What to Consider When Buying a Used Car Trailer

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What to Consider When Buying a Used Car Trailer

A trailer is an unpowered vehicle that is towed by a car that is attached to it. Trailers offer extra space and are therefore useful when there is a need to transport many things at once, for example, when going to the summer cottage for a few weeks, or when moving. With the baggage packed into a trailer, there is plenty of room for the passengers in the car. More specifically, car trailers are designed for transporting cars. They are widely used for race cars, but are sometimes also needed when a new or broken down car has to be transported. Car trailers can be bought from retailers who specialise in them, and they are also available on some online auction sites, such as eBay. Safety is the foremost feature that should be considered when buying a car trailer, and various laws apply to car trailers.

Used car trailers are cheaper alternatives, and they can be as good as new ones if they meet certain safety standards. Used trailers should always be examined for any flaws and damage, although many are available in good condition and are sold simply because the previous owner does not need the trailer anymore. Therefore, when looking for a used car trailer, buyers should consider the type, condition, and features before making the purchase.

Car Trailer Types

There are two types of car trailers and they differ from each other by their design. Open car trailers are simpler and smaller models, while it is also possible to use a covered car trailer that offers more protection from the weather.

Open Car Trailer

The open car trailer is basically a fixed or tilt bed trailer with an open top. Usually these trailers do not have sides, but if they do, these are relatively low. If a car is transported with an open trailer, it has to be secured to it with strong and durable straps and the car's handbrake should also be on. An open car trailer does not require much space and can fit inside an average garage.

Covered Car Trailer

A covered car trailer, as its name implies, is enclosed and comes with walls and a ceiling. It is especially useful when transporting a car in winter or when it rains. The cover can be attached to the trailer bed with hinges and moved up for loading. On the other hand, a covered car trailer may have a door at its rear. If there is only a door, the entire body of the trailer does not move, as it does when the trailer has hinges. On a used car trailer, the mechanisms may be somewhat worn out, so they should be tested. In fact, even open car trailers can be transformed into covered car trailers by using a special PVC trailer cover. Covered car trailers can be even be used in place of a garage for protection from the elements.

Car Trailer Features

The features of any car trailer depend on the type of cars that are going to be transported with it. The heavier the transportable vehicles are, the more weight the trailer has to bear. The axles and wheels of the trailer influence the weight limit. The loading system of a trailer should be chosen according to needs, and one should opt for a system that is simple enough to use. All these features need to be examined before purchasing a used car trailer to ensure that they are all still functional.


The axle is a spindle that passes through the centre of the wheels of the car trailer. The axle transmits the driving torque to the wheels and maintains their position. Moreover, the axles bears the weight of both the trailer and its cargo. Car trailers can come equipped with either one, two, or three axles, and they are named single-axled, twin-axled, and tri-axled, correspondingly. The more axles the trailer has, the more weight it can carry.


The number of wheels on a car trailer influences the maximum weight it can bear. Logically, the more wheels the trailer has, the more equally the weight is distributed and the more it can carry. Car trailers generally have four wheels, but some models come with six for additional support. The wheels of a used car trailer should be checked.

Loading System

If the car trailer is equipped with a ramp system, it is easy to load because the car can be driven up the ramp. The most convenient ramp systems can be pulled out when needed and then pushed back in. Drop-down ramps stand up when driving and can be dropped down for loading. The ramp is generally designed in such a way that it grips the car wheels during the loading process and prevents the car from falling back.

Another way to get a car onto a trailer is to use a hydraulic tilt bed. This kind of bed can be lowered for loading and then returned to its normal, flat position. When buying a used car trailer, it is important to check whether the loading system works.


The bed of a car trailer is the base on which the transportable car is placed. As mentioned, the car trailer may come with a hydraulic tilt bed. Another option is a fixed bed that does not move itself. Most beds look like plates, although some lightweight models may come with a hole in the middle, offering support only for the car wheels. The material of the bed, or the floor, should also be considered. A wood floor may require a floor covering to protect it from water and other liquids. An aluminium floor is easy to maintain and wash, but can be hazardous when wet. The floor of a used car trailer may be worn if it has not been maintained properly.

Braking System

Larger and heavier car trailer models are required to have their own braking systems. These could be either electric or hydraulic. In case of a used car trailer, the system should certainly be tested before making the purchase.

Car Trailer Safety

Safety is the most important issue that has to be considered when buying and using car trailers. It is essential to bear in mind that car trailers add to the length of the vehicle and make turning more difficult. By law, there are weight limits and other safety standards that should be followed when driving with a car trailer.

The weight that a car is able to tow is generally detailed in its handbook or specifications. The gross train weight, the total weight of a fully loaded trailer and fully loaded car, may also be included on the vehicle identification number plate under the bonnet or inside the driver's door. The maximum tow weight must be considered in order to find a trailer that is suitable for the items that will be hauled. There are also regulations for the trailer's measurements. The maximum car trailer width is 2.55 metres, while the maximum trailer length is 7 metres. This length is for a trailer that is towed by a car weighing up to 3.5 tonnes. If the trailer itself weighs more than 750 kilogrammes, it is required to come equipped with a working brake system. When buying a used car trailer, it is essential to check whether the brakes are in working order.

Legal Requirements for Dimensions

Laws state clearly what the dimensions of a car trailer can be, and these depend on the weight of the car that is towing the trailer. The following chart summarises the requirements stated earlier and also includes requirements for bigger cars, as the trailer may also be used with trucks, for instance.

Car Mass (t)

Maximum Trailer Width (m)

Maximum Trailer Length (m)

Overall Length (m)

Up to 3.5




More than 3.5




The chart also includes a column for the overall length. This includes both the car and the car trailer. The longer the car train, the more difficult it is to handle. Therefore, the length is regulated by laws for safety reasons.

Buying a Used Car Trailer on eBay

Before you start looking for a used car trailer on eBay, determine the type you require, either open or closed, because the designs vary significantly. You can then search for the car trailer by typing the search terms into the search box that you can find at the top of any eBay page. After you are presented with a list of results, you can narrow them down by sorting them according to auction time or price. As you are looking for a used car trailer, you should also set the item condition to "Used".

Browse the photos in the item listings carefully in order to check the trailer's condition and to detect any possible damage that may influence safety. If you have any questions, feel free to contact the seller. You probably need to contact the seller in any case, in order to enquire about viewing and picking up the car trailer. Trailers are large items and therefore they are not sent by post, but collected. If you find a local seller near you, you can save on fuel and acquire the car trailer quickly.


A trailer is towed by a car, and can be used for transporting many things, including cars. The need for a car trailer may arise when buying a new car or when having to transport an old one that no longer works. These trailers are also used for race cars. As it is probably not intended to be used on a daily basis, a used car trailer is usually suitable for most car owners. Before making a purchase, it is worth checking its condition and studying the features closely.

Car trailers are divided into open and covered types. Open car trailers are comparatively lightweight and take up less space, but do not protect from the weather in the way that closed trailers do. However, it is also possible to buy an open trailer and convert it into a closed trailer with a special PVC cover.

The weight the car trailer can carry largely depends on its axles and wheels. The more axles and wheels, the more weight the trailer can carry. Safety standards should be followed when loading the trailer, as there are certain weight limits. Bigger trailers also require braking systems. The bed, or the floor, of the trailer can be either fixed or tiltable. If it is tiltable, it can be moved downwards for loading, although some trailers also come with ramps.

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