Buying a horsebox - The horsebox test drive

Buying A Horsebox New or Secondhand

Some Useful Tips on Buying a Horsebox & Maintaining Your Horsebox

When buying a horsebox you have to consider several sizes to fit different numbers of horses.

As well as the different features and facilities you require to suit your own particular purpose.

Some horseboxes have day living to accommodate short journeys or days out and some have full living with beds, toilet facilities and everything to make an overnight stay comfortable

A horsebox is a dream come true for most horse owners

Buy a horsebox that suits your own particular needs

That suits your horse or horses and the amount of travelling you expect to do.

You may also want to consider offering friends transport to events and you might be surprised how often you get asked for a ride to a competition or horse show.

Buying a New Horsebox.

Buying a modern horsebox means considering a wide range of specifications and a popular choice today is a small box that is basically a large van conversion.

They’re a little cheaper, narrower and lighter, but can restrict your options a lot depending on what you wish to carry with you. Whatever size you choose you should make sure your horse or horses are happy to load and travel in the space available.

Buying A Horsebox - Small Van Horsebox

Choosing to buy a new horsebox is by far the easiest and safest way to buy your horsebox.

But not all horseboxes are equal and there is significant variation in price and quality.

Just like buying a car you will pay a bit more for a popular brand name with less features and you can pay a lot more for optional extras.

One good way to limit your choice is to ask your horsey friends if they’re happy with their horsebox and would they recommend the seller.

However, basic rules apply when buying a horsebox and you should always think Buyer Beware.

It’s your money and you should always get the best you can before you part with it. Never impulse buy because you like the new fangled thingyumyjig they’ve installed.

It’s a horsebox and it will have to work well as a horsebox, not a media room. Horses eat and poop, they don’t listen to MP3 players or watch DVDs.


Buying a Used or Re-Conditioned Horsebox …

Buying A Horsebox

Secondhand is the most common way to buy a horsebox and by far the riskiest option.

However, by following a few simple guidelines you should avoid the usual pitfalls and acquire a horsebox that will serve you well.

Remember, horseboxes are often left forgotten for long intervals and ebay is littered with descriptions of horseboxes that have only been used twice and been stored in a barn for the last two years.

This just means that regular maintenance wasn’t done and will lead to future headaches.

When buying a horsebox you need to remember they need to be maintained, that rubber rots, metal rusts, wood gets eaten by bugs and some specific problems are unique to horseboxes that have been left unused for long periods.

Things to look for when buying a second-hand horsebox.

The Used Horsebox Ramp …
The horsebox ramp

Make sure it’s easy for you to lift and that the springs or hydraulics are in good condition as well as their fixings and fittings.

Don’t take the sellers word for it, try it.

Check the floor of the ramp. This usually consists of one or more layers of plywood covered by a non-slip surface (such as rubber or coconut matting) with horizontal battens to give good purchase for the hooves.

Check the battens are sound and well fixed. If possible, check the sub-floor; rot here can be very damaging.

Make sure the ramp fits the box snugly along the sides and top when closed and that it lies square when open.

Ramps that have been used on uneven ground can warp and twist and unbalance your horse.

Jump about on the ramp to highlight any rattles or loose fittings. Listen to the sound it makes as this can give you an indication of the sub-floor condition. Don’t worry about breaking it; if it can’t take your weight ou wouldn’t want your horse on it. Repeat this with the front or side ramps if fitted.

Make sure the ramp can be closed securely and if fixings are the screw type, check the threads haven’t been stripped.


2. The Floor of the Horsebox
Buying A Horsebox - Check the floor

The most critical and most forgotten part of a horsebox. It cannot be stressed enough how important the floor is and why it must be in good sound condition.

A horse weighs far more than any man and a hoof breaking through weak flooring at any speed doesn’t bear thinking about.

If you want to risk losing your horse…. then don’t check the horsebox floor.

Mosty horsebox floors are made of plywood, although planks can also be used. The best and recommended layout is to use two floors, the second often being galvanised weldmesh which both supports the wood floor much better and provides a hoof catcher should the first floor fail.

Try and lift the rubber to see the condition of the floor, and look underneath the trailer to see if a secondary floor has been installed.

The main failure of wooden floors is insufficient drainage, where horse urine and water can lay and rot the wood rapidly.

Ifor Williams horseboxes have a known problem with some of their wooden floors rotting and giving way. As I understand it they’re offering metal floored replacements for these models.


