How to Push Through Used Trailer Shopping

Photo © Virginia State Parks via Flickr

BY RACHEL WILKOSKI

As a young adult, trailer shopping for my very first trailer was a foreign and frustrating experience even though it ultimately ended up being fruitful. 

For my budget at the time, new was not an option so I dove head first into the search for a quality used horse trailer. I wasn’t looking for anything fancy, but simply something safe and road ready (or atleast close to it). Surprisingly, that was hard to find. I specifically went looking for a gooseneck two horse. It didn’t need a tack room or a living quarters, but it turns out my quest was not unique. My dream of a two horse to easily pull into horse shows, hunt meets, lessons, and clinics was shared by many. 

Trailers older than I was were still near the top of my budget range, while being on the lower end of my standards. Trailers that were in rough shape, had several owners, or had title issues, were more than I wanted to spend and more than I wanted to deal with. But all of these same trailers still sold within a week or two either by private parties or at a dealership. 

Photo © Susie Blackmon via Flickr

Watching the pricing and sales on trailers online opened my eyes to how much value a trailer still holds—even with age and wear. The big name trailers were especially high in cost, even if they were in poor condition. Constantly considering the idea that I might have to either increase my budget for what I wanted and needed or change what I needed to fit my budget was extremely disappointing. It almost stopped me from looking, but I kept searching. 

I kept thinking I’d finally found “the one” only to be met with, “No title,” or ”Sorry, the trailer just sold an hour ago.” I searched every used trailer dealership locally and found nothing I wanted to spend what they were asking on. I searched dealerships far away that I’d have to take a chance on never seeing the trailer before having it shipped. I found both legitimate dealerships and fake dealership websites. I found “catfish” trailers which absolutely terrified me. All I wanted was a well cared for trailer—with a clear title—that I could safely take my horse on adventures in.

One night while scrolling through Facebook marketplace, I found the perfect trailer. It was listed 18 hours prior, so I fully expected it to be sold. I messaged anyway and was delighted that it was still available and arranged to see it the following night. After taking a look and getting a second opinion from an educated mechanic, I knew it needed to be mine. 

The next day I travelled the two hours back up to Carlisle to hook up and head to the notary. The whole transaction was seamless and easy. I was ecstatic! Did I get a perfect, brand new trailer? No. Did I get a safe trailer from a good horse person that is exactly what I was looking for that will only require a few minor repairs or maintenance items to be ready to go because it has been well cared for it’s whole life? YES!!! 

Photo courtesy of author

Overall, the trailer shopping process is what you make it. Just like horse shopping, it can be frustrating, but the right one will come along! 

What I learned from my used trailer buying experience:

  • Figure out what you need and want from your future trailer. Stick closely to the needs and evaluate the wants as you go. 
  • Make sure you are getting a trailer that is compatible with your towing vehicle
  • Take a knowledgeable mechanic and a detail oriented horseman with you to take a look at a trailer with you
  • Evaluate your budget and be realistic with what you can afford and what you may have to deal with or give up depending on what you have to spend
  • Ask all the questions before you get there, and ask more when you see the trailer in person. 
  • Make sure you’re reading the ads thoroughly so you aren’t asking questions the seller has already answered
  • If you post an ISO ad, you will get everything but what asked for in the comments
  • Evaluate the seller in person. Are they knowledgeable horse people? Are they offering you further information? Are they discussing service records and past, present, and future repairs? Do they seem dodgy or uncomfortable when you ask them about something that could be an issue?
  • Act rationally, but quickly
  • Cash talks in trailer sales. Don’t be afraid to make an offer!
  • Trailers do hold their value and often sell quickly
  • Don’t give up your search! You will find your perfect trailer

Rachel Wilkoski is a 22 year old avid fox hunter who dabbles in the hunter ring. Working with her family to develop young horses in Chester County, PA.