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Old 03-26-2011, 02:17 PM   #1
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Smile Cost to build a custom trailer?

OK, I want to get everyones estimate on what it would cost to build out a commercial double drop deck moving trailer into a comfortable Rv for weekend use and eventual full timing. Disregard the cost of the trailer, and assume I will be doing all of the labor myself since I have the skills and contacts for those jobs that may require extra specialization.
I know the price can vary wildly based on materials and layouts, so assume no slideouts for the initial build since these trailers are huge to begin with. Also assume most items will be purchased from Home Depot. etc where possible (Cabinets, plumbing, etc). RV specific items such as windows can be purchased off the net or surplus dealers. Also assume a modest design, no high dollar appliances or items. 2 bedrooms or 1 master and bunks for the kids, 1-2 baths depending on trailer size, average kitchen and living room area using comfortable house furniture where possible. I may possibly build a small storage room/garage at the back where the rear opening is for carrying bicycles, tools, kayaks, etc. The side door opening will be framed up for the entry door and skinned to match the existing exterior. Walls will be framed out so wiring can be run and the trailer insulated (spray foam most likely) for cold weather use. The mater bedroom will most likely be at the front of the trailer to take advantage of the ability to install windows on 3 sides for lots of light/views. Lighting (interior and exterior) will be 12V LED if possible to reduce electrical demands and improve overall bulb life. Bathroom fixtures will be common house/industrial type, not RV since I want comfort, durability and the ability to get parts or replace items anywhere there is a hardware store. The huge size of the trailer should allow for these with no problem. I want to build custom because I can design and build it exactly like we want/need, which is key to enjoyment.

I'm looking for some general estimates based on everyones past/current experience so I can plan my budget and get started as soon as possible.

I don't want to wait years and then reflect on "what could have been" or miss out on the many weekends of camping over the years with the family.

I don't want a factory RV for a multitude of reasons, the basics being they are cheaply built, have small, inferior components and fixtures, and are not designed or comfortable for my size (I'm a big boned/husk/whole lotta man guy). 6'4" and 265lbs just doesn't fit comfortably in a factory RV......I've tried many and have yet to find one I'm comfortable in. All feedback is greatly appreciated. Thanks.

As a side note, work is going to finally send me to learn AutoCad software (Solidworks), which I will use on a frequent basis. Once I get into it I hope to use this to lay out the design. My biggest hurdle is finding the measurements from a trailer, but I'll keep looking around for one I can get into one day to take some basic measurements for the shell. If anyone has or knows of any plans for these trailers on the web please let me know since it will make design that much easier. I'll post my design work once I get started.
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Old 03-26-2011, 03:31 PM   #2
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More than you think. BlizzardND spent $90,000 on his truck. I saw a detailed school bus build thread on another site that spent $20,000 for a job like you are talking about and it was not fancy.

Here's an idea. Go to Home Depot or Lowes or Menards. All of them have free project centers and help to estimate a project. Tell them you have a "house" you are remodeling that is completely gutted. Needs everything except a roof and the outer walls. Sounds a lot like your trailer, right? Tell them you need a complete bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom. You need wall studs, insulation, wiring, plumbing, appliances, fixtures, sink, shower, wall covering, floor covering, wood ceiling, lighting, cupboards, countertop and trim. They should be able to get you in the ballpark on that stuff. Then go online to an rv surplus, there are several online that have stores in the Elkhart area plus ebay. Add up the rv specific things you need: furnace, hot water, fresh water tank, gray water tank, black water tank, toilet, water pump, inverter/charger, 12v lighting, air conditioner, windows, dinette, doors, refrigerator, vents, batteries, propane tank and regulator. Then add about $3000 for all the small items that add up real fast at the hardware store like screws and glue and caulking wire. Then add about $3000 for all the stuff you forgot to figure in. Then add the whole thing together and add 20% to the total. Should be pretty close. No matter what you think it will cost, it will end up being way more.

Despite all that, I'm going into a project myself, against the advice of some of the other posters on this site, but I do know at least $$ wise what I'm getting into.

Hey Blizz- you want to post "the accountant's" breakdown on costs again to scare us newbies properly?

Good Luck
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Old 03-26-2011, 04:54 PM   #3
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Hot Rod,
I like the idea of using the Home Depot Project Center for an estimate. Think I may try that. An 8' x 48' "house" shell. Great idea, thanks. I'll let you know what I find out when I do it. Thanks.

