Buying a used trailer: What to look out for? - Subaru Outback - Subaru Outback Forums
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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-10-2013, 01:01 AM Thread Starter
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Buying a used trailer: What to look out for?

Just installed a Uhual/Hidden-Hitch Class III hitch on my OB and am in the market for a 4x6 enclosed trailer for light hauling and camping trips. There are a few used trailers in my area and I'm wondering what I should look out for, or inspect prior to buying one. I'm a newbie to trailers. Any tips from seasoned tow-ers?

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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-10-2013, 10:18 AM
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The big thing is the floor should be hard with no soft spots from water damage.

To reduce the asking price, the tires should not be older then 5 years, there is a manufacture date stamp on them. Also ask when the wheel bearings were last repacked. It is a simple job but most people never bother repacking them.

Also, I would suggest going up 1 size to 5x8 or 9. Usually the door opening is narrower then the inside width. So, 4ft wide trailer only has a 3ft 9 inch opening. It might not matter to you now, but it is a big pia. I have to remove the cutting deck to load the tractor in my brothers 4x6.
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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-10-2013, 10:39 AM
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Electrical. Check all the wiring for splices or corrosion. Simple enough to fix, but worth knowing about ahead of time.
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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-10-2013, 10:50 AM
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Get a good look at the underside. A lot of damaged can be covered up in the visible areas but you can spot it from underneath pretty easily. Wiring and tires can and should be replaced. Use it as a negotiating point if they're anything less than pristine.

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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-10-2013, 12:35 PM
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Rust, cracks, worn suspension hardware, bent axle (abnormal tire wear), old tires (five years as mentioned above), service history (mainly brake and bearing service). Jack each side and spin the wheel - it should be smooth and free of play. If it has brakes, you should see when they were last serviced or insist on an inspection. A well maintained trailer will be immediately obvious, as will a neglected one. It's the in-betweeners that are a little more difficult to evaluate.

The floor should be inspected, if it is wood, but don't let it bother you too much. It is easy enough to treat and lay down a new piece of 3/4 inch outdoor plywood. But a rotted floor should drop the selling price by at least US$100. Plus it should be a danger signal that the trailer was not taken care of!

You can pretty much count on the wiring being sub-par ... which actually makes it average for tralers of all kinds. It is labor intensive to replace the wiring, but easy enough for you to do in your driveway, and it would giveyou a chance to do it correctly. Add ground wires for each light and run them to a common point near the coupler. Add a dedicated ground for the lights from that point to the connector, if there isn't one there already. Use (expensive) waterproof splices or (cheap) Liquid Electrical Tape to bullet proof the installation. Most trailer light problems are due to faulty grounding.

If you don't feel comfortable checking this stuff, ask a friend to help, or ask if you can take it to a local shop for a quick inspection. If the asking price is low, then you can take a gamble on all this stuff and just go with your gut feeling, but be prepared for hidden surprises.

I strongly recommend that you buy a trailer than will allow you to lay sheet products like plywood flat on the floor. It doesn't matter if the tailgate has to be open or removed, but the sheets should lie flat or you will have great difficulty carrying the stuff. My 4x6 trailer is wonderful, but the opening in back is 4 inches too narrow. ... Why Build a Soft Road Trailer?

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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-10-2013, 01:34 PM
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They covered it. Keep in mind with Utility trailers usually the biggest error people make with them is overloading them. So taking a good look to make sure there are no obvious bent structures is important. Tires should always have even wear a trailer with tires worn uneven generally is suffering from one of two common things. Either it wasn't built strait or the owner has been towing it with too much weight. Tires worn out on the inner tread is an indication of being towed over loaded.
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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-10-2013, 01:41 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arthuruscg View Post
The big thing is the floor should be hard with no soft spots from water damage.

