First Time Buyer’s Guide for Tandem Trailers

If you’ve found this page, chances are you’re keen on picking up a heavy duty tandem trailer to help you with your working routine.Tandem trailers are great for those that need the additional storage, and who also require the trailer to be able to pack extra equipment or heavy machinery or even small vehicles.

Reliable and durable, your future tandem trailer will be your best friend on either the worksite or on your larger property. It will allow you greater flexibility than ever before, whilst also giving you peace of mind in knowing that your goods can be moved around with incredible ease.

For that to happen, however, you will have to know what you’re buying, what to look for, what to avoid, and what you will need to do after you purchase your tandem trailer.

Buying a tandem trailer isn’t as easy as it sounds, and this guide will help you to avoid the common pitfalls that can occur for those that are perhaps inexperienced in either tandem trailers or buying trailers in general.

At the end of this guide, it is hoped that you will have all of the tools at your disposal to not just get the tandem trailer that will suit you perfectly, but also grab a great deal for yourself too. So let’s jump into the exciting world of tandem trailers.

First off, we’ll be explaining the very basics that make a tandem trailer such a great fit for those of you that are perhaps looking into the logistics of buying one.

The basics behind a tandem trailer

Tandem trailers are easily distinguished from other trailers due to the dual axle, or two sets of wheels, that they have. In a similar fashion to larger semi-trailers, these extra wheels are designed to support heavier loads and offer stability.

Traditionally, tandem trailers are the heavy duty option that is available for those where transportable storage is important.

Heavier loads can be transported with ease, and issues such as the payload (weight of the goods being transported) aren’t as much of an issue due to their more rigorous construction. Tandem trailers, despite being larger than average when compared to other trailers, are surprisingly easy to manoeuvre. The extra stability given by the dual axle is handy for long trips and getting around tight corners - especially on large and complicated worksites.

Tandem trailers tend to be more accessible too, and are ideal for those that often have to move small excavators, other small vehicles, or large equipment such as generators. The ease of which you can move them off the trailer and put them back on is a great thing to have for those long work days.

Tandem trailers, albeit being larger than other types of trailers, come in a variety of sizes, meaning that there’s probably the perfectly sized trailer out there for you and what you need. This particularly becomes important during the buying phase, as the size of the trailer will affect price, customisability, and any other add-on accessories that you may need.

Your budget

As with anything, having a rough idea or a set range for your budget will immensely aid you during the buying process. This will determine what type of trailer that you’re buying, and whether it will be suited to your needs.

Tandem trailers cost anywhere between $1,000 and $5,000 on average, depending on what you need your trailer to do. This cost can go even higher if the trailer requires specific moderations to be made to carry specialist vehicles.

The budget that you set for yourself should take into consideration any of these accessories or modifications that you will need, as well as the physical size of the trailer.

Think long and hard about what you will most likely be using your tandem trailer for. Second-hand trailers are much, much cheaper, but also come with the caveat that they may be difficult to insure, difficult to hook up to your vehicle, and in some cases may also fall under certain road regulations, depending on their age and primary use.

We’ll cover these a bit later in a section devoted to after purchase things to keep in mind. If you are purchasing a second-hand trailer, you will most likely not be looking at things such as mods or add-ons. These, if made, could jeopardise the function of your tandem trailer. You should also be wary of any aftermarket add-ons made to a second-hand trailer, as it can be difficult to certify their quality of workmanship.

Make sure that, if you are going down the second-hand route, that you are supplied with any and all documentation on the tandem trailer itself. If these documents cannot be found, it would be wise to step away from the seller entirely.

Important things to note before buying

Tandem trailers, and trailers in general, come with a lot of considerations that need to be made. These will impact the performance of your vehicle when towing the trailer, how much you can load your tandem trailer, and its durability going forward.

It will be of a huge benefit to you to know a few of the terms that surround tandem trailers. For many first time buyers of tandem trailers, these terms come with a lot of numbers attached, and can be overwhelming to process all of that information during the selling process. These terms all revolve around the function of the trailer and your vehicle and are: Payload - this is the total weight of what your tandem trailer can carry.

