After doing some research I decided to pickup a little utility trailer to help me with my rehab projects. With my first couple of houses I was borrowing/renting trucks when needed, or having to pay for the delivery of materials. While that method really wasn’t so bad, it was inconvenient and sometimes a little costly. I have a habit of filling up the fuel tank whenever I borrow someone’s vehicle. It just seems like a polite way to thank them. But when you have a 30 gallon fuel tank and almost $4/gallon gas, that can add up to an expensive courtesy for the pleasure of hauling some carpet scraps to the dump.
I looked into getting my own truck. I could either sell my 30mpg sedan for a small reliable truck. Or just keep the car and get a slightly less-reliable truck that would only be used when needed. The idea of having to burn all that extra fuel driving around an unloaded truck doesn’t seem right. Though the idea of having to insure, register and maintain two vehicles didn’t seem like much fun either. And at around a minimum of $5k for a usable used truck, well, that would cover an awful lot of rental fees and filled gas tanks.
But then I see all these great deals on surplus building materials, tools and appliances on craigslist and I can’t jump on them because it’ll take me two days to arrange a vehicle and by then the ‘motivated seller’ has found someone else to deal with. So what to do?
Well it turns out my little 30mpg sedan has a 2,000 lb towing capacity. Who knew? So I hit the internet in search of a hitch. I found this little guy for about $130. It took me about 30-40 minutes to install the hitch in my driveway. It just amounted to attaching six large bolts to the frame of the car. A simple plug-in wire harness, that took another 20 minutes or so to install, provides power for the trailer’s lights.
Then I setup an RSS feed on craigslist for a utility trailer under $600 and waited like a hunter for his prey. A few days later an add popped up for a little 4×8 trailer that seemed to be in good shape and didn’t need any work. So I headed over and met this retired truck driver who rehabs trailers for a little side money. He does a little welding, painting, replaces any of the wood that needs to be replaced and rewires them with light and wiring kits he buys in bulk.
It was big enough to carry 4×8 sheets of plywood or drywall laid down flat (the biggest feature I was looking for, lots of trailers have wheel wells jutting up in the way). It felt sturdy, the guy was honest, and it looked pretty.
“You want $400?” I said, as I checked underneath for rust.
I didn’t say anything. I was checking out the tires and thinking about how much easier this was going to be than renting trucks. But apparently my moment of silence was taken as a negotiating tactic.
“But I’d take $375.”
“That sounds very fair. Let’s do it.”
It rode home like a dream. It’s rated to carry 1,500 lbs. I’ll probably never get it up much past 600 at the worst and usually probably only a few hundred pounds.
With the hitch, trailer, insurance and registration I’m into the whole setup for right around $500. So I think it will quickly pay for itself in saved rental fees, gratuity fuel, and time-sensitive bargain items. Considering I paid $1,500 for the car over 2 years ago I’d say I’m doing pretty good. This is how you setup a property rental business with nice fat margins.