craiglist lessons from a teardrop trailer.

The trailer is the most expensive thing I’ve ever bought on craigslist. I knew I had no idea what I was getting into with bartering and inspecting and all the other normal craigslist things we’d be required to do to make it ours. So I called my little brother. Kid’s been buying and selling shit (mostly trucks and other things on wheels) on craigslist since he was 12 years old, and somehow always makes a profit. He suggested a starting price I thought was a little low, but we listened to his haggling advice and off we went. The following story outlines our “Craigslist Experience” and concludes with someone very useful advice for anyone buying anything on craigslist.

As we drove to view the trailer we made jokes about how weird/rude/scary/strange the guy we were buying from might be. Turned out he was totally normal! He seemed to be in his early 30s, talked about his girlfriend a lot, had an adorable little puppy, said he’d gone camping in the trailer just recently and everything worked fine. He told us he had “several people looking at it.” We retreated to discuss our options in the car. After meeting the guy, and seeing the trailer, we decided that the “starting price” my brother had given us was disrespectful – I mean the guy built it himself! We couldn’t suggest less than 2/3 his asking price!


So we up our offer a couple hundred dollars and let him have it. His response: “When can you pick it up?”

Immediately we felt like idiots, we totally could have gone lower – he didn’t even try to haggle! But it was done, so we moved on. As is, the trailer didn’t have lights, a mattress, or an air vent yet. He wrote up a bill of sale with a list of the things he still needed to do, and we gave him a down-payment, set a pick up date, and left feeling pretty pleased with ourselves… for the time being…

In the meantime, David installed the hitch and lighting on his car. When he arrived at pickup the lights didn’t work, but the guy insisted that they worked on the way there, so David assumed something was wrong on his end. The guy promised the mattress would arrive in two weeks, so David paid the rest of what we owed and took it home.

Turns out the lights didn’t work. So David spent three weeks fixing them, only to eventually realize that because they were mounted on wood, they weren’t grounded, and therefore had never worked. We also never saw a mattress.

Once the lights worked we needed to get it registered. We set out on what we thought would be a quick trip to the town office. Instead, we were informed that since we didn’t have a title, we needed to get it weighed and inspected, though it didn’t matter in which order. Unfortunately, that wasn’t true. We arrived 30 minutes later at the only trailer “enhanced inspection” place in the county and were told they couldn’t do anything without a weigh slip. So 45 minutes later we arrived at a truck stop to weigh the thing (the office window was above our heads, we had to jump to talk to the lady inside). Guess what – the trailer was too light to weigh! After two hours of no progress we went home defeated.

A month later we tried again. This time we went to a quarry to weigh it and were successful ($20…). Then we took a 45 minute drive to the inspection station where we were told we needed the “bill of sale” as proof of ownership. I had even called first to make sure we had everything we needed! Thankfully, I worked my magic (more like bitched enough) to convince the guy that the pathetic bill of sale was not what he was looking for, it didn’t prove ownership anymore than a grocery receipt would. We walked away with a successful inspection ($60…)!

… straight into the town office. On the way in David grumbled sarcastically, “This better not cost more than $2.”

$260. Taxes. What a bitch.

We learned a heck of a lot from this experience. To make it easier for you I’ve spelled them all out below. I think most of these suggestions could be used for any craigslist purchase, teardrop or otherwise.

1. Don’t ever assume anyone is nice.

I don’t care if they’re cute, if they have a puppy, if they seem old and sweet, if they seem like awesome parents, or even peaceful hippie yogis. Every. Single. Person. you buy from on craigslist is out to screw you out of all of your money. Now this may not be true, this probably isn’t true, but you need to treat every aspect of your purchase like it is true. Especially if what you’re buying costs a lot of money… like a teardrop trailer.

2. Never EVER pay a dime until everything is there and working. 

Unfortunately, the guy lived two hours away from us and frequent travel wasn’t ideal. However, if we were smart, which we weren’t, we wouldn’t have spent a penny until everything was fixed, we had the mattress in hand, and we knew for certain that the lights worked. Don’t bet your money on trusting a stranger, no matter how nice they seem.

3. Always offer way lower than you want to. Listen to your brother.

They’re a stranger, offending them is not something you should worry about. Let them haggle, see how far they’ll go. Don’t offer your highest price because you never know what’s on their mind. We overpaid for the teardrop, and we knew the second he accepted our offer as is. Should’ve listened to my little brother…

4. Taxes are a thing, whether you like it or not.

If you’re buying a car, trailer, anything that needs to be registered with the state you’re required to pay sales tax at the town office when you register it. Keep this in mind when you set your bottom offer. We were totally naive and ended up paying way more than intended.

There’s not a lot of information online about teardrop trailers. There’s even less about how to register one that doesn’t have a title. Even the women at the town office and the men at the inspection office were confused. Don’t get rolled over, stick to your guns, and hopefully the information I’ve provided can help you a little bit.

Even if you’re not buying a teardrop keep these things in mind. Here’s some other good advice from other bloggers if you’re not satisfied with my list (and you shouldn’t be!). Buying and Selling, Craigslist Safety, Successful Buying.

Anyone else have a good craigslist story, or some good lessons?


3 failures of minimalism.


on being 23.


  1. David Medici

    I hear you. You never know what they are really up to. I went to look at a hand made teardrop and found that there were so many things wrong with it that the owner/builder would not attend to, that I thought to myself. What kind of crap is this guy pulling. The camper sold but not to me.

    That poor unfortunate girl who bought the hunk of potential junk. I hope her boyfriend or husband has some skills.

    • It’s discouraging to encounter folks who treat others like that. Perhaps she and her significant other will figure out how to fix it on their own, as we did. If nothing else, it’s always a learning experience!

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