You Don’t Have The Plans I Need. Now What?

Sometimes looking for the right plans for the trailer you need is a needle in a haystack.  Every site has something, but not exact.  What’s next?  When you really need a particular trailer that others don’t offer, custom trailer design is just one possible option.

No doubt, if you can dream it, there is probably a way to build it — within reason, of course.  However, often you can get most of what you need without doing the full-custom dive.  Is it enough?  That’s up to you, because it’s a balance.  When you need something very specific, the best way to get it, is to design it, then build it, the way you want it.  That’s how the world progresses.  And yet, sometimes time, money, or other resources say that’s not happening.  It’s a pickle we know well.

Things We Recommend Before Custom Trailer Design

Custom trailer design is not for everyone.  The cost is much higher in comparison, and there are other barriers too.  Before diving into a custom project, there are a few things you should do.  If you haven’t already, try this list.

  1. Look at the things for your ideal trailer that you can’t find.  Is it the size?  The desired capacity?  or Some special feature?  If you can find most of what you need, then maybe you only have to customize a few details.  Try this article on When It’s Safe To Customize Our Plans.

    You may also find help in browsing through our conversion plans, for Torsion Axle Conversion or maybe a Tilt Top Conversion.

  2. See what is already available in the market.  Sometimes it’s better to just buy what you need rather than reinventing the wheel.  Here is an article on the topic that’s worth reading. – When to Buy, When to Build.
  3. What can you retro-fit?  Can you modify something that’s available?  In other words, can you buy most of what you need, then add or change things to include the unique features?

If these items don’t help, then it might be time to look at custom trailer design.

Engineering for Specialty Designs
The Walking Beam Trailer Suspension is custom engineering.  Plans are available.

The obvious benefits of the list above are time or money.  Engineering is really an investment, an NRE (Non-Recoverable Expense).  Sure, it gives you what nothing else can, but it’s expensive.  If you can get what you need and minimize the NRE, then you’re farther ahead.  When you can’t, custom trailer design may be your only option.

Benefits of Custom Design

There are a lot of really great things that come with custom trailer design.  First, you get exactly what you want.  (Well, within reason.)  Second, you have something you know will do the job.  There’s no guessing about “Is it strong enough?” or “Will it really work?”  We establish that in the engineering.  Third, you’ll have something truly unique.  It’s yours, and you don’t have to worry about licensing or other copy issues.

Finally, you’ll get the best in quality when you build from blueprints by Synthesis Engineering Services.  Synthesis is the parent company of Mechanical Elements.  We’ve been designing custom products for many years and have a lot of experience with trailers of many sizes and crazy configurations.  For instance, read this Case Study of A Specialty Trailer Design as well as this Case Study on Tiny House Trailers.  We’ve designed expanding mobile batting cages, mobile kitchen trailers, fishing ponds on wheels, custom hog haulers, and so many more.

The Cost of Custom

Without a doubt, Cost is the big down-side of custom trailer design.  As in our Article about Free Trailer Plans, the time and effort for creating plans is not trivial.  If we’ve made it look so simple and easy, that’s awesome.  It means we did the hard work so well that you can’t tell.  That’s a great compliment.

Mechanical Elements Build InstructionsThat said, there is a ton of work in every set of plans we have.  We start with concepts, and not a few.  We work through customer needs while evaluating how things go together, to make it easy to build well.  There are a lot of convoluted trailers out there, because they skip or short-cut these steps.  Next is material choice — driven partly by available stock, and mostly by engineering analysis using a variety of tools like FEA, fatigue charts, and more.  Choices, especially for beam shape, depend on the complexities of loading.  While it seems simple, we must analyze the model many ways to be sure it’s good for all the ways you’ll use it.  Design iterations of analysis, choices, tweaking and back to analysis and sanity checks take time to get right.

When we say the plans are fully engineered, this is what we mean.  This is a step we don’t skimp on.

Finally, there are the details.  They say the devil is in the details — and if the devil is the one that consumes lots of time, then that’s certainly the details.  All the views on the drawings, all the notes that give instruction, all the dimensions so you know how to build it.  It’s one thing to design the trailer, and quite a lot more to communicate it all to you.  Yet, that’s what we do, because it’s just part of doing the job right.

Trailer Design Engineering

So What Does It Cost?

Custom design makes your trailer different than any other, so the cost is unique too.  Without knowing what you’re thinking, it’s impossible to guess about cost.  However, here is some direction based on previous work.

There are really 3 categories of custom trailer design.

  1. Minor modifications to an existing design.  If your ideal trailer is an easy change to current plans we have, for instance a change in length, then the cost is less.  We’ve made these kinds of design changes ranging from $500 to $1500+.  Obviously the more complex the changes, the more the cost.
  2. Significant modifications to an existing design.  This is the middle ground.  For instance, if we have a trailer that is close, but you need more capacity, another axle, or extensive size changes, then that fits this middle category.  Prices range from $1000 up to $3000+.  Again depending on the changes.
  3. Full Custom Trailer Design.  This is the hardest to estimate as everything depends on the need.  Large complicated trailers (one previous example:  a 5th-wheel, tandem dully, wide load version tiny house trailer made to specifics) can range in the $5000 to $10,000+ range.  Others types of trailers we’ve done in the $2500 to $5000 range.  It really depends on the amount of work.

The best bet for understanding cost is a discussion with us.  If the numbers above fit your budget, then please give us shout.  We’re happy to help if we can, but please understand that we can’t work for free.

When You’re Ready For Custom Trailer Design

If the options for filling your needs are not readily available, custom trailer design is one option.  As mentioned above, we know it’s not cheap, and it’s not for everyone.  We always recommend that you look at other options first.  Perhaps modifying existing plans, or purchasing an existing trailer to modify is the right choice?  Only you know the answer to that.

Custom design is the top rung in the ladder.  It’s the way to get exactly what you need.  So, if there is no getting around the needs, then you’ve found the right place to get it done.  Please give us a call.


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