View Full Version : Horse trailer dilemma - can you weigh in? Pics on Pg2

May. 30, 2011, 02:00 PM
I've been on the hunt for a decent trailer at a cheap price for a few months. I only do recreational trail riding and some local shows - so it need not be fancy and have any bells and whistles. A basic 2H or a stock trailer would do just fine.

Problem is, they all seem to have a ton of rust. And I'm not talking about a $600 piece of crap, either. Trailers less than 10 years old with rust.

So. My friend tells me her friend has an older 2H they want to get rid of, its been sitting. I am like, eh, no thanks. But its 5 min away so we check it out.

It needs basically everything. Its not rusty, but would look good with a paint job. Its the height I want (all the cheaper ones seem to be only 6'6") and it meets the basic requirements.

It needs a new floor, new wiring, some welding, a paint job, probably some brake work, and tires.

Pass, right? Ok, here's the thing. Frame is good. And he wants $150 for it. Yes, $150.

Hubby would do the floor and ramp, he could also do the wiring and tires, obviously. We have a friend who is a welder. So high-balling it, it would cost us about $1500 from start to finish to have it working and looking pretty good.

Would you do it? Or would you just pony up the $$ and get something that's already finished?

My hesitation is that its work, and we are somewhat busy people. There's nowhere I **NEED**to be this summer, but it would be nice to trailer out for lessons occasionally.

My "pro" side is that if its totally re-done, we would know that it was done correctly.

What would you do??

May. 30, 2011, 02:16 PM
Sounds like a good idea to me if you can plan out some time to fix it. We looked at trailers a couple years ago and could not find anything decent for under $5,000. Trailers that were like 5-10 years old going for only like a thousand less than new.

May. 30, 2011, 02:25 PM
I know! I'm looking in the $3500 range, and I'm shocked at how much trailers are going for. There is NOTHING worth looking at for less than $2000. And every single one that I've seen has so much rust.

I'm thinking, buy it, and if I lose $150 after having someone look at it and say its crap, I'm SURE I could resell it and make more than that back. These people haven't advertised it at all.

May. 30, 2011, 02:27 PM
Put a per-hour dollar value on your and hubby's time, figure the number of hours required for that work, multiply and add that to your price. You may find that paying a bit more for a roadworthy-now trailer is actually cheaper. I notice that many people fail to properly value their time when taking on projects to save money; personally, I deem my time to be the most valuable commodity on earth!

If you do the math, assigning yourself and hubby a reasonable "salary" and erring on the longer side when estimating timeframe, and it comes out less than other available options, and you both enjoy (or at least don't mind) this sort of work, give it a go.

If the math doesn't work out favorably, take another look at some of those rusty trailers. You can rent a good sandblaster for not too much money, take an hour or so to blast a small 2H inside and out, another couple of hours for two people to prime. Then you can either repaint yourself (again, 2-3 hours for two people in my experience), or spend a little to have a body shop or maybe a voc-ed student paint for you.

That's my plan for my little 1995 2H GN that has a lot of rust (but not more than surface anywhere) this summer. It'll be a cute little thing again once it's done.

Another thing to consider is that with all that needs replacing on the El Cheapo trailer, there is a reasonable chance that as you enter the project, you could find that there are structural problems with the frame or axle. I've seen that happen often enough.

May. 30, 2011, 02:28 PM
Depends on where you live. I just moved to California and would never buy a tailer here, unless i had money trees growing everywhere. If you live in the eastern states keep looking!!!! If you live in Cali you're shit out of luck restore it... However I would not leap into that hole of fixing a trailer, For instance if you live anywhere near texas look there!!! I would drive the 2500 miles their just to get a good price on a trailer, in the long run would save$$$$$! For instance a $15000 trailer here is like a $6000 one there and a $4000 trailer here is like a $1500-2000 one there!

My advice Keep looking, chances are this $125 trailer will be waiting on you... Take a picture of it and post for better insight.

May. 30, 2011, 02:31 PM
I personally would be very hesitant to buy any horse trailer that needs welding. There would be very few places where I would be comfortable with that. If the trailer is in such bad shape that it is worth only $150 I would be running away. In my area it would be worth more than that as scrap. Even after a lot of work will you ever be comfortable putting your horses in that trailer? The obvious lack of long term maintenance would concern me.

