You have caught the bug! You desperately NEED to have a cool little teardrop trailer. Maybe you just want to camp a few times a year and want a step up from a tent. Or possibly you are going all in and are planning on taking 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 is slightly high so you decide to try and find a used teardrop. Going with a used teardrop is a great option. There are just 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 quickly visually 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 a home built teardrop was built on. It could have been built on a rusty trailer to start with. You never know with a home built teardrop. Really 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 without really being noticed. Check for soft spots around all doors and windows. Also if you notice a musty smell on the inside of a trailer that would indicate water leaks and damage. The musty smell is also common in teardrops and mini campers because they sweat and condensate very easily so don’t automatically attribute a musty smell with a leak. It could just be from condensation.
Many teardrop trailers are built on Harbor Freight or Northern Tool trailers. These trailers are very basic bolt together trailers and are not rated for high speeds and heavier weight. The wheels are 12 inch and are only rated for 55 mph. The trailer weight limit is roughly 1,700 lbs. If you are looking at a DIY home built teardrop the builder might not have upgraded the axle and wheels for a higher rating. So 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. If you are hauling a 2,000 lbs teardrop trailer down the highway at 70 mph on wheels that are only rated for 55 mph and a trailer only rated for 1,700 you might end up in a life threatening situation. It’s better to be safe than sorry in this instance.
The electrical system is a tough thing to check but it needs to be done. 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. If the teardrop is home built it is hard to see if everything is connected correctly and all the right wires and connections are correct. I’m not an electrician and I would have to take along someone who knows what they are doing to check the system and 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 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. Just 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 a 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. Aluminum probably has the easiest upkeep and offers the most protection, it is also 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.
A few last things to check out and to keep in the back of your mind when buying a used teardrop trailer. A few of these will be pretty obvious as you walk around the trailer. Look at the tires, trailer tires don’t last very long especially if it’s not used frequently and is just sitting in the backyard most of the year. Which brings me to the next point. Ask where the trailer was stored, just like a car, it makes a big impact on the life of a trailer. If it was outdoors pay extra attention to the tires and outer shell. Check the seals really well on the doors and windows. Spray a hose on it if you have to. Don’t assume all the seals work, most likely there will be a few that need to be replaced.
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.