My next issue is where to do the build. I don't have a yard and ideally an indoor space like a warehouse/garage would be ideal for security and year round building. I'll have to factor in the rental cost for that too. Like you, I know it is going to cost money from what I have learned on this site over the last few years, but there are multiple things driving me:
1. The need to have a unit built exactly like I want.
2. A project to channel my pent up creativity (although an expensive one)
3. See #1 and #2 :-)
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Old 03-26-2011, 08:02 PM   #4
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You don't really need indoor space for most of the build. You're not doing slide outs so you won't have big holes in the walls for extended periods of time. When I added windows, a/c, vents, etc, to my trailer, I just saved those types of jobs for the sunny days when I could completely install and seal a window all in one day, and move on to the next so nothing was ever left open, as we were using the trailer on a regular basis at the time. Do the doors and windows first, and then you can keep it locked up, and before that there's nothing to steal inside anyway. Once you are working inside, do the a/c unit and heater first and at that point you are basically self sufficient and it's like doing an interior remodel on a house. Turn up the a/c, plug in your radio, and you are ready to go. All you need is a storage yard that doesn't mind you working on site, and power to plug into.
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Old 03-27-2011, 11:39 AM   #5
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Have you seen 377Pete's thread here: Wall Slide

Somewhat similar build isn't it? I love the idea and think you can do it and do it cheaper and better than a factory build. I see you want home type bath fixtures. But, the toilet must be an rv one I think. No tank and they use very little water and go straight down into the black tank. You wouldn't want a home type toilet. You can get the rv toilets in porcelain so it rides like a home one. Mine even has electronic flush, one push of the soft rubber button opens the drain and runs the water for a bit, then closes the drain. Don't have to hold anything or step on anything. You can get them in "tall" too for a tall guy.
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Old 03-27-2011, 11:43 AM   #6
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And doing it on a commercial drop deck trailer sounds like a great idea too. Heavy duty axles with real air brakes, and good strong frames. I went to the HDT Rally last fall. Lots of those guys seemed to be (or had been) struggling with brake problems and axle problems. I don't think any 5th wheel manufacturers overbuild their frames/axles/brakes. Some of the guys were trying to figure out if they could fit a commercial axle under their 5th wheels.
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Old 03-27-2011, 01:05 PM   #7
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Thumbs up Free Estimation Software - Home Depot.com

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Here's an idea. Go to Home Depot or Lowes or Menards. All of them have free project centers and help to estimate a project.

Good Luck
I went on the Home Depor website last night and clicked under the Professional area. They have free software you can use for estimating jobs, invoicing, etc. I registered and checked it out.....pretty neat program. I'm going to plug in all my data and see what comes out when I have time later.
Figured I'd let everyone know in case they want to try it out. Beats going to the store to do it, and those with professional shops may be able to use some options in the program for their business. Thanks.
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Old 03-30-2011, 01:51 PM   #8
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I am going to guess that you will spend $30K to make it functional, and then a few thousand more as you tune and tweak over the years. My build cost just north of $40K. If I subtract 14K for my truck, and a few K for my high dollar toilet, then add a few K for bathrooms you will have that I did not, including grey and black water tanks, pumps, etc. My build was also only 100 sq. feet, and it sounds like you will have more, so that means more plywood, etc. Stretch the spend over a year and a half and it might not seem so bad, untill you add it all up....
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Old 03-30-2011, 03:46 PM   #9
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the home depot software seems to be a good idea. I used freeware like that to estimate building a recording studio in my home. It was't perfect, but it gave me an idea of cost.

When I built the truck, I used pencil and paper, and most importantly..my wife...she has two math degrees :-D
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Old 04-04-2011, 03:02 PM   #10
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here is the link to the last time I responded to the how much does it cost question.

The main thought is... before writing the FIRST check to buy the truck, budget out weather you can actually complete the project. If the answer is "I can afford 1/2 to 3/4's of it, then shop and buy one thats al-ready done and marked down 25-50%. If you are really handy by one even cheaper and fix it up to your liking or finish someone elses 85% done (then run out of money) projects.

here is the link:
Thinking about my own build?

good luck
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Old 04-04-2011, 03:34 PM   #11
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That list for just materials was over $30K
add truck,
labor to build frame and weld up storage boxes.
labor to build conversion box
labor to wire conversion
labor to plumb and install tanks and water systems
labor to rig up genny and gasoline tanks
labor to fix driveshaft issues
labor to align truck after stretching.
labor to paint cab
labor to paint grill
labor to buff out crappy paint job
labor to replace windshield original one had welding scars in it
labor to adapt seats purchased in Elkhart
labor to fix oil leak on engine
labor to install cd/video and camera system
labor to sound deaden cab
total labor right around $40K

and I spent nearly a year working on it myself
I have at least $3000 in future changes yet to be done

Does anyone just want to buy this rig for a bargain $80K??
I'm thinking of building a 5th wheel toy hauler out of a 35'-40' race car hauler.
-blizz
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Old 04-04-2011, 04:20 PM   #12
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Hey Blizz-

Before you start that new project you should think about a few things:

You should shop around and pickup up something like that for 25-50% off on racingjunk.com, save money and time vs. building your self.