I also find that I underestimate time and money on projects so I would add at least 20% to your money estimate for things like: need more paint than you thought, needed more of those expensive screws, missed something that needs replaced.

I personally would keep looking.

May. 30, 2011, 02:42 PM
There is NOTHING near me for less than $2000, and thats something with issues. Called about one the other day, asked how the brakes were, person said she didn't think it had brakes". That was $2800.

Went to look at one for $3500, SO much rust. The photo she had was from like 10 years ago when she first got it. That was 4hrs wasted driving to see it.

I'm hesitant but wondering if I've hit a diamond in the rough.

I should have taken a photo but I didn't. Maybe I'll ask them to come back out and shoot a few pics.

May. 30, 2011, 02:48 PM
hmmm i would think about taking a trip.... look on EquineNow.com Equine.com (most websites that sell horse sell trailers, also look at driving 5-600 miles...) its almost summer, grab u your hubby and make a little trip out of it... i would continue looking and not just in a 60mi radius. Also craigslist!!!

May. 30, 2011, 02:59 PM
Sure, but the problem is, you're taking it on faith and photos that there's something 500 miles away that might work. Then drive out there for....a hunk of crap, maybe. And with full-time jobs, and a 3 year old, little trips aren't exactly in the equation.

I do understand what you are saying. I see much better deals down south - which is so odd to me. But taking the weekend to find something that may or may not be what its advertised, at the price of gas for a truck, no thanks. At that point its miles on the truck, gas, time, etc.

May. 30, 2011, 03:04 PM
For $150 hell yes I'd take a chance, been there and done that, and ended up with a nice trailer.

No DH and I didn't charge ourselves for our labor, we did it as a labor of love, (Me cos I loved the thought of being mobile, him because he loves eating and I'm the cook:lol:)

I can't remember all the costs, this was a few years back and in the UK, but we bought her cheap, put in a new floor, sanded her down and repainted, had to rewire, and fix up the brakes. I think we spent twice as much on improvements as we spent on the trailer, I ran it for a couple of years then sold it for a nice little profit at the end.

May. 30, 2011, 03:16 PM
so i guess this $150 option is looking like your best bet for now... something you can take home and restore. Good Luck!!!!

May. 30, 2011, 03:42 PM
yea, probably. Not my favorite option but then again I don't have 10K lying around to go with option A! lol.

I'm sure being in CA you are in a similar (although pricier) dilemma!

May. 30, 2011, 04:26 PM
you know, when you're fixing a vehicle, especially one that's been sitting, there's always more than meets the eye.

Frankly, re-wiring is a deal breaker. Had my last trailer re-wired professionally- all new lights and all new wiring harness, new battery, etc- cost about $1200. Would NOT have been worth the cursing and swearing from the hubby if he'd done it.

Needs brakes? BTDT- you may think shoes, but if its been sitting, its likely it needs new rotors, or hubs, etc and a $100 job turns into $600 overnight.

Needs welding? Well, if it sold enough to ahve worn through in one or two spots, you can bet there will be 3 or 4 more that need it after the first time you haul with it and hopefully the horse doesn't get hurt meantime.

It needs new tires? hell- I'd walk right there. A trailer that's been used enough to need new tires has tons of miles on it. The one I rewired and sold did not need new tires and I'd had it for 12 years. What else is worn out?

Oh yeah, the floor. and everything else.

Plus, I want to know where you can get all that work done AND A PAINT JOB for under $1500? (Maybe I don't want to know) The automotive paint and primer alone to cover such a large vehicle is going to run several hundred dollars. The enitre job professioanlly done, even by a cheap outfit like Maaco will run over $1000.

Up here, brand new trailers on close out, such as you describe are running under $6000. Worth a drive to Alberta to pick one up?

May. 30, 2011, 09:03 PM
Oh, I'm definitely NOT set. I've been hemming and hawing over it all night! And basically changing my mind a thousand times!

Hubby is a hobby mechanic, does custom stuff, kit cars, etc - so for the most part I trust his judgement on what is sound, etc. He rebuilds cars, etc. His good friend is a welder (and also a mechanic) so most of the work would be done "in-house" so to speak. His other friend does high-end classic cars for clients, and has a spray booth, so we could possibly do the painting ourselves. He did my husband's show car and it looks fabulous.

My worry is that we buy it, rip out the wood and hello! its a hot mess. Oh well, out $150 - so what.

Then again, it'd be nice to just have a finished, clean trailer. Ugh! This is quite the dilemma!

