Re: Buying older vs. old trailer - Fiberglass RV


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Old 05-27-2007, 09:35 PM   #1
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Looking for input...

I see that many of you own trailers that are 20 and 25 years old...Originally I was looking for a trailer made in the late 90's/2000 thinking it would be the most I could afford and the newer the better. But what about buying one from the mid 80's to mid 90's if it looks good. What should I be cautious about????? Thanks for your help! Don't worry about stating the obvious--I'm a newbie!
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Old 05-27-2007, 10:00 PM   #2
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Lisa, there's a "buyer's checklist" in the left-hand column that gives you an idea of what to look for in a used trailer of any vintage. Generally, you'll want to make sure the appliances work as they're expensive to replace. Check the floor to make sure there's no dry-rot which may indicate that there's a need for a frame-off restoration. Last, the rubber torsion axles have a design life of about twenty years (give or take ten)... past that, you can pretty much eyeball anything else that needs attention.

Happy hunting!

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Old 05-27-2007, 11:13 PM   #3
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The checklist should be followed scrupulously, no matter what vintage the trailer is.

Think of it this way: When you buy new, you are buying the Factory. When you are buying used, you are buying the Previous Owner(s).

Sometimes, a late model (fill in the blank is just the result of the Previous Owner making a mistake. It all depends on what the real mistake was. Failure to winterize is a more serious mistake than choosing the wrong floorplan. Neither mistake can be ascertained easily, but selling that recently built trailer is the Previous owner's way of correcting his mistake.

Sometimes, an older vintage unit is fawned over by a meticulous putterer. Sometimes, the gelcoat might not be "Like New", but the wheel bearings will be, or the furnace thermocouple will be free of wasps nests...
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Old 05-28-2007, 08:06 AM   #4
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Buying a used trailer is an awful lot like buying a used car. Fortunately there are fewer mechanical things on a trailer to check out. I think it's important to remember that 99.9% of everything on a fiberglass trailer is either fixable or replaceable. How much it costs depends quite a bit on the ability of the trailer owner. Some buyers want to make a "turn key" purchase, where all they need to do is load in the food and clothes and go camping. Other's are interested in fixing and DIY and would be happy using their trailer as a hardsided tent until everything is done....even if that takes several years.

FYI-There is no direct correlation between the age of the trailer and how well it's been maintained.
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Old 05-28-2007, 08:36 AM   #5
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FYI-There is no direct correlation between the age of the trailer and how well it's been maintained.
There may be a correlation between buying an old trailer and buying a new trailer based on how well it was constructed in the first place... In my experience with a 72 Boler 1300 and now a Boler 1700, I can say that build quality absolutely sucked back in the 70's... These things were slapped together with little attention to "fit & finish"...

I've seen the new Trilliums in various stages of manufacture and there is certainly much greater attention to detail... I think a lot has been learned over the last 20 years... Though, I've also seen inside the nether regions of stick trailers and there are still shoddy practices going on in that sector... One 2006 28 foot stick trailer that a neighbor of mine bought developed some electrical trouble after just a few trips... We discovered that they ran out of wire and part of the lighting harness now ran diagonally inside one wall, and was pierced with staples from cabinetry material. We also discovered part of the word "Sale!" on the inside of one cupboard panel where clearly they had recycled a piece of signage...

Before picking up a new trailer, I would give it a good deeply personal inspection...

On my 1979 Boler 1700, the wiring was run along the floor first, then the furniture was stapled together after, part of the side gaucho bunk (which sees a lot of weight) was placed directly on top of the furnace wiring:


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The shower enclosure window was clearly cut by someone who was half to 3/4 cut himself/herself:


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Frankly, this is my second 30 year old trailer... I would not buy a 30 year old trailer if I didn't expect to gut it completely, down to its component parts, and rebuild it. I didn't do this on the first one and I don't have time to do it on this 17 so I'm only rebuilding about half of it (almost quite literally the curb side) but I've already invested an additional $2000 in materials and spent about 300 hours of effort... I've probably got another 100 hours left before the first camping trip and I still have the outside to refinish yet...

If I value my labor at 1/3 what I bill out at through work, I could have easily bought a brand new 17 foot trailer. This ignores the fact that I already have lots and lots of the right tools... If I didn't have tools, this would not be possible...

So my closing advice is, if you're handy, have lots of tools, and enjoy doing a lot of work, then buy an old trailer, gut it completely, and rebuild it from the ground up, but don't do it to save money... If you don't gut it completely, then be prepared to have an "old trailer". No matter how much paint, vinyl, cloth you put on it, you will still have an "old trailer".
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Old 05-31-2007, 11:16 PM   #6
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Trailer: 1998 17 ft Casita Spirit Deluxe / Red F150 X-Cab
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Thank you all for your input. I do have the checklist and have used it already on a trailer I called on--it just ended up being too far way for me. I know I don't want a fixer-upper, I don't have the know-how or the tools. I want something that I can use this summer without worry. If anyone knows of a 16-17' Casita (not Freedom) or Scamp with bath in CA or neighboring state, let me know! I'm trying to stay under $7000. Thanks!
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Old 06-01-2007, 05:40 AM   #7
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I can say that build quality absolutely sucked back in the 70's... These things were slapped together with little attention to "fit & finish"...
I object. My '76 Boler 1300 was very well constructed with a keen eye to quality, finish and fit. The very fact that it is has been pleasing campers for over thirty years, with no end in sight, illustrates this point well. Just my 2 cents! Alec
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Old 06-01-2007, 08:02 AM   #8
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There are some advantages that my '89 Casita has over the newer ones. Like my kitchen window that I just love and all the windows are factory tinted. I also have a screened window on the door which is great for bringing in a breeze at night. None of which Casita does anymore. Having said that, some of the older ones have some drawbacks. Not major, but things that you should know. These are all things on my '89 and they changed over the years, but I'm not sure when. The battery is located in the rear under the bench. No outside access makes it very hard to get to for maintenance. My solution was to invest in an upgraded converter with charge controller and use an AGM battery. It has been so good, I'd probably do that on a newer one. Although mine is plumbed, it has no gray water tank. At first I was really disappointed, but have found that using a 10 gallon portable tote works great for one person. I do have a black water tank, but is smaller than the newer Casitas. Again, it's fine for one person and is about the same size as most of the other brands with the bathroom. Most likely, there won't be as many outlets, but that is workable. I think they changed the air conditioner to the bottom of the closet in 1990. I have a rear window unit and it came from the factory that way (I replaced mine a couple of years ago). Once I got over the "ugly" factor, I realized the functionality of it was way above the closet mount. Besides, if it were so ugly, why am I still, after five years of ownership, getting comments like "that is the cutest trailer I have ever seen."?