The payload is separate from the weight of the trailer. Tow ball load - this is the total weight that your actual vehicle can carry. This can be found by looking through your car’s user guide or manual. Aggregate trailer mass - this is the combined load of the trailer and its maximum payload. This is vital for knowing what your vehicle can handle.

This is all very important, as it is these terms that will provide you with the bulk of the trailer that you are purchasing. Bear in mind that, unlike other forms of trailers, tandem trailers can handle a lot more load and a lot more strain. However, you will still need to take care when choosing one that will both suit your needs and your vehicle.

Tow ball load and your vehicle

The vehicle that you own will determine the size of your tandem trailer, and the weight that it can carry. For many people who own modern pickup trucks and UTEs, and even high powered sedans, this should not be a problem.

The vast majority of these vehicles can handle severely huge loads, so you will have the benefit of not having to concern yourself with the aggregate trailer mass and whether your vehicle can handle it.

The problem lies with many European makes of cars, where towing is perhaps not as necessary as it is here in Australia, where long trips are a necessity.

If you own a European car, you should consult your car’s manual or user guide to make sure exactly what it can carry and handle. If in doubt, or you cannot find the manual, your dealership should have the information on hand.

If you own a second hand vehicle, it will be wise to check whether the tow ball you have is an aftermarket moderation.

Many second hand cars do have an add-on tow ball that has not been created by the car manufacturer. This is important because the tow bar affects the performance and handling of your vehicle’s rear axle.

If the tow ball is of insufficient power, or if it has been added hastily to the rear axle, you will find that - during towing a tandem trailer - your car’s handling will suffer. You will also lose power, and in some cases can be detrimental to your vehicle’s lifespan.

Compromising between tow ball load and aggregate trailer mass

Whilst this can often be off putting and even scary for first time tandem trailer buyers, you should always keep in mind that the trailer you get should always meet your requirements first and foremost. To compromise too much on what your vehicle can handle will mean perhaps that you do not get the most from your investment.

This is where you should have already thought about what will be using your trailer for, and why it will help you ultimately to get the trailer you want. Purchasing from a dedicated tandem trailer manufacturer will allow you to not only their wealth of information, but also their experience.

If you are able to list off the details and what you require out of your tandem trailer, they can often work around the terms listed above and still get you a product that will be very close, if not spot on, to what you will need.

If you are going down the second hand route of purchasing a tandem trailer, you will have to talk to the seller about what they used their trailer for.

They should be able to give you an idea of what is acceptable, and hopefully had the same use for their tandem trailer that you are looking to get out of yours.

The size of the tandem trailer

Perhaps the most important aspect for any type of buyer of a tandem trailer, let alone a first time one, is what particular size or length will be suitable for them. Tandem trailers come in a wide variety of lengths, all of which will provide different benefits for various uses.

For instance, a longer length of tandem trailer will be best suited for those who need it to transport vehicles, whilst a shorter length will be more suitable for those who are looking to carry multiple pieces of equipment. If in doubt, opt for a length that will allow you to carry what you need and nothing more.

This will still allow you to get the most from your new tandem trailer, whilst also ensuring that your vehicle can handle the high speeds and turns along the way.

In some cases, the length of the tandem trailer can also add weight to its overall capacity. This is more of an issue in extra long tandem trailers that are designed for carrying vehicles, where the added weight is crucial in being able to handle the extra payload. Should you require a longer than usual tandem trailer for this purpose, you should once again make sure that its ATM is not breaching the limit of your vehicle’s towing capacity.

If it does, it is not worth the risk, as the added weight of the trailer will compromise your vehicle’s overall performance and the handling too. The tandem trailer length that will suit you will largely depend also on the vehicle that you will primarily be using to tow the trailer, too.

Once again, tandem trailers are more stable than others whilst driving, however compromises may have to be reached to get what you want. If you are buying a second hand trailer, it will once again be handy to know what kind of load the previous owner was towing with it. Getting an idea of this will help you to know whether your vehicle can handle the payload that you will be using, and will make sure that you are getting a reliable tandem trailer under the strain.

Galvanised steel trailers vs painted trailers

You may have seen what appears to be solid steel tandem trailers coasting along the highways and roads of Australia in more recent years. If you are old enough to remember, this current sight replaces the fully painted trailers of old, and the ones that you can still rent from many petrol stations across the country.

