The ultimate guide to towing a trailer in New Zealand! : Hirepool

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The ultimate guide to towing a trailer in New Zealand!

Trailers are an incredibly useful piece of equipment, and a great companion to have whenever you need to transport items that are too large or too messy to fit in the car. Working out which type of trailer you need, what your vehicle is capable of towing and how to drive with a trailer, if you haven’t before, can be a tricky task.  

Hirepool are experts when it comes to trailer hire, so we’ve put together this guide to trailer hire in New Zealand to answer some common questions and to make the whole process of hiring and using a trailer less daunting.

Just a quick note before we get into it: this article just looks at towing from a light motor vehicle point of view and doesn’t cover tractors or other agricultural vehicles. If you want to find out about the towing rules for these vehicles, the NZ Road Code has all the info.

Let’s launch in!

Types of trailers available for hire 

Hirepool has a range of trailers for hire, each designed for different towing jobs in mind. Here’s a summary of the types of trailers we have on offer and the type of towing job they’re best used for:

Type of Trailer 

Useful For

Cage trailers

 

Tandem axle cage trailers offer high sides, loading ramps and braked models. This makes them the perfect trailer for moving large loads such as furniture and carting loose materials like rubbish or garden prunings. 

Chiller Trailers

Chiller trailers are designed to transport and store food and drinks for events, functions or parties. Ensuring your expensive food and drinks maintain consistent temperatures and stay fresh until needed.

 

Furniture Trailers

Furniture trailers are the perfect choice when moving house or collecting some new furniture. These covered trailers minimise the chance of damage and exposure to weather. Available in both single and twin axle, depending on your load requirements, the rear fold down door and ramp makes loading and unloading easy.  

Single & Tandem Axle Trailers 

Available in a range of sizes, single or tandem axle trailers enable the transportation of a wide range of materials, such as furniture, garden prunings, building materials, and construction debris.


Tandem axle trailers are designed for larger loads and offer greater stability at higher speeds or in varying road conditions.

Specialised Equipment Trailers

 

Needing to transport fuel or portaloos? Hirepool has a range of specialised equipment trailers for jobs that need a bespoke solution. Check out the range to see if they have a trailer that will fit your specialized towing needs.

Transport Trailers

 

Transport trailers are designed for vehicle recovery and also ideal for transporting heavier equipment or materials.

Hirepool’s tips on towing a trailer in New Zealand

At Hirepool we pride ourselves on being experts on all things equipment hire, with trailers being no exception. 

Here are some tips we think are really important to know about before using a trailer on New Zealand roads: 

Accessories you need when towing a trailer

Of course having a vehicle that can tow a trailer is the first piece of criteria to fulfil, but there’s actually more to it. You’ll also need the following accessories to be able to tow a trailer: 

Tow bar  

The tow bar fits to the back of your vehicle giving you a tow ball to connect a trailer’s coupling to. In New Zealand there are two sizes of tow balls - the New Zealand standard 1”7/8ths ball (47.55mm) and the 50 mm ball which is commonly found on European or American manufactured vehicles. 

Extra care is needed when using a smaller tow ball in a larger coupling as they can come apart. Likewise, if you have a 50mm ball you won’t be able to fit a smaller coupling over it. There are some couplings that are able to work with either. The size of your tow bar also determines the amount of weight you are able to safely tow. 

Almost all of Hirepool’s trailers are fitted with a multi-fit coupling meaning they will work with either tow ball type. 

Your local Hirepool represenatative will be able to advise what will work with your existing tow bar or the best one to buy if you need to install one.

Coupling and Safety Chain 

All trailers must have a secure coupling that includes a locking pin or a double locking mechanism. They must also have a permanently attached safety chain. These accessories are what keeps the trailer connected to your vehicle, so they’re extremely important! If the pin comes loose, the safety chain is your back-up. Always double check the connection before you drive. 

All Hirepool trailers come with these and your local Hirepool representative will help you fit the trailer to your vehicle and show you the correct way to work it.

Electrical Connection 

By law, trailers need to have at least one working tail light. Hirepool will supply a suitable connector with your trailer hire but your vehicle will also need to have a correctly wired and working socket.

Lights

A trailer needs to have at least one working tail light. It doesn’t need indicators or brake lights as long as the lights on your vehicle are visible to following drivers or you can make visible signals out of your window.

Trailer Brakes 

Unless the loaded weight is over 2,000kg, a braked trailer isn't required. There are different rules for over 2,000kg, however. Here’s a quick summary table outlining break requirements for the different gross laden weight groupings:

Gross laden weight

Break & safety chain requirements

2000 kg or less

Safety chain

2000 kg - 2500 kg

Service brake - can be direct or indirect

Safety chain - unless fitted with a breakaway brake

2500 kg - 3500 kg

Service brake - must be direct

Parking brake

Breakaway brake

 Some definitions:

 A direct service brake allows the driver of the towing vehicle to control the braking from the driving position. 

An Indirect service brake means trailer braking is achieved by the trailer pushing against the towing vehicle rather than being directly controlled by the driver.
A parking brake is applied by hand when the trailer is purposefully disconnected.

A breakaway brake is applied automatically if the trailer is accidentally disconnected.

Check out the NZTA’s guide to safe towing and loading for a full breakdown on trailer brakes or talk to your local Hirepool representative. We have a range of options of braked and unbraked trailers.

