A utility trailer and a cargo trailer are two of the most commonly used trailers, and those new to hauling a trailer often need clarification on the two despite them being very different.

The difference between a utility trailer and a cargo trailer is the existence of a roof and walls. A utility trailer is primarily an open flatbed trailer and a cargo trailer is an enclosed trailer.

Let’s dive a little deeper into the unique characteristics of each trailer style!

What Is A Utility Trailer?

A utility trailer is a flatbed trailer with rails or short sides. It’s often a bumper pull trailer, but utility trailers can also be gooseneck or fifth-wheel trailers.

They have wooden or metal decking to haul cars, lawnmowers, ATVs, tractors, couches, and any other item you can safely place on them. Sometimes, they have ramps, but this isn’t always the case, as I’ve used many utility trailers without ramps.

Pros & Cons Of A Utility Trailer

Utility trailers are a popular choice because they’re so handy; however, they also have a few downsides that might make them unsuitable for your situation.

Benefits Of A Utility Trailer

  • Less expensive
  • Easier to haul
  • Easier to back
  • It is lighter and doesn’t catch as much wind while you’re driving

A buddy of mine was getting back into racing recently and needed a trailer to haul his car to the track. However, he and his wife had 1-year-old twins, so he didn’t have much spare money to spend on a fancy cargo trailer. Instead, he purchased a very nice utility trailer for less than half the price of a cargo trailer big enough to haul his race car. A utility trailer is often your best bet if you’re on a budget.

I learned to haul and back a utility trailer first because it’s much more beginner-friendly. Utility trailers catch less wind and are lighter, making them much easier to pull behind an SUV or small truck because they lack walls. The lack of walls makes them easier to back because you can see where you’re backing much more easily than with a cargo trailer, which is difficult to see around.

Drawbacks Of A Utility Trailer

  • What you’re hauling is exposed to the elements and potential thieves
  • You must replace the wooden bed before the boards rot

One of the big problems with a utility trailer is that it leaves everything exposed to the elements. So, if you’re moving a buddy’s couch on a utility trailer and it starts to rain, you better have a tarp handy, or the couch will get soaked.

Since a utility trailer is more exposed to the elements, it requires a more rigorous maintenance schedule. Depending on how often you use it and the quality of the boards, you’ll have to replace the boards on a wooden trailer bed every ten years or so, whereas a cargo trailer doesn’t need as much maintenance.

What Is A Cargo Trailer?

A cargo trailer is enclosed with walls and a roof; thus, it’s also called an enclosed trailer. The walls and roof are often made of thin sheet metal to make them as lightweight as possible. Cargo trailers typically have one or two doors; depending on how big the trailer is, there is either a single door, split doors, or a ramp on the back, and some have a side door to access the items upfront without unloading the trailer.

Most cargo trailers are bumper-pull trailers, but fifth-wheel cargo trailers are often used for hauling larger loads. Cargo trailers can haul cars, tools, hunting gear, and anything else you can safely fit inside the walls.

Pros & Cons Of A Cargo Trailer

After owning a couple of cargo trailers, I’ve found that they’re handy but have some downsides that make them less desirable for some individuals.

Benefits Of A Cargo Trailer

  • Better protect the items you’re hauling
  • Doubles as a storage unit
  • It can be converted into a camper

The most significant benefit of using a cargo trailer is its enhanced protection for the items you’re hauling. You don’t have to worry about the elements damaging anything because the walls and roof protect your cargo.

I used my first cargo trailer to haul my duck hunting gear. Instead of packing and unpacking all my gear each time I went hunting and got home, I used my trailer as a storage unit to keep all my outdoor gear protected from the elements between my hunts.

My grandpa used his cargo trailer to haul equipment for his business, so my parents decided to convert theirs into a small camper. It was much cheaper to convert their cargo trailer into a DIY camper than to purchase a new camper. However, they did all the work, which was very time-consuming.

Drawbacks Of A Cargo Trailer

  • Catch more wind
  • More expensive
  • More difficult to back

Cargo trailers drain your fuel tank because they catch so much more wind while pulling them down the road. Even an empty trailer is a little tougher on your wallet. Also, if you live in a windy area, like I do, cargo trailers can get blown on their side by strong winds; that’s why I park mine under an old hay barn.

As I previously mentioned, cargo trailers are more expensive, so if you’re on a tight budget and don’t need your items to be fully protected as they are in a cargo trailer, then a utility trailer is the better option.

Learning to back a trailer can be tricky. I remember how difficult it was to learn to back a boat or utility trailer. I had to relearn to back a trailer when I got a cargo trailer because it’s almost as if you must back the trailer blind since it blocks so much of your view.

Heading Home

Now that you know the difference between a utility trailer and a cargo trailer, you can purchase the one that best suits your needs.

A utility trailer is the best option for most people, including beginners. A cargo trailer is best for those who need to protect the items they’re hauling or plan to use it for multiple activities.

Author BIO

Wes Littlefield is an avid outdoorsman who loves hunting and fishing with his family, often involving various trailers. He grew up on a farm where he had to learn to load and back a trailer before he could legally drive. He’s hauled everything from furniture, hunting gear, campers, boats, kayaks, tractors, skid steers, and lawn equipment.

He’s the lead writer for Ammo.com, Anglers.com, and runs OKDiscGolfer.com.