Homebuilt teardrop trailers
Homebuilt teardrop trailers are cheap, fun and easy. You can build one from teardrop camper plans or a camper kit for a teardrop.
If you build from scratch, it can cost you literally just hundreds of dollars.
We'll show you how, shortly.
Teardrops are retro trailers that provide you with somewhere dry and comfortable to sleep, a good cooking area and some storage. Teardrop trailer travel is a breeze because teardrop campers are so easy to tow and store.
You can build a teardrop for less than $2000 or you can spend tens of thousands of dollars and include everything except a swimming pool. Then again, there are so many creative builders around, there may even be a homebuilt teardrop trailer with a swimming pool.
In fact one guy spent less than $600 to build his and after listening to people complaining about the price of their own trailers, he named his homebuilt teardrop trailer, Crocodile Tear.
He points out that most teardrop trailer builders give their trailers a name. He found it hard coming up with a unique name, until he hit on Crocodile Tear. The term "crocodile tears" is used when people pretend to cry. The reason he isn't crying, is because he had, he scrounged or he was given almost everything for his homebuilt teardrop trailer.
And this is his explanation for the name:
"Crocodile Tear" is a unique name, I believe. It came about when I saw how much money people spent to buy a trailer they would use a few weekends each year. They’d gripe about the price. Being a talented scrounger, I designed and built my own trailer for $593. When I’d hear them gripe, all I had for them was a crocodile tear!"
You can read all about his $593 homebuilt teardrop trailer here.
And as he found, "building a teardrop trailer is an education, not just a building project".
Some people prefer to build from old plans from the early days of teardrop trailers, most of which were based on a standard 4' x 8' (1.2 x 2.4 m) sheet of plywood. Others like their teardrop trailer travel to be more comfortable and so they to build a roomier and more luxurious version.
Some people even build teardrops that aren't in the shape of a teardrop. There are squared off designs, including some so-called teardrops from the early days. It is your design, and you don't have to stick with any particular shape. You can make it look:
- classic like the original teardrops, some of which were beautifully varnished timber and after the second world war many were covered in military surplus aluminum
- like a house
- like a plane
- like a shoe or a boot so you can be like the woman who lived in a shoe in the nursery rhyme
- or whatever else you like. It's your trailer
Buying a used homebuilt teardrop trailer
Rather than building, you may be interested in buying someone else's used homebuilt teardrop travel trailer.
Many people build teardrop trailers and in the process solve the problems that you may strike in building your own. As a result, you may get exactly what you want without having to go to the trouble of building it.
If you decide to hunt for used teardrop campers rather than build, there are a few things you may want to look out for:
- Has it been built in a way that is safe for you to use. Does it meet all regulations? This particularly applies to any LPG and electricity connections, but may apply to any aspect of road safety and roadworthiness.
- Is it solid, waterproof and well put together?
- Can you get a list of parts, so that if something breaks, you can replace it?
- Why are they selling? People who have built their own teardrop campers tend to keep them unless there is some very good reason to sell.
- Do you want or need the plans and construction manual for later reference? If so, are they available?
Partly homebuilt teardrop trailers
You can buy a trailer as a base for the teardrop and then just build the body onto it. Some kit and plan manufacturers design around standard trailers to make this even easier.
If you're handy with a welder and can set up a straight jig, you should be able to build the trailer base.
The body is usually easier for most people, because most of us have more woodworking skills than metalworking and structural steel skills. However, whatever suits you is the best way to put together your unique homebuilt teardrop trailer.
Because teardrop trailers are so cute, they have a huge following and there is a large community online of homebuilt teardrop trailer owners who will be happy to help you as you plan and build your teardrop.
If you skip building the trailer and buy a trailer base instead, there's usually no welding required. This will probably increase the cost to you, but it will also speed up the process. You'll be camping in your teardrop a lot sooner.
Once you get hooked on teardrop trailers, you find them wherever you go, you'll see them traveling around the countryside. You'll run into people who home built a teardrop trailer and into others who've bought them.
Teardrop campers come in all different sizes, colors and designs with all sorts of different approaches to problems that lead to different features. Despite this, almost every homebuilt teardrop trailer has a lot in common with others:
- their owners are usually passionate about their campers
- they are a lot of fun
- they are fairly simple to build for people who have only basic skills and basic tools
- they are so easy to tow with almost any vehicle that the driver can almost forget it is there
- they don't add much to the fuel bill
- they can be parked almost anywhere
- they are great conversation starters
- they are easy to store at home, either out in the open or in a garage, shed or barn
- they are cheap to build
- each teardrop has a personality and a style that is distinct and this applies even more with a homebuilt teardrop camper.
What do you need to homebuild a teardrop travel trailer?
Getting ready to create the ideal homebuilt teardrop trailer involves:
- Deciding on the style, model or approach that will lead to the finished design
- Selecting the final design
- Deciding whether to build:
- from the ground up
- from scratch
- from a kit
- just the body
- just the trailer and have someone else build the body
- Where you will build it: You'll need a weatherproof area that is big enough to build the largest components. You may not need much more undercover space than that if you can rely on putting it together outdoors as you go. It all depends on your weather patterns and how hardy you are. Once you have the trailer base and floor in place, you can use this as a platform to assemble other components. For example you can get the roof and walls framed as well roof hatches and windows and doors and insulation fitted. Then you can make the hatch for the kitchen and assemble all the bits and pieces that go into and onto the inside and outside. When you have done all those, you can assemble them on the floor of the trailer as you put the camper together.
- Tools: You'll need different sets of tools for different parts of the job in different stages of construction. Most can be bought fairly cheaply if you don't have them already
- Support: There is plenty of support on the internet for how to make a teardrop trailer. Plus, you can buy books, plans, videos and all sorts of other info.
- Skills: don't be concerned if you have only a limited set of skills. Often the most important support is a friend, partner or relative who is prepared to work with you on your homebuilt teardrop trailer project, particularly on those parts of it that require more than two hands. Many hands make light work and sometimes many heads make trailer work.
- Determination: Many people have homebuilt a teardrop trailer over a winter of weekends. So you may also need adequate heating or something else to ensure that you and the materials that you are working with will continue to work despite the cold. This is because some paints and glues need a particular working temperature range to be effective. Using them to build a travel trailer outside this temperature range may give you a result, but later this result may turn into a surprise when the paint peels or the glue comes undone.
- A vision: It can be very reassuring to look up from your hard work and see a picture of a similar camper by a beautiful lake, beach or mountain range. It also helps to have a supportive partner who can do some of the work and inspire you to keep going so you can enjoy your trips together.
- Some experience of teardrop trailer travel, so that you can refine the design to suit your needs. The easiest way to do this is to rent a teardrop travel trailer a few times. It's also worth connecting up with other teardrop owners, particularly at rallies where you can see dozens or more. Any time you are with other teardrop campers and their owners, you have the chance to learn all sorts of things that will save you time and give you a better homebuilt teardrop trailer.
Once you have the idea that you might build an RV, whether a teardrop or something else, you will notice things that you didn't before. For example you might notice there are lots of parts around that can be scrounged and stored for the day you start.
As you go about your normal life, you can accumulate most of the equipment, materials and tools you need for your homebuilt teardrop camper. Many of these will be found cheaply at garage and yard sales or salvaged from other trailers or other projects - yours or a friend's.
So, to sum up, a homebuilt teardrop trailer is a great way to get on the road cheaply and comfortably in a fun camper that will always be a conversation starter.