How to Buy a Used Horse Trailer

Horse trailers, also called horse boxes or horse floats, have been in use since 1918 when "motor-trucks" were modified to transport race horses that had traditionally been moved by rail car. Today's horse trailer can be expensive and fancy with customized and modern fittings, or it can be utilitarian. Buying a new horse trailer off the lot means that, like cars, it is going to lose much of its value immediately. Knowing what to look for, however, when buying a used horse trailer is important. Here's how to buy a used horse trailer.


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    Consider your budget.
    • Budget is probably going to be the most limiting factor in buying a used horse trailer. How much you have to spend is going to narrow your choices. If budget is not a concern, then you can buy a horse trailer with all sorts of modern features such as dressing rooms, interior lighting, padded dividers and more. A lower budget might limit your choice to a horse trailer that is structurally sound, but not very attractive. Less money can also get you a stock trailer; they're not designed specifically for horses (lower height) but they are less expensive, and do the job.
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    Consider the size of trailer.
    • Horse trailers come in a variety of sizes to accommodate shipping a number of horses. The smallest trailers will ship 2 horses, while the largest can ship 6 horses. Professional horse movers can accommodate many more horses, but they are pulled by a tractor trailer designed for hauling very heavy loads.
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    Consider how much you'll use the trailer.
    • If you're going to be trailering every weekend, then it might be worth spending a bit more on a used or even a new trailer, if your budget allows. If you are going to be showing, then having a trailer with a built in dressing room can be very convenient. At the very least, you will want a trailer with some front storage to carry your tack (saddles and other equipment.) If you will only be using the trailer periodically, then a structurally sound but no-frills trailer may be more practical.
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    Consider your towing vehicle.
    • Trailers have different hitching mechanisms. Three common types are goose neck, 5th wheel and bumper pull. Both a gooseneck hitch and 5th wheel hitch mount in the bed of a truck but the difference here is the fifth wheel hitch mounts above the bed whereas the gooseneck hitch mounts level with the truck's bed and utilizes a mounted ball for towing. Make sure that your hitch is equipped to tow the horse trailer you choose, along with the weight of the animals. A 2-horse trailer (3400 lbs) and 2 large horses (1300 lbs each) can reach 6000 lbs. Experts recommend only towing up to 2/3 of your vehicle's rated towing capacity, so a vehicle rated to tow 9000 lbs would be appropriate to haul a 6000 lb load.
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    Consider the condition of the trailer.
    • Once you've determined your budget and your trailer needs, you can begin to look at the overall condition of the trailer. A used trailer must be structurally sound. There should be no damage or wear to the floor of the trailer, and the electronics (brake lights and so on) should be in good condition and working properly. The trailer should have a functioning breakaway system which will apply the trailer's brakes in an emergency if it becomes disconnected from the tow vehicle. The suspension and tires should also be in good condition. Always check to make sure you have a full sized correctly inflated spare. If you don't know what to look for, consider asking your car or trailer mechanic to take a look at the trailer.
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    Consider the needs of the horse.
    • Horses do not like to be trailered. Some horses will tolerate it, while others strenuously object. The larger the interior and the better lit and ventilated it is, the more at ease your horse will be. In addition, there are step up and ramp access trailers. Most horses load more easily onto ramp mount trailers. The walls, back door and dividing bars should be adequately padded to protect the horse. The halter mount should be long enough to allow the horse some head movement to expel dust and other contaminates but not too long to be caught up in a leg or hay net. The larger the horse, the more interior room they'll need. Interior latches, breast bars, dividers and latches should all be in good condition with no sharp edges or protruding parts.
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    Consider how safe the trailer is.
    • Besides being safe for the horse and structurally sound, the safest horse trailers are those with a rubber torsion suspension. With these trailers, neoprene cords absorb about 97 percent of the road shock, meaning less stress on the horse's legs. It has the added benefit of being able to carry the trailer on 3 wheels safely until you can pull over, if a wheel should happen to go flat.


  • Buy a used trailer from a reputable dealer. They may offer warranties, and they will be more likely to stand behind their sales.


  • Buying a used trailer from an individual can be risky. Always ask to have the trailer inspected by your mechanic. If they won't let you drive it off for inspection then chances are they are hiding something about the trailer's condition.

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Categories: Horses