These steel trailers are in fact galvanised trailers. In a similar way to current steel building products, such as roofing and beams, these are powder coated with zinc to protect the trailer from rust, general wear and tear, and corrosion of its individual components that come about with age.

This isn’t to say that a painted trailer will fall apart after some time. But for those who are expecting to take their tandem trailer along some bumpy roads and worksites, you will have to get used to the idea of regularly repainting the trailer to mask scratches and the paint peeling off.

Painted tandem trailers are an option for those who are not going to be expecting their trailer to be taking any severe punishment from bumps along the way. This again will depend though on its intended purpose. If you are certain that you will either be using the tandem trailer sporadically, or that you will be using it on smooth paved roads, then a painted tandem trailer is definitely an option to consider.

If you are looking for complete reliability and durability, or even just a no-frills work trailer that will be punished from bumps and dints, a galvanised steel trailer will be your best bet. It will stand up to any type of road that you take it down, and many galvanised steel tandem trailers will always come with some form of long term warranty on its lifespan. Older painted trailers, however, do need to be treated with an air of suspicion.

You should steer clear of any painted tandem trailer that has been on the road for longer than 15 years, as underneath its painted exterior, it could be hiding severe corrosion and rust. This is a particular problem for those who are looking for a second hand tandem trailer as a cost-effective alternative.

Don’t be afraid to ask the seller about the condition of the trailer if it is painted and has done long service, and also be careful to inspect any exposed areas where paint has been removed for any signs of damage.

Galvanised steel trailers will also be perfect for those who will be using their tandem trailer for more recreational purposes, such as transporting motocross bikes. The body of the tandem trailer will be able to withstand not only the constant loading and unloading, but also the nature of the dirt roads that you will be taking them on.

Second hand trailers and state regulations

Each different state in Australia will have varying rules and regulations that will apply to the tandem trailer that you purchase. Whilst most of the regulations across the board are quite similar, some states, such as Queensland, are very strict on tow ball loads and aggregate trailer mass.

Many states will also require you to have a separate plate located on the trailer that has all of these details listed in clear view.

For this reason alone, it is so vital to always get all documentation on your tandem trailer to avoid any breaches of regulation after the sale.

Second hand trailers will not only be a lot more difficult to obtain information from, but they will also fall under a separate provision of requirements if they were built before 1989.

Maintenance of your tandem trailer

The kind of maintenance that you will need to perform to keep your tandem trailer working as intended will rely heavily on the type of tandem trailer that you have purchased.

For instance, heavier load tandem trailers will often require separate brakes to be fitted, whilst more specialised tandem trailers will require its individual parts and components to be treated with extra care. If you are unable to do the maintenance yourself, you will have to settle for taking it to a dedicated service centre.

This will cost in addition to your initial investment in the long run. In this scenario, the durability of the tandem trailer will be key, and you will be looking more towards purchasing one that will require little maintenance.

Things that we have discussed about such as galvanisation, how much leeway there is between your average payload and its total towing weight (which affects its lifespan), are options that you will need to tick off.

For those that are maintenance savvy, you can get away with a tandem trailer that will suit your needs and requirements and not much more else. If your tandem trailer will be frequenting along dirt roads or tracks, you will expect to have to manage the axles, bearings, and the hook-up mechanism to the car.

These will take a battering over time, due to the nature of its use, and if not taken care of can cause a serious accident if something goes wrong. For this case, you will be looking to spend perhaps a little more on totally reliable components for your tandem trailer. This will remove the option to purchase second hand, as the parts simply cannot be vouched for and will not be worth the risk.

Despite all of this, tandem trailers do handle the rigours of work very well, and you can expect to get a fair run of mileage out of your tandem trailer after purchase.

Bare in mind that, if your tandem trailer has been purchased second hand, maintenance will be almost an immediate, if not ongoing consideration for you. If you are definitely going down this path, it will help to get as much information as you can on the condition of each individual component and part that makes up the tandem trailer.

Not only will this help with at least identifying any problems along the way, but will also give you an idea as to how often maintenance will be required in terms of frequency. If you suspect that the maintenance of the trailer will end up costing more than the trailer itself, we would recommend that you steer clear of that particular tandem trailer.

