of the different components of a dump trailer.

Types of Dump Trailers

Dump trailers come in three types. These types are defined by how and where the trailer dumps its load from – such as the end, bottom, or side.

End Dump Trailers

These dump trailers unload by lifting the front end of the dump box into the air and offloading the contents from the rear. These dump trailers are right for transporting difficult materials such as dirt and demolished concrete.

Bottom Dump Trailers

These trailers have a clamshell dump gate on the bottom, enabling you to unload materials from the bottom of the trailer. For this reason, bottom dump trailers are also called belly dump trailers. Their design minimizes weight and maximizes payload while keeping the trailer highly stable. Getting these trailers is the right for stockpiling and asphalt paving.

Side Dump Trailers

Featuring hydraulic rams, side dump trailers are capable of unloading cargo by tilting to either side. Since there’s no need to back up for unloading the contents, the trailers can easily be used on uneven grounds. Side dump trailers are used for excavation and building roads.

In addition to these dump types, many dump trailers used for various projects come with different axle configurations, and vary in duty and pull type. There are single axle dump trailers and dual-axle dump trailers. There are also light duty, medium duty, and heavy duty dump trailers. Dump trailers may also be gooseneck pull or bumper pull dump trailers.

Dump Trailer Size

Similar to other types of trailers, you can find dump trailers ranging between 8 feet and 30 feet in length. However, 14-foot models are the most popular ones, since they are wide enough for most applications and reasonably maneuverable.

Your vehicle’s towing limit determines the maximum weight of your dump trailer purchase. Towing limits are usually defined in terms of “GVWR” (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating), which refers to the maximum safe operating weight of a vehicle. Some manufacturers define this safe operating weight in “GAWR” or “GTW” terms in their spec sheets.

Commercial Vehicle Weight Category

Exceeding the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) limit and putting undue weight behind your vehicle will shorten its life drastically. It is vital for dump trailer buyers to bear in mind the GVWR when choosing a model. Thankfully, manufacturers categorize and even name their various models by size.

Commercial Vehicle Weight CategoryClasses
Light-DutyClass 1: GVWR ranging between 0–6,000 pounds or 0–2,722 kilograms.Class 2: GVWR ranging between 6,001–10,000 pounds or 2,722–4,536 kilograms.Class 3: GVWR ranging between 10,001–14,000 pounds or 4,536–6,350 kilograms.
Medium-DutyClass 4: GVWR ranging between 14,001–16,000 pounds or 6,351–7,257 kilograms.Class 5: GVWR ranging between 16,001–19,500 pounds or 7,258–8,845 kilograms.Class 6: GVWR ranging between 19,501–26,000 pounds or 8,846-11,793 kilograms.
Heavy-Duty Class 7: GVWR ranging between 26,001 to 33,000 pounds or 11,794–14,969 kilograms.
Class 8: GVWR greater than 33,001 pounds or 14,969 kilograms. Tractor-trailers also come under this category.

Besides keeping in mind the importance of towing limits when buying your dump trailer, ensuring the receiver and ball mount you install also match these limits is vital. The towing mechanism provided by the manufacturer may be insufficient, so you must do your due diligence and purchase an adequate aftermarket option.

Dump Trailer Frames

You will need to put some thought into picking between the three kinds of frame types.

Frame TypeAdvantageDisadvantage
ChannelAffordableNot very strong
I-beamLower price than tubular framesNot as strong as tubular frames
TubularStrongest framesExpensive

You also have a choice of cross-member widths to choose from. 16-inch is the standard, however, 12-inch and 20-inch cross members are available on the market. A 20-inch cross member will make the trailer bed more durable but also add weight.

Lifting Mechanism

While lifting mechanisms vary in type, most manufacturers use one of three lifting mechanisms.

Telescopic Hoist Hydraulic System

A telescopic hoist hydraulic system is mounted under the front-center portion of the trailer. The single-cylinder mechanism will lift the box to the selected dumping angle.

Dual Piston System

Dual-piston lifting mechanisms utilize two pistons to lift the box to the dumping angle.

Scissor Lift Mechanism

The scissor lift mechanism has become popular because its scissor-like operation offers maximum leverage and lifting power when dumping. Additionally, the mechanism spreads out the footprint, lowering the odds of racking the box in case of an uneven load.

All lifting mechanisms have a hydraulic pump, and these pumps are of two main kinds: power down and gravity down. Power down pumps use battery power to lower the dump trailers’ box, essentially cutting the battery’s life in half.

