Is it better to buy a used or new trailer? The best answer we can give you: It depends.
How to Evaluate a Used Trailer
Whether you plan to use the trailer for business or a hobby, you need a trailer that’s suited to the job it’ll do. If you’re thinking about purchasing a used trailer, you’ll want to pay attention to details – there are some things that can be fixed, some that can’t, and some that don’t matter.
When looking at a used trailer, here’s what we tell our customers:
- Check for a sagging frame. Sagging is a bad thing. Beyond a visual check, you may want to jump up and down on the floor to feel how it responds. (To be honest, we may respond by laughing, but seriously, it’s a good thing to do.)
- Test exterior light operation. Failure isn’t a huge problem, as most problems with lights can be fixed easily. However, the lights must be operational when you’re hauling – so any problems should be fixed at or before the time of purchase.
- Check brake operation. Same as above – most brake problems can be fixed, but as we’re sure you know, brakes aren’t optional.
- Examine the springs and shackles. Elongated bolts in spring shackles may indicate the trailer has high mileage and hasn’t been maintained on schedule or has been significantly overloaded. It’s a serious issue that needs to be fixed, but once the springs are fixed, they’re ready to roll. (Just make sure the rest of the trailer is, too.)
- Check coupler operation. You want to be sure the locking lever works easily, among other things. Look underneath the locking mechanism to be sure the coupler will latch. If the half-moon shoe is cracked underneath, it’s a tell-tale sign the trailer has been backed into something. Also, check for any thin spots in the ball socket.
- Make sure you understand the tongue and jack operation, and that both are in good shape.
- How do the axles look? Many signs of wear are normal, and not cause for concern. Some, however, need to be addressed or may even indicate you’ll need to replace the axle(s). Don’t worry – we do that here.
- What about the equalizer and bushings? Same as above…although these can be a little pricier, and involve more labor.
- Kick the tires. OK, maybe not literally kick, but besides general wear, you should look for uneven wear or signs of rubbing that can indicate a ride problem. Again, some can be easily remedied, others may not be worth the hassle or expense. Always check for dry rot. That’s one thing that can only be remedied by replacing the tire. Remember to check all the way around the tire, as dry rot is usually obvious in just one place on the tire, especially if the trailer has been stored in grass or sat on a stone surface for a long time.
- Safety chain check! Easily replaced, but important.
- Test gate and door functionality. Make sure any locking mechanisms are in good working order – or if they’re not, that you get them fixed right away. Again, these are usually very simple and fairly inexpensive fixes, but they’re important if you want to secure your stuff!
Of course, these are some of the things we do when evaluating a trailer for trade or consignment. While the vast majority of our trailer inventory is new, at any given time, we’ll have a few used trailers on our lot. And, when you’re looking at our trailers, we’ll be happy to run through the list of what to consider when buying used vs. new.
Good News About Buying a Used Trailer
The trailer pictured above is a used trailer, more than 10 years old. It was used according to the manufacturer’s specifications, well-maintained, and it shows. (Plug for the store – It’s for sale!) In this case, buying used means you’ll get a high payload capacity trailer for far less than a similar new one would cost. And, the owner made some great customizations, including extra-tall ramps and supports. That’s what can be great about buying a used trailer – if your needs are similar to those of the original owners, chances are you’ll come away with a pretty good value.
General Considerations When Purchasing a Trailer
Here’s a general rule of thumb: When it comes to retail pricing, trailers depreciate about 10% the first year, and 5% each year after that. (And trade-ins are figured on wholesale or cash value – but that’s another story, for a different post.) It’s worth noting that trailers don’t depreciate or age quite ike automobiles, for some obvious reasons.
First, they’re less complicated machines – unless you’re buying a refrigerated trailer, you don’t have to worry about the air conditioner or compressor going bad. And, they’re not quite the status symbol that sports cars are. No one is going to say, “John’s new trailer is nice, but he really should’ve waited for the 2016 model. Have you seen the grill on that thing?!”
When you’re thinking about purchasing a used trailer, the most important consideration is what has the trailer been doing for the past few years? Follow the checklist above and you should get a good idea of the general shape the vehicle is in.
Generally speaking, trailers work hard for hardworking people, and unless they’re properly cared for, they tend to get beat up. That goes for trailers and people, of course, but we only work on trailers. They’re easier to put back together! If you have questions about new or used trailers – or anything that has to do with hitches and trailers, we’d love to hear from you.
Buying your first trailer? Own a fleet? Doesn’t matter – we’re here to help. Stop in or call us, 6 days a week, at 440.232.4311.