The Advantages of Wooden Trailers and Wagons

Some people debate the merits of wooden trailers vs. metal trailers, but for me, wood wins without question. Here are the reasons.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Daniel Johnson

Just as every farmer needs a tractor, every farmer really needs a trailer or wagon for transporting machines, tools, supplies and materials around their property. I have a few tried-and-true trailers and wagons on my farm, ranging in size from a small metal yard cart to a large wooden hay wagon. From the time the snow melts in spring until it returns again at the start of winter, I literally use trailers and wagons every single day on my farm, and for a wide variety of tasks.

Some people debate the merits of metal trailers vs. wooden trailers, particularly when it comes to the decking material of larger trailers. There are advantages and disadvantages to each material, but you can count me among the fans of wooden trailers, and it’s not even a close call.

One of the big reasons I like wooden trailers is because they’re easy to repair. Just last week, the wooden sides on my trusty (and overworked) red wagon were starting to come apart after a busy spring spent cleaning up fallen tree branches. I just grabbed an electric drill and some screws, put everything back together and had the red wagon ready to roll again in about 10 minutes. One can manage even more elaborate repairs: I once rebuilt a whole side of the wagon from scratch. It’s also not hard to replace deck boards if (after 15 or 20 years) they start to rot.

Wooden trailers are also easy to modify and adapt to suit your specific needs. Just look at what I did to my hay wagon a few years back, extending the sides to make it even more suitable for transporting large loads of hay and other materials. If you have some lumber (which most hobby farmers have around anyway) and you possess some basic woodworking and DIY skills, you can tweak wooden trailers until they’re perfect for any project. For most folks, this is a lot faster and easier than making repairs or modifications to metal trailers, which requires welding skills and special equipment.

But there are other subtle advantages to wooden trailers. Metal trailers can be slippery when they get wet, so if you’re working in rainy weather, you’ll appreciate the firmer footing offered by a wooden deck. Need to install some hooks for tying down large loads? You can screw them into a wooden trailer anywhere you want and remove them when you’re done. And wooden trailers are quieter, too—have you ever driven down a gravel road, or across a bumpy field, with tools and supplies bouncing around in a metal trailer? The volume is probably on par with cheers for the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Or maybe it’s louder.

Granted, the strength and durability of a well-built metal trailer is not to be underestimated, and when it comes to moving huge machinery (say, a whole tractor), they’re perfect. But for everyday tasks such as moving hay, cleaning up tree branches and hauling tools around your farm, I believe that wooden trailers are hands-down the best choice.

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