Buying a used trailer can be a scary proposition. At Vantage, we want to help make sure you don’t pay too much for a used horse trailer. Here are a couple of practices that can save you a lot of money and headache.
When first looking at online ads, aim to find a comparable unit to the one you are interested in. Specific buy and sell groups on Facebook, or Facebook marketplace are a good place to start. Kijiji, Horse Trailer World, and Northern Horse are other great places to check. When looking on some of these platforms, remember to expand your search radius to find more comparable units in other states or provinces. There are many variables that can easily change the value of a trailer; it is always a good idea to ask the seller which options the trailer has that may not be listed in the ad. For more guidance on valuation, we recommend calling a reputable dealer for a second opinion because they deal with trailer valuations on a daily basis.
The next thing we recommend is getting up to date pictures or a video of the trailer. There is nothing worse than driving up to pick up a trailer and realizing that the pictures in the ad are from 5 years ago when the trailer was in the dealer’s yard. A video is always great – if the seller is willing to take one – because it can show things that the pictures may have missed. In the video get the seller to also point out any minor deficiencies or scratches on the trailer. Have the seller take pictures or a video of any tire wear as well. This way any long deep scratches from tree branches or minor dents can be seen before taking the time to drive out with a cheque or bank draft.
If you decide that the trailer is worth the time, there are a couple items that we recommend inspecting before taking it home. First of all, check all the lights on the trailer. Especially important are the signal lights and the brake lights. Check the tires for sidewall cracking, splits in the tread, bald spots, and uneven wear. Uneven wear can be a sign of a bent axle while tire cracking generally happens as the tire gets older and can blow when under stress.
Checking the brakes and bearings is more difficult but simple checks can give an idea of the condition. Grease spreading from the hub caps can be an indicator that the bearing seals have blown out and need to be replaced. There are a couple of simple ways to see if the brakes are working. One way, but more challenging, is to jack up the trailer so the tires are off the ground and hit the brakes while someone tries to spin the tires. If they spin, the brakes are not working. If they can be moved by hand, the brakes are not grabbing properly and may need adjustment. Another way brakes can be checked is by hooking up the trailer and letting the truck roll forward without adding any gas. When the brake controller is engaged the wheels should lock up. (Warning, this second method can damage the trailer tires if done on pavement.) It is always best to get a reputable service shop to go through the trailer and provide a full report on their findings before purchasing a trailer.
Check for any damage not seen in the pictures or video. Common areas for damage are dents from horses kicking or pawing the outside and inside of the trailer. When traveling with livestock tied up some minor damage being done to the trailer is totally understandable. Hail damage on the roof and trailer sides is important to check for as well. If the seller is aware of any hail damage, chances are they put a claim through their insurance for it. If the damage was not repaired they may have taken a cash payout from their insurance company. This is important to know because it means that the trailer cannot be covered for hail damage unless the damage is repaired first.
On living quarters trailers there is much more to inspect, but checking for this can be fairly simple. Have the seller turn on the fridge before your arrival. The inside of the fridge should start to feel cold to the touch within a half hour, or better yet, place a thermometer in the fridge. With the trailer plugged in test the ac function, microwave, and TV’s in the trailer. Once this has been completed, unplug the trailer and test the rest of the functions in the LQ. Turn on the furnace, test all the lights, radio, hot water tank, and check the speakers. While in the LQ look for any signs of water damage from the roof, this can look like sagging or discoloured panels. Sometimes the smell of mould can be an indicator that there is a water leak somewhere in the trailer. Check under both sinks for signs of leaks as well.
If everything on the trailer looks good or any deficiencies have been discussed and a price has been agreed upon, we recommend getting a lien check done on the trailer. This can be done by taking the vin to a registry office and having them run a lien check on the trailer. Generally this costs less than $30.00 and will give you much more peace of mind. Calling the dealership that originally sold the trailer might be a way to gain more information on the trailer as well. As a final note of caution we recommend avoiding trailers sold at auctions. There is usually a reason that the trailer is at auction rather than being sold through a dealership or private sale.
Vantage Trailers always advises buyers to have the trailer they are looking at fully inspected before making the purchase. We have two service shops in Alberta that will inspect a used trailer for you and provide an inspection form. We can also do a lien check on the trailer while it is in our shop getting inspected. Contact either of our locations if you have any questions or need financing!