To reduce the asking price, the tires should not be older then 5 years, there is a manufacture date stamp on them. Also ask when the wheel bearings were last repacked. It is a simple job but most people never bother repacking them.
Good points, thanks. I'm hoping most trailer owners would know the answer to these questions

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Originally Posted by arthuruscg View Post
Also, I would suggest going up 1 size to 5x8 or 9. Usually the door opening is narrower then the inside width. So, 4ft wide trailer only has a 3ft 9 inch opening. It might not matter to you now, but it is a big pia. I have to remove the cutting deck to load the tractor in my brothers 4x6.
I dont have a garage and the driveway is only 8' wide where I'd store the trailer. 5x8 or 5x9 might give me too little room to maneuver. Also, I'd like to keep the weight down. From my research the 5x8's are on average 250lbs heavier than the 4x6's. I dont want to start adding a tranny cooler or worry about braking deficiencies.

Quote:
Originally Posted by there4igraham View Post
Get a good look at the underside. A lot of damaged can be covered up in the visible areas but you can spot it from underneath pretty easily. Wiring and tires can and should be replaced. Use it as a negotiating point if they're anything less than pristine.
I need all the negotiating points I can get. I never thought used trailers would be price so closely to new trailers. I'm wondering if it even makes sense to buy used with all the unknowns if it's only 20% cheaper than the factory new model. Unknowns include mileage since there are no reliable odometer readings for small trailers.

On another note, the trailer will spend it's life outdoors... What precautions should I take when storing the trailer outdoors? Plastic parts I'll hit with 303 protectant and painted parts can be repainted but what about tires? Should I store the trailer on jacks and keep the tires indoors?

2nd & Current OB: '14 2.5 Limited SAP w/ Eyesight in Carbide Gray. Mods: 19mm STI RSB, Fumoto Valve, LED interior lights, Hella Supertones, plasti-dipped wheels, front grille, side emblems, rear badges, seat back protectors, side cargo nets. Soon: body side moldings.

1st: '12 Premium 2.5i AWP Black
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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-10-2013, 02:08 PM
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you can cover the tires RV shops sell cheap tire covers that way you don't need to mess with removing the tires. However trailers are one of the most commonly stolen things around here especially the enclosed types. All the contractors remove the tires or toss a big heavy tire boot on them to keep the crooks from hooking them up and driving off with the trailer.

If wrapping it with a tarp is an option that will always keep it cleaner and in better shape. Though neighbors might be a little ticked at a trailer in the driveway even more so wrapped with a blue tarp. LOL

I have a 4x6 open trailer which works really well I really like the size. I think your on the right path regarding trying to keep to the 4x6 or small 5x sized trailers. Assuming you have no illusions of packing fairly large items into them. My 4x6 is 12ft tail lights to hitch and right around 5ft 4inches hub to hub total width. Which makes it very easy to store. If you pack smart you would be surprised what you can get into that sized trailer.

Enclosed trailer keep in mind you can rig up shelving or even pip berth type cots that flip down from the sides for all weather sleeping options etc. Pick up a rolling screen that you can pull across the open end of the trailer and you have a cheap basic RV.
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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-11-2013, 10:56 AM
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There are usually 2 types of 5x8/9 trailers, light duty or heavy weight.
WellsCargo makes a 4'9"x 8'3" trailer that is 820lbs with a GVWR of 2750lbs. The outside width is 6'10" x 12'.

I would strongly recommend having the trailer meet the 4x8 plywood test, unless you have a truck that you can load it in.
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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 07-11-2013, 03:03 PM
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Also keep in mind rear ramp doors vs standard swing to the side doors both have use advantages and disadvantages. However most of the trailers in that size have the standard two door swing to the side type door. Which case in a pinch you can stand plywood on its side and if you haul lots of plywood you could even just make a simple 2x4 rack that holds the plywood up right in the trailer.

I know some people do lots of plywood projects and will go to great lengths to build and set up their plywood processing and transport ability to do such. I have a father inlaw who spent crazy money setting up a basement rig with a massive table so he could run full ply sheets through his table saw in the basement. I on the other hand can recall only one time I have hauled a full sized sheet of plywood home in the past 20yrs.
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