Hopper-bottom values are tight
Auctioneer Bill Nelson with US Auctioneers, one of the largest truck and trailer auction outlets in the country, characterized hopper-bottom grain trailers as money in the bank based on how well they retain their value with time.
Certainly, dealer asking prices on grain trailers tend to settle out with age as would be expected with normal wear and tear. But their depreciation is relatively slow and stable compared with other agricultural equipment. I was researching the values of Wilson trailers before attending a sale featuring a Pacesetter trailer. Narrowing my search to trailers that were 40 to 42 feet long by 96 inches wide with 66-inch-high sidewalls, I ended up with 357 online listings of that model for sale.
I winnowed down my research to Wilson trailers built in the last 26 years, and then I crunched the numbers to determine the average price for these grain haulers in the following segments.
- 2013-2017 models: $31,100
- 2008-2012 models: $24,197
- 2003-2007 models: $19,128
- 1998-2002 models: $16,720
- 1993-1997 models: $13,435
As would be expected, the Wilson trailer depreciated roughly $6,900 from the 2013-2017 age group vs. the 2008-2012 group. Depreciation dropped to $5,039 from 2008-2012 vs. 2003-2007.
After that, depreciation slowed, averaging around a loss of $2,400 to $3,293 by age group. Even after 24 years of use, the average value of these trailers depreciated by just $17,565.
For added measure, I took a look at the price ranges for these trailers and found the following:
- 2013-2017: $21,400 - $48,900
- 2008-2012: $18,500 - $33,300
- 2003-2007: $12,900 - $24,500
- 1998-2002: $12,500 - $23,800
- 1993-1997: $9,950 - $22,500
Again, notice the minor difference there is between those values. Wouldn’t it be nice if tractors, trucks, and combines retained values so well?
Dick Phelps of US Auctioneers points out that, “the most common factors of trailer condition are often the wearables. This includes tires or rims as well as corrosion on the frame.”
Phelps is adamant that you inspect any trailer you are considering. “If you can’t be there in person – if you are buying online, for example – then hire someone to inspect the trailer for you,” he says, “At the very least, call the auctioneer and ask about the condition of the trailer. Also, get the name of the seller and call to get information on how the trailer was used and maintained or if it suffered damage.”
Another large part of your research prior to buying is narrowing your choice of trailers. Semitrailers, like semitrucks, vary considerably. There is a wide array of differences in how a trailer is equipped – spring vs. pneumatic suspension, aluminum vs. steel wheels, or conventional vs. ag hoppers. This doesn’t touch on the differences in accessories (such as powered tarps and traps, steel corners, ladders, and catwalks) and their impact on price.