Buying a Used Trailer

ArticleHow to - Tack and EquipmentThursday 19 January 2012

Trailers cost a lot of money, and often a used trailer seems like the best choice.  With so many trailers on the market, there is something for everyone somewhere out there.  But what should you look for when checking out used trailers?

Like any vehicle, a recent certification is ideal.  While the certification should not be considered a green light, it does help with the paperwork, and show that at least some aspects of the trailer have been looked over.  Unfortunately, with honesty going out the window for some sellers, a certification paper can’t be fully trusted.  Instead, prepare to get down and dirty and check things out for yourself.

First of all, consider if the trailer has what you need.  As a used trailer, there is not a lot you can do to improve it once you’ve gotten it.  A new trailer can be customized before purchase, but unless you own a body shop, you should not plan on making any big changes to the trailer once you buy it.

How big is the trailer?  Does it have enough head room for your horses?  Is it wide enough?  Are you happy with the ramp or step up?  Can the partitions be moved or removed?  Is there a tack room?  A changing room?  Is it gooseneck or bumper pull?  These are things that are mostly based on personal preference, but are hard to change after the fact.  If the trailer does not meet your needs, keep on looking.

Now you need to look for safety.  Most used trailers are steel trailers.  Even if it is not a steel trailer, there may be steel parts.  Some aluminum trailers still have steel frames underneath, so they have the potential of rotting out.

Thoroughly check the trailer for rust.  Are there any holes in the sides?  Is the tongue or gooseneck solid and undamaged?  When you look underneath is there any sign of rust on the braces or frame?  What condition is the ramp in?  The doors?  The dividers?  While rust can be fixed, if the frame is rotting out, it will cost more to fix than the trailer is worth.  Problems with the tongue or hitch can be dangerous, especially if it fails while on the road.

Now check the floor.  If there are floor mats, pull them up.  In what condition are the boards under the mats?  Rotted boards will need to be replaced.  It would be horrifying to discover upon arrival at your destination that your horse has stepped through the boards.

Any padding on the sides, the panels and the chest bars should be checked.  While it can be repaired, you will need to keep that in mind when negotiating the price.  Are the hay rings secure?  The tie rings?  Do the chest bars and butt chains move freely and easily?  Do the catches work?  Try lifting the ramp.  Does it lift easily?  Do the pins fasten without difficulty?

After you have checked the trailer thoroughly, discuss what you have found with the owner.  If it is certified, don’t be afraid to ask for permission to have your own mechanic take a look at it before you buy.  Your mechanic will be able to check the wiring and make sure that the lights work properly.  He will also be able to check the brakes.  While it may cost a bit to have it checked over, it is far better to sink some money into the check than to pay the full amount only to find out that the trailer needs major work.

A horse trailer is the only thing keeping your horse safe as your travel.  Do not sacrifice safety for price when buying a used trailer.  The cost of a trailer mishap is far greater than the few dollars it takes to buy a trailer than is roadworthy.

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