Single-Axle Towables: Popular As Ever
Sunset Park RV and one of its dealer partners talk about some of the benefits of single-axle towables, including increased lot turnover.
Affordable, comfortable, lightweight and easy to tow: There’s a lot to love about single-axle trailers once consumers learn of the benefits. While this feature focuses on Sunset Park RV, links to stories about Cruiser RV and Riverside RV are below.
“A blowout is a blowout is a blowout.” Jordan Colabello, owner of Trailer World of Colorado in Henderson, Colorado, spends a lot of time explaining this seemingly simple concept to people considering purchasing a single-axle trailer.
“It comes up all the time,” he said. Apparently, a major fear among consumers is that a flat tire or a blowout will be exponentially worse in a trailer with only two tires than it would in one with four. This logic makes no sense to Colabello and, usually, with some time, he is able help the customer see things more clearly.
He patiently points out that no matter how many tires you have, the response to a blowout is identical. Get to the side of the road and change the tire. And if you have to drive any distance to do so, you are going to damage the rim.
Then he reminds them that tandem owners actually have to replace their tires and service their suspensions more often than single-axle owners. This is all about turning.
“When you make a sharp turn pulling a tandem, like when you’re trying to get out of a parking lot, there is no give, so you are either dragging the front or the back axle, which creates wear on the tire,” Colabello says. “With a single-axle, you can chalk one tire and spin in a circle. One wheel won’t move at all and the other will just go around in a circle. Less wear on the tires and the suspension.”
Bob Fish, vice president sales and marketing for Sunset Park RV Manufacturing in Shipshewana, Indiana, could not agree more. They have eight single axles (Sunray 109, 109E, 129, 139T and 149, and Sun Lite 16BH, 18RD and 18TB) and they have always been the cornerstone of the 22-year-old business.
In 2023, Fish said they are launching the Volt 1200 and 1500, both of which will be solar-powered, lithium battery, off-grid trailers that fall under the Sunray Line.
“A lot of our customers boondock and they have groups on Facebook where they post beautiful photos from the middle of nowhere. They don’t need formal campgrounds, so they can go to the more remote places that allow camping,” Fish says. “There are lots of Jeep and small SUV owners and they’re very outdoorsy. All RVers are outdoorsy, but our customers are even more.”
He mentions the tight turning radius, overall maneuverability, and smaller footprint a single axle offers, and adds that another major issue is weight.
Colabello agrees. A single axle has about 1,000 pounds of carry capacity. A tandem has about 1,800. This worries some potential buyers, until Colabello or a member of his staff walks them through it.
“Sometimes people assume they need the larger amount of carry capacity, but, when you break down what they actually carry, they see they don’t need the extra capacity,” he says. “Most people travel with some clothes – not their entire wardrobe. Some kitchen gear – not the whole kitchen or the cast iron pans. Water, food and some miscellaneous items. It all usually comes in at about 500 to 600 pounds. And, when you think about it, it all comes down to tow capacity in the end – that’s what determines what you can haul.”
And, speaking of weight, Colabello is quick to point out that that second axle, and the suspension and tires that go with it, add about 600 extra pounds to the same size trailer, before you even start putting things inside.
Another issue Colabello says dealers need to be able to address is customers’ fears about stability. Things have changed dramatically over time, but many customers remain stuck in old concerns.
“It’s not like it was years ago,” he said. “They don’t weigh 5,000 or 6,000 pounds now, so there’s no teeter-totter effect. Manufacturers are more conscious about what tongue weights are now, making them more able to adjust the placement of the axle so the camper tows good.”
With so many people wanting price-point options, Fish is quick to point out that that is part of their niche.
“With us, there’s less sticker shock. A 16-foot trailer has a 16-foot trailer price instead of a luxury trailer price.”
He stresses this to alleviate the concern voiced by some dealers and their sales teams that selling smaller, lower-priced units cuts into their commission. He argues that “it’s just not true. Not everyone can spend $150K on a luxury vehicle; not everyone has a vehicle capable of towing a double axle; but lots of people can buy a single axle. When more people can buy, you sell more, and your sales staff makes more commissions.”
While price-point units bring people onto the lot, so do interesting options.
“Our units are colorful, quirky trailers that grab people’s attention from the road,” Fish says. “And when they come on the lot to see what’s going on, they ask questions and let their guard down against the sales team, which allows them to talk more freely. More people on the lot who would not ordinarily be there can only lead to more sales.”
And they are buying. Fish noted that, according to Statistical Surveys, the Sunray 109 has been a top seller in the 12-foot and under category.
In order to meet demand, and not keep dealers waiting, the company has dramatically increased its manufacturing capacity, going from producing two units per day in 2015 to between 15 and 20 units per day in 2022.
“More build capacity leads to more production, which leads to a need for more raw materials, which allows for volume-based pricing. Even with the increased costs of overhead for increased space and more employees, every year we buy better. And we pass those savings along to our dealers.”
Colabello says about 20% of their sales are Sunset Park RV and he finds the company easy to work with. Their single-axle inventory also includes Ameri-Lite, Vintage, and Vista by Gulfstream and E-Pro by Flagstaff.
According to Colabello, Sunset “listens to their dealers and makes changes to better their product. For the price point of the camper, we feel that we don’t have much warranty work and what warranty work we do have is easy to work with.”
Cruiser RV reintroduced its entire line of single-axle towables at Open House in Elkhart in 2022: https://rv-pro.com/features/cruiser-rv-showcases-its-single-axle/
Riverside RV offers three models of single-axle: https://rv-pro.com/features/party-of-three-riverside-rv-offers-three-single-axle-options/