You have caught the bug! You NEED to have a cool little teardrop trailer. Maybe you want to camp a few times a year and want a step up from a tent. You could go all in and take your teardrop on a long road trip traveling cross country. One thing is for sure, you are going to buy a teardrop trailer. The price for a new teardrop trailer can be a bit high so you decide to try and find a used teardrop. Going with a used teardrop is a great option. There are a few things you need to look for when buying a used teardrop trailer. Lets go over everything you should know.
The first thing to look for on a used teardrop when you inspect it is rot and rust. Check underneath the frame and see how well it is holding up. You never know what kind of trailer frame a home built teardrop is sitting on. It could be on a rusted out trailer. You never know with a home built teardrop.
Check around the edges and corners and around all the seals for windows, doors, and vents. Water could be seeping in and be in the inside of the wall. Check for soft spots around all doors and windows. Also if you notice a musty smell on the inside of a trailer that would show water leaks and damage. The musty smell is also common in home built teardrops and mini campers. They sweat and condensate with fluctuating temperature. Don’t attribute a musty smell with a leak, it could be from condensation.
Teardrop trailers are frequently built on Harbor Freight or Northern Tool trailers. These trailers are very basic bolt together trailers. They aren’t rated for high speeds and heavier weight. The wheels are 12 inch and are only rated for 55 mph and the trailer weight limit is roughly 1,700 lb. If you are looking at a DIY home built teardrop camper check the axle and wheels. You need to look at the wheels and weight limit and make sure it is safe. Some people are fine with the stock 12 inch wheels and have no problems and say you don’t need to upgrade. Hauling a 2,000 lb. teardrop trailer down the highway at 70 mph is already dangerous. Wheels that are only rated for 55 mph and a trailer only rated for 1,700 is asking for trouble. It’s better to be safe than sorry in this instance.
One thing you have to do is check the electrical system. It’s easy to check the basics a little tougher to check the whole system. Turn all the lights and accessories on and off, hook up the trailer and make sure the running lights work. Those are easy to check. The tougher part of the electrical system would be what you can’t see. It can be hard to see if the electrical system is correct. I’m not an electrician and I would have to take along someone who knows what they are doing. I would recommend you do the same. I for one don’t want to have electrical problems while camping.
This is a subcategory of the electric system. Check out the battery and see how old it is. It would be a good idea to switch it out and put in an Interstate deep cycle battery. Also keep in mind you might have to upgrade your alternator. Especially if the teardrop battery is going to charge off the car system while the car is running.
Checking the ventilation on a teardrop trailer is pretty easy. Make sure the windows open or that there are adequate vents in the side or floor. There should also be some kind of ceiling fan like this Fan-Tastic vent. If there is not adequate ventilation don’t let that be a reason not to buy the trailer. You can always cut in and install a fan and vents.
What is the teardrop exterior made out of? This will have an impact on how you upkeep the teardrop in the future. There are roughly three main options of outer shells you will find, Aluminum, Fiberglass, and Poor Man’s Fiberglass.
Aluminum. It offers the easiest upkeep, most protection, and is the outer shell of choice. Especially for pro builders. Check out all the seams to make sure they are sealed and secure.
Fiberglass. If the teardrop is fiberglassed you should look for cracks, weak spots, mushy areas. It is basically the same process as looking at a boat.
Poor Man’s Fiberglass. Inspecting poor man’s fiberglass is actually really easy. It doesn’t have as tough, in a glassy way as fiberglass, so there shouldn’t be cracking like glass. It is a tough material enforced with paint. Make sure there are no rips and tears. The trailer wasn’t accidentally backed into a tree or any other mishaps. This has become an attractive finish for me. The only real upkeep you need to do is repaint. If repainting makes you break out in a cold sweat then this is not the option you should go with.
This is extremely important and laws vary from state to state. Do your homework before buying a used teardrop trailer. How will the process go and does the seller have the necessary paperwork you will need? I can’t stress this enough.
Let me know if there’s anything I missed or should add to the list. This should be a good starting point if you are in the market for a used teardrop trailer. There comes a point where it would be cheaper to build your own. Especially after you figure in the extra cost to spruce up the trailer after you buy it.