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How To Buy a Horse Trailer

Buying a horse trailer can be an important investment, so you want to make sure you select a safe, quality trailer that meets your needs and provides a safe and comfortable ride for your horses. With so many horse trailer brands, models, and styles available, selecting the right trailer can be rather challenging. Here is a list of important factors you should consider to help you narrow your search and find the right trailer.

  1. How much will you use the horse trailer?

    Be realistic about the frequency of use. If you are going to use the trailer a few times a year, a used trailer may make perfect sense. While someone that plans on traveling long distances several times a month should be looking for a quality built durable trailer. Regardless of how often a trailer will be used, it's critical that the trailer is structurally sound, has functioning brakes and lights, and is being pulled by an appropriate and equally safe tow vehicle.

  2. What is the capacity of your towing vehicle? Will you need to purchase another tow vehicle?

    Before selecting a horse trailer, you should take into consideration the tow vehicle’s towing capacity. You may not want to realize after your trailer purchase that your truck cannot handle your new trailer. This can be a costly mistake. Use the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR); which is the manufacturers recommended capacity of the trailer including the weight of the trailer and any thing being hauled in it. Unless the trailer is overloaded, the trailer should not weigh more than the GVWR. This will let you know the needed rating for your tow vehicle to pull your trailer safely. Towing capacity is determined mainly by the engine size, the axle ratio, and the transmission.

    Towing with an under capacity tow vehicle is dangerous to you, your passengers, your horses, and other drivers. It is extremely important to keep within the tow capacity of the vehicle and to have the proper hitch. With some of the larger Living Quarter Horse Trailers, a traditional 1 Ton Crew cab dually may not have the proper tow rating. Safety should always be a primary concern, and having the proper tow vehicle is a great place to start.

  3. How many horses will you be hauling, and what size horse will you be hauling?

    You should determine how many horses will need to be hauled early in the decision-making process since this affects many other horse trailer buying decisions. Getting a trailer with one extra stall will provide extra room and may minimize a unexpected upgrade in a few years.

    The size of this horse should be considered because you do not want to buy a trailer that is too small. By taking measurements of your horses’ height, width, and length; you can determine if the trailers you are considering will have enough space. For larger horses in a slant load trailer, an 8’ or 8.5’ wide trailer will provide a little more room. By ensuring there is enough space around your horses, they will maintain balance, be less stressed, and should remain healthier and happier.

  4. What kind of facilities do you want in your horse trailer? Mid Tack / Dressing room / Living quarters?

    This decision is based on how you will be using the trailer. By talking with other horse owners in your area, at shows, or at your stable – you can get a good idea of what may work best for your situation. Remember, it may be difficult to find someone that says they have too much storage space in their trailer.

  5. Bumper pull or gooseneck trailer?

    This is generally determined by a combination of number of horses being hauled and the type of tow vehicle available. Most 4 horse or larger trailers are gooseneck trailers. If you plan on pulling a trailer with an SUV, then a bumper pull horse trailer will work when transporting one to three horses. While larger bumper pull trailers are available, tongue weight can become a factor for some tow vehicles. Be sure to verify this information before buying a large bumper pull trailer. The rest comes down to personal preference. Some people really like the tow ability and maneuverability of a gooseneck trailer, while the typically lower price and smaller size of bumper pull trailers is attractive to a lot of trailer owners.

  6. What kind of material / construction do you want for your trailer?

    This is an area that is becoming more about personal preference, budget, and trailer usage than quality and value. There are several types of trailer construction being built today; steel, electro-galvanized steel, steel frame with aluminum skin, and all aluminum trailers. Look carefully (and ask) about construction details of aluminum trailer Brands and Models, you want to be certain the trailer is all aluminum or steel frame with aluminum skin. Steel trailers generally are less expensive than aluminum, while the steel framed aluminum skin trailers traditionally fall in the middle. Regardless of which type of trailer you select, each must be kept clean and dry to maintain the trailer’s quality and long usability.

    Regarding strength and weight of the different types of trailers: This seems to be a hotly contested debate. While trailer weights are easy to compare, true trailer strength depends on more than just the material used. Each manufacturer’s construction techniques and design play an important role in the overall trailer strength. Until an independent consumer group tests these trailers, and even after that, we may never know the true strength of a model and brand of horse trailer. My only suggestion is take to owners of trailers with brands you are considering, look at older trailers similar to the ones you are considering to see how they hold up, really examine the construction of trailer (crawl underneath a few), and talk to several dealerships to get their opinions.

    Other areas of construction to examine are: Frame and Floor Construction designs and techniques; wall insulation material, thickness, and height; size of and distance between wall studs (remember to confirm material as well); and the thickness of the exterior sidewall material.

  7. How much money do you have to spend on the horse trailer?

    While this is # 7 on this list, budget is usually the first and most obvious factor that comes into play when purchasing a horse trailer. There are good horse trailers in most price ranges. Where ever your price range falls, you should be able to find a good quality trailer at a good value. Remember safety should be first, and as a budget allows look at added those features that make trailering easier, more convenient, and fun. If you need you determining your budget or are looking for ways to pay for your next horse trailer, check out...... section.

  8. What kind of reputation, stability and financial strength does the Manufacturer have?

    This doesn’t mean the most popular brands are the best trailers, and it is also not a guarantee against a popular brand from going out of business, but choosing a well established manufacturer should reduce your risk of getting stuck with legitimate warranty issues from a defunct horse trailer manufacturer. Remember, you should be looking for the best value in a trailer that safely fits your and your horses’ needs. Start-up horse trailer manufacturers certainly deserve a good look (Toyota and Honda were once new competition in an industry dominated by strong popular brands). By taking into consideration the trailer’s quality, construction, manufacturer’s support, ability to handle warranty claims, and the long term availability should make your trailer investment a good one.

  9. Here are some safety features and other items to look for when purchasing a trailer.
  10. Sufficient Ventilation is important due to extreme temperatures and fumes often found in horse trailers. Windows and roof vents are helpful in providing good ventilation.
  11. Rubber torsion suspensions absorb most of the shock and vibration caused during travel providing a smoother ride for the horse, trailer, tow vehicle and driver.
  12. Wide opening rear doors and plenty of light make horses more comfortable as they enter and exit the trailer.
  13. Parts, such as center dividers, posts, tie rings, butt bars and chest bars should move freely, be strong, and have a quick release for improved safety and convenience.
  14. There should be no sharp edges or objects inside or outside the trailer that could injure a horse.
  15. Thick rubber floor mats protect horses and make travel more comfortable. Before purchasing a used trailer; remove all bedding and rubber mats to examine floorboards, exterior, and underneath for damage or rotting.
  16. Air spaces underneath the floor mat allow urine to drain and air out for a better interior environment.
  17. Rubber lining on the stall walls that protect horses from bumps in transit.
  18. Ramps should be solid, low, non-slippery, and capable of handling the horse’s weight. Inspect ramp hinges to verify that they are in good working order and not likely to come apart.
  19. Checking brakes, tires, emergency breakaway kit, and wheels before purchasing a used trailer is important. Most dealerships offer a safety inspection and should be able to verify brakes are working properly.