How to Pick The Best Trailer: Aluminum vs. Steel

Whether you intend to haul a few sheets of plywood, take yard trimmings or junk to the dump, or haul the family gear for camping or fishing trips, picking the right trailer is important.

The thing is, most people know what size they want and the approximate weight capacity and that’s about it. Outside of those criteria, they’re not sure how to evaluate a trailer.

Since you’ll probably own your utility trailer for years or decades, you want to make sure that it is durable and can handle they types of jobs you need it for. If you’re having trouble deciding which trailer is best for your needs, we’ve got you covered.

This article will give you all the facts you need to choose your next utility trailer. Once you know what to look for, you’ll be able to shop for the perfect trailer without worrying about whether you made the right choice.

Know Before you Go

If you ask around or do a few basic internet searches, you’ll quickly find that people in the market for trailers are overwhelmed with options.

There is so much information out there that it can make it almost impossible to narrow down your options in terms of which type of trailer is right for you. That being said, there is a pretty intense debate about one particular aspect of choosing a trailer that deserves serious attention. The question on everyone’s mind is: Aluminum vs. Steel Trailers: Which is the best?

If you have the information you need to decide which utility trailer is perfect for you, you’ll find that it will be well worth the cost. That’s why we’re going to break down exactly what you need to look at as you make your choice.

5 Factors to Consider in Choosing a Trailer

Here are the five major criteria you need to evaluate as you decide on which trailer will serve your purposes.

  • Cost: Let’s start with one of the top concerns people have when shopping for a utility trailer. “How much will it cost me?” All-aluminum trailers tend to be more expensive up front than steel trailers. However, Steel trailers typically cost more in terms of maintenance and upkeep. For example, an acid bath will make an aluminum trailer look almost new. Yet, to keep a steel trailer looking like you bought it yesterday, you’ll need to strip down the zinc layer before maintenance and then reapply it and repaint the trailer. Not to mention, steel is much more likely to rust than aluminum.
  • Weight: This is an important consideration. The vehicle you use to tow your trailer has a maximum weight it can pull safely. Your trailer — whether steel or aluminum — will contribute to that weight limit even before you load a single item. Since aluminum trailers are lighter than comparable steel trailers, they have a higher payload capacity. That means you can pull more without harming your car. Another benefit to buying a lighter weight trailer is that you’ll likely get better gas mileage.
  • Green Benefits: Consumers who are concerned about the environment and the effects that the products they buy have on our planet will want to know whether aluminum or steel is the way to go. The Aluminum Association reports that using one pound of aluminum instead of steel can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 90 pounds. That’s an environmental win.
  • Strength: Steel is typically stronger than aluminum. However, all-aluminum trailers are usually made from alloys with trace amounts of other metals to increase its strength. That means that both kinds of trailers will have the same yield strength. Aluminum has a distinct advantage though because it is much more durable than steel. The difference is that because aluminum is lighter, an aluminum trailer will have a better strength-to-weight ratio.
  • Corrosion: Which material will stand the test of time? Steel is more prone to rust when exposed to the elements. If you’re planning to make use of your utility trailer for many years, it makes sense to invest in a material that can outlast the weather. Compared to regular steel, aluminum is much more corrosion resistant.

Overall, when you go to pick a trailer, you’ll want to take into account how you will use your utility trailer. You also want to be clear about your budget and exactly what features and specifications you need in your next utility trailer.


Now that you know what factors are important to take under consideration when selecting your utility trailer, you’re better prepared to shop for the perfect trailer. Although there are other factors you may want to weigh before you make your final decision, at least now you can speak intelligently when you talk to a trailer manufacturer or salesperson.

Do you have questions about choosing the best utility trailer for your needs? We’d love to hear from you.