Vehicle requirements when towing a trailer

Before you can select and confidently use a trailer, you need to know some important information about your vehicle’s towing abilities and check that it is road worthy for towing.

Know your maximum towing capacity

Different cars have different tow ratings also termed maximum safe laden (or loaded) weight as determined by the car’s manufacturer. This is the weight your vehicle can safely tow within the boundaries of its size and engine capacity. 

You can find this information in your vehicle’s handbook. You’re looking for the laden weight and unladen weight - also called unloaded, tare or kerb weight. To work out the maximum load (including objects, people and animals) that your vehicle can carry, subtract the unladen weight from maximum safe laden weight.  There should be ratings for both braked and unbraked trailers. Also look for any specific instructions on how to load the vehicle safely.

It’s very important not to exceed this as overloading can compromise the vehicle's body, brakes, chassis, wheels and/or engine. You can also potentially invalidate the warranty on a new car should problems occur with your gearbox or brakes.

Tow manufacturers also provide a towing capacity for tow bars. You can generally find this information on the tow hitch - where the towbar joins onto the vehicle.  

Additionally, weight limits depend on the type of drivers licence you have:

  • For a learner’s or restricted licence the total weight limit is 4,500 kg (vehicle, trailer, load and passengers).

  • If you have a full licence the combined total weight is 6,000kg.

Your Hirepool expert will be able to help you estimate your total weight to make sure you’ll be within your limit. 

Ensure your tyres & brakes are in good condition

Before you hit the road to collect your trailer, make sure you check the condition of your tyres and brakes and it’s also a good idea to check your tyre pressure, too.

If you’re hiring a trailer from Hirepool, have a chat about what you’re planning on towing and the rough weight as our team may recommend putting a bit more air in the trailer’s tyres if it’s going to be a heavy load.

Stopping Ability

NZTA road rules state that both the car and trailer must be able to come to a full stop from 30km/h in less than 7 metres. Always watch your following distance while you’re driving - increase it from 2 seconds to 4 seconds, and bear in mind that it will take you longer to come to a complete stop with a heavy load behind you. 

Road rules when towing on the open road

The open road speed limit for towing trailers using a light vehicle is 90 km/hour. So, on any open road with a speed limit of 100km/hour, stay under it.  

How to reverse with a trailer

If you aren’t confident or experienced with reversing a trailer try, it’s a good idea to avoid it or ask an experienced person for help. If this isn’t possible and you find you have to reverse, here are some key things to know about how to direct the trailer: 

Turning your cars front wheels to the left will pivot the trailer to the right and vice versa. The image below illustrates how this works. You can see that the direction of the front wheels is the opposite to the direction the trailer is moving.

  

As the trailer moves in the desired direction, straighten the wheels of your vehicle. This way your car will line up with where the trailer has moved too.

It’s important you take your time doing this as it’s very different to reversing normally with just a car. Always ensure the space beside and behind the trailer is clear and keep a close eye on your surroundings. If you’re reversing on soft ground, you may find the trailer responds more slowly - this is normal, so just be patient. 

Safely loading & securing your trailer load

It’s a legal offence if you have any items in your trailer that are not secured tightly so make sure loose items are covered! Hirepool has a full range of trailer accessories such as straps, tarps and nets to help secure and protect your load. Or you may want to hire a tarpaulin to keep things from flying away. 

Whenever you stop on your trip make sure you check that both your load and your trailer remains securely fastened.

Load overhang requirements 

Your load can overhang the rear of the trailer by up to 4 meters (measure from the axle). Overhangs of 1 meter or more must be flagged. In daylight this means attaching a white or fluorescent red, orange or yellow flag that’s at least 400 x 300mm in size. If towing at night, red lights must be fitted to the trailer’s rear. These flags don’t come with trailers when you hire them, but they are very easy to source or make yourself!

Your load can also extend sideways by up to 1.25 metres as measured from the trailer’s centre line. Note that side extensions of 200mm or more must be flagged. 

Hiring a trailer with Hirepool

If you’re looking to hire a trailer, Hirepool can help! Here’s a bit about why we’re a trusted trailer hire provider: 

Strict safety procedures

At the end of each hire, a Hirepool service person completes comprehensive post-hire checks on every trailer to make sure it’s in good condition before clearing it for rehire.

In addition, Hirepool regularly reviews our trailer stock, checking things like tyre pressure to ensure they’re road worthy for the next hire.

It’s really important to note that the driver of the vehicle towing the trailer is responsible for any damage that occurs during towing. Therefore, you really want to be sure that the trailer you’re using is road worthy and suitable for the vehicle and load you are towing. Can you be sure that your mate or neighbour has kept their WOF, registration and trailer maintenance up to date? Do all companies hiring trailers do checks? Some just keep hiring out trailers without completing thorough safety checks.

Wide variety and expert help

We have a wide range of trailers to suit different towing jobs, available for hire throughout New Zealand. Our team can help you work out the best trailer for your vehicle and towing job and can give you advice on loading, safely securing and driving with your trailer. They will also check that you’re safely set up and answer any questions you may have before you leave your local Hirepool site.

It’s really easy to book a trailer along with any trailer accessories you might need. You can do it online or get in touch with your local Hirepool branch to arrange bookings and pickup!