What To Look For When Buying A Used Trailer

Floyd Fain

June 07, 2017

man-horse-trailer-usedIf you're looking for a used trailer, shop carefully. Used trailers are affordable, but some are rife with problems. This is the type of situation in which the “buyer beware” mantra is certainly applicable.

Despite the downsides, there are some benefits to buying used trailers. If you decide to buy one, here are some things to keep in mind.

Perks Of Older Trailers

Trailers don't have complex transmissions, engines or an abundance of moving parts. If an older trailer is properly cared for, it will prove just as reliable as a new one. Some trailers that have been around for 40 years are still running like new.

You can find high-quality used trailers at brick-and-mortar stores as well as online. Whenever you order a trailer, request to tow the trailer to a state inspection station or a trailer repair shop so a mechanic can perform a comprehensive analysis to ensure it is functional and safe.

What To Look For

Before you buy a trailer, you should gauge how well it's been maintained. If you buy from an individual seller, take a look at their barn to see if it is in good shape. If the barn is a mess, it is an indication the trailer has not been properly cared for.

Ensure the windows and doors open and close without a problem. If the hinges are oiled, it is a sign the seller has taken good care of the rest of the trailer.

The next step is to stand in the stalls to determine if the trailer feels comfortable. If you feel claustrophobic or if the ventilation is lacking, your horse won't be comfortable. Make sure the vents and windows are functional.

Check the raising/lowering functionality of the ramp. If you notice surface rust along the trailer body, it shouldn't be a deal-breaker unless it has spurred a hole or threatens a weld. Get on down to the ground and take a good look at the frame including the undercarriage. If the frame is not structurally sound, don't make an offer. Any rust or corrosion on the steel/aluminum frame is a major issue.

Tires Matter

The tires should have ample tread. Even a new tire that is plagued by dry rot will prove problematic. This is especially true if it has been resting on grass or beneath the sun for an extended period of time. Dry, rotted tires have compromised sidewalls that could lead to a blowout at some point in the future. If you notice the wear patterns on the tires are uneven with considerably more tread worn along one side, the axle may be bent.


Don't make an offer without testing the brakes. Hook up the trailer, move the manual lever over and attempt to move the trailer. All of the wheels should resist the movement. Don't hesitate to pull the wheels off the trailer and have the brakes inspected by a professional.

Remove the wheels so the bearings can be inspected as well. Find out if the wheel bearings have been cleaned and re-packed on an annual basis. It's also important to mention that if the brakes are solely on one axle and a Department of Transportation representative notices, your trailer can be put out of commission.

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