By Paul Lacitinola
Publisher, The Vintage Camper Trailers Magazine
The variety of camping trailers built post war through the 1960’s is seemingly endless. After a decade in the hobby I am still learning of manufacturers that I have never heard of. The popularity of the vintage trailer hobby has caused many people to have a new-found interest in once obscure and long-forgotten trailers. Most vintage trailer enthusiasts are familiar with the major brands like Shasta, Airstream and Aristocrat, but there were many more mid-century manufacturers that were small operations with limited productions. The market was flooded with trailers of different sizes, floorplans and amenities. Determining the vintage trailer that will best suit your needs today is a critical part of investing in a classic coach.
Most motor vehicle departments consider the length of a trailer to be the overall length from the ball hitch to the rear bumper. Sometimes sellers only measure the length of the body and do not include the added length of the tongue. Make sure you are clear on the actual overall trailer dimensions. When purchasing a trailer consider where it will be stored. You may be restricted in the length or width of a trailer that will fit in your storage area. Other primary considerations are how many beds you will need and what type of bathroom, if any, is a “must have” for you. Bathrooms may include any combination of a commode, shower, tub and sink. The smaller the trailer, the less likely it is to have a bathroom. Trailers can range from 10’ to over 30’. I think that up to a bout 26’ is a manageable size. The bigger your trailer, the more considerations there are for the type of tow vehicle that you have and the campgrounds that can accommodate you.
Go to a Vintage Trailer Rally
Once you have determined some of your non-negotiable needs and desires, you are ready to begin looking at trailers that also fit your budget. Waiting for one that fits your parameters, and is close enough to go see, may take a while. Rather than waiting for one to pop-up for sell nearby, I recommend you visit a Vintage Camper Trailer rally that has an Open House. An open house is typically held on the Saturday of a rally and is open to the public to tour the trailers. Often there are trailers for sell at a rally or the people there have, or know of, trailers for sale. Being able to see several different sizes and floor plans will help you continue to focus on the perfect vintage trailer for you. Meeting and mingling with people already in the hobby will give you insight into variables you may not have considered. Do you prefer twin or full beds? Is their enough ceiling height? Is the available living space enough for your kids, pets and gear? (All the rallies in the USA are published in the Vintage Camper Trailers Magazine).
Take a Test Drive
Once you narrow down the trailer type, size and amenities that you would like, you may want to take one for a test-drive. Outdoorsy.com now offers a searchable data base where you can find “vintage” trailers for rent. You can even search by brand name like “Airstream” or “Shasta” to help you find the trailer you would like to take camping. This nationwide database provides you with the opportunity to experience vintage camping before you buy. It also provides you an alternative to owning a trailer yourself. If you ultimately invest in a trailer you may want to offer it for rent on Outdoorsy.com to offset your expenses. If you are going to be camping, why not take advantage of a 50% discount on your camping fees? Passport America is the original 50% Discount Camping Club and has the largest network of quality campgrounds across the nation. A one-year RV Discount Camping Card is only $44. You will likely save as much on your first weekend outing.
See the Trailer in Person
Always go and see a potential trailer purchase in person before dropping your hard-earned cash. Trailers always look better on-line and computers don’t have smell-o-vision. Even a novice can “feel” a soft floor or smell a funk that may be impossible to get rid of. If you can’t go see the trailer, you can take your chances with a trusted friend that may be closer and can give you their feedback. Consider the risk/reward of NOT seeing the trailer in person, and the cost of transporting the trailer, in the overall cost of the RV.
Other factors to purchasing a vintage trailer include evaluating the condition of a trailer and determining the value. These are two important aspects of investing in 70-year-old camping trailers requiring their own articles. Here is a link to an article on valuing a vintage trailer. You will also want to explore your vehicles tow rating, so you are able to travel safely.
Buying a vintage trailer and being a part of the vintage trailering hobby should be a very positive experience. The first trailer you buy, may not be your “forever” trailer. Being in the hobby, and participating in the rallies yourself, will expose you to many opportunities to find your perfect trailer. Selling the trailer that you have shouldn’t be a problem with all the interest in the vintage trailering hobby and another newbie on the hunt for their first vintage trailer.
Visit a rally with over 200 trailers! www.trailerfestrally.com
Learn how to restore vintage camper trailers.
Shop for a vintage camper trailer.
Sell your vintage camper trailer.