Accessories for your tandem trailer

Specialised accessories, such as drop down vehicle loading tailgate, additional pull out storage, cages, and even some equipment holders are quite common now in new tandem trailers.

The idea behind these is that they will make your life much more easier in terms of using your tandem trailer for its intended purpose. It will also mean that you are able to get the full benefit from your investment in a tandem trailer and the particular need for which you bought it for.

One thing to bear in mind with these accessories and add-ons is that they can quickly add to the overall weight of your tandem trailer, which may quickly affect payload and ATM.

Depending on the vehicle you will be using, you may have to compromise on these accessories if you know that your vehicle simply cannot handle the additional weight. Another issue to consider is that, in the terms of loading tailgate, these mechanisms will require additional maintenance on them too.

For second hand buyers, you should always check to see if the accessories and add-ons that are found on the tandem trailer were done aftermarket. Aftermarket add-ons can compromise not only the structure of the tandem trailer if they weren’t installed properly, but also hinder any chance you may have of being able to insure the trailer.

Any aftermarket add-ons should also come with some documentation as to their use, so make sure once again that this is part of the pack when you purchase the trailer.

Above all, however, accessories are great and can be really handy in improving the accessibility of the tandem trailer for you. If your vehicle can handle the additional weight, and the price is right, we would definitely recommend it.

Tandem trailer fenders

For those who work in rural areas, or are expecting for their tandem trailer to be taken down many dirt roads, fenders are an option that will add further protection to the trailer.

Tandem trailer fenders are identical to truck fenders in their function, and coupled with a stoneguard will make sure that the important components of the trailer such as the axles and bearings will be protected at all times.

This will also make sure that, for those living in rural areas, your tandem trailer will have its lifespan increased. Fenders are a good option for second hand trailers for added protection, but also come with the caveat of being an aftermarket purchase that could compromise the trailer’s function.

If you are to install fenders on your second hand trailer, or if the trailer has come with them already in place, you should make sure that they are fitted properly, as incorrectly installed fenders can affect the handling and performance of both your tandem trailer and your car.

Insuring your tandem trailer

Insuring your tandem trailer will follow an almost identical process to that of your car. Any accessories such as an enclosing cage and even wheel brakes will help to keep the cost of the policy as low as possible.

It is not recommended to insist on a cage to lower the cost, however, as cages themselves can be expensive to fit and will add weight to your trailer. Second hand trailers are bit more tricky, which is where any documentation that you can get on the trailer itself will come in handy.

Many insurers will note the condition of the tandem trailer, which again is a particular concern for second-hand buyers, and in some cases, the state you’re in and the regulations will also impact the overall policy.

Tandem trailer warranty

Newly built tandem trailers will always come with a lengthy warranty on the parts, the body, and every single little component that makes up the trailer itself.

Many of these warranties can provide you with a great deal of peace of mind. If the trailer is galvanised, this warranty could be higher and is ideal for those who expect to put their tandem trailer under a lot of strain during work or recreation.

Second-hand buyers can expect no warranty from private sellers.

If the second-hand tandem trailer is coming from a manufacturer, there may be a limited warranty on the body of the tandem trailer, but no on the components or parts of the trailer itself.

Other things to keep in mind

By now it is hoped that you will know all that you need to make sure that the tandem trailer you purchase will serve you well and be with you for a long time to come.

There are other minor considerations that may also come into effect. These, whilst being small, can be something to think about during the buying process.

The first one is speed restrictions that can be applied to any kind of trailer, and vary from state to state. You should check with your state license provider on what weight these restrictions will apply to. This is more-so a consideration for those who are planning to travel long distances with their tandem trailer. The electrical wiring of the tandem trailer is also on a state-by-state basis, and will affect those who live around state border lines.

A trailer bought in NSW, for instance, will have differing electrical wiring than one from Queensland, and may fall foul of either state laws if the trailer is built in either state. Whilst each state will provide a form of exemption for heavy duty tandem trailers for those who frequently travel across state lines, this may again require varying regulations be adhered to.

This guide provides a run down of all state regulations that will adhere to tandem trailers. Despite all this though, you should still stick to the mantra of purchasing the tandem trailer that will best suit you, and ultimately give you the best value for your money. By doing this, you will also be making sure that you will be getting a handy tool for you that will make your working life much more easier.

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