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View Full Version : Aluminum versus steel structures on trailer



dressagedevon
Nov. 19, 2009, 06:51 PM
I am sure this has been done before but wanted to ask again. Are the aluminum trailers as safe as steel structured trailers or are they actually safer. I am trailer shopping and have a limited budget. I Really want a 2 + 1, but just don't think they are in my range, except in maybe a steel trailer with aluminum siding, like with a Hawk or Trail-et, and what about the floors, they have wood floors, so are they better or worse than the aluminum floors. What are your experiences with like the Keifers, and what not. This trailer has to last a long time. I've had my last one for 16 years, and it would still work except it's just to small for my guys I have now, and they won't get on it!!!! So basically I want to hear the good bad and ugly about your trailer and if you would buy it again :confused::lol::)
TIA

shawneeAcres
Nov. 19, 2009, 07:10 PM
I have a 1986 all aluminum Sooner trailer (floor and everything). It is an excellent, well built trailer. Having said that, I will say that the trailers today are not nearly as well made. Just the thickness of the alumunim in my trailer vs. the aluminum in "todays" trailers is significnatly different, mine is much heavier! If I were looking I'd puchase an older, well maintained trailer before buying a new one!

FatCatFarm
Nov. 19, 2009, 08:05 PM
I would think the aluminum trailers are safer because they don't rust and lose integrity that way, but I have not researched this for any stats. Have you tried a Google search about it?

Guilherme
Nov. 19, 2009, 10:17 PM
If properly engineered and built I don't see one necessarily being "safer" than another.

G.

Hannahsmom
Nov. 20, 2009, 07:05 AM
I've had both, though in two-horse trailers. I didn't have any problem with the all aluminum which I had for about 6 years but remember you still need to pull up the floor mats and wash the floors with those also. When I bought my goose I went back to the aluminum over steel with wood floor. I wanted bigger windows as I had moved to a hotter climate and wanted to be able to open the tail windows and have a big open area. Check out the size of all aluminum windows and other than the drop downs you will see what I mean. I also figured it's a lot easier for 'joe shop' to fix wood floors and those issues rather than aluminum where you need someone more skilled. Just go to something like TrailerWorld and ask on their forums about care of an aluminum trailer, then care of an aluminum over steel and you will get replies from people who use their trailers regularly and for long hauls. Talk to wherever you will be taking your trailer for maintenance or repair, and if they aren't selling a brand trailer so prejudiced, they will tell you which trailers are holding up over time.

chicamuxen1
Nov. 20, 2009, 07:29 AM
I had two steel frame trailers with aluminum skins and just plain got tired of the frame rusting away under the skin. If you can always store your trailer inside it will last far longer. I can't. I finally bought a Dream Coach all-aluminum with the Rumbar floor. I love that rubber floor. It's actually rubber tonque and groove planks. Much nicer than wood or aluminum. And NO, it is not slippery, it is rough textured. But always, always, always put some shavings or sawdust on your trailer floors.

I'd suggest shopping around for a used trailer with the Rumbar floor. I personally prefer a step-up slantload and I get the most interior room for tack, dressing room, etc with that configuration.

chicamuxen

cyndi
Nov. 20, 2009, 08:17 AM
Much depends on where you live. I live 30 miles from the Gulf, and here, you are wasting your money, IMHO, if you buy anything but all aluminum, due to corrosion due to high levels of rain (50 inches a year or so) and high humidity all the time. It also worries me about hidden corrosion from a steel frame, which you can't see the parts hidden under aluminum skin.

I have a 1993 Featherlite, am original owner. It is all aluminum except for axels and hitch. I really have been happy with this trailer. I keep looking at new, but can't really justify it. I too, doubt that current model trailers are built as well, especially as $$$ as aluminum has become in the last few years.

ponygirl
Nov. 20, 2009, 08:52 AM
I too have had both. Had a Hart (aluminum) a Hawk and now a Balanced Ride. I didn't have an issue with my Hart oxidizing but I did do as I was supposed to with regards to care and upkeep. I did not had an issue with my frame rusting on my Hawk. The Balanced Ride, made by Hawk, is too new but I don't forsee having an issue here either. I live a mile from the river which feeds into the ocean which is 5 miles from me. Lots of salt in the air so I'm probably a bit more at risk for rust/oxidation than others might be.

I have seen issues with both types of trailers and some brands consistently. Brand name can have a lot to do with quality, fit and finish and usually it's due to how a company builds a trailer (Quality control) that dictates end user experiences.

Just have to mention rumber flooring as I also had this in my previous Hawk. It is not a good floor for a horse that paws. Other than that, good stuff.

fordtraktor
Nov. 20, 2009, 08:59 AM
I personally like to have a steel structure in case of accident. Aluminum is soft, steel is harder -- and I believe more likely to maintain its integrity in a crash, protecting the horses at least a little better.

tabula rashah
Nov. 20, 2009, 08:59 AM
I have an all aluminum trailer, had it for going on 8 years now. Loff it!! I keep it outside (no where to take it in out of the weather) and I live in an area that generally gets a good amount of rain and high humidity. Upkeep is fairly simply- power wash it a couple of times a year including pulling out the mats (OMG wish they could make those things a bit lighter!!)

