You read our post on the average lifespan of motorhomes and found it very interesting. You’re about to buy a slightly smaller vehicle like a travel trailer. Since RVs and travel trailers are not the same, you’re very interested in how long your travel trailer will last. How many years should you expect out of the vehicle?
Travel trailers last upwards of 10 years, sometimes as long as 15 and even 20 years depending on the brand. If you own an Airstream, with its high quality and heavy-duty construction, your travel trailer might last around 40 years. That’s twice the average lifespan of an RV.
In this article, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about travel trailer longevity. From which brands may outlast the competition to the reasons your trailer’s life may be shorter than average, there’s lots of great information ahead!
What Is the Average Lifespan of a Travel Trailer? The Importance of Trailer Brands
When someone says travel trailer, they could be referring to a teeny-tiny teardrop trailer or a 30-foot trailer on-par with an RV. Since the definition of a travel trailer is so loose, it’s understandable why its lifespan estimate varies.
At the very least, a travel trailer will be good for 10 years or thereabouts. You may be able to squeeze several more years out of your trailer, extending its life for 12 or 15 years. Some rather exceptional trailers are still in usable condition 20 years later.
That’s the key, by the way, keeping your trailer in usable condition. If the trailer begins having roof leaks or other structural damage around year seven, you might not even get 10 years with it. Being in your trailer is no longer safe, yet the hefty price you’d pay to repair the trailer is rarely worth it. You’d be better off funneling that money into a new travel trailer.
That has you wondering, does the travel trailer brand play a role in the durability of your vehicle? To that, we say absolutely!
Like with everything in life, when shopping for a travel trailer, you get what you pay for. If your travel trailer was $10,000 or under, then it’s probably not the greatest quality. It’ll work well for the first year or two, maybe even a few years after that, then you’ll begin noticing problems. Those problems will mount and before you know it, it’s time to bid adieu to your travel trailer.
Investing $35,000 and up for a travel trailer ensures a higher-quality model. Even if you order your trailer without the extra bells and whistles, you can expect that it’s got a good structural base and well-built features that will take you far.
Airstream is a great example of that. We won’t sugarcoat it – Airstream’s travel trailers are among the most expensive available. Their mini trailer the Basecamp is over $39,000. The mid-sized International for six passengers is almost $95,000, and their biggest offering, the Classic, is $161,900.
The aluminum framework of the Airstream is not only iconic in its recognizability, but it’s one of the many lasting features of this travel trailer. As we mentioned in the intro, Airstreams have been known to be usable 40 years after you buy one.
Other travel trailer brands that are renowned for their durability are Keystone RV and Forest River.
Keystone’s comfort travel trailers feature laminated surfaces and lightweight frames. Their premium travel trailers are built to withstand even more, but not as much as the Keystone luxury trailers. With all the tech you could want in a travel trailer as well as weather-resistant features, these trailers start at $30,285. We’d say it’s worth it if you care about a long life for your trailer.
Forest River’s travel trailers feature insulated shells, lightweight frames, and luxury amenities that will make roughing it in the great outdoors even more preferable than being at home sometimes!
We do want to mention that whether you buy your travel trailer new versus used will also impact its lifespan, even if the trailer is from Forest River or Airstream. A used travel trailer is already partially into its life, maybe even midway through. For however many years old the trailer is, you get that many fewer years with it.
Which Issues Can Shorten Your Travel Trailer’s Lifespan?
The difference between the travel trailers that last decades and the ones that crap out on you after five years is that those trailers are riddled with serious issues like the following.
Few issues are a louder death knell for your travel trailer than a damaged roof. Holes, tears, punctures, and yes, water leaks cause hugely expensive damages you’ll spend thousands on to repair.
Not many travel trailer owners like to get on their roof, especially if your trailer is sized closer to an RV. You’d need a ladder to reach the roof, and even when you’re up there, you have to tiptoe to avoid stepping on vents and antennae. Despite the inconveniences that being on your travel trailer’s roof can bring, it’s an unavoidable part of owning one of these vehicles.
Failing to care for the roof will lead to its downfall sooner than later. Since you’re never up there, you have no idea what the condition of your roof is. It’s only when you notice water stains on the ceiling of your trailer that you realize something’s horribly wrong.
Even if you’re inspecting your roof every month, if your travel trailer is cheap, the roof material will be as well. We discussed trailer and RV roofs here. If you need a refresher, your roofing may be made of one of four types of materials: rubber EPDM, rubber TPO, fiberglass, or aluminum.
Rubber ethylene propylene diene monomer or EPDM won’t dent or scratch, but it punctures very easily. Rubber thermoplastic polyolefin or TPO is plied rubber. It too doesn’t have great durability unless your rubber TPO roof is multi-layered and finished with a laminate.
