How to buy a vintage travel trailer

How to buy a vintage travel trailer

The lure of Vintage Trailers

There is something romantic about a vintage trailer. It may not have all the amenities of the newer trailers but what it lacks in comfort is made up by the sheer joy of owning a piece of history. When people think about vintage trailers, the first two that come to mind are Airstream’s and Shasta’s. However, there are so many other models and manufactures that it becomes hard to choose. Ultimately, the choice boils down to the one that grabs your heart.

Vintage trailers must be 25 years or older. Some of the really old ones are the most desired and the hardest to find. The Covered Wagon and the Bolus are incredible trailers and will stop even the most hardened vintage trailer owner in their tracks.

People who appreciate living history can own a piece. That is the draw. These trailers take many back to younger years. However, a new generation is on the rise and they too will appreciate the trailers that their parents and grandparents used to take them camping.


Step 1

Determine your budget

Determine what your budget will be and what kind of trailer you are looking for. There are more than 400 models of vintage trailers, dating from the early 1900 until today. For a trailer to be vintage, it must be 25 years or older. That is the guideline set by the Tin Can Tourists, an organization who mission it is to keep the history of the trailers alive. You might be the lucky one to find an amazing trailer in great shape for $500.00 or can pay more than $20,000.00 for the perfect trailer.

Step 2

Decide how much work you are willing to do

Decide how much work you are willing to do should the trailer need to be restored. There are many beautiful trailers available but some have water damage or other dings. If you are not handy, buying a restored trailer that has already been restored may be in your future.

Step 3

Determine your comfort level

Determine your comfort level. Most of the vintage trailers are 15′ from tongue to tail. In that amount of space, bathrooms are rare. Almost everyone has a porta-potty. Should your spouse swear that camping in a trailer without a bathroom will not do, look for a larger trailer. Some of the 18′ to 20′ trailers do contain a small area with a shower and a toilet. Cooking is done with a propane stove and very few have heaters. Unless the trailer has been modified, their is no air-conditioning. Look for the amenities that fit your lifestyle. If you can’t live without something and it is not in the trailer you are considering, don’t buy it. 15′ trailers will generally sleep four people, one on the dinette, two in the back bed and one in the canvas bunk.

Step 4

Do the research

Do the research. Included are several websites to check out. Although one of them is a teardrop website, it has links to other sites. All of them have trailers for sale. The more you see, the better your chances are for finding the right one. However, if you are driving down the street and see one parked in someone’s yard, go and ask if it is for sale. Most vintage trailer people know others who may have one for sale and they may just be selling the one sitting in the drive.

Step 5

Inspect the trailer

Inspect the trailers that you find. There are several things to look for. The first one is water damage which affects most vintage trailers. Is there wood rot or just staining? Check out the hitch. Does it have two chains. Find out what size ball it has because size does matter. See what kind of wiring it has. Ask if the lights work. Find out when the last propane pressure test was done. Know what laws you state requires for the propane tanks and the OPD.

If the damage is too great and you will not be repairing the trailer, ask if the owner knows someone who can fix it. If you are going to repair the trailer, estimate the cost.

The most important thing to know is when it was last registered. Back registration can be costly and that cost needs to be factored in as well.

Step 6

Other vintage camping vehicles

Trailers are not the only camping vehicles that are considered vrintage. Again, according to the Tin Can Tourists, motorhomes that are 20 years or old are also vintage. Teardrop trailers, no matter what year are considered vintage since they were all built from the old plans.

Happy Trails! We will see you down the road.

You will Need
• A flexible budget — Vintage trailers can be costly.
• Tow Vehicle
• Appreciation of camping

Tips & Warnings
• TIP — Visit a trailer rally. You can find dates and times on the internet. Talk to the vintage trailer owners. They are very helpful and love to talk about their trailers. Ask any questions you might have.
• TIP — Vintage trailers can be addictive. Many vintage trailer people end up with more than one. It could be that vintage trailer folks can spot them anywhere and are curious or just that they are so cool that they just had to have another.
• TIP — At a Vintage Trailer Rally, if the trailer door is open, it is OK to stick your head in. If the door is closed, visitors are not welcomed at that time. Fortunately, doors are very seldom closed.
• WARNING — If you find that once you have a vintage trailer, it is important to decorate it with period fabrics, dishes, linens and other knick-knacks, prepare to add the additional cost to the budget. FYI — Corning-ware came out in 1959.


Comment: 2
    Whitby  13.02.2016 16:25

    Great info!

    Taylor  23.05.2016 22:52

    Hi Ann,
    I enjoyed reading your zone. Very informative!

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