Understanding Pontoon Trailer Pricing

It seems like a simple proposition to calculate the price of a pontoon trailer. 600+ lbs. of steel, two or four tires, some fabrication, wood and carpet for bunks, etc. Steel and tires are commodities, the largest manufacturers only receive a small discount for volume. It seems that trailers of similar size ought to be priced about the same. They are not, 20’ trailers range in price from $1500 to $2500. In many cases the price of the trailer has little to do with the quality of components or labor. It has a lot to do with things that add no value to the consumer. Here are a few of them.

Sales Commission - Adds about 10%+, the manufacturers sales rep usually works on commission. Salesman at bigger dealerships work on a percentage. A $1500 trailer pays the manufacturers rep $50-$75. The retailer pays his salesman on the retail price and it’s often $100+. Your new trailer might be $150-$175 higher because of salesmen's commissions.

Please note: I was a salesman for many years. I’m not saying anything bad against them (us). Some dealers need a salesman to help them figure out what trailers to buy. The retail salesman deserves his commission if he provides you with valuable information about the trailer, accessories and options. If he doesn’t, you’re still paying for it.

Freight - In the modern internet era, many people believe freight to be free. But it’s not. Some trailer manufacturers offer “free” freight. One company builds trailers in Iowa, ships them to Cleveland, OH and then deliverers them into Michigan and Indiana freight free. No one believes those semis run hundreds of miles for nothing. If you’re in northern Wisconsin or Michigan there will be freight cost to get a trailer to you, even if it’s made in state. Either added by the manufacturer or paid to the transportation company there will be freight costs in the price, you’ll pay for it.

How the Seller Calculates Profit - Sellers calculate profit differently and profit margins vary from 15% to 40+%. Dealers who promote winter storage are often reluctant to sell a trailer, which is reflected in their price. A trailer that costs a dealer $1500 with a 15% profit will sell for $1725 ($225 profit). The same trailer at 40% profit will be $2100 ($600 profit). Business must have a profit.

Consider, as much as a couple hundred dollars for sales commission. $100+ freight and maybe an additional $300 (the difference between $300 and $600) profit. That’s potentially $600 and it has nothing to do with the quality of the trailer: steel, tires, lights or finish.

Trailers with real features like LED lights, radial tires, powder coat paint, and disc brakes cost more than trailers with outdated components; incandescent lights, bias ply, spray paint, and old fashioned drum brakes. But often the improved components only add 10%-15% to the cost of the trailer. When shopping for a trailer spend you money on features that will return a benefit to you.

The key phrase in business is Value Added. You can buy trailers a lot of places. From a used car or implement dealer, on e-bay or at a boat dealer. You won’t get much value added from the car/implement dealer or e-bay, seller. Their price should be lower, but you’ll have to make sure you’re buying something that will work for you, there will be no returns. You may have to put air in the tires and adjust the trailer. The marine dealer’s price might be higher but you should get some value added. He’ll make sure the trailer fits, maybe even loading, and adjusting it to your boat. The dealer should check the air in the tires, make sure the wheel bearings have grease, inspect the lights, and give you good instructions on how to use and care for the trailer. You’ll have to decide how much that value added is worth to you. The worse case scenario is paying a high price and getting a poorly built, badly fitting trailer that bucks and vibrates as you travel. The whole point of our web site is to help you recognize and prevent that.