How to evaluate camper trailer for buying decision?

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Camper trailers become very popular on eBay in these couple of years. Many new comers of camper trailer intend to buy camper trailer package on eBay. For experienced campers, they know what data to look for to compare camper trailers. Unfortunately, new camper trailer buyers can only judge by the appearance of the package and the description seller listed. This provides room for some sellers to mislead these group of camper trailer buyers texturally and visually.

Quite often you see keywords like "Offroad" "Full-Offroad" "Heavy Offroad" "Extreme Offroad" etc. These keywords give impression that the trailer is strongly built. However, once you keep reading and ask sellers questions with the guides we are providing, you will tell easily if they are as claimed.

Here we are going to provide some simple guides for buyers new to camper trailers to compare between different camper trailers on eBay:

Trailer Structure:
The structural strength of the trailer is determined by the material used to build the chassis, and the suspension parts.

In the old days, angle will be used on chassis beams to reduce production cost. Nowadays, I believe even cheap trailers will use RHS to make chassis. There are 2 major size RHS to build chassis, 50x50, and 75x50. For on-road trailers, manufacturers tend to use 50x50 (1.6-2mm thick) to build the chassis to reduce production cost. As it is on-road trailer, 50x50 is quite sufficient for on-road trailer at 750kg ATM category. It is hard to classify a trailer as offroad trailer with 50x50 RHS chassis, unless use much thicker RHS, eg 4mm+. The horizontal holding capacity of RHS has direct relationship with wall thickness and total area of cross section. This is why offroad trailers often use 75x50 RHS with thinner wall rather than smaller size RHS with thicker wall. It is lighter and more economical.

If you come across trailer claimed "Off-road" with 50x50, you rather treat it as on-road trailer regardless any other offroad trailer features built in.

For on-road trailer, 75x50 is popular size for the drawbar. There is no point to use 100x50 on drawbar while with 50x50 chassis. It would better off to have 75x50 drawbar + 50x50 chassis for on-road, or 100x50 drawbar with 75x50 chassis for offroad trailer.

Some tricky manufacturer use 100x50 on drawbar and 50x50 (2mm) on chassis to mae trailer look stronger, simply because you hardly see the chassis but drawbar is highly visible. So, when you compare, make sure you get matching material for the structure, otherwise, take the weakest part as factor to compare.

Ideally, it is always better to to get a trailer with longer drawbar and draw bar RHS shall reach the front hanger of the leaf spring. Long draw bar gives you better control to tow and reverse the trailer. Draw bar RHS reaching front spring hanger makes the whole trailer struture stronger without weak point between towing point to supporting point.

Suspension is another major part to look at when selecting trailers. It consists of spring, axle and hub.

There are different kind of springs used on trailers. We will discuss the most popular springs found on trailers on eBay

Leaf springs are widely used on trailers. There are several factors to look at when comparing springs:

1. Number of leafs and thickness of leaf
The popular springs come in 5 or 7 leaf. However, you cannot just compare the number of leaf without considering the thickness of every leaf. The popular thickness is 5mm, 7mm. For on-road trailer in 750kg ATM, 5 leaf 7mm is quite sufficient. For offroad trailers, minimum of 7 leaf x 7mm will give you around 1000-1200kg ATM, provided that hub, axle and wheel have matching or better rating. Another factor is the width of the leaf, normally 45mm, and 60mm, some with 50mm. The wider the greater capacity if other data is the same.

2. Type of leaf spring
There are two main type of leaf spring, sliper spring and eye to eye shackle spring. In my opinion, for camper trailers, regardless if it is on-road or offroad, you should always choose one with eye to eye shackle spring. Sliper spring will keep rubbing the chassis while travelling, not only removing the paint on that spot, but will also eat in to the chassis RHS for longer period of time.

Eye to eye shackle spring has 2 shackle plates (2 piece of metal plates hanging the spring on shackle hanger). Normally this will be found on rear eye of the spring. The hanger should be bushed and greasible to prolong the life of the system. Becareful of some imported trailer, they have shackle on leaf spring but without proper designed hangers which is merely a section of RHS drilled and pin a bolt through. This design will not last long on offroad condition because the bolt and hange keep rubbing each other. Quite often the bolt is harder and "eat" the hanger. Proper hanger has metal bush welded on and bushed with either Nylon or PU. More high class design with greasible bolts to grease the moving section to pronlong the life of the bush.

