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Old 10-05-2016, 02:31 PM   #1
Join Date: Jun 2016
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Buying trailer from private seller

A while back I posted that I was unable to find a lightly used flatbed trailer. For whatever reason, now I'm finding several possibilities out there. Trying to avoid the price of a new flatbed. That said, if I have to, for safety or other reasons, I'll bite the bullet. We're looking to go mostly full time next year so I want quality, but also because of that our "income" will be limited so looking to save as many pennies as I can. Looking on Craigslist, I've found several that look interesting and where I can save $1000 or more over the dealer price.

Being new to the flatbed world (yes I can ONLY use a flatbed), what should I be looking for. I'm so new to this, I don't even know what tie downs to use. Should the seller have those? What are electric brakes? Shouldn't the trailer have a brake connection with the coach, or am I misunderstanding how that works (strong possibility of that)? Tandem axle--what should I look for there? Is a winch helpful at all or just a waste of much needed space? Is steel better or worse than aluminum? Anything to know about the tires?

I appreciate any assistance, as I want to go fully armed with as much knowledge about this as possible when dealing with a private individual (or a dealer for that matter). If you don't want to answer questions, and have a good link, that would work as well. Either way, thank you in advance.

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Old 10-05-2016, 03:22 PM   #2
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First it needs to be able to support the weight of whatever you are going to carry. I'm assuming a car??

So its total GVWR should be greater than its own GVW plus the GVW of the car you are carrying.

It's nice to have stowable ramps like mine, so you don't have to find a place for those. If its GVWR is over 3500llbs, it has to have tandem brakes, surge or electric.

tie downs are nice, it gives an easy access point to strap a vehicle or large cargo in, they should be rated to 3000lb min breaking strength each.

check the tires and make sure they are the proper load range for the GVWR of the trailer.

You won't need a winch if you aren't hauling broken cars.

if the seller can't demonstrate the trailer brakes working, then its a crap shoot as to how much maintenance they will need. You might get lucky or not.
if you get one with electric brakes, you will need to invest in a brake controller.

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Old 10-05-2016, 05:58 PM   #3
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We use a bunch of trailers at my work so I have a fair bit of experience with them so here a few random thoughts:
I prefer aluminium to steel as there is a significant weight reduction.
Surge brakes can be a good deal but put a bit more weight on the hitch.
With a trailer balance is everything. Harbor freight has a scale that can be helpful in determining your best point. We use a drill and put a small hole for a chock block and always know where to stop.
I'm a fan of the straps that go over the tire to tie down a vehicle.
A local metal shop can attach extra tie down points for just a little money if you need them.

I'll think of more just about the time that I close out this post. Good luck with your hunting!
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Old 10-06-2016, 04:02 AM   #4
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I've bought a few flat bed trailers from dealers. For some reason the tires on their new trailers are always several years old. Check the date codes on the tires.
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Old 10-06-2016, 09:07 AM   #5
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Over the years I have had several trailers of all different configurations. Most were used to haul construction equipment and supplies. I can tell you for a fact that all trailers are not created equal. The less expensive models use light duty C channel for the frames and marginally acceptable axles. I have literally seen frame rails and axle tubes rust out. There are valid reasons for the difference in prices between brands and models. I would inspect or have the frame and axles inspected to make sure they are in good shape.

Also take into consideration where the trailer is going to be used. If you are near salt water or regularly travel on salted roads a steel framed trailer may be more appropriate. As mentioned they are heavier, but they do survive salt conditions better. If these conditions are not a concern I would go with a lighter aluminum one. My smallest steel framed tandem axle steel trailer weighs in at 2,100 lbs. A similar sized aluminum trailer weighs nearly 500 lbs. less

Personally I'm a fan of electric brakes. I find them more dependable over time. Surge brakes work well in most situations, but regardless of what some may say they need the same service as any hydraulic brake system. They can't go for a dozen years without flushing the system and still provide adequate braking. If they aren't serviced on a regular basis it can get expensive.

The downside of electric brakes is that they need a controller. Today most motorhome chassis have plug and play connections. However if yours doesn't it can take time and money have one installed.
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Old 10-08-2016, 10:18 AM   #6
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Does your motor home and hitch have enough spare weight capacity to pull the combined weight of your vehicle and trailer?

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