LOL.
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Old 04-04-2011, 06:05 PM   #13
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Ha! I've seen 4 or 5 that would be great replacements, 15-20K can buy a whole lotta trailer right now. Racing season starts in month or so, prices will go up for a while, but I don't forsee a flood of folks that need a 9' RV.
blizz

ps don't think for a minute that the finance director would let me anywhere near a checkbook 'till the check cleared on the Rumrunner.
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Old 04-04-2011, 07:16 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blizzardND View Post

Does anyone just want to buy this rig for a bargain $80K??
I'm thinking of building a 5th wheel toy hauler out of a 35'-40' race car hauler.
-blizz
Hahahah, I'll give you $12,500 right now for that old thing.
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Old 05-12-2011, 10:08 PM   #15
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A newbie here. just want to say that my wife and I are traveling full time in our 1946, 30 ft dropdeck moving trailer pulled by our 1965 White 300 cabover.We have been to 31 states and a little bit of Canada. We spent about 4 months in 2007 building the trailer to fit our needs... I'm 6'7 and like to stand up in my trailer. We have less than $20,000 in the whole rig including a 1991 Cummins 8.3 with an allison 4 speed auto and a $4,500 paint job on the trailer to match the truck. We did all the work ourselves and scrounged for materials, but we have everything that all the new trailers have, like shower, queen sized bed, full size refrigerator, two recliners, but no payments. It all depends on how showy you want to make it. Just do it and have fun, Bob
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Old 05-12-2011, 11:34 PM   #16
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Sounds cool, Bob. How about some pictures? Start a new thread for those so we can see it.
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Old 05-13-2011, 08:18 AM   #17
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Thumbs up Pictures?

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A newbie here. just want to say that my wife and I are traveling full time in our 1946, 30 ft dropdeck moving trailer pulled by our 1965 White 300 cabover.We have been to 31 states and a little bit of Canada. We spent about 4 months in 2007 building the trailer to fit our needs... I'm 6'7 and like to stand up in my trailer. We have less than $20,000 in the whole rig including a 1991 Cummins 8.3 with an allison 4 speed auto and a $4,500 paint job on the trailer to match the truck. We did all the work ourselves and scrounged for materials, but we have everything that all the new trailers have, like shower, queen sized bed, full size refrigerator, two recliners, but no payments. It all depends on how showy you want to make it. Just do it and have fun, Bob
Yeas, pics would be awesome Bob if you could post or link them. This site is all about do-it-yourself builds and keeping costs low, so your setup would be an inspiration to keep the rest of us motivated. $20,000 for the entire setup is less that the cost of a factory trailer of less quality!
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Old 05-15-2011, 12:47 PM   #18
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Good to be here and see what others are building and using. We have a very crappy internet connection here so pictures are out. We have a blog ...here...Travels of the LITTLE GREEN TRUCK that we have not updated in about a year but, in the archives April 19 & 20, 2009 I did the story of the truck and trailer and in the Picasa web albums there is an album titled "trailer" with more pictures. Wife and I love older stuff and would like to see more homebuilt and do-it-yourself vehicles on the road. Bob
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Old 05-15-2011, 02:16 PM   #19
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Okay ltlgrntrk, I see you haven't filled in MN on your visited states. I think you should make plans to come here soon so I can see that cool truck in person. And, I can't find the picasa album for the pics.
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Old 05-15-2011, 04:54 PM   #20
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Default Trailer Pics

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Okay ltlgrntrk, I see you haven't filled in MN on your visited states. I think you should make plans to come here soon so I can see that cool truck in person. And, I can't find the picasa album for the pics.
Bob,
On the album go to the last pics under "Trailer" and it shows them there. Nice conversion job! I like your security system (aka Grizzly). Nobody will mess with this rig! How comfortable is the ride in your tractor? Just curious since it's an old cabover.........looks like it would be a rough ride long haul. Nice setup though, and it goes to show you don't need a $150,000 rig to live the dream!
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