To shorten an already too long post, I'll just say that an older trailer might lack some of the modern amenities. However, once you get used to it, it really won't matter. If it does, you'll learn how to change it.
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Old 06-01-2007, 08:39 AM   #9
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I figure a 20-30 year old trailer matches my 50-something body that goes with my 50-something tug. The difference in $$ spent between a used older trailer vs brand new can be spent towing the trailer to places to make memories. I purchased my trailer for recreation, not something I use everyday, everyweek or even every month. It's not worth an investment of mucho thousands to me, some thousands...yes. I tent camped for years and the ability to sleep inside off the ground in inclimate weather is huge. So is NOT getting dressed in the middle of the night to visit the campgrounds version of a bathroom. I figure at my age, I'm worth pampering! If a person plans on purchasing a new trailer, using it often and keeping it for a very long time...it may be worth it to THEM to spend the money. However, if a person is only going to go camping 6-10 weekends a year, purchasing a new trailer will make each night of camping VERY expensive.

There are some very well maintained older trailers that can be purchased. I was fortunate enough to find one, but it took perseverance on my part!
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Old 06-01-2007, 08:48 AM   #10
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if a person is only going to go camping 6-10 weekends a year
You could easily double that for me, and I still bought used!

Some folks like to have everything new and be the first user. I am like that with cars and motorcycles, because, as Donna mentioned, it's a daily use thing and safety is important. I want to know exactly what has happened to the rig and be in control of the maintenance as much as humanly possible.

BUT, with an egg, there aren't as many systems to monitor, or check, and spending a little time checking it out is well worth NOT spending the money for new.

You also do not have the squeemishness of cutting into a new item to make it your own way.
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Old 06-01-2007, 02:17 PM   #11
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Very little has changed in the design or construction of the classic egg in the three or four decades they've been around. Of course today's electrical converters are better and... not much else. I tend to agree with Herb about construction practices (and we both have B1700's...) but fundamentally a 1970's Boler and current Scamp (for instance, since Boler is gone) aren't much different.

It's not like buying a car, in that a 30 year old engine is both obsolete and worn out, while a 30 year old trailer might be made mechanically equivalent to new with an axle swap (and the new axle will be identical to the original!).

The biggest concern for me would be interior. All that stuff that Herb has ripped out and replaced is the same stuff which is least appealing in my Boler. New appliances would be nice, too: they have advanced very little in design, but at least now propane burning stuff (water heater, furnace) can be bought with Direct Spark Ignition instead of @#$% pilot lights.

Caveats:
A current Bigfoot is substantially different from an old Bigfoot.
In any brand, some construction details may be important, and may only be available in newer models.
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Old 06-01-2007, 02:38 PM   #12
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One "advantage" I haven't seen mentioned of getting an OLDER trailer:
You don't stress out as much about hacking it up to put in modifications.

If you just dropped $6-10k on a fairly recently built trailer - you're gonna be fairly hesitant about drilling holes in the fiberglass or ripping things out. If you dropped more like $2-3k for an older trailer, maybe one in need of a little love (Think "Charlie Brown's Christmas Tree here...) you don't sweat bullets about ripping it up to suit your preferences.

Mike
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Old 06-03-2007, 11:44 PM   #13
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One "advantage" I haven't seen mentioned of getting an OLDER trailer:
You don't stress out as much about hacking it up to put in modifications.

If you just dropped $6-10k on a fairly recently built trailer - you're gonna be fairly hesitant about drilling holes in the fiberglass or ripping things out. If you dropped more like $2-3k for an older trailer, maybe one in need of a little love (Think "Charlie Brown's Christmas Tree here...) you don't sweat bullets about ripping it up to suit your preferences.

Mike
Mike- you're right anything one does to an "older" trailer is an improvement. (I started out in '02 with an $1100 '83 Scamp) Anything I did to it made it more comfortable and user friendly. Trouble is, I've just aboutrun out of things to do. Might have to start over. Larry
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Old 06-04-2007, 12:15 AM   #14
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Mike- you're right anything one does to an "older" trailer is an improvement. (I started out in '02 with an $1100 '83 Scamp) Anything I did to it made it more comfortable and user friendly. Trouble is, I've just aboutrun out of things to do. Might have to start over. Larry

Larry,

You could put flames on the front of the trailer to match the flames on the TV.
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