May. 30, 2011, 09:25 PM
My first trailer was a freebie, the twin to what you describe above. I spent $900 fixing it up, did some of the work myself, and sold the thing for $2500 after using it for several years. It was a great trailer and I liked knowing that the work was done the right way. I say go for it!!

Hampton Bay
May. 30, 2011, 09:42 PM
I've rebuilt a trailer. The frame under the floor had to be re-welded, but that was the easiest part of it. New ramp, replace floor, paint, re-wire... It adds up. It's a heck of a lot more work than you think it is. and relying on a friend to do the welding, if you don't plan to pay him, will mean it won't get done. So unless you plan to do most of the work yourself, it'll probably still be useless in 2 years.

I ended up learning to weld to get mine done. I knew how to do the rest of the work, but had I not learned to weld, I would have had to ship a horse to our new residence 1000 miles away, and hauled an empty trailer. Trailer was road-worthy, but the ramp wasn't safe.

If you do decide to go through with it, crawl up under the thing to look for rust. Jump up and down on the floor. If the floor needs to be replaced, you're likely to have some issues with the supports underneath. That's the first place rust appears, and the last place most people look for it. Learned that the hard way.

But really, unless your horse is over 15.2h, a 6'6" trailer is plenty big. Mine is 7', and it's overkill for the young horses. My two little ones hauled 17 hours in a 6'6" trailer, and they were just fine. They are both 15.1h+. If the length and width of the stalls is fine, the height just isn't a huge deal unless the horse is tall. Not that I haven't seen 6'6" trailers that would barely fit a pony, but there are some smaller ones out there that will work just fine for smaller horses.

May. 30, 2011, 09:55 PM
Just stalk the classifieds in your area. That's what I did, and got what I wanted for under 2k. It needed some work, but my father did most of it as my christmas present. But nothing major like a new floor. It needed one new floor board.

But you have to know what you want and be ready to POUNCE.

May. 30, 2011, 10:42 PM
I think we decided to haul it home tomorrow, (less than 5 min away) and put it on the lift in our shop to have our welder friend take a look.

And yes, we would pay our friends. All of my husband's friends are mechanically or carpentry inclined, so they all kind of help eachother out with stuff. In this case though we would pay them, although I'm sure it is significantly less than a pro shop.

We ballparked $1500 or so. If I can keep it below 2k and come out with a nice looking and well-running trailer, I'd be wayyy ahead of the game.

I am not concerned about the height, my last trailer was 6'6" but it seems that the shorter height ones are shorter-length too and that is my concern. A bigger horse can fit height-wise, but not length wise.

Believe me I'm a stalker. Daily (sometimes twice) of searchtempest.com (searches all of craigslist), tacktrader, horsetrailerworld, equine.com, equinenow, ebay, the works.

Hampton Bay
May. 30, 2011, 10:57 PM
... my last trailer was 6'6" but it seems that the shorter height ones are shorter-length too and that is my concern. A bigger horse can fit height-wise, but not length wise....

My 6'6" trailer is long enough to fit the mare who takes a 78" blanket. The little horses fit in there with plenty of room to spare. They both wear 74" blankets.

Maybe I need to ask more for my little one. It was $1500, ready to go. I found many around here for that price, some even lower. For $3500 I could have gotten a WB size, pretty new, with dressing room, ready to haul.

May. 31, 2011, 08:55 AM
Really? Mine was a 6'6" and my 14.1 barely fit, length-wise. But it was only 10' overall length, so I'm guessing the horse area was only 8'.

Maybe I need to go to FL!
The prices here are ridiculous!

May. 31, 2011, 11:19 AM
For $150 and some "sweat equity" I'd give it a try. The metal scrap value of the trailer might be close to that! :)

Of course this presumes that the structural work will be correctly done. The re-wiring is mostly a question of time and the time is usually running the wires. You can buy trailer wiring kits at Tractor Supply or Northern Tool.

Good luck in the project.


May. 31, 2011, 11:24 AM
Well, the people were so nice and agreed to let us take it home to look underneath, so we can get it on the lift and see what we're dealing with underneath.

If it looks like its not too intensive and pretty straightforward, we're going to take it.

Hubby and I decided this can be a project we can work on together, and I'm excited about that. Im not extremely handy and he is, and I'd like to learn to be more self-sufficient at these things. I have MacGyver - type handiness, but it usually involves baling twine and trigger snaps. I want to be better at the actual stuff!

