Tip #1 — Know what the travel trailer is worth.
Just like when buying a used car, do your homework before you make an offer. Even at a dealership, travel trailers can be priced above market value, so be prepared to negotiate if you want to get a good deal. Use online price guides and compare listings from different sellers.
One good thing to know about used travel trailers is that they tend to retain their value compared to cars, which depreciate as soon as you drive a new one off the lot.Trailers do not have as many mechanical parts to wear down. Much like buying a used car, you might find good deals by buying a newer used trailer from a seller who likes to trade up or who decided this hobby or way of traveling was not for them.
Tip #2 — Always perform an inspection.
Even if you buy online, never finalize the purchase without conducting a full inspection of the travel trailer's interior and exterior. Get up on the roof and get below the undercarriage. Inspect the ceiling carefully for signs of water damage and leaking, such as brown spots, bowing, or sagging. Check for mold as well by checking corners near the floor and ceiling, inside cabinets, and near any fixtures. Use your nose to check for the smell of mold, even if it's not readily visible.
If you aren't a mechanic, consider hiring one to help you assess the trailer. This will protect you from buying a problem that the seller is trying to unload on an unwitting buyer.
Tip #3 — Know your truck's towing capacity.
Before you buy a trailer, you need to know your truck's towing capacity. This will limit the maximum weight of the trailer. Make sure you consider both the empty weight and the weight of the trailer when it's fully loaded.
Buying a trailer that's too heavy could damage your truck or force you to upgrade to a different model.
Tip #4 — Take your time.
Buying a travel trailer isn't exactly like buying a car. While there is usually an abundant supply of used cars on the market, only a small subset of people own a travel trailer. That means the market for new and used trailers is smaller.
Before you buy, figure out exactly how much space you need and what features you want. If you rush to buy any available trailer, you may regret it.
Tip #5 — Double-check your state's licensing requirements.
Unlike a large recreational vehicle that requires a special license to operate, a travel trailer typically needs only a standard driver's license. However, check with your local DMV to be sure.
Tip #6 — Get insurance quotes.
You need insurance to protect your investment in the travel trailer and to guard against liability. The cost of insurance may also affect your purchasing budget for the kind of trailer you can afford.
If you have a truck or other vehicle designed for towing, your regular auto insurance may cover your liability and limited property damage. Call your insurance company to check limits and exclusions. You may need additional or separate coverage for the full value of your trailer and its contents as well as liability coverage that protects you at your campsite.
Tip #7 — Consider your financing options.
It's possible to get a loan for a travel trailer, but the interest rate will probably be higher than a car loan. That's because most banks will treat it as a recreational purchase that bears more risk to the bank than a loan for a commuter car.
If you decide to finance, the process is similar to a car loan. The bank will run a credit check and may ask for proof of income. The loan will typically be secured by the trailer, meaning the bank could repossess it in the event of non-payment.
Tip #8 — Document the purchase.
When you decide to purchase, verify that the seller has a clean title and properly document the transaction. You can use a Trailer Bill of Sale. If you're also selling a vehicle or need other documents, check out the complete selection of Rocket Lawyer documents for buying, selling, and leasing vehicles. If you have legal questions about buying or selling any vehicle, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable answers and legal advice.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.