Seal the Deal: Ex­pert Trailer-Buy­ing Guide

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AAre you in the mar­ket for a new or used trailer? Don’t sign on the dot­ted line with­out our ex­pert guide. Here, we’ll first take you through the cri­te­ria to make sure the trailer meets your needs. Then we’ll de­tail the le­gal re­quire­ments you’ll need to meet af­ter the pur­chase, be­fore us­ing your trailer for the first time.

Trailer Cri­te­ria

Here’s a handy list of cri­te­ria to keep in mind when trailer-shop­ping. • Con­struc­tion. Some trailer-con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als are hot­ter than oth­ers. Nat­u­ral (non­painted) alu­minum makes great cookware, so imag­ine how it’ll heat up a trailer. Alu­minum floor­ing, roofing, and sin­gle-layer side­walls all can trans­fer heat into your trailer. • GVWR. De­ter­mine the trailer’s Gross Ve­hi­cle Weight Rat­ing. The GVWR re­lates to the axle and cou­pler rat­ing/ca­pac­ity and tells you how much the trailer can weigh and be safe to haul. Older, smaller, used trail­ers can have lower GVWRs, such as 5,000 lbs. It’s easy to ex­ceed this limit. • Size. Will your horse fit in the trailer? Many horse own­ers have bought slant­load-style trail­ers only to find that their warm­bloods didn’t fit. Mea­sure be­fore­hand, and also make sure you can bring the trailer back if your horse doesn’t fit. • Color. That bright-red trailer may look snazzy, but red ab­sorbs heat, as do all dark col­ors. Light col­ors re­flect heat,

We take you through the trailer-buy­ing process, from how to se­lect a trailer to the le­gal re­quire­ments you’ll need to meet af­ter you com­plete the sale. BY TOM SCHEVE AND NEVA KITTRELL SCHEVE

which is your goal to keep your equine friend from over­heat­ing in the trailer. • Ven­ti­la­tion and light. Does the trailer have good air­flow and ven­ti­la­tion? Stock­type trail­ers offer these fea­tures. Win­dows are also key. Roof vents let hot air out as well as al­low­ing air­flow while trav­el­ing. • Floors. On a used trailer, pull the floor mats, and ex­am­ine the floor­ing. If it’s wood, check for cracks and rot­ting. If it’s alu­minum, look for cor­ro­sion. Crawl un­der the trailer and ex­am­ine the frame struc­ture and cross sup­ports for rust or cor­ro­sion. • Wiring. Most older trail­ers will have wiring prob­lems that may need some work. With a new trailer, ask whether the wiring is pro­tected by grom­mets and a wiring loom. • Tires. Tires are rated to hold a cer­tain amount of weight. All four tires to­gether should add up to a rat­ing that’s equal to or sur­passes the Gross Ve­hi­cle Weight Rat­ing. With a new trailer, re­quest tires that are rated a bit more than the GVWR. Check used tires for un­even wear, worn threads, and dry rot. • Tack area. Imag­ine your­self load­ing up for a trip. Will all your tack fit? Are there enough sad­dle racks? Are the racks large enough to keep your sad­dles from slid­ing off? • Emer­gency ac­cess. Con­sider po­ten­tial dis­as­ters. Could you eas­ily re­lease your horse if he gets over the

breast bar? Could you quickly re­move di­viders if he gets un­der one? Will the horse-area doors with­stand a kick with­out open­ing? • Goose­neck hitch. Make sure the trailer’s goose­neck hitch will clear the bed rails of your truck and still be level. It should be at least eight inches above the truck’s tail­gate. Many used goose­neck trail­ers (those older than 2001) aren’t tall enough to clear the back of four-wheeldrive trucks that are 59” from the ground to the top of the tail­gate. • Tag-along hitch. A long tongue on a tag-along (bumper-pull) trailer will give you bet­ter ma­neu­ver­abil­ity when back­ing than a shorter one will. A short tongue will jack­knife eas­ily — right into the back of your tow ve­hi­cle.

Paper­work

• War­ranties. Ask for specifics. Your war­ranty may not in­clude peel­ing paint, win­dow break­age, and other prob­lems. On a used trailer, ask whether the war­ranty is trans­fer­able. • Ti­tling and pay­ment. Make sure there’s no lien on the trailer. Get a clear ti­tle and bill of sale. Get ev­ery­thing in writ­ing. • Fi­nal ne­go­ti­a­tions. Make sure you can re­turn or trade in the trailer if some­thing is awry. You may not be able to re­solve some is­sues un­til you ac­tu­ally load your horse into the trailer, Most deal­ers are more will­ing to make con­ces­sions be­fore you pay rather than af­ter, so han­dle this mat­ter be­fore you seal the deal. • Pos­si­ble fraud. When buy­ing on­line, don’t send any money un­til you’re sure the seller is le­git­i­mate. If he or she is anx­ious to have your money, but un­will­ing to let you see the trailer first, you can bet some­thing isn’t right.

