I know many of you are on the hunt for that perfect vintage trailer and I wanted to share with you 10 things you should check for when looking at one you are thinking about buying.
1. Water Damage.
Water is the #1 enemy when it comes to vintage trailers. When there is a leak it can get into the framing and cause some serious damage over time. Always check areas such as the vent, corners where the walls meet, around the windows, in cupboards and the closet. One way that unscrupulous sellers have of disguising water damage is to paint over it. Watch for trailers that have the interiors repainted inside. Now, I say that and my Buttercup is re-painted. However, that was by my choice and not because there was damage. She didn’t originally have the pretty birch wood and instead had a pale white-washed looking wood, so we opted to paint it. Just be sure and inspect painted interiors really well to determine if they were painted to cover up damage or if it’s simply for esthetics. Also check the exterior seams, roof vent, roof and around the exterior windows. Beware of trailers where the seller has used silicone to seal these areas or has slopped on some sort of heavy roof sealant.
This trailer clearly has water damage around the window and in the corners where the seams meet. Also note those little dark spots next to the beer can is rat feces. The cushions in this trailer needed to be thrown out.
Make sure the floor is solid and there are no soft spots. Floor repair can end up being a major undertaking as sometimes it will require removing existing dinette seating, bed frame, etc.,
3. Electrical System
It’s important to make sure all the electric works and this includes interior and exterior lights. Make sure and test all of the break lights, turn signals, running lights, etc.,
Always check the axle. Make sure the axle, springs and all bolts are in good shape. The last thing you want is to go down the road and have something break. Axle replacement can be a costly expense.
Check to make sure the tires are in good shape and do not have weather checking, wires poking out of them or are bald. Check to see that they have good tread and are in overall good conditions. Tires for vintage trailers can be costly although a trailer needing tires shouldn’t mean it’s a deal breaker. It’s always recommended that if you do need to replace the tires, always go with tires meant for RV’s and travel trailers and not car tires. Also check that all lug nuts are tight! Ask the seller when the last time the bearings were repacked. I would recommend having them checked regardless though.
6. Appliances, Propane Lines & Plumbing
Check to see if the stove and fridge are in working order. This is important because you want to make sure all the propane lines are in working order. In a Shasta Compact we recently renovated we had the propane lines check and it required several repairs in the lines. Faulty propane lines is not something you want to mess with as it’s a matter of safety. Check to make sure all water lines, holding tanks and bathroom plumbing is in good working order. Have the seller test these things for you so you can verify they are working.
7. Broken Glass & Windows
Glass can sometimes be expensive to replace so check to make sure all of the glass is intact. Also check to make sure that none of the glass has been replaced with plexiglass. Plexiglass is often a cheaper alternative and sometimes it’s hard to notice if a seller has put in plexiglass. Normally you’ll see plexiglass in larger rear windows or in the window of a overhead bunk model. Also check to make sure all of the windows open and close properly.
8. Tongue & Coupler
Make sure the tongue and hitch are in good shape. Also check the safety chains and make sure those are in good shape as well. Be sure and check to see what size ball the coupler takes and what type of electric plug it has for the break lights.
9. Bad Smells
Bad smells can be a sign of rodents, urine, mold, etc., If a trailer smells bad it’s likely that the cushions are holding onto that smell as well. Replacing cushions can be more costly than simply recovering them with new fabric. So check to see if you can find the source of any bad odors. Use your nose to determine if it’s a wet wood smell as that wouldn’t be a good sign.
Ask the seller if they have a clear title for the trailer. In a good number of states, getting a trailer titled can be a chore. In a few states it can be a downright nightmare. California is such a state. While in some other states such as Michigan getting a title with simply a bill of sale is pretty painless. So do your homework first and if you find a trailer that you love but it does not have a title, check with your state first to see what the process would be to get a title for it.