Living-Quarters Trailers: Planning Ahead

An online companion to the June 2003 print feature "Buying the Right Trailer," this web exclusive offers insight into making sure a living-quarters option fits your needs.

Purchasing professionally outfitted living quarters can be a budget-killer. Use these prepurchase steps if living quarters are on your wish list.

Trailer shoppers tend to overlook axles, suspensions and tires when purchasing a trailer with a dressing room they intend to convert into living quarters. The axles must be rated to support the trailer's gross vehicle weight. This GVW figure, also known as the loaded trailer weight, includes everything - trailer, horses, gear and accessories. After-market living quarters can add a lot of weight. Materials, appliances, and other features can quickly add up to 1,500 pounds or more, and with packed coolers, wardrobes and personal gear, the figure grows.

Plan ahead - add a minimum of 1,500 pounds to your estimated trailer weight, fully loaded, to accommodate living-area add-ons. Use this figure to select the appropriate tires and axles. It's better to spend money on an axle upgrade and stiffer tires than to experience a breakdown. You might also need to reevaluate your tow rig and your state's laws to ensure you're within the maximum allowed weight ranges.

When planning your dream living space, realize that your choices affect your trailer resale value. Lower-quality paneling might save you money now, but when it peels and chips, greatly devalues the trailer.

Consult a local recreational-vehicle dealer for information on your state's wiring requirements. Some states are sticky on who does wiring - certified professionals or do-it-yourselfers. In many states, if the wiring isn't professionally certified, a trailer dealer can't sell the trailer on his lot, which limits your future trade-in options.