You found an adorable teardrop trailer that’s within your budget. The only thing is, you wouldn’t get it new, but used. You looked at the pictures the seller sent you. They even threw in a few videos, and those seemed fine as well.
The teardrop looks pretty good to you. You’re about ready to set up a time to meet with the seller, finalize the transaction, and drive home with your new trailer. Not so fast. Before you go in blindly, you need to make sure you’re getting the value for your money. While you’re not spending as much on a used vehicle compared to a new one, you don’t want to throw your money away, do you? Of course not.
Just like you wouldn’t buy a used car without giving it a thorough inspection and even a test drive, the same applies for teardrop trailers. If you’re at this point in your shopping, I have the perfect article for you. In it, I’ll produce a handy checklist for buying a used teardrop trailer.
I’ll cover all the obvious points as well as the things you never would have thought to check. Print this list or keep it handy on your phone so you can inspect your used teardrop trailer before buying it.
Your Checklist for Buying a Used Teardrop Trailer
1. Check the Height
If you’re a shorter person, then the moderate height of a teardrop trailer should give you no trouble. Taller people though will definitely want to do some measuring and testing of the vehicle before buying it. Make sure to check the exterior and interior heights to make sure they’re precise.
With the seller’s permission, go inside the vehicle. Can you stand up straight or are you bumping your head? Do you have to hunch over to walk around? Try sitting on the furniture. Ask if you can lie on the bed. Do you fit? If so, then you might keep this trailer in mind to buy. If you don’t fit, and if you feel claustrophobic or uncomfortable, then you’ll need a bigger vehicle. Keep looking.
2. Run the Kitchen Appliances
Some higher-end teardrop trailers come with many kitchen appliances. These include microwaves, sinks, stoves, and of course, the refrigerator. You need to test each and every one of these.
Ask the seller to retract the kitchen outdoors (if it does retract, which most teardrop kitchens do). Put something in the microwave for 30 seconds. Did it adequately heat up or does it feel cold in the middle? Does the sink work, both hot and cold water? How’s the water pressure?
Turn on the stove. Bring a pot of your own and fill it with water. How long does it take for the water to boil on the burner? A few minutes or longer than usual? If the stove has more than one burner, test each one.
Then, use the fridge for a while if you can. Ask to put a bottle of water or a can of soda in the fridge when you arrive for the inspection. When you’re done testing the teardrop trailer, take your beverage with you. Does it feel cool and frosty or lukewarm? A damaged fridge can be quite a costly replacement and not one you necessarily want to make. Make sure you get a trailer with a refrigerator that’s in working order.
3. Test All Your Connections
Next, you want to move on to the connections throughout the vehicle. Does the teardrop have a Wi-Fi connector? You’ll find these more often in bigger trailers and RVs, but you never know. It definitely doesn’t hurt to ask the seller about the Wi-Fi situation. After all, everyone likes a reliable Internet connection. If you have kids or teens, such a connection becomes mandatory rather than a luxury.
Some trailers might have cell phone boosters and radio antenna included as well. Again, most teardrop trailers are pretty much bare-bones, so there’s no guarantees. You might as well ask the seller, though. Even if they don’t have these items to offer, you could get them installed after the fact when you buy the teardrop.
4. Ask about Stabilization and Leveling
You probably won’t have automatic leveling features with your teardrop trailer, as you get these more often with fifth-wheel trailers. Still, you need some sort of leveling option. Otherwise, how can you park well when at a campground or on a hill? Even on a steep street, you need some parking assistance.
Then there’s stabilizers, another important feature of any trailer worth its salt. Whether you get manual or even powered stabilizers, you need to ensure your vehicle won’t roll away when you park it somewhere.
In the case of both levelers and stabilizers, ask the seller if you can check these features out yourself. If you feel like the teardrop trailer is too rickety, don’t hesitate to bring it up! Otherwise, you might want to skip over this trailer altogether if you sense something’s seriously wrong with it.