Pictures to follow once its home tonight!

May. 31, 2011, 07:52 PM
Here's a link to the album of photos

Haven't lifted it yet, have to get a piece of steel to put across the lift to get it up, apparently the arms of the lift won't fit. I don't know - not my area of expertise. Hopefully will be able to get it lifted up tonight for a look-see. More photos will be added then! :)


May. 31, 2011, 08:46 PM
$150 is a good deal. If hubby looks under it and sees it's got some major structural defect, you should still get ~$150 if you have to junk it.

My 1st trailer looked alot like that. Based on the pics, yours doesn't seem to need that much work. You may be pleasantly surprised. I've seen ones like that in good but not mint condition selling for over $1,000 in my area. So I think you could put some money in it without losing your shirt. FWIW, when I sold mine, I got I think about $1,100 for it.

The only caution I'd have is the size: I didn't have my trailer long before I sold it and moved on to something bigger. It was small, both in height and width. And even if the horse could in theory physically fit, the horses would take one look at the little space and be like "no way, Jose" and it would be a big fight every single time. But if you have an easy-loading horse who isn't huge, it may be perfect for you.

May. 31, 2011, 08:51 PM
I have a mini and a 14.1 hand pony. I would like to be able to occasionally trailer my friend's 16h horse and other horses about that size, nothing huge.

My 14.1 horse is used to teeny trailers. My last one was 6'6" and 7 ft long (in the horse area, 10' overall) and this one is 7' high and 7' long. And the width is about the same, this one is wider by a smidge, I believe. I can't remember what mine was.

If I kept it, I would repaint the inside as well, so it would all be white - I think white looks more inviting to the horse than a dark cave.

Hubby is picking up some steel at his friend's place as we speak so he can get the thing on the lift. fingers crossed that nothing looks too terrible under there!

May. 31, 2011, 08:57 PM
I would alsothink about replacing the partition with one that isn't solid to the floor, just in case one of the horses needs a bit more room to spread out.

May. 31, 2011, 09:00 PM
Hmmm...that's a good point...Will have to add that to the possibilities list!

May. 31, 2011, 09:29 PM
Yea, I'd like to take the plexiglass off and do something else to give it air circulation.

Jun. 1, 2011, 12:16 AM
I've rebuilt a trailer. I like knowing that the every piece of everything on the trailer has been seen and touched by me. There are no surprizes then.
Look a the DOT date code on the tires. If they are more than 6 years, I'd plan on a new set of tires too. The best thing you can do for your rebuilt trailer is provide a shelter for it. Weather will beat the heck out of it. :winkgrin:

Jun. 1, 2011, 08:10 AM
Yep, new tires for sure.

Looks like a great buy for $150 if you can do the work yourself. I'd also get rid of the white metal panels added to the trailer. Just tarp it over during the rainy season. Keep it angled back so any water that comes in runs right out. Keep the wood preserved and it won't be a problem.

Jun. 1, 2011, 08:54 AM
Hopefully you paid them before you left, so they do not change their mind on letting you steal it from them for $150! HOlyCRAP! The way you described it made it sound like a hunk of old rusty metal that would have to be drug home on a trailer. Not actually something that you could hook up and roll behind the rig immediately. No wonder you have had such trouble finding something- you have no idea what you are looking at,lol.. Those people could have easily gotten $1000 for that trailer in the condition it is in... There is a huge difference between surface rust and cancer rust- and almost any trailer you find that is not brand new is going to have a little surface rust here and there...Wow, you found a real gem there- certainly nothing you will lose money on!

Jun. 1, 2011, 09:14 AM
For what you need and the size of your ponies, I think you HAVE found a diamond in the rough!! Lucky you!!! That trailer here would be at least $1000!

Jun. 1, 2011, 11:59 AM
Thanks all. Hubby's friend worked late last night and didn't get a chance to look but we got it on the lift and the frame looks good. Hubby is calling them now to see if they mind if we keep it for a few days longer so our welder friend can look at it.

And yes, I almost feel guilty getting it so cheap. The people are SO nice. Incredibly. The husband changed one of the tires out for us before hubby came to pick it up so it would make it home (and its literally a 5 min drive)

I might be cursing them in a few weeks though, so I'm going to reserve my adoration for them until I'm knee deep in repairs. :)