3. The Horsebox Brakes …

All horseboxes should be adequately braked. Tricky to test without a mechanic handy, but ideally, reversing the trailer empty on a loose gravel road, without using the reversing lock, should lock the wheels, though in practice this rarely happens.

Check the brake cables or rods for any corrosion or fraying.

Newer boxes may have hydraulic brakes so with these check the fluid reservoir, the cap is tight-fitting and not perished and also the inside of the wheels for any leaks.

Hydraulic brakes in good condition are much more effective than rod or cable brakes and are worth seeking out. Retro-fitting these will be expensive.

Check the reversing lock; this ensures the brakes don’t come on when you’re reversing.

These are usually manual and should be easy to operate, some require a PhD in illogicality to operate so if you’re unsure, ask the vendor for a demonstration.


4. The Horsebox Chassis.
Buying A Horsebox - The Chassis

This is very important and should be checked for any or excessive corrosion depending on the vehicles age, especially near load points, which on a horsebox also includes the loadbed under the floor.

Chassis repairs can be very costly so pay particular attention to this area.

5. Chassis Laden Weight …

Only consider buying a horsebox if it can carry your horse or horses?

Horseboxes have an aluminium plate somewhere (inside or out) that will show how much it can carry.

Don’t be tempted to exceed this as the consequences don’t bear thinking about.


6. Bodywork.

Check it’s all securely fixed and doesn’t rattle when moving – this indicates a weakness or at the least, an annoyance to the horse that may make them bad loaders.

Check for obvious leaks and holes, and that the ventilation points are operating and clear. Check internal padding for tears and fit. Check the roof it’s not uncommon for someone to forget the height of the trailer and wedge it under a low bridge. a barn door lintel or some other obstruction.

7. Grooms door

Can it be locked, do you have the key?

Some grooms doors can be opened from within; is the design of the latch such that it could be pushed down by a horse and open the door?

8. Lights.

Check for cracked lenses, frayed or repaired wires and ensure connectors are in good condition

9. Wheels and Tyres.

Check wheel nuts are tight, correctly fitted and of the correct size.

Check all the wheels and tyres are the same size, including the spare, and the condition of each, ie; not cracked or damaged.

Check tyre pressures and tyre walls for cracking and bulging as well as excessive or uneven wear.

When buying a horsebox ensure that cross-plys and radials are not mixed on the same axle. Front tyres should always be new.

Rear tyres can be Precision Grade remoulds.


The Horsebox Test Drive

Always take the horsebox for a test drive if you are considering buying a horsebox.

Initially you should accompany the owner on a short drive making sure they cover A and B roads.

Watch how they drive and note any unsual gear changes or steering adjustments. Listen to the vehicle and ignore the road. Note any rattles, bangs or grinding and ask about them after the drive.

Buying a horsebox - Always take the horsebox for a test drive

Then if you’re still seriously interested in buying the horsebox, arrange to test drive the box yourself on another day.

Before your second test drive make sure you’re legally allowed to drive the vehicle and call your insurer to make sure you have proper cover for a full test drive.
  • Before the test drive check all lights. Preferably with a friend in the vehicle rather than the seller and don’t rely on the seller to tell you they’re working correctly.
  • Around 10 miles should be enough to check everything is running well and again try to mix A and B roads, with some motorway if possible. Listen for any unusual noises, rumblings, gratings or rattles. Make sure your happy with the weight, the width and the length.
Immediately upon ending the test drive, hop out and put your hand over the wheel hubs – all of them.
  • If they’re hot you have a problem. The bearings could be failing.
  • Bearings will run warm on all vehicles over a long journey if laden, but on an empty horsebox on a short run they shouldn’t get anywhere near hot.
  • Replacements can be expensive, though on some they share common bearing races which are easily and cheaply sourced.
If you’re still happy with the horsebox after your test drive it’s time to haggle.

You should be aware of current market prices when buying a horsebox of that age and condition and if the asking price is low don’t push your luck. If it’s high, ask why.

If the price is average and you’re still keen on buying a horsebox …

  • Firstly, make sure you will have a full MOT or other relevant certificate of road-worthiness.
  • Then mentally list all the problems you’ve found and roughly guess how much It will cost you to put them right.
  • Reduce the sellers asking price by that amount and unless it was made clear that there was some work to do, pitch in with an initial offer of that amount.

Always work towards a mutually agreeable price that both you and the seller are happy with and always ask for those extras that the seller may no longer need.

If you can’t agree on a price for buying the horsebox or the seller won’t budge … walk away.

There’s always another horsebox about to come on the market and it’s sure as eggs is eggs the seller will call you when they’ve had time to think about your offer.