JTI Inc. Cleveland

Trailers, Hitches, & Maintenance

Does it Make Sense to Buy a Used Trailer?

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Many customers call us because they think they want a used trailer.  Not surprisingly, the primary reason they say that is because they want to save money – and that’s a good reason! But in most cases, we explain that buying a used trailer can be less of a “value” than they think at first.

Below, a little information about how we see it. But before we go there, a little disclosure is in order. Chiefly, we want to to explain that while we sell more new trailers than used trailers (and equipment), it’s not because we make more money on new equipment. In fact, the margin on a used trailer is often a tad higher than on a new one. It’s not exactly a straightforward equation, as the cost factors are different. For example, there are often more administrative expenses associated with selling used trailers (verifying actual ownership and obtaining certificates of origin, for example). But the point is this: we don’t really care whether we sell a new or a used trailer. What we strive to do is sell the RIGHT trailer to each customer for the job(s) they want to do.

Trailers, after all, are supposed to make our work – and therefore our lives – a little easier. Well. Enough with the philosophical side of things. Let’s talk about new and used trailers, and find out what makes sense for you!

Are Used Trailers Cheaper than New Ones?

Used trailers are, of course, typically cheaper than new trailers. In that way, they’re much like cars. However, while a used car with light mileage might be a good deal, there aren’t many trailers with “light mileage.” Trailers are typically used a lot, or not at all.

A trailer that’s been used a lot is likely to have been overloaded more than a few times, and possibly under-maintained as well. A trailer that’s not been used at all will have other problems. Dry rot on tires is a sure sign. Another common but less obvious sign is rust, can which can affect breaks, bearings and axles.

Evaluating a Used Trailer

We’ve written about this before. So much of the answer to the new-or- used question depends on the condition of the trailer. And that means you need to understand a little bit about trailer construction, materials, and the most likely points of failure. Another major consideration when thinking about buying a used trailer: how handy are you, and how experience

When looking at a used trailer, pay primary attention to these major items:

  • Trailer Frame  Is it sagging at all?  How does it feel when you stand on the floor of the trailer?
  • Trailer Brakes  Yes, most brake problems can be fixed, but like trailer lights, brakes are important. Make sure they work before you put the trailer to work for you.
  • Springs and shackles Springs can often be adjusted. If the bolts in spring shackles are elongated, however, that can tell you that the trailer has high mileage, has been seriously overloaded, and/or hasn’t been maintained on schedule. Both springs and shackles, however, can be replaced.
  • Axle condition  If your axle is broken, you’re not going. We recamber axles, can order new ones, and even make custom axles here.
  • Trailer equalizer and bushings  Like axles, important items to ensure the safe operation of your trailer.
  • Gate(s) and door functionality  If the gates, doors, or locking mechanisms are not working very well, you stand to lose your stuff. We can virtually guarantee that will ruin your day. While trailer locks and gates aren’t complicated, they’re critical to securing your stuff.

You’ll also want to check these minor, but still important, items on a used trailer: 

  • Exterior lights  Most lights problems can be fixed quickly, easily, and inexpensively. However, lights aren’t optional, so make sure yours work!
  • Coupler  Does the locking lever work? A crack underneath the coupler usually indicates the trailer has been backed into something. Also, check for thin spots in the ball socket.
  • Tongue and jack   These are important, but if they’re sub-par, don’t worry, as these can usually be easily fixed (or replaced)
  • Safety chain  You hope you’ll never need it, but it’s something you need to know you can depend on!

Just How Used Are the Trailer’s Tires? 

When you’re looking at a used trailer, tires are an easy item to check. Of course, you’re not “just” checking on tire condition. You want to look for uneven wear or signs of rubbing that may tell you there’s a ride problem. Once you understand the issue, you can determine how easy it is to fix (and how much it might cost!).

Good news: it’s really easy to check for tire dry rot. While there’s no way to fix dry rot, replacing the tires is a quick (and relatively inexpensive) solution. When checking for dry rot, inspect the tire all the way around, as dry rot typically shows up only in one place on the tire, particularly when the trailer has been stored in one spot for a long time. Oh, and more good news: there are a few things you can do to prolong the life of your tires and prevent dry rot.


JTI, Cleveland trailer expertsPeople who depend on their trailers depend on JTI. Since 1935, we’ve been Cleveland’s Trailer & Hitch experts. Yes, we love to sell new trailers. We also love to help people keep their trailers working safely for as long as possible. Need trailer repair (new axle?), routine maintenance, parts, or something else?

Call or stop in to see why our customers have stuck with us for 80 years. www.JTIinc.com

Author: JTI Trailer & Hitch Experts

JTI is John's Trailers Inc., Cleveland's trailer experts since 1935. Our blog offers trailering tips, service, maintenance, and advice regarding trailers, hitches, and all related equipment (including snow plows).

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