Trailer shopping

WEEELLLL! i had to go trailer shopping. And I don't wish this on anyone. The things you are dealing with is amazing. When people put something up for sale shouldn't they have things prepared BEFORE it goes for sale? This is the worst thing I found with the search, dadgum people just were clueless. If you put an ad in the South Florida Craigslist but you are located in Jacksonville, PUT up a damn photo. You widen your searchability, but then forget that I'm not taking a leisurely 5 hour stroll up there without seeing photos first. I can't tell you how many sales must be lost this way.

Or have it accessible so that we can do a drive by and see it, if local. This was the second biggest issue. I would call and ask if i could take a drive and see it. It becomes an issue. Call this guy, then that guy, then go thru this gate and watch out for that dog. And so on... I can tell just by seeing a quick photo, yeah or nay. Even better if you show inside, outside, problems. Stop hiding the unpleasant areas. So many would show one side only. Get there and the other is a wreck. Next pet-peeve, you be accessible. If i email you on monday, get back to me within a day. Yikes. I'm still getting emails from people 8 days later. And if you sold it. Take down the ad on the classified. How hard can all this be? Sometimes common courtesy goes a long, long, way.

So while doing this I kept thinking of all the things I did good. and did wrong. I hope this helps the next poor soul that needs to buy a trailer. Used. New is a whole nother ball game. So is used from a dealer. Tried that last year. Not worth the cost increases. You can find a good used, working trailer, within your budget and directly from the owner. It's a bit more effort. But can be done to your and their, satisfaction.

My goal was two fold. Find a used $5000 trailer that i could house all my animals in an emergency. One full size horse, mini, 8 goats and a pig. The dogs/parrots/cat/chickens/turkeys etc could always be put in the truck or flatbed of the truck. So this was my first goal to look for a long term trailer. Still looking. Not a high priority.

My 2nd goal was to find a small trailer that i could bring my goats to shows. Succeeded!!! This is the working trailer that would be used most. My goal was to not spend more than $2500 for a decent 2 horse trailer. it would be great if it was 3 horse. Or something I could possibly sleep in if needed. Or could fit my horse or another horse. But the GOAL was for the goats and showing!!!! and getting there safely. here's my list of what i did or didn't do to get the trailer.

1. Know and keep to your budget

I can't tell you how many times I went looking at something I know I couldn't afford. Hoping beyond hope they would take pity on me? lol... Twice i went to see lovely all aluminum trailers asking prices $7000 minimum. Even though they would come down on the price i'm sure it wasn't $5000. Keep reminding yourself what you are looking for. Going thru the scenario of, well i could push it to $3500. if i didn't eat for a week. And i took out $500 here, and used this credit card, and NOOOOO!!! I was convincing myself i could afford it when i couldn't.

So BE REALISTIC in your expectations.

2. Research.

I must have looked at 40 sites of new trailers. All over the country. And pricings. and then looked at the trailerworld.com type sites that had trailers for sale all over the country. You can get a good idea on price overall. and the market in general. Personally? I think prices are really bloated. Some were even delusional. The more realistic prices were the ones that wanted a quick sale. And quick they got. Trust me. It would go up friday night and sold saturday afternoon. With photos. These people were the organized ones. It was sad, i wasn't quick enough. One such trailer $2950. New tires. I called and it was gone the next day. :( I bet he sold it for $2500. Nice too.

3. Plan your day wisely and be realistic on time.

And don't veer from it. Its already exhausting up until this point. Its alot of work to get all ducks in a row, but try. All trailers and all information lined up for a day's outing. I think we did good. Brought my handy dandy friend KD and we headed South. I had a list of 5 trailers to go look at. First one in my area. 2nd in Parkland. Then Davie. Then Doral. The 2nd one sold that morning. And we headed SOUTH. The first trailer we saw i learned a lesson. Don't judge a book by the covers. KD was looking at it for a few seconds and she totally crossed it off her list. Too big. Too this. too that.. etc. I on the other hand took the time to look at it all. And went over it with a fine tooth comb. It could have worked for my BIG trailer. So give yourself realistic time frames to get there, but also to really look it over.

We drove 400 miles that day. It was an exhausting day. And towards the end of it we got lost. Bring a map!!!

4. Bring your camera.

Take pictures. If you don't plan to buy it right then and there you will forget what the "issues" are. And you tend to remember the good rather than the bad. And don't be embarrassed in front of the owner. If he wants to sell it, he already knows the issues. So take a picture of it. If anything, its offputting to them, tough. But, this way you have reference later. I needed to take pictures send them off to friends or family or mechanic and ask what would this cost to fix? Or this? Or could I fix this myself. A lot of these trailers are structurally in decent condition but, the owners for various reason let them sit. And rot. Some things were just too many issues in one trailer. This is where i just moved on. But, trailers that sit and don't move quickly aren't all bad... look at them. Take pics.

