Archive for January, 2010

How Much Is My Trailer Worth?

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

“Tiny” Berry’s pop was an Airstreamer, back around the time of the golden age of Airstream trailer travel. “Tiny” though, is a motor home owner and doesn’t have the energy or desire to fix up his pop’s old ’64 Tradewind, and wants to sell it. He called a friend, who in turn called me, to see if he could get an idea of what the trailer might be worth.

‘64 Trade Wind, curb side
’64 Trade Wind, curb side view.

I always dread that kind of call because usually there is little information, and perhaps only a handful of photos to look at. This happened to me a few months ago when a friend asked me if a trailer on eBay was worth the Buy It Now price. I gave him my usual admonitions and repeatedly stressed that he shouldn’t buy until he’d seen it and inspected it in person. He really wanted it though and trusted the seller.

He agreed to the price and drove to Idaho to pick it up. At first, everything seemed copacetic, but when he returned, he learned the truth. Not that it is as bad as it sounds, but in the dead of winter, he discovered that both the auxiliary and septic holding tanks were full, and worse, the dump valves were stuck.

“How can anyone tell such a bold face lie with his children standing next to him?” It was a puzzle to my friend, but unfortunately, when it comes to money, people will lie to their own mother. So, we shouldn’t be surprised when they lie to a stranger, or even to a friend.

He didn’t want the tanks to freeze, for obvious reasons, but couldn’t drain them either. Local RV service centers turned him down, most saying that they didn’t have the facilities to dispose of the contents. This was a lie too of course. They simply didn’t want the job.

For a week, my friend kept a heater going in the aft compartment. Then he decided on a plan of action – you might want to skip the rest of this paragraph if you’re squeamish, and maybe you should turn your children away from the screen. His solution for the septic tank was to lower the hose from his wet/dry shop VAC through the toilet, a straight drop into the holding tank, and suck out the contents. The procedure required several trips to flush the contents down his home toilet.

I admire his gumption. However, the auxiliary (wash water) tank needed a different solution though and that’s when he called me for help. Not only was the dump valve stuck, but also the handle had been pulled off. Fortunately, the VAC library has the shop manual for his year trailer, and I’m the librarian. I noticed in the diagrams that there was a clean out plug located under a twin bed. So, the idea I had, was to feed a hose through the clean out, down into the auxiliary tank, and pump out the contents. It worked! He calls me his “hero” now.

I’m not sure how I feel about that. There is still the problem of fixing the dump valves, but that can wait until the weather warms up. Hopefully, we can get them working again. If not, they will have to be replaced and that is problematic. It involves dropping the pan, and using a hacksaw, among other things. But at least the tanks are empty!

“Tiny” Berry’s ’64 Tradewind isn’t in another state. It is just seven miles or so from where I live. I’m much more comfortable with that. When I can inspect a trailer in person, I am more confident in giving an appraisal.
‘64 Trade Wind floorplan
I love the layout and the wood cabinetry. At 24’ feet, it really is just the perfect compromise. It is big enough for extended travel but small enough to slip it into small campsites, such as what the National Parks offer. It is easily towed with a half-ton pickup too.

The good news – it is all original, the shell is in great condition with few dents or scratches, and the chassis appears to be in very good condition. The bad news – the vent covers have all been compromised and water leaking in has damaged a couple of cabinets and rotted the floor in a number of places; and the wheels are the split rim type.

Just to get it ready to sell “Tiny” has a big clean up job ahead of him, will need to replace tires and rims, repack the bearings, and ought to replace the dead battery and install new propane tanks. The very first thing I recommended he do though is to cover the broken vent covers with plastic and tape them down. There is no point in doing any other repair until the leaks are stopped and the wet areas have dried out.

He asked me if I thought he could get $2,000 for it if he did all that, and I am sure he can. With a little more work on it, such as replacing the vent covers, and replacing a cracked pane of glass, he could easily raise the value to $5,000, but he doesn’t seem inclined to do that.

‘64 Trade Wind, street side
’64 Trade Wind, street side view.

Someone will buy it for around those prices and will have a very restorable and desirable trailer. I only hope that they restore it to its original condition as opposed to gutting and refurbishing it. If I had the facilities to do so, I would have made “Tiny” an offer right there and then for it, but I don’t and so I didn’t. As my wife says, they are too big to collect.

About the Author

Hi, my name is Forrest McClure. I've been writing for the magazine since its inception. My wife and I travel with our 1966 20' Globe Trotter or our 1986 32' Excella. So, my primary interest is vintage travel trailers.