Picking a model with a gravity down hydraulic pump will use gravity to lower the dump box, prolonging the battery life.


Most manufacturers store the ramp underneath the bed at the back. However, some hang the ramps on the side of the dump box. Ramps are heavy, and those stored under the bed are easier to put in place.

You can find dump trailers with ramps built into the tailgate, which makes for easy loading of equipment. These ramps are excellent if you’re expecting to be loading equipment into the box frequently. Some of the best dump trailers have hydraulic-assisted ramps that you can lower by pulling a lever.

Side Gates

Dump trailers are often used for transporting goods, and if you will be loading pallets, boxes, and other materials into your trailer, installing a side gate will be the right way to go.

Besides making loading and unloading more convenient, side gates will enable the loader to space the goods evenly. The gates also make it easy to tie down machinery and heavy equipment.

Drop Legs

Loading heavy equipment into a trailer entails a risk of the trailer’s tongue popping off the ground or off the towing vehicle’s hitch. And when the tongue comes loose from the towing vehicle it can slam into the back and cause significant damage.

The damage can cost thousands of dollars to fix. For this reason, drop legs are considered a safety essential since they stabilize the trailer when loading and unloading.

If you want to purchase a dump trailer for moving equipment and expect to be hooking up and dropping the trailer frequently, consider installing a hydraulic jack. A pneumatic jack will remove the need for you to crack a manual jack.

Side Walls

It’s essential to consider the wall heights of the trailer you’re considering purchasing. Most trailers come with the standard 24-inch wall. However, you could order taller walls or purchase and equip wall extensions.

Removable wall extensions are either made from solid metal or metal lath. Lath wall extensions weigh less and also allow you to see into the trailer.

If you need taller sides on a budget, you can build extensions out of wood. While these won’t be as sturdy as aftermarket options, they are cheap to make and easy to replace when they get dinged by a skid steer bucket.


You will need reliable brakes since your vehicle will be hauling thousands of pounds behind it. The brake size typically depends on the axle size, so upgrading is rarely an option. Some manufacturers offer a disc brake upgrade.

Modern drum brakes feature auto-adjustment systems that regulate brake tension automatically. This removes the need for climbing under the trailer in bad weather to adjust the tension.

Most vehicles feature electric brakes; however, there are a lot of vehicles with surge brakes as well. If you’re buying a trailer from another part of the country, you must ensure that the vehicle meets the state’s regulations.

Some states don’t allow trucks over a certain weight to have surge brakes. You will get in legal trouble if you miss this detail, so it’s best to do your due diligence.

Charging Options

If you get a trailer with a hydraulic pump, it will typically be powered by an onboard battery. The battery will require regular charging, and some options are better than others. Your three options include:

  • Plugging the battery into an outlet at a 110V charging station.
  • Charging from the truck using a 7-way plug.
  • Charging from the solar panel on the dump box (this is a relatively new option that’s quickly gaining popularity).

Some new trailers come with gas engines to power the pump, making batteries unnecessary. Since the average battery will serve you for only a year or two, buying a gas engine trailer is the more economical option.

If you intend to use your trailer to make dumps back to back, a battery charger may be unable to keep up with your use. Getting a gas-engine-powered trailer dump is the best way to go for frequent use.

Wheel Options

Aluminum wheels are rust-resistant, and they also have a nice look to them. However, if your trailer is very heavy, the manufacturer will equip it with steel wheels since aluminum wheels have a limited weight capacity.


Trailers tend to have ordinary paint jobs when you buy them off the lot. However, some manufacturers offer to galvanize the trailer. The trailer is submerged in a chemical bath that makes it rust-resistant.

A full dip ensures that the chemical coats the entirety of the body. While galvanizing costs a lot of money, it will add years to the trailer’s life and bump up the resale value.

Manufacturers are experimenting with bed spray liners to increase their trailers’ durability. While the benefits of the liners may not be comparable to those offered by galvanization, a liner will certainly help enforce the front part of trailers since they usually get the worst beating when used.


Dump trailers are not cheap to buy or fix, so it’s best to only rely on manufacturers that stand behind their products. Bear in mind that a manufacturer advertising a “5-year warranty” may not cover all of the trailer’s components for five years.

Reading the fine print is the only way to break down what is covered and for how long. You can compare the trailers on your shortlist this way to find the best, most financially safe rent to own dump trailer.