Boat trailer, should you buy or build your own?
There is something very rewarding about building something with your own hands. If you have the tools and the equipment to build your own trailer, it can be a simple fun project to pursue. It is also great for novice welders to gain some experience since it doesn’t have uncomfortable welding positions, nor overhead welding.
It is a project that can easily be done by a single person and shouldn’t take more than a couple of months from start to finish. A proficient welder could complete it in just a couple of days. It is also a fun project to tackle with a friend or family member.
What you need to buy
You can either buy or rent all the equipment needed to do the job. Which mostly consists of a saw, a welding machine, an angle grinder, and welding clamps.
The materials that you’ll need for the trailer are often sold in kits. There are a few specialized trailer part suppliers that can sell them to you, or you can buy them separately. The parts you’ll need are:
- Running gear (hubs, stubs, axle )
- Tires and rims
- Fenders (Optional depending on your local laws)
- Stoplights and cabling
All those parts plus all the tubes, wood, and sheet metal you’ll need to actually build your trailer’s structure.
How much will of it will you do yourself
This project isn’t exclusive to welders either. If you want to do it but lack the skills or the equipment, you can always outsource that part. You can find skilled welders and other types of craftsmen to help you build your boat trailer here.
This project is fairly easy and a great intro to the DIY world. You can also choose to paint it yourself, which is fairly easy to do as well, and also forgiving if you make any mistakes. Nobody pays too much attention to a trailer’s paint job, allowing you to get experience in a low-risk project.
Designing or copying
If you are an engineer then, by all means, fire up the ol’ Autocad or Solidworks and design your own trailer. For the rest of us, it is better to find a professionally manufactured trailer and shamelessly copy it. You can then make superficial modifications like a roller assembly.
If you plan on outsourcing the welding, then remember that before you call the welder, you need to make sure you bought all the materials needed and pre-cut them for him. That way, all he has to do is clamp and weld, wasting no time on anything else. This is a good practice even if you intend to weld it yourself as your time is also valuable. Regardless of how unskilled you are at manual labor, anybody can use a measuring tape and a saw. Just remember the old saying, measure twice, cut once.
After everything is cut, preassemble it to check if you made any mistakes. Then, label parts in a way that makes sense. For example, the outside tubes can all be labeled “A” then add numbers “A1, A2, A3”. Inside tubes can be “B” and so on and so forth. After every tube has been labeled, do a basic drawing of your assembly, remember to include the labels in your drawing as well.
That will all save you or your hired welder time when you finally begin to weld it all together. And remember that hired welders usually get paid by the hour, so time is money.
If you are looking to save costs, then grind it yourself. Some hired welders probably won’t like that because they like to deliver a complete service, but grinding takes a lot of time, and it doesn’t really need much skill to pull off.
The sad reality is that after all the hard work, you probably won’t end up saving a lot of money by building the trailer yourself. A small boat trailer can be bought for around 1500$. Building it yourself, assuming you had all the equipment before starting, can cost around 900$ depending on the costs of materials. Those costs can be higher if you have to hire a welder or rent the equipment.
Buying a boat trailer will also come with a warranty and probably a better, more professional finish. But if you ever want to get proficient at building stuff on your own and tackle bigger, more complicated projects, you have to start somewhere. You have to decide if all that hard work to save a couple hundred bucks and getting the bragging rights of building it yourself is worth it.