This is one of the most popular questions people have about building a teardrop is what will it cost me. What does a DIY teardrop trailer cost? That’s kind of like asking just how wet is water? In this post we are going to try and hash out an average build price. If you are looking to build an extremely basic and frugal teardrop you probably could get away with $500 or $600. That would be if frugality was your only goal. For a more accurate DIY teardrop trailer cost the average seems to be around $2,500 – $3,000. Lots of different variables affect the overall cost. Let’s break this down and see what we can come up with for a normal size 4×8 DIY teardrop trailer cost.
Let’s start with the first step, we need a trailer. If you want to get a new, cheap trailer like a Northern Tool or Harbor Freight, you start off spending $500.
I was going to go with the Northern Tool trailer but then I found this cool used trailer on Facebook for $150. And it has electric brakes!
I’ll still probably put $100 into it to get it ready. That is still a much better starting point than $500.
If you go with the Harbor Freight make sure you upgrade the axle to hold the weight of the trailer.
Next we’ll add in the cost of the floor. Two layers of plywood, 3-4 2×4’s, bolts, and waterproof sealer. I would say roughly $75 for the floor.
Now we can figure out the walls and roof. We will go with the sandwich plywood for our walls. That will be 6 pieces for the walls on both sides. The roof will be roughly a piece and a half plus the hatch door and the stud/braces 5-6 more pieces. We’ll average high and say for the walls and roof well need 12 sheets of different size plywood. We’ll average those at $20 a piece. Plus the studs which I would just rip 2×4 to use on the roof and hatch. 8 more 2×4 at $2 a piece.
On to the galley. I’m not going to go with a full galley in mine but many people do like having the storage in the galley. This is a tricky area to figure out the cost for. You could go nuts with accessories and luxuries. Do you want a working sink, or a full stove? How about an electric cooler? The options are endless when you are planning a teardrop camper galley.
For the sake of our average we are going to figure that we will have just a normal countertop galley with regular storage cabinets and none of the extras. Because teardrop campers are so custom it’s much easier to just build your own cabinets instead of trying to get measurements and ordering them and then trying to install them. As someone who has installed kitchens this sounds like a nightmare. There is always something you have to mess with and adjust on the cabinets so building your own sounds like a much better option.
If you use nice cabinet plywood it’s going to be more expensive than just regular ply. I think I would use the cabinet plywood, at least for the facing. You can use regular plywood in the hidden areas. You should only need 2 sheets at most for the galley. Plus you should still have some scraps left over you could repurpose. With one nice sheet and one regular that would be roughly $70. If you make a formica counter that would be extra too. I would just finish off the plywood on mine for a countertop, but that’s your call. That’s why coming up with a price is so different for each person. Everyone has slightly different wants, needs, and standards.
You also have cabinet hardware to consider. Are you going to have drawers? You will need the slides for them. As you run the numbers on your own teardrop camper build don’t forget the little things like knobs and slides.
We have the basic wood and trailer cost figured out and we are up to $700. There are a few decisions coming up you will have to make on a DIY teardrop trailer. Are you going to buy doors or make them yourself? From what I’ve seen those who choose to make their own doors say that they wished they would have just bought them. The hassle and cost of all the little things that goes into making a door really add up and it’s just not worth the hassle.
Let’s buy our doors for this example. We don’t necessarily have to buy new teardrop doors. If we buy used ones on ebay or somewhere we can cut that cost down to around $350 a door. While we are talking about doors lets figure on buying a hurricane hinge and door handle set for the hatch door. There are lots of used hurricane hinges online but I don’t know if I would trust them. With something as important as a hinge that needs to be waterproof I’ll buy a new one for $120.I don’t want to always be wondering everytime it rains if my hurricane hinge is holding up. For the latch you can get really creative but I want easy and efficient so I will buy the whole latch kit for $80.
We are now up to 1,600 and we haven’t run any electric or installed an electric system and we still haven’t vented or waterproofed the teardrop. If you didn’t sit down and figure out your teardrop trailer cost before you started the build you might be tempted to start cutting corners right about now after already spending $1600. I would argue that these next two steps if not installed properly could end up killing you! So be extremely thoughtful and careful as you work on ventilation and electric.
Let’s start with ventilation. Since this is one thing I’m not going to scrimp on I am going to buy the least expensive Fan-tastic camper fan I can. These are the best fans you can get in the camper industry. The least expensive version is $130. Since I have windows in my doors I shouldn’t need anymore vents. If I do I will just put them in the floor and use PVC pipes.
Electricity. My favorite. Actually I hate electricity, probably cause I don’t know exactly what I am doing. I know I’m not going to add in a bunch of electronics like TVs (this TV is awesome for a small teardrop if you are looking for one) It’s hard enough keeping the kids off TV at home, I definitely don’t want it camping. No air conditioning either I’m going camping not to a hotel. I do want to be able to plug in to electric if I have it available, so I will run a 120v system along with a battery 12v system.
I’m still working on all the stuff I’ll need so I will make a simple list of the generic things I THINK I need. I still have to really hash out all the details for my electric and dig down to find out exactly what I’ll use.
Everything is covered so far except one last thing, that would be a waterproof coating. We could just take an outdoor paint and paint a few coats and be done. It probably would hold up for a couple years but it is by far the best way to waterproof a teardrop. And who wants to repaint every two years.
We will go with the next best option which would be Poor Mans Fiberglass. This is a good option if you want cheap and effective. It can add more labor to your project so you will have to decide if that’s a good tradeoff for yourself.
The other more expensive options are Fiberglass and Aluminum. You can also mix and match different techniques for different sections on the teardrop. The roof could be aluminum and the sides could be PMF etc.
For the poor mans fiberglass we will need 2 gallons of gripper primer, $16 a gallon, some use titebond 2 but we will stick with gripper (pun intended). We will use cheap cotton bed sheets, $30, and a few coats of nice outdoor paint, $20.
So that’s an average of all the parts and what a DIY teardrop trailer cost. We didn’t figure the cost of all the little things either. The box up front for the battery. You should keep the battery outside of the teardrop. Batteries sweat and give off fumes and you don’t want to breath that in while you are sleeping.
We didn’t consider nails, screws, and other fasteners. Or silicone and glue.
We didn’t really add in finishing the interior of the teardrop either. Bedding, paint, and interior design. Without those extra little expenses we are already around $2,250. Add all of the extras and we are up around $2,400.
We also didn’t consider trailer running lights and accessories, or fenders. Also what if you need to upgrade your trailer frame and tires and axle. I would definitely plan on spending $2,500.
If you are planning on building a DIY teardrop trailer plan on $2,500 – $3,000. If you build a basic, basic 4×8 version. Some things you will save money on, like if your brother is a welder or you’re an electrician etc. Some things you will spend more on. Like if your wife really NEEDS a custom backsplash and countertop. This teardrop trailer cost guide hopefully will give you a good starting point and get those creative gears turning.
Let me know in the comments below how much you spent on your DIY teardrop trailer cost!