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 > Building own travel trailer legality?

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Lynchburg, VA

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Posted: 05/12/20 01:57pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I've got good news for ya: for ten grand or less, you have a wide array of used RVs available. Careful shopping should turn up a lot of units that will be better than anything you could build for the money. But it is your money, so feel free to do with it whatever you want.


Broken Arrow OK

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Posted: 05/12/20 03:12pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

In Oklahoma there's provision for registering and tagging a "home built trailer," no problem at all. In Missouri I have no idea what the state does.

I like the idea of building a travel trailer out of a regular, basic cargo trailer (although I'm not very handy, I like the idea). I could have a common, cheap room air conditioner or maybe a quieter mini-split. I could put in a quieter furnace like the Propex. I could heavily insulate the trailer. I could have jalousie or awning windows that can stay open in rain rather than the common sliders.

But all this stuff costs money. I put a pen to it a while back, and I think it was going to be well north of $10k by the time I bought windows, tanks, furnace, A/C, sink, cooktop, insulation, water heater, birch plywood for cupboards, etc, etc.

Mike G.
--for now, using a cargo trailer for camping--
Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. --Benjamin Franklin
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Posted: 05/12/20 03:34pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

schlep1967 wrote:

My thoughts.... You will spend more building one than you would buying one. Figure out what you can spend and start looking at your local craigslist/facebook online marketplace.

x2. Much easier to find a used one and do some updates.


No paticular place.

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Posted: 05/12/20 04:55pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Just brought home a replacement 5th wheel today. $6k and other than a few minor cosmetic items that I can take care of for under $100...she's ready to go.

By the time you spend a couple grand on a flatbed trailer, material to build the walls and roof, insulation, wiring, plumbing, fridge, stove, furnace, air/con, windows, hatches, stabilizers, cabinetry, will probably spend more and you will have rig that will be overweight with a resale price of maybe $200.

Now if you just like projects, go for it.
If you are honestly looking at cost, spend your time looking at used trailers.

Tammy & Mike
Ford F250 V10
2008 Copper Canyon 5er
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Posted: 05/12/20 05:06pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Uglyduckling88 wrote:

K Charles wrote:

What part do you think is not legal? Over loading the trailer, wrong lights, too wide, too long?






In reality, at least in the USA there is no "legal" issues with "modifying" the inside, electrically, plumbing, heating, AC or physically. Just be aware, electrically and plumbing wise you SHOULD follow NEC(electric codes) and any good plumbing rules, no US campground inspects those systems and chances of ever getting rejected are near zero.

Modifying the outside in most US States should be "legally" fine provided you follow all State and Federal rules for lighting requirements (running/turn/brake lights and placement of said items), brakes, your modifications do not pose a road hazard , exceed maximum width, length or heights..

But your BEST source of information IS YOUR LOCAL DMV, they should be able to get you all information you will need to legally register a trailer for on the road use. Good chance that YOUR STATE DMV already has a lot of resources online. You can also do a search for "Homemade trailers", your State DMV most likely has some procedures that they require you to follow in order to be able to register a homemade trailer.

As far as modding an existing trailer, you should be able to register it as is with the original title, they should not care if you have changed or altered the interior and the exterior provided you have all of the road safety items in their proper place.

Building a trailer from scratch in many states can be a huge hassle to get titled, better do your research up front before committing to making one, it will be a huge expensive paperweight if you cannot get a title and tags for on the road use.

If you insist on building from scratch, I would highly recommend buying a rotted out trailer that has a good title, remove the rotted box and salvage the windows, doors, appliances, tub and any other super expensive and hard to ship items, it will save you time and money.

Alternatively is if you can get a good deal on just the frame and title, you can do the same but now you will have to source super expensive windows, doors, appliances and so on.

But, really, if this is your first RV trailer, do yourself a favor, buy a older used one, fix what is needed to be fixed (rotted wood can be removed and replaced) and go camping, should have no problem finding bunches of low cost used RV trailers IF you are not picky. This is where you learn how RVs are built and avoid a lot of potential pitfalls of wasting money building your first one..

Something else to consider, a customized to you "one off" build WILL be far more expensive, weigh more than you think it will and in the end IF you need to sell, most likely will not sell or sell for scrap prices.. Folks are used to "name brands", they have an expectation of those brands, a "one off" homemade RV is going to have a very narrow appeal and market..

There are some campgrounds catering to high dollar RVs that may have rules which reject Homemade or cargo trailer conversions so just be aware that if it doesn't look something like a RV with RV siding (like using home vinyl siding or home wood siding) some of these campgrounds may reject your RV.



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Posted: 05/12/20 07:49pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I built a cargo trailer. Got a weight slip, went to license bureau with weight slip and receipts, and got plates.

Build a life you don't need a vacation from.

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Posted: 05/12/20 08:32pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Lynnmor wrote:

Buy a used one in need of repair, you should be able to save more than starting from scratch. Don’t worry about modifications unless you go crazy.

The most common TT repair is a failed roofing system. Besides repair the roof, you may need to repair delaminated siding and wall framing.

Worse, if the leak has been there for a long time, the floor can be rotten. If the rotten area is small and in an accessible location it is doable. When you start getting to more than 10 sq ft, you may need to remove most of the interior and then it would not be cost effective.


Portland, Oregon

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Posted: 05/12/20 08:53pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

WNYBob wrote:

Try looking for "buikding a stealth" trailer. They usually start with a enclosed box trailer.

Been there, done that. Did it not because of low cost (it isn't) but because I wanted a small toyhauler for my 3 bikes that I could use for day trips as well as camping in addition to the use as a toy hauler. By the time you put in trailer stuff, like sinks, fridge, stove, shower, furnace, AC, build cabinets, scrounge up a fold down bed, come up with a fold up couch, put on an awning, it wasn't less expensive than a bigger toy hauler, but it did fit what I wanted, something that was useable on longer trips but also useable for day rides.

And it's still registered as a "utility" trailer not a TT, so registration is way less expensive.

2011 Keystone Outback 295RE
2004 14' bikehauler with full living quarters
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2004.5 Silverado 4x4 CC/SB Duramax/Allison passed on to our Son!

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Bartlett IL

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Posted: 05/13/20 05:29am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Legality aside, If you don't have $10k to buy one then you won't have the money to build one! Also there are plenty of very good trailers out there for $5-6k. You just have to shop wisely.

Wife Kim
Son Brandon 17yrs
Daughter Marissa 16yrs
Dog Bailey

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Spokane, WA

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Posted: 05/13/20 06:38am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

WNYBob wrote:

Try looking for "buikding a stealth" trailer. They usually start with a enclosed box trailer.


There's a lot of people that take an enclosed trailer and convert it to a stealth RV. Some even add full plumbing systems just like a TT has.

Here's one that a friend built a few years ago.

2009 Silverado 3500HD Dually, D/A, CCLB 4x4 (bought new 8/30/09)
2009 Arctic Fox 811 (bought new 11/9/09)
2018 Timber Ridge 24RLS (bought pre-owned 3/12/20)
2008 Haulmark 8.5x20 toy box trailer

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