5. Run the Fans and Other Sources of Sound
It would be a real shame to find an amazing used teardrop trailer only to discover later how much noise it makes. No teardrop, or any trailer for that matter, will run completely silent. If that’s what you’re expecting, you’ll never find a suitable vehicle. However, you shouldn’t hear loud, disruptive noises when using your teardrop. They’re often indicative of a serious issue.
To test for these issues, turn on the fans first. Do they make noise? Again, don’t expect silent operation, but the fans shouldn’t be excessively noisy, either. Does the fridge hum loudly? What about any lights? Can you hear them buzzing? If you have an air conditioner or a heater and they’re on, do they get very noisy and make chugging sounds? What about anything else in the trailer?
You’re definitely going to want to talk to the seller about any of this before you part with your hard-earned money. If you don’t, you’ll have to get these potential problems fixed yourself.
6. Ask about a Spare Tire
NO tires last forever. Those installed on your teardrop trailer will eventually go the way of the dodo bird. In other words, they’ll disappear. Having a spare tire onboard helps with a tire change if yours pops, deflates, or accrues serious damage. You won’t have to run around looking for the right tire for your make and model of teardrop. You’ll have it right onboard.
Not all teardrops even have the room for a spare tire. These vehicles often try to cut down on bulk to save space and reduce weight. If your trailer does have a spare tire advertised, though, ask the seller if you will get it with your purchase.
7. Do a Battery Check
Now here’s a big one you don’t want to forget. Your battery powers so much of your teardrop trailer, that without it, you’re left in the dark. Yes, that’s both literally and figuratively.
You need to see the battery before you get the keys to your new trailer. As you do, prepare to ask plenty of questions. How old is the battery? How often does the seller charge it? How many hours of use do they get before they need to recharge the battery? Is the battery on its way out? You might spend more money replacing your teardrop trailer battery than you’d expect. Has the battery had issues?
Once you get all those answers, see the battery for yourself. Watch the seller charge it so you know what you’ll have to do if you buy the trailer.
8. Run the Heater and the Air Conditioner
While it’s great that teardrop trailers come with heaters and air conditioners, you never know how high-quality these units are. There’s only one way to find out, and that’s running them both yourself.
Again, ask the seller if you can turn on the heater and air conditioner. Don’t use them both at the same time, obviously. Instead, start with the heater. Let it run for five or 10 minutes. Does the teardrop trailer feel warmer? Did the heater start right away? How strong does it run? Does it rattle and make other noises it shouldn’t?
When you’re done testing the heat, move on to the air conditioner. Do the same thing, let it go for five to 10 minutes. Can you feel it running? Is the air lukewarm or cool? Does the air conditioner run very loudly?
If either the heater or AC sound noisier than they should, that’s not good. The units are probably straining as they work, which means they’ll break sooner than later. You don’t want to have to pay to replace either unit if you don’t have to.
9. Look at the Vents
Another major component of your teardrop trailer you could easily overlook? The vents. You’ll find them throughout the vehicle, even on the roof with some models. In rooms like the kitchen and the bathroom, you need an especially large vent fan. These suck up the humidity so mold and mildew can’t accumulate. Vent fans also prevent condensation buildup, which can again attract bacteria like mold and mildew.
If the vents seem dusty, they rattle, or they just don’t work, then no buy. Vents aren’t a skippable feature. You absolutely need them in your teardrop trailer, and all of them must work, too.
10. Test the Solar Panels
Many teardrop trailers have solar panels, or at least the capability of such. With solar panel, you can generate infinite, renewable sources of electricity without having to rely on a generator. You’ll save money and do your part for the environment. It’s a win-win!
If the teardrop in question does include solar panels, then ask the seller if you can check them out. Ask about the panels while you’re looking. How much power can the panels generate? How old are they?
Maybe your teardrop trailer doesn’t have solar panels. Make sure you quiz the seller on whether the vehicle has the capability for them. If so, then you might decide to get solar panels installed of your own volition later.