DD_TrailerMan
Nov. 20, 2009, 09:10 AM
I work with both types of materials, building all aluminum and all galvanized trailers. There are advantages to both, also, some misconceptions out there. I will send you a PM with more detail.

Bartley Heath
bartley@DoubleDTrailers.com
Buy Factory Direct at DoubleDTrailers.com

Daydream Believer
Nov. 20, 2009, 09:20 AM
I have a Double D in Galvanized steel and it's built like a tank. It is galvanized and has sat out unprotected for almost three years here in the swamps of Virginia (very humid and damp) and there is no rust on it at all. I have also owned aluminum hybrid trailers (steel frame) and IMO the aluminum walls/skin were not as heavy duty as steel walls. I do not see how it could protect a horse as well in an accident or rollover as steel.

Steel..even galvanized steel...is way more economical than aluminum. Yes you will have to repaint some day but I figure my trailer cost half what the same model in aluminum cost and it's still cheaper to paint it a couple of times than to have purchased it in aluminum new. Aluminum should be acid washed also...so again, it's not really maintenance free.

I also hate aluminum floors....they are hot and vibrate and yes, they will corrode. I saw an aluminum trailer for sale on a used trailer lot that was under 10 years old that had holes in the floor big enough for a couple of fingers. You don't want to have to replace an aluminum floor...very expensive. Wood floors are much more practical and much less pricey to replace.

Edgewood
Nov. 20, 2009, 11:41 AM
I have a Trail-et 1998 2H gooseneck that still looks like brand new. The wood floor has held up fabulously and there is very little rust anywhere.

I just purchased a new Hawk (larger size for my larger horses) and my Trail-et has held up amazingly well (not just my opinion but everyone who has seen it). I have had it in NC, VA, and now PA - all quite humid places and it generally has NOT been stored inside - but still looks really good. I have photos on my website if you want to see what a well maintained 12 year old steel hybrid looks like.

dressagedevon
Nov. 20, 2009, 02:42 PM
Man Edgewood, I wish you were closer, that is exactly what I want! :( Thanks for the pictures though, I really like those trailers.

ChocoMare
Nov. 20, 2009, 02:58 PM
Maybe consider an EquiSpirit 2+1? (http://www.equispirit.com/products/3horse.htm)

I know that Double D in NC is now the builder for their stock-combo trailers (the Equibreeze (http://good-times.webshots.com/album/569863361yFLROR), of which I had the honor of buying their very first gooseneck :winkgrin:)....so not sure if they will be taking over the building of the EquiSpirits or not (right now Hawk builds them in Wisconsin for EquiSpirit---Tom & Neva Sheve designed for Hawk, etc.)

They are also Galvineal Frames with Aluminum skins. Tons of safety features. Solidly built.

Edgewood
Nov. 20, 2009, 04:18 PM
Man Edgewood, I wish you were closer, that is exactly what I want! :( Thanks for the pictures though, I really like those trailers.

Thanks! I forgot to mention that I love my Trail-et and so when I ordered my Hawk, I got essentially the SAME things (eg, double tail lights, pass through window, etc) with only a few extra additions. What I really wanted was the taller inside height but then a duplication of my current Trailet. Right now Trailet is in receivership, hence I went with Hawk (Risa in SC per COTH recommendations). Love my Hawk, but everyone who visits says how much they looke the same (despite 12 years difference in age).

Good luck trailer shopping!

Whitfield Farm Hanoverians
Nov. 20, 2009, 08:57 PM
I spoke with Pegasus rep this week & she said that the super expensive Pegasus are made with all steel due to the strength & the fact that people tend to overload their trailer. Says that steel has "memory" so will return to it's shape if overloaded but that aluminum will just bend. No wonder their trailers weigh so much!
I'm stll on the fence about trailer buying. I have noticed that by far the majority of the Hawks & Trailets that I've seen used look worse than the all aluminum interiors do. Little things such as where the butt bars rub against their holders, that sort of stuff. I'm tired of rust & that one factor is slowing down my decision to buy Hawk even though I really like the trailer. Saying that though I did see a 1997 Hawk this week on the net that looks new inside. Someone took great care of it. Maybe that's what it takes on the all steels. That & some touch up paint.

