According to Gary Norris of Prime Trailer Products in McKinney, to help ensure a good purchase, buyers may opt to have the trailer inspected prior to the final purchase. This is important because like a used car can be a "lemon," so can a used trailer.
"I had a gentlemen a few weeks ago that had decided he wanted to get into the hay hauling business," Norris explained. "He bought this big 30-foot gooseneck flatbed trailer. Thought he got a good deal on it, brought it to me, it was a triple axle trailer Only had three wheels on the ground. It had trailer house axles on it."
Trailer house axles are designed to carry the weight of a trailer house only a few times. So they aren't meant to stand up to the workload of a hay-hauling trailer.
"I have a lot of people who buy used trailers and the next thing you know, they are putting almost too much in it to get in into good condition or safe condition," Norris said. "Next thing, you know you are up into the range of buying a new trailer...
"Just bring it by a mechanic to look at, just for peace of mind."
Many times a trailer is represented to make it seem like a great deal, when in fact they are represented to hide their problem. Fresh paint and rubber mats could cover up rust on the walls or in the floor of the trailer, which is a common problem with steel stock trailers.
"The biggest problem with stock trailers is rust towards the back, if it is aluminum you don't have that problem," he said. "But, if it is a steel trailer you really need to examine that back end of that trailer for rust real well. Once there is rust, and the rust has started, there is not much you can do."
So aluminum would seem like a fantastic choice. After all, it is obviously a lot lighter than steel, but at a lot more expensive in price.
"Those that price trailers know that," Norris said. "In most cases, they are about twice as much. But, you don't have the rust problem. The one other draw back to aluminum is that it is hard to find a shop that can work on them. Most shops can't weld on aluminum, my shop cannot weld aluminum. I have a shop that works with me that does that if someone needs that I can refer them to, but it is hard as far as quick repairs, emergency repairs that need to be done."
Something that should also be considered when buying a trailer is making sure that the intended tow vehicle is capable of safely hauling the trailer. One of the biggest safety concerns is brakes. Sometimes, the trailer brakes just need adjusted, but there are also general wear and tear brake problems that can cause major safety concerns.
The brake controller in the towing vehicle puts out a certain amount of current. It continuously puts out 12 volts and then it puts out a certain increase. As current increases, the magnet in the brakes expands the brake shoes out against the hub to stop the trailer.
"If the brake controller is not putting out enough current, it will work to an extent, but it may not be enough to stop your trailer the way you would like it to be stopped," Norris said. "You don't want the trailer to stop the towing vehicle and you don't want the towing vehicle to stop your trailer. You want to find a happy-medium. It is real hard to explain to people how to do it, it is a feel thing."
Finally the last step after purchasing a trailer is to make it legal for the roadways. It must be registered and it must be inspected. These are both enforceable laws, but as many who haul trailers know, and Norris pointed out, are not heavily enforced. Some people don't even know they need a yearly trailer inspection.
According to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, Texas laws regarding trailers are as varied. To determine the exact laws for a particular trailer and situation, it would be wise to contact the TDMV directly. All registration and titling duties can be completed at the local county tax office.
Researching and carefully examining trailers prior to purchase can save buyers time and money down the road. Seeking the opinion of a professional regarding the tow vehicle and trailer brakes could pay off before investing in a potential rig.