Buying a Tiny House Trailer: My trailer hunt and tips for finding yours.

Buying a Tiny House Trailer: My trailer hunt and tips for finding yours.

If profanity insults you, I just want to give a kind heads up; I won’t be dropping naughty word bombs around here regularly…but I just wanted to give fair warning (this topic may have gotten me a little riled up…)

Ah, the trailer. That darn trailer that is the base which you will build your tiny dream upon. It is what the concrete foundation of a “regular” house would be in the tiny house world, and possibly your most important purchase. And it’s a bitch.

Yeah, I said it. It’s no secret around here that I enjoy second hand finds, and my hunt for a trailer was no different. New trailers can carry a heavy price tag (think around the $2,000 range and up, from what I’ve gathered), so if you are on the cheaper-the-better route such as I, a used trailer is your only option.

I had to try harder than Goldie Locks to find the trailer that was just right (or as close as I could get)…and in true story book fashion, find number three turned out to be the winner.

  • Trailer #1: couldn’t get the seller to commit to meeting me. Played endless email/text/phone tag and then I finally waived a white flag. This trailer was a great deal at $500. I had high hopes but after over a month of the cat and mouse game I had to hit restart, and my search began again.

Trailer numero uno

  • Trailer #2: After searching for a few more weeks, and seeing a few trailers get snatched from under me, I convinced Papa Bear to sell me (daughter discount included) the flatbed trailer he used to haul his tractors. This one was in fantastic condition, and much nicer than I could have ever afforded, but was a bit taller than I had planned on= loss of a lot of head space. But I was willing to make that compromise. Sadly, the trailer was built like a tank, and after doing some math it was too heavy to have a house built on top in addition. Heartbroken, I moved on…

At least we know the reflective tape works.

  • Trailer #3: Not too hot…not too cold…just right! (ha…I’ve been reading too many bedtime books #youknowyou’reamomwhen…)  I spent a few more weeks searching the golden ticket that is Craigslist and found this sturdy guy (trailer, not the seller) about an hour away. It’s in pretty decent shape, a bit more than I was hoping to spend but still a good deal. After seeing a few trailers get stolen from under me with higher offers and my expected build date pushed back multiple times, I knew I needed to jump on it. Winner winner chicken tofu dinner!

My 18 footer. A little rough around the edges, but I’m pleased.

So, there is my trailer story. Like I said, the search is a bitch (ok, profanity ends here!). I know the pain of the search, so I wanted to share all the knowledge I’ve gathered that could potentially help all you other kind souls at the starting line of your build.

There is already some excellent information out there on what to look for in your tiny house trailer purchase, so I’ll add what I’ve learned to the mix.

Some searching for trailer tips:

Browsing consistently will get you familiar with what is out there and know what price range to expect. Jump on every used web source you can think of, daily if possible, to search through the listings.

Wording matters. Everyone has a different idea of what their trailer is called, so make sure you cover all your bases when it comes to search terms. The searches I did most often were: utility trailer, car trailer, car hauler, flatbed trailer, and uhh… TRAILER. That’s it, just trailer. (This takes a lot of weeding thru the search results, but almost always turns up a few hidden gems… posted by those punks who barely put a description of the trailer they are offering therefore do not show up in the aforementioned search terms.)

Check with the locals! This option didn’t even occur to me at first. I now live practically next to a boat house, so my mom suggested I give the owner a call to see if he knew anyone selling or where to look nearby. Near my dad’s house where I am building, there is a camp and RV site, so I checked around there to see if there were any old trailer frames for sale or left behind. I didn’t find one that fit what I was looking for, but there were some other options.

Below is all the outside info I’ve gathered on the subject:

  • Tiny House Forum is a great resource. During my search when I was fairly certain I would end up with a old travel trailer frame, I has some concerns about if it would be hefty enough to carry the load of the house. I posted all sorts of pesky questions up in here and got some solid, informative answers. Remember, this may be your first rodeo, but others have come before you. Seek out within the tiny community, they are a welcoming bunch I tell ya  🙂
  • Originally written by Tumbleweed, this article will give you the all the basic information about trailer buying for a tiny house.
  • The wonderful and very knowledgeable Andrew Odom over at Tiny Revolution gives the whole rundown on trailer buying and what to look for, too.
  • If you are using an old travel trailer frame, check this out.
  • Trailer Shopper is huge online source to buy and sell trailers of all kinds.
  • Ebay is a hit or miss, but you might get lucky to find one not too far from your location. My dad has found some great buys here.
  • Looking for new? Simply do a Google search of your state and you are sure to find some retailers. If they are ordered, they may be able to get you a trailer before all the railings are welded on saving you a step.

 

 A few blog & article posts by fellow tiny “housers” about their trailers:

http://tinyhouseblog.com/yourstory/tiny-casita/#more-24554 Built on a old travel trailer

http://www.fatandcrunchy.com/projects/sheathing-tiny-house/ This post if about sheathing, but gives some great shots of the trailer)

http://www.fatandcrunchy.com/projects/the-trailer-tiny-house/  Petey is building on a large gooseneck

http://minimotives.com/category/trailer-stuff/page/2/ All of Macy’s “trailer stuff” updates. Some great details!

http://clotheslinetinyhomes.com/2012/02/29/first-step-the-foundation-our-trailer/ Clothesline’s used gooseneck trailer

 

 

 

4 Responses to Buying a Tiny House Trailer: My trailer hunt and tips for finding yours.

  1. Michael says:

    Outstanding article. I love the humor. Did you end up building on top of the decking, or replacing it with another way of doing it?

    • Kacie says:

      Thanks, Michael! I like to think sometimes I’m funny- sleep deprivation has that effect 🙂 Building is officially kicking off next week, and right now the plan is to build on top of the decking. I know many people build their subfloor/undercarriage “into” the trailer, but that requires re-welding the trailer ribs below the sides (= more work + money). So, building on top is what works for me. Stay tuned!

  2. Petey says:

    I have to say that finding a trailer was one of the more frustrating parts of building a Tiny House. We must have looked for 2 months before deciding to get the one we have now. It was a little bit more than we wanted to spend, but it was also bigger which was good for our family.

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