Coil spring Independant suspension
This suspension is mainly for offroad use that each wheel moves indepandently for stability when travelling uneven surface. Due to the cost, this type of suspension is hard to see on brand new camer trailers on eBay

there are few other suspension system available on market but mainly on expensive models which you will seldom find on brand new camper trailer package on eBay

there are few major configuration of axle. 39mm solid round, 40mm or 45mm solid square. For 750kg category, 39mm roud or 40mm square is sufficient. For offroad camper or over 750kg ATM/GVM, 45mm solid square is minimum spec for peace of mind.

Braking system is compulsory for trailer with ATM over 750kg. There are electric braking, hydraulic braking and override braking system. Electric brake is the most popular one these days. It is easier and cheaper to implement and maintain than hydraulic. Better performance than override brake.

Braking system has no direct relationship with "Offroad".However, offroad trailers normally build with stronger material, thus weight more than on-road. Plus tent and carrying, quite often offroad travellers require trailer with ATM more than 750kg. Thus, brake seems to be linked up with offroad camper trailer.

To actuate electric brake, you need to have electric brake controller installed on towing vehicle by qualified auto electrician. The electric brake on trailer will not work without controller on yoru vehicle. You shall budge $400-700 for the brake controller fitted by professionals.

Carrying capacity
Carrying capacity shall be specified on compliance plate on trailer, required by law. It is the ATM figures on compliance plate. Sometimes you will see some seller using GVM instead of ATM, which is not appropriate. ATM - Aggregated Trailer Mass, GVM - Gross Vehicle Mass. The difference between these figure is teh ball weight. ATM adds up ball weight plus weights on 2 wheels. GVM only adds up weight on two wheels.

It is illegal to overload the trailer, and unsafe for you and others. Towing vehicle has 2 towing capacity on user manual. One is unbraked towing, one is braked towing. Forget about the capacity stamped on tow bar. It is not what your vehicle can tow. It is just what the tow bar can do. It is complete different thing. Most vehicle has unbraked towing of 600-750kg. Braked towing from 1600-2000kg, even 3000kg on 4WD.

Do not think that your 4WD can tow a camper trailer with brake straight away. You need brake controller fitted on your vehicle to actuate the brake on trailer.

Unbrake towing capacity is tested by vehicle manufacturer to ensure you are safe to tow trailers without brake. If you tow trailer (without brake) weight over specified unbrake towing, you put yourself in danger because the vehicle braking system is designed to brake efficiently for vehicle weight as well as specified towing weight. Over towing weight will reduce the efficiency of your vehicle braking performance. Over weighted trailer will push your vehicle forward when braking hard. Always follow the vehicle specification for safety towing.

Camper trailer quite often comes with jerry can holders and gas bottole holders, tool box, water tank, kitchen etc. Carefully select accessories according to your need. For something you can buy from retail, better buy them yourself so that you have full control on what you need, rather than being hooked by some bundles with cheap accessories you might never use or not what you need.

There are few types of finishing you can get:

Hot dip Galvanizing:
Parts was dipped into melted zinc pool so that the steel part is covered with layer of zinc. Due to the heat, thinner metal will be out of shape. The benefit of this finishing is rust resistance. But appearance does not look good. It is kind of industrial finishing rather than cosmetic.

Enamal Paint:
Trailer was painted with primer then coated with enamal paint (single pack). User might be abe to choose their preferred color depending on seller/manufacturer. It looks very nice comparing to galvanized trailer

Hammer Tone Paint:
It is similar to Enamal paint. hamer tone paint gives a tough look by its uneven surface, like hammered metal. It is very popular on offroad trailers.

This is an expensive finishing. trailer is painted with primer, then 2k, and polish after dried, then painted with 2 pack paint. This finishing gives you high gloss and smooth surface. Quite often you only find this finishing on expensive models.

