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An increase in trailer listings is good news for buyers

New hoppers are coming.

At press time I was searching the pricey market for late-model (8 to 10 years old or younger) hopper bottom trailers and made a discovery.

Challenged by a lack of metal and tire supplies, trailer output had stalled in 2020 and 2021. However, a search of an Iowa trailer dealer’s website displayed a healthy supply of brand-new trailers exceeding the number of late-model hopper bottoms listed, depending on the model.

Manufacturers are sending new trailers out their doors at record levels. This resupply will eventually help moderate used-trailer values that have been strong this spring and summer.

Used hopper bottom prices have been exceptionally strong the past five to six years even when other farm equipment was depressed. Compared with pre-2021 levels, today’s hopper bottoms average 13% to 18% higher. This higher value, however, trails behind the astronomical prices now given for high-horsepower tractors and combines.

The exception to this is tri-axle trailers. They are increasingly sought after by farmers wanting to haul more grain a greater distance or facing long wait times to unload at major elevators or ethanol plants. The extra 200 to 300 bushels that a tri-axle offers per load is enough to justify the higher cost.

I found these price ranges on 2018 and younger trailers listed by make. Prices depend on make and options:

  • Cornhusker 50 foot: $46,500 to $57,900
  • Timpte 50 foot: $46,750 to $59,900
  • Wilson 50 foot: $55,800 to $64,500
July Auctions of Note
July 27: A construction and farm equipment auction will be held by Shetron Auction (shetronequipment.com) in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania.
August 3: One of the largest auctions of the year, the AgIron West Fargo Event, will be held in West Fargo, North Dakota, by the Steffes Group (steffesgroup.com)

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Put Tires to the Penny Tread Test

With the price tag of replacing a trailer’s tires ranging from $2,800 to over $5,000 (not including installation costs), a major inspection pointer when buying a used trailer is to determine how much life is left in its tires.

You can buy a certified tire tread gauge or put a penny to work in a pinch. Insert it into a tire’s tread with President Lincoln’s head upside down and facing you. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, the tread depth is less than 2⁄32 inch and it’s time to replace the tires.

If using a quarter, and the tread touches President Washington’s head, then you have at least 4⁄32 inch of tread remaining. Some tires also come with tread wear indicator bars. When they are flush with the adjacent ribs, the tire has no more than 2⁄32 inch of tread remaining.

Hopper Bottoms are 60% Higher Than in 2020

By Andy Campbell

As I write this, I’m considering selling $8 corn for the first time in my life! My excitement will no doubt be tempered if I sell and then corn jumps to $10, or we hit a trucking backlog and I struggle to deliver. The shortages of combines, planters, and tractors are well understood by now. What about grain hauling equipment? Not as dependent on microchips, perhaps, but it still requires labor and basic raw materials to be constructed.

While there are a half dozen quality trailers up for auction right now on tractorzoom.com, that availability cannot keep up with demand. March saw the highest search volume for these trailers we’ve seen to date.

What does this high demand and low supply mean for farmers? I dove into Tractor Zoom’s auction sales of 40- to 43-foot ag hopper trailers to understand this market a little better. Wilson and Timpte definitely dominate the auction blocks. Both combine to cover about three-fourths of the resale market.

Used-trailer sales tend not to be too seasonal, with the exception of spring planting season when overall auction volume is down. The short supply stories you’ve heard are real. 

When looking at the first quarter of the past three years, the number of trailers sold at auction the first quarter of 2022 were only 40% of what they were last year and just 25% of what was sold at auction in 2020. No farmer wants to be stuck not being able to deliver $8 corn! That incentive plus this short supply have catapulted prices to historic highs. 

Looking at just the first quarters of the last three years, the average values this year are 25% higher than in 2021, and almost 60% higher than those we saw in 2020! 

I’m not positive these extraordinary commodity prices are here to stay, but tight food supplies, uncertain weather, and global unrest likely warrant these elevated values. To ensure that your farm can find the hopper bottom trailer it needs, be sure to go to tractorzoom.com to set up a free saved equipment search. Then you can be alerted when the trailer your farm needs pops up for sale at auction or a dealership.

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