Fiberglass roofs can withstand fire but not overly hot temperatures, as then the material will suffer thermal splits. Aluminum has no heat resistance, even less so than fiberglass. It won’t puncture easily, but aluminum hides water damage, which is no good.
Holding Tank Leaks
Travel trailers, like RVs, have holding tanks. We just wrote a post about how to flush and clean your holding tanks that talked about the three types of tanks. Here are the basics on holding tanks from that post.
The blackwater tank is where your toilet waste goes, provided that your travel trailer has a toilet. Some trailers and RVs include graywater tanks for sink and shower waste, but not all. The third tank is your freshwater tank, which sends potable water to your sink and shower.
Any of your holding tanks can leak, especially if they’re overfull. After a while, the waste and water inside the tank have nowhere to go but out into your travel trailer. If it’s the blackwater tank that leaks, this can be especially traumatizing.
The tank itself can crack, which will cause leaks, but cracks elsewhere are common. For example, the drainpipe connection between the blackwater tank and your travel trailer’s toilet might crack as well. The vent connection has a seal that can also degrade with time.
Fixing damaged holding tanks isn’t necessarily difficult, it’s more the water damage that can accrue from these leaks. If the water damage is severe enough, your travel trailer will never be the same and you’ll have to replace it.
Bad Electrical Lines
Have your travel trailer’s lights been wonky lately? From the interior lights to the exterior ones, sporadically working lights are not only inconvenient, but dangerous as well. If the brake lights stop working when towing your travel trailer, you could end up in an accident.
Sometimes on-off lights, as well as dim or flickering lights, are attributed to a bad converter. The converter takes 120 volts of alternating current or AC power and makes it into 12 volts of direct current or DC power. If your converter doesn’t work, your batteries have no safeguard to stop them from draining past a certain point, so they deplete entirely.
If it’s anything but a converter issue, such as faulty wiring, then your travel trailer is going to be on a used RV site for sale sooner than later.
What Can You Do to Make Your Travel Trailer Last Longer?
Whether yours is an Airstream or a slightly less expensive travel trailer, you’re fond of what you have now and want to keep using it for as many years as is safe to do so. Here are some tips that may expand the longevity of your travel trailer.
Buy a Travel Trailer with Fiberglass Construction
Of all the travel trailer materials, fiberglass remains the premium for a reason. If you’re ever caught in a sudden rainstorm or even hail, you won’t have to worry about the shell of your travel trailer being wrecked from the weather. You certainly cannot say that about an aluminum travel trailer.
The insulation abilities of fiberglass are another great quality. Insulation maintains the temperature better so the cool air of your trailer in the summer will stay that way. In the winter, your insulated fiberglass trailer will keep your nights nice and toasty. You’ll rely less on your heater or air conditioner, better maintaining these units so they don’t break.
Maintain Your Trailer
Speaking of maintenance, it’s your best defense against a prematurely aged travel trailer. There’s lots you can do to maintain your trailer. You definitely want to keep an eye on your electrical connections, testing them every few months to ensure your trailer’s lights work.
Many travel trailers come with awnings, and these require maintenance too. Keep your awning clean, as gritty dirt and small stones can rip the fabric. Sometimes bees will make their home in a dirty awning too, and that’s a horrifying sight to greet you the next time you unfurl your awning.
When you do clean your awning, let it air-dry completely before you roll it back up. If you don’t, mold and/or mildew will develop, as these bacteria love dark, moist, warm environments. Keep your eyes peeled for small rips and tears in the awning and don’t wait to fix them. The holes will only get bigger the longer you ignore them!
Check your travel trailer’s filters and change them out when they’re dirty. Inspect the seals throughout your vehicle, including exterior seals. If any are loose, ripped, or just gone, replace them. Test your batteries. Do a tire pressure check. Oh, and yes, get on the roof every now and again just to make sure everything is good up there.
Skip the Slide-Outs
Some travel trailers include slide-outs, which maximize the available space per floorplan. This seems like a convenient feature, but it can come back to bite you. The seals around the slide-outs will fade fast due to friction. The side-outs can also get stuck fully open or partially open. Perhaps your slide-outs are closed and won’t open back up again.
Slide-outs are a hassle and could be quite expensive to repair or replace. We’d suggest foregoing slide-outs altogether. If you must have them, know what you’re getting yourself into.
Keep It Clean
Grab a hose and get ready to clean your travel trailer’s exterior. A spotless vehicle is one in which you can more easily notice issues such as scuffs, dents, broken seals, or even water damage.
Salt from the ocean can stick to your travel trailer and corrode the metal, so if your road trips always include a jaunt to the beach, you’ll need to be diligent about keeping your travel trailer clean.
The lifespan of a travel trailer is 10 to 40 years depending on the brand, whether your trailer is new versus used, and if you maintain it. We hope the information in this article helps you get the most years out of your travel trailer!