Guilherme
Nov. 20, 2009, 10:35 PM
I spoke with Pegasus rep this week & she said that the super expensive Pegasus are made with all steel due to the strength & the fact that people tend to overload their trailer. Says that steel has "memory" so will return to it's shape if overloaded but that aluminum will just bend. No wonder their trailers weigh so much!
I'm stll on the fence about trailer buying. I have noticed that by far the majority of the Hawks & Trailets that I've seen used look worse than the all aluminum interiors do. Little things such as where the butt bars rub against their holders, that sort of stuff. I'm tired of rust & that one factor is slowing down my decision to buy Hawk even though I really like the trailer. Saying that though I did see a 1997 Hawk this week on the net that looks new inside. Someone took great care of it. Maybe that's what it takes on the all steels. That & some touch up paint.

How can you tell if a trailer salesman is lying? Thier lips are moving. :D

Steel does not have any more "memory" than any other metal. Deform it past its limits and it's permantly deformed. It is, pound for pound, a stronger metal than aluminum but is subject to corrosion by normal elements where aluminum is not.

If you want to get strength in aluminum like you have with steel then you must have a much more massive frame. This means more material, more manufacturing challenges, and more cost.

I'm not an engineer and I don't build trailers. I am a graduate of a USN aircraft corrosion control school where we learned a lot about...corrosion! And it's control and repair.

Indeed in humid areas, coastal areas, and places where lots of salt is used on roads steel will be problematic material without lots of regular maintenance. In addition to corrosion control school I've spent time on ships using a chipping hammer and painbrush. ;)

The original question was about "safety." Again, in a trailer that's properly engineered and manufactured and maintained neither material necessarily has a "safety" benefit over the other.

So buy what you want, ensure that your truck will safely pull it, and maintain it correctly. You'll do just fine, as with the equine passengers.

G.

Whitfield Farm Hanoverians
Nov. 21, 2009, 08:34 PM
Hey G,
My Dad who is a Mechanical Engineer says that the sales lady is right, that steel will flex & return but you're correct too as of course if you take it past it's limits any metal will just bend & take that shape. I'm still not sure which way to go on a trailer but am tired of getting $40K quotes for 2+1s. I really like the changes Risa has made on her Balanced Ride trailer. I'm also thinking that maybe if I get one with steel interior I'll paint some of the connections with Rhino Lining such as the rings that the chest & butt bars hang from. They always seem to show rust first.

Guilherme
Nov. 21, 2009, 09:48 PM
Doing the RhinoLining thing would be a Very Good Idea (even for an AL trailer). I saw a cattle trailer done that way (they did the deck and up the walls to the first open slat) and it was Mondo Kool. No slippery deck and it washed out with a pressure washer in just a few minutes. Cattle trailers usually look pretty rough; after several months this one did not.

If you're going to go the steel route (particularly with the RhinoLining) then as long as the truck will pull it you'll do OK.

In this market I'm surprised at some of the numbers I'm hearing on trailers. But our local Featherlight dealer told me that he's selling well at the bottom and top of the market. The middle, however, is as dead as Julius Ceasar. He's got a lovely Silverlite 4H, GN, LQ, nicely set up, that originally listed at $102,000 down to $81,000 (and it's sat on his lot for over a year). I think there's more "water" in the price if a body were to want it. I just can't see putting that kind of capital into a unit I'll use, maybe, two dozen days per year. And that will "tax" my truck's hauling capacity. Of course I think at $81,000 he's at the high end of the "middle market."

He's also got a nice selection of American Spirit units and they seem to be reasonabley well done and are a steel trailer.

Our first trailer was a 4H steel stock from Valley in OH. It was a good trailer and held up well. But it took extra maintenance and we kept it under a shed. I like the AL units better, but that might be more taste than real advantage.

Good luck to the OP in their selection (and to all in an interesting market to buy trailers :) ).

G.

Touchstone Farm
Nov. 22, 2009, 03:28 PM
Have owned Featherlite all aluminum trailers for 20 years. First was a 2H BP. Sold it 10 years later for nearly as much as I paid for it and it looked just as good (except for the hub caps). Second one was a Ftherlite 3H GN. Loved it so much I traded up to a Ftherlite 3H GN with LQs.

Don't get a Kieffer. Quality control, workmanship is terrible. A friend of mine had her horse fall out of it and get dragged behind, due to defective doors. Husband and kids saw the whole thing happen as they were driving behind. Company refused to take responsibility for it. Google on it -- others have lost horses out of the backs of their Kieffers as well. If I see one on the road, I get around it as fast as I reasonably can. Don't want to be following it!

No matter what kind you get, I also suggest the double doors in back with the ramp on the outside. That gives you two barriers to keep your horse in and other vehicles out.

A previous poster is right -- just because you have an aluminum floor doesn't mean you can ignore it. I take the mats out at the end of the show season and scrub the entire inside out. Then I put the mats back in and shove poles or pieces of wood so the air can get between the mats and the floor and stay aired out until I need the trailer in the spring.

My trailer has always stood outside year-round, spring through snowy winters.

Four Stars are good trailers too. Look for used ones in these two brands. Their value and condition holds up well (assuming they've had reasonable care by their prior owners).

Good luck!