5. Plan to get dirty.

There comes a time where you need to look at the undercarriage. And look for rust. Rotting. etc. This isn't that hard to discern. Well, now its not for me. I'm sure if you don't plan to get dirty looking then you will never really know. But for me? I can't afford the big dollars needed, I'm searching for the diamond in the rough. And that means looking past the yuk and making sure it hasn't affected the structure yet. Steel rots. And learn the difference of how it starts, how it puckers, and starts to mark the steel. Check for damage. On one there was fender damage. but it didn't seem to be structural. Once you figure this out, you can make a determination what is fixable and what isn't. So if you have to stick your fingers in yuk areas, or your head on the ground. Or cobwebs in your face. Buck up and do it. I can't afford to bring a mechanic with me. I have to figure it out. And i'm no expert but chances are instincts coupled with experience will guide you.

This leads me to another pet peeve. WASH THE TRAILER! I looked at trailers that had manure etched into the side walls. Manure rotting in the boards. Urine smells and so forth. Guess what? If you can't clean it to sell it then It's obvious you didn't take care of it. Chances are Its not that great of a trailer.

6. Bring cash.

I drove around nervous all day. BUT, i was looking at a few trailers that were over my budget and were listed higher than what I could afford, If i found the gem hidden in manure, THEN shoving cold hard cash in their hand might do the trick. You just never know. I didn't like carrying around a wad of cash.

7. Bring supplies.

In case you do get lucky a used trailer is NOT going to have all the elements you need to get it on the road safely. Print out a tag replacement. Mine just said "Tag applied for". Bring heavy duty chains. In case the hitch is iffy looking. Bring self adhesive reflective lights. Bring both your ball hitches. 2" and 2 5/8". You can purchase electric lights that go into your Cig lighter and will mimic left and right turns of your vehicle. And they also have them for attachment to your trailer electrical if you have it. With heavy duty magnetics to attach on the trailer. Bring tape. Electrical tape. Bring anything that involves your electric brakes from the last trailer you owned (if you owned one). If you didn't then make plans to go somewhere close by ( iphones come in handy for this) to bring the trailer in. Most trailers are 4 or 5 pronged universal adaptors.

I know Davie well. And knew if i had any issues I could mosey East and have the trailer retrofitted. At least till I got home. The trailer I was getting, I had NO idea if the electric worked on it. Making sure I had plenty of time to get home in the daylight hours. Bring tape. Knife. Munchies. And lots of water... :) Locate a trailer store/pep boys/tire store and so on in case you need to go get stuff.

8. Bring a friend (with a sense of humor).

OH wow!!! Comic Relief. And an opposing voice of reason is always good. Especially when you are tired. Thanks KD!!!

9. Expect the unexpected.

This also could be called, don't trust anything they tell you. And go with the flow. Don't expect people to be on time. The trailer in the condition they say, and so on. His idea of not much rust, might be your idea of a trash heap. On my day, we were told by one owner he would meet me half way. Then he said he couldn't but it wasn't that much further South. Then when we got there it was obvious (tire flat) this trailer wasn't going anywhere. (this is the trailer i bought btw). So i did walk away from this trailer. When looking at it, I also thought it would be too small. But then he called me back and dropped the price $600. :) At home with photos in hand when he called back that night, it helped me realize after a bath, and a nap that this trailer wasn't that BADDDD!

The other part to this is.... Let the trailer tell the story. how old is it? How many owners? what was used in there? etc...You can glean information from the trailer more so than the person. Really! Obviously asking the owners question are nice, but I assume they are lying until it can be backed up with a receipt or a look/see etc.

10. Go for a spin.

Easier said then done. The trailer I purchased had a flat. If the owner is keen on selling it, fix it, and i'll come back. In this instance, I finally made him drive it to Davie, contingent all things were in working order-- would buy it. But i did make him take me for a spin. Hook up the lights. Go around a tight corner. Only thing you can't do is put a horse in it and take it out. If the lights didn't work? lower the price. Tires? lower the price. :) ha. Well, this part didn't go so well with me. I saw him coming off the turnpike. Figured tires are great. I remember thinking no dry rot when i saw them the first time. just the flat. NOT!!! I get it on the turnpike and drive and it blew. So, Unexpectedly, i had to get help. Go purchase new tires immediately. And set me back a few hours. It was a dangerous thing I did. I even wondered about a bait and switch. He might have. I don't know. SO, plan to get that trailer's tires checked out immediately upon purchase.

