COST AND VALUE OF A VINTAGE TRAILER
The Obvious Stuff
Trailers that are in demand and popular are more valuable: Airstreams, Spartans, Avions, Shastas, Scottys, Vagabonds, Alohas, etc. Why is this? There are different reasons for their popularity – design qualities, originality, unique features, ease of towing, etc. But the market determined that they are popular and will likely remain popular for a long time. Why are they more valuable? If they are popular then you’re likely to have more buyers interested in your trailer. How can you tell if your trailer is in the popular category? – just Google the manufacturer and see if you can find a club or forum devoted to that trailer.
Older trailers are more valuable that newer trailers. Trailers that have survived the hardships of time and weather are more valuable to a collector. Trailers made of masonite siding and pre-war trailers are most valuable.
Does the length of the trailer effect the value? Yes – but quite often it is not what you expect. For the Vintage trailer lover, smaller sometimes is what they are interested in. They are easier to tow and can pair up with a vintage tow vehicle. This doesn’t mean smaller trailers are always more expensive but it can give a premium to a cute little trailer.
Real wood and craftsmanship always adds value to a trailer. This is one of the reasons people love vintage trailers.
Original interiors add value to an interior but there is a market for gutting an interior and providing all the modern conveniences.
The only way to determine the value of a vintage trailer to find a number of trailers comparable to yours, similar to what is done in the Real Estate market. Comparisons are the single-best tool in determining a vintage trailer’s value. They contrast criteria from recently-sold trailers in a market, such as sale price, age, length, and condition of the trailer. The TCT classifieds have had over 4000 vintage trailers listed and you can search on the year, make, model of your trailer to identify comparable trailers to help you determine the value of your trailer.
There is no blue book for vintage trailers. We have created the next best thing to show prices of trailers listed in our classifieds. We provide the average price by condition and by the decade of the trailer. Here is the TCT Vintage Trailer Blue Book
No one is going to be able to give you a value over the internet without being able to inspect the trailer in person.
There is a big difference in the value of a trailer from one that is in mint condition to one that needs a complete restoration.
Where To Look For Your Trailer or Comparables
In my eyes there are three main online markets to find a vintage trailer: EBay, Craigslist, and Vintage Trailer Listings. Lets look at each one…
1: EBAY: My gut reaction to someone buying their first trailer on EBay would be DON’T. My opinion is that there are too many pitfalls when basically buying a trailer sight unseen. A non experienced buyer would be quick to buy a trailer that is spruced up to look good in photos. Unless you have permission to view the trailer IN PERSON before the auction ends I would not buy it. It is tempting. I will admit. I have almost bought a Astrodome of EBay myself. The only factor that kept me interested is the seller took pictures of EVERYTHING and sent them to me in high resolution. I’m glad I didn’t get it. I’m sure I would have been disappointed in the long run by surprises.
Another way around not being able to view a trailer yourself is have someone knowledgeable in vintage trailers go look if they are closer. Some pay folks to do this service for them. The “inspector” can report back to the potential buyer the condition of the trailer so they can bid with confidence. This of course takes some logistics to make it all work. Best to find one you can view in the flesh yourself without bidding on it.
One good thing about eBay is the ability to track the going prices for certain trailers. You have the opportunity to watch many trailers in “my eBay” to see how much they started at and how much it ended for. If enough information is provided, you will have a decent ball park value of trailer “X” in condition “Y”. You can watch quite a few trailers pass by in a 6 month period of time on EBay. You will get a good feel for how much a trailer can go for in certain condition in certain parts of the country. If a trailer happens to have a bidding war start by two sellers the price may inflate above the normal value of that trailer. Sometimes EBay in general has inflated prices.
2: CRAIGSLIST: Probably the best source for vintage trailers. There are many trailers listed in populated areas for sale there. You will find the gambit of prices and conditions. One negative is for some reason people on Craigslist do not post enough information or photographs. I am not sure why. It just seems that way. You look at as many Craigslist ads as I have and you will see what I am talking about. If you can get past that you will be in luck.
Another downfall of Craigslist is not being able to “track” how much a trailer finally sells for. I used to copy the URL addresses of any trailers that I was interested in and email them to myself. That way if I wanted to find out if that one Shasta sold I would click on the link to view the ad. One can assume that if the posting has been deleted that it has sold. However I have contacted several sellers that forget to remove the posting after selling the trailer. A major frustration. However it is the best place to find “good deals” or trailers less than the going rate. You have to be quick though.
3: VINTAGE TRAILER LISTINGS: There are quite a few online listings on the web. Groups such as the Tin Can Tourists have online classifieds. Brand specific forums such as the Vintage Shasta Trailer Forum or Airforums.com will post trailers for sale in their special sections. Such online listings can have their advantages. One being that many of the trailers listed on these sites are posted by vintage trailer enthusiasts rather than by Joe Blow that found a trailer in his field and now wants to sell it. This can make the price a bit higher because the seller actually knows what they have into it and what it is worth. They have done the research. This is not to say that you can’t get a trailer for a fair deal. Just be willing to pay full price.
Another advantage is that most site’s members tend to “watchdog” the sellers on the site. If someone is being dishonest they will be caught quicker than somewhere like Craigslist.
The old fashion way… There is also the option of finding a trailer with a for sale sign on it, hearing about one for sale by word of mouth, or the newspaper classifieds. If you have done research about the going prices then these are also options to finding a trailer. Sometimes the leg work is just easier when finding one online.