Q&A: Buying a second-hand trailer

  • Q: I am considering buying a second-hand trailer as the person I used to travel to shows with has moved out of my area. Do you have any helpful hints or tips on what I should look out for when buying one?

    Motoring journalist John Henderson replies: First, check you want to buy a used trailer. If it has been well cared for, a good trailer will hold its value and may not cost much less than a new one.

    Avoiding stolen goods

    Before you see a trailer, ask the vendor how much it has been used, looked after and, most importantly, whether they can prove ownership. Trailers are not registered and theft is rife. Be wary of anyone who cannot show you bills and handbooks for a relatively new trailer.

    Ask for the trailer’s chassis number and check it with the manufacturer or on an anti-theft website.Ifor Williams has links to trailer security websites, as well as general information, on its news pages. Visit: www.iwt.co.uk

    Some trailers are listed from new with The Equipment Register (tel: 01225 464599), which will enable you to check whether it is reported stolen. It is also a good idea to register your own trailer, once you have bought it.

    Wear and tear

    • When you go to see the trailer, look at its general condition – if its current owner has not bothered to clean it to sell it, what sort of care has it had?
    • Look for signs that chassis plates and numbers might have been tampered with or removed. Manufacturers can tell you where youshould find them.
    • It is very important that floors and ramps are in good condition. Lift up rubber matting to inspect floors and check them from underneath the trailer. If the floor has been replaced, seek evidence that it was doneby a horse trailer specialist, as horses put exceptional stress on the floor.
    • Check that ramps raise, lower and lock easily and that partitions are in good order. The owner should know when the brakes were last adjusted and when the hitch drawbar was lubricated. On older trailers, the wheel bearings need re-greasing every year or two.
    • Inspect tyres: they should have at least 1.6mm of tread over 75% of the tread width for their whole circumference. Deep cuts, bulges or signs of perishing are illegal.
    • Plug the lights into a car to check they work and, if you can, take the trailer for a test tow, making sure that it pulls up straight when you brake. At the end of the test drive, feel the wheel centres in case of overheating. This would suggest that a wheel bearing or brake is binding.

    Above all, remember that buying a cheap trailer that needs a lot of work to make it safe and roadworthy is a false economy.

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