And keep in mind Florida is the worst. Dry rot is something you don't want to mess with. The other thing you really can't foresee is bounce. Trailers are meant to put in heavy objects. Riding it around empty you could have a bounce you won't have with animals in it. Keep this in mind. I didn't at the time. My brother put me at ease when driving it home.

11. Plan for your add-ons.

For instance, tires.. I knew whatever the cost of the trailer, whether or not I could get the cost down more, to always include tires in my budget. Increase the price (in my head) for 4 new tires. This is the one thing i don't want to mess with. Also getting bearings checked, repacked, or if needed replaced? worst case scenario. This trailer is only 6 years old. It seemed that anything that could be screwed up by owner's lack of care, or horse urine is the worst of it. I'm betting the bearings are fine on it because owner couldn't mess with that. (will know Friday when i bring to my mechanic.)

This particular trailer is $5000 new... KD said she saw one at a TSC. $3000 in really good shape, used with good tires and electrical. I paid $1800 and the inside needs lots of cosmetic work. The structure of it is good. The bones. The undercarriage is great. Wood is great. The lights in working order. The brakes are there just not attached to the electrical housing. and all wiring is in good condition.

I bought a trailer like this 16 years ago. Paid $1500 for it. So essentially, felt that this was a good price. It also lasted 14 years! And when I bought it used it was already 12 years old. So with a little TLC I can keep this puppy for at least another 5 years conservatively, 15 if i really take care of it.

The inside is what is pretty scary upon first glance. BUT, there are only 2 areas of immediate concern. This area near the rear tire, its rotting thru. If not stopped soon the rust will make the structure unsound. The skin that is rusting is easy to pull out (hiring a metal worker). Its the way its impeding on the steel bar of the structure that needs attention. Today.

There is baked in manure, hair, dirt, on those floors. And it looks awful. BUt you need to get under the trailer and look at that side too. The boards look new under there. This is all surface. And its all because of a lazy owner. All you have to do is hose it out after use. I'll probably in time, sand and repaint the boards with some sealant. They should last for 5 years.

And this. The vent at the top obviously started leaking. And this needs to be fixed Pronto. I've already found the vent online. $24.95 and the labor to do it is minimal. :0) Bought some Ospho and will clean up all the rust. Ospho is what ACE recommended for killing the rust. I don't care how it looks. Ultimately? I will get it painted.

Other minor annoyances with this trailer are below. I didn't like how the electrical is just sitting there dangling. The inside wood has rotted away leaving the steel inner metal to start to rust. But just surface rust. Since the wood paneling is gone the outer skin and the inner skin are bending pulling it away from the metal structure areas. All this can be fixed with some TLC. More caulking. I'll keep the outer skins, see what it will cost to fix the inner skins. I'll pull out all this wood. Put some Ospho on it and see what happens. Or just replace inner skin with something more durable. Its the left side that needs replacing. not this side.

So my **NEW** used trailer. Not bad overall. The experience of the hunt was pretty painless in many instances. Research and emailing was getting annoying and time consuming. Time was of the essence in my case. I've dragged my heels for 2 years and it finally dawned on me a trailer isn't going to drop in my lap. And a show i want to go to is coming up. I needed a trailer. So i did put undo pressure on myself to find something. But so far i've yet to have buyers remorse. Which usually happens right about now.

I stayed within my budget. With more to spare for cosmetic. I think the most i'll need to put into it, is $1000 over the next year to make it stay nice for the next 5.


  1. Thanks for the advice. We are also looking for a trailer for my horse. I would buy the first thing I see, but my husband is forcing me to be patient. We have been looking off and on for a year. We had the same experience with Craig's List. Found THE PERFECT trailer. It was posted on a Thursday at 2:00 and by the time we got home from work that evening, it was already sold. SIGH. Hope you enjoy yours.

  2. Cool Glad i could help in some way! i'm coming over to your site to see your horse!!!

  3. looks like ya got a good deal, that is a nice looking trailer, now if you only had a DODGE truck to pull it with...(chevy...lol) seriously i think ya did great.. if you could see my trailer youd rofl, id take a pic of it but im afraid the shock wave from the electronic flash on my camera would finish disinegrateing it...

  4. AnonymousMay 06, 2009

    Great advice and it's a nice trailer,congrats;)

  5. Thanks all. It was fun in some ways. Frustrating in others. Bill take a pic i wanna see it!!!


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