Af­ter the Pur­chase

You’ve signed the pa­pers and writ­ten the check — the trailer is now yours. But be­fore you hitch it up and hit the road, you’ll need to meet cer­tain le­gal re­quire­ments. Here’s a run­down of what to do. • Pay the fees. Some deal­ers will take care of the tax, ti­tle, and reg­is­tra­tion fees; some don’t. If your dealer han­dles this for you, the fees will usu­ally be added onto your fi­nal in­voice to­tal. If you’ve fi­nanced the trailer, the dealer will likely add this fee into the to­tal be­fore get­ting ap­proval for the fi­nal fi­nanced amount. The dealer will then pay the taxes and ti­tle fees, and fur­nish you with the li­cense plate. • Ob­tain the ti­tle. Since the ti­tle is is­sued by each state and takes some time, it may be mailed with the plate and reg­is­tra­tion, es­pe­cially if you live in an­other state from where the trailer was pur­chased. In that case, the dealer should pro­vide you with a 30-day tem­po­rary tag and reg­is­tra­tion. • Ob­tain the bill of sale. Your bill of sale will in­clude the name and ad­dress of the seller and buyer, trailer make and model, ve­hi­cle iden­ti­fi­ca­tion num­ber (VIN), and sell­ing price. If a trade was used as part of the pay­ment, the bill of sale will state the trade value. Sales tax will be based only on the sale’s cash por­tion. • Or, ob­tain the Cer­tifi­cate of Ori­gin. Some man­u­fac­tur­ers and deal­ers don’t col­lect tax, ti­tle, and reg­is­tra­tion fees. If the trailer is new, the dealer may in­stead pro­vide you with a Man­u­fac­tur­ers Cer­tifi­cate of Ori­gin (called the CO or MSO) along with a bill of sale and a tem­po­rary tag. The CO looks and acts like a ti­tle. It’s is­sued by the man­u­fac­turer and con­tains all the in­for­ma­tion re­quired for a state to is­sue a ti­tle to the first owner.

Take the CO and bill of sale to your lo­cal li­cense bureau to pay the taxes and plate fees, and to ob­tain a li­cense plate. The CO will be for­warded to the state and a ti­tle will be sent back to you within a few weeks. The li­cense bureau will give you the tags right away. • Re­port trailer weight. Be­fore pay­ing for your tags, tell the li­cens­ing agent you’re pulling a horse trailer, and re­port the weight. Use the trailer’s GVWR. Your ac­tual weight will vary, de­pend­ing on how many horses and how much cargo you’ll carry, but it’ll al­ways be less than the GVWR. The li­cense bureau will reg­is­ter this weight on your reg­is­tra­tion and charge you ac­cord­ingly. (Note that if you’re ever stopped, you’ll face a stiff fine if you’re caught pulling more than your regis­tered weight.) • Ob­tain a li­cense plate. Check your state’s li­cense-plate re­quire­ments. Some states don’t re­quire res­i­dents to reg­is­ter trail­ers of any kind. Oth­ers don’t re­quire reg­is­ter­ing trail­ers un­der a cer­tain (empty) weight. Still oth­ers don’t re­quire a ti­tle to ob­tain plates. • Ob­tain a driver’s li­cense. Check your state’s re­quire­ments as to what type of driver’s li­cense you’ll need to legally pull your rig. The fed­eral govern­ment has spe­cific laws that gov­ern all states un­der the Fed­eral Mo­tor Car­rier Safety Reg­u­la­tions for in­ter­state travel. But many states have ad­di­tional laws as to what type of li­cens­ing you’ll need. For ex­am­ple, North Carolina re­quires you to have a Class A li­cense (com­mer­cial or non­com­mer­cial) if your trailer alone is rated 10,001 pounds GVWR or more. TTR

Tom Scheve and Neva Kittrell Scheve (877/5751771; www.eq­ui­spirit.com) are the au­thors of the na­tion­ally rec­og­nized text­book, The Com­plete Guide to Buy­ing, Main­tain­ing, and Ser­vic­ing a Horse Trailer. Neva also has two other horse trailer books to her credit, in­clud­ing Equine Emer­gen­cies On the Road with Jim Hamil­ton, DVM. The Scheves present clin­ics at equine ex­pos and pro­mote trailer safety through ar­ti­cles in na­tional mag­a­zines. They’ve de­signed and de­vel­oped the Eq­ui­Spirit, EquiBreeze, and ThoroS­port lines of trail­ers.

CLIXPHOTO.COM

When shop­ping for a new or used trailer, make sure the trailer’s goose­neck hitch will clear the bed rails of your truck and still be level. It should be at least eight inches above the truck’s tail­gate.

Will your horse fit in the trailer? Many horse own­ers have bought a trailer only to find that their warm­bloods didn’t fit. Mea­sure be­fore­hand, and also make sure you can bring the trailer back if your horse doesn’t fit.

CLIXPHOTO.COM PHO­TOS

As you trailer shop, imag­ine your­self load­ing up for a trip. Will all your tack fit? Are there enough sad­dle racks? Are the racks large enough to keep your sad­dles from slid­ing off?

That bright-red trailer may look snazzy, but dark col­ors ab­sorb heat. White and other light col­ors re­flect heat, which will help pre­vent your equine friend from over­heat­ing in the trailer.

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