11. Talk about the Trailer’s Insulation
While many teardrop trailer owners retire their vehicles before winter arrives, you can still get some chilly days and nights in the fall while you’re camping. You will not want to spend that time in a trailer with no insulation. You’ll freeze the whole trip, and that’s not fun.
You can’t necessarily see the insulation, since it was likely installed during the trailer construction phase. What you can do is mention it while you check out the vehicle. You’ll want to educate yourself on a trailer’s R-value before you have this conversation.
What’s an R-value? It’s the amount of thermal resistance the insulation can provide. If you have fiberglass insulation, then the teardrop trailer should have a much higher R-value. If it’s spray foam, the R-value decreases. Rigid foam insulation has a decent R-value, although sometimes it’s lower.
Most R-values have numbers associated with them. When the seller gives you a number, you can quickly do some math to determine whether the trailer has a high or low R-value. You should also ask about the insulation material, whether it’s fiberglass, spray foam, or rigid foam. That’ll clue you in on the teardrop’s R-value as well.
12. Give the Underbelly a Thorough Look
Don’t let what’s out of sight stay out of mind. At some point during your inspection, you’ll have to get underneath the teardrop trailer and take a look at the state of things under there. Make sure you ask the seller if it’s okay before you just drop down. If they’re reluctant to let you see the underbelly, there’s usually a reason for that. You might want to reconsider buying this trailer.
You want to look at the condition of all components underneath. Are any rusted or severely damaged? Does it look like the owner has taken care of things down here or not? Will you have to do some repairs when you get ownership of the trailer?
The condition of the underbelly is usually a dealbreaker. Keep that in mind as you proceed.
13. Check the Tires
While you’re under there, you might as well spend some quality time with the tires. I talked about a spare tire earlier in this article, but what about the four tires currently on the teardrop? Those matter a lot, too.
You want to check the brand. Ideally, you’re hoping for Goodyear or Michelin for their high quality. If you’ve never heard of the tire brand before, that’s not usually a great sign. It could mean the seller uses cheap tires.
Besides the tire brand, you also want to look at the tire tread. Some tires wear down faster than others. If the seller didn’t get the tires rotated, that could cause this uneven wear and tear. Trailer tires don’t cost as much as those for RVs, but you’re still talking at least $50 or $60 per tire, sometimes more for the really good ones. Again, that’s not something that should fall on you. Make sure you talk to the seller if the tires aren’t in the best shape.
14. Take a Look at the Bathroom
Lastly, poke your head in the bathroom, if the teardrop has one, that is. Not every trailer will. Some have little nooks that can become a dedicated hygienic space. If that’s the situation, ask whether the vehicle comes with the toilet or if you’ll have to provide your own. Trailer toilets won’t cost you an arm and a leg, but this is an additional expense nonetheless.
If the toilet comes attached to the teardrop trailer, then ask to flush it. How much water pressure do you have? Teardrop toilets aren’t like those back home. They don’t get tons of pressure, but what you flush should go down without issue.
Where do you dump the toilet waste? How easily can you access the blackwater tank? How much does it weigh? What’s the capacity? Make sure you have answers to all these questions, too.
You may have a shower in your bathroom as well. Many teardrop enthusiasts consider this the holy grail, with full bathrooms in these trailers a rarity. Ask if you can step inside the shower. Do you fit? When you’re out of the stall, turn the water on. Quiz the seller on where the source of water comes from. Is it the freshwater tank or the hot water tank? How long do you get hot water?
Chat about the graywater tank, too, as your shower waste will go here. What’s the capacity on that tank? Where can you find it? How do you dump it?
Buying a used teardrop trailer can save you a lot of money, provided of course you don’t end up with a lemon. To ensure you get a vehicle in great shape, you’ll want to rely on the above checklist. By doing everything on this list, you’ll leave no stones unturned. That can prevent you from getting swindled. Good luck!
Did I miss anything? Please leave a comment below.