Powder coated:
Poder coating gives you very nice and smooth finishing. It makes use of negative electric on parts you need to coat and spray plastic like powder on it. Negative charged metal will attracts the powder on it. Then melt the powder with heat to wrap the metal with layer of plastic. Teh finishing is very smooth and nice looking. But the problem is when metal get rust somehow (eg chipped coating let rust forming on metal,) the coating will peel off in pieces. Basically you cannot repair the peeled off powder coating. However, if teh trailer is painted, you can always touch up the chipping, or re-spray paint the wole trailer to make it look new.

If you only try to compare by camper trailer's application, here I have some points for you to compare trailers base on on-road and offroad:

Offroad - some must have feature:
1. Stronger structure, eg 75x50 chassis, 100x50 draw bar, reasonable length of drawbar (1.7m or longer) allows you to control the trailer easier and avoid damaging your towing vehicle when turning sharp corners. Draw bar shall reach the front hanger. Triple draw bar is preferred. especially you intend to load 80% or more of trailers capacity (ATM).
2. High clearance: Referring to the distance between ground and the lowest point of the trailer (except wheels and fishplate section. High clearance is important for offroad travel. It reduces the chance of trailer hitting on rocks and dunes. This can be improved by using independant suspension system, bigger wheel, or leaf spring with greater amber/bow.
3. Strong spring, eye to eye with shackle and VERY IMPORTANT, bushed hangers, prefer with high tensile greasible bolts grade 10.9.
4. Shock absorber, to absorb shock on bumpy road.
5. 45x45mm solid square axle or better
6. good quality tires (ideally not to use Chinese tyres on offroad trailers. They are alright but will not last if you always do offroad travel)
7. offroad water tank, or normal plastic water tank with at least 2.1mm checker plate to protect it.
8. Offroad coupling, either Orac or Tregg type, or similar
9. Well protected power cable on trailer plug. General springy like cable loom is not good enough for offroad. Better use weaven PVC hose.
10. Fully water and dust sealed. Trailer compartment/Toolbox shall be leak free even crossing creeks with water level upto half of the trailer box.
11. greater exit angle, well balanced ball weight (between 40-80kg)

On-Road camper trailer:
1. Minimum 50x50 chassis with 75x50 drawbar. Draw bar at least 1.6m, especially with upright sparewheel mounting or toolbox.
2. Fully water and dust sealed trailer compartment
3. Well balanced tow ball weight (between 40-80kg).
4. draw bar RHS shall reach front hanger
5. avoid sliper spring, select those with eye to eye shackle spring and bushed spring hanger. It will last longer and trouble free.

Another very basic compare is the overall weight (tare weight) of the trailer. Heavier means stronger. (not always but in majority cases). The most reliable comparison is to go through details of the trailer specification. Spend time to read rather than jumping lines. If info insufficient, ask sellers first.

Hereunder are some suggested questions for you to ask sellers before making decision. You can copy and send to different seller and get their answer to compare. (you should find answers for some of these from listing page)

1. What is the chassis RHS size
2. What is the draw bar RHS size
3. Draw bar length from trailer compartment front panel to coupling
4. Is it eye to eye shackle spring or sliper spring fitted, how many leaf, leaf thickness and width, and if spring hangers are all bushed with nylon or PU
5. bolt for leaf spring greasible with grease nipple?
6. Axle specification
7. wheel/tyre specification and origin
8. Tare weight of the trailer, and deliver weight of all accessories and tent
9. Ball weight, ATM (GVM = ATM - Ball weight)
10. If ATM > 750kg, what braking system included, with park brake?
11. Is trailer compartment fully sealed, dust and water proof?
12. Is gate hinge greasible hinge, with grease nipple
13. Is this fully Australian Made trailer? (some sellers import semi finished trailer and assemble in Australia, then call it Australian Built, or place an Australia flag on listing page etc to make you believe it is local made trailers, beware)
14. Do you have onsite service facility to repair trailer in case there is probem?

Wish these information helps to compare camper trailer on eBay for you. You are welcome to email us any comments. Good luck to your camper trailer searching and buying.


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