The Perceived "High Prices" of Mfgd. and Custom-built TDs

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The Perceived "High Prices" of Mfgd. and Custom-built TDs

Postby grant whipp » Sun Oct 20, 2013 12:30 pm

I posted this a while back in another thread, but in light of some recent comments and conversations, I think it might need to be said again ... and maybe made a "sticky" of (we'll let the Admins. figure that one out).

For all the folks complaining about the perceived high prices of manufactured or custom built teardrops, I think a little bit of historical perspective is in order:

From the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s, the cost of your typical 4x8 or 4x10 assembly-line mass-produced teardrop (KIT, Kenskill, Modernistic/Cub, Benroy, etc) was on average about 1/3 the cost of your typical full-size family sedan (read V-8 and comfortable seating for 6 or more). If you want to put that in round figures, the car was about $1,500 and the teardrop was about $500. Carrying that ratio into today's market, your typical 4x8 or 4x10 Little Guy should be selling in the range of $8-$10,000 ... when is the last time you saw a standard 4x8/4x10 Little Guy go for $8-$10 K ... :thinking: ...? Yes, modern technology and building methods have been able to reduce the building time & costs of today's assembly-line teardrops, but in the overall picture, it's only made a slight difference.

Here, though, we're talking about semi-production and custom-built teardrops, with amenities far beyond what the typical KIT, Kenskill, etc., ever thought of providing, and (for a custom-built) you can figure on at least twice the construction time and considerably more in materials costs. So, I don't really think prices of $15 to even $20,000 (in some cases) is out of line.

I know this is primarily a DIY-focused Forum, and it's tough for folks struggling to put $3,000 or $4,000 into their builds to relate to the selling prices of commercially-produced trailers, but the "Rule of Thirds" applies to these figures as well ... in a production situation, you take the cost of materials and multiply it by 3 to get your fair value selling price. And if you have employees (beyond your family members), you also need to factor in the additional costs of all the various benefits needed.

So, give these manufacturers and custom builders a little more slack ... as a former Mfg., myself, I know what it takes to bring a teardrop to market and try to make a little bit of a profit ('cause, believer me, if you're not making a profit, you're making a hole that will take a l-o-n-g time to crawl out of!).

Grist for the mill, all IMHO (and hard-earned experience) ...

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Re: The Perceived "High Prices" of Mfgd. and Custom-built TD

Postby robfisher » Sun Oct 20, 2013 4:15 pm

Spot On, Grant. Here's another way to think about it. In the early 1950's the average hotel/motel room rate was $5.90 so you could pay for a manufactured teardrop for the cost of 90 nights in a motel. Today the average room rate is $115. Using the same math the plain Jane teardrop similar to a Kit would be right in line at $10,000 and again our custom drops of today would easily be in line at $15,000 to $20,000.
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Re: The Perceived "High Prices" of Mfgd. and Custom-built TD

Postby citylights » Sun Oct 20, 2013 5:50 pm

Interesting.

The pricing logic doesn't hold up well. Used teardrop can be found starting at $4K on craigs list, both well home built and used manufactured. I think that probably matches the cost of materials in them. New manufactured tears start at about $8k for a shell and go up from there as you add accessories and packages.

Compare that to a 18 foot manufactured square box travel trailer starting on sale at $10k.

I opted to build a tear for 1) materials cost at about $4k plus labor, fully decked out. 2) I don't want to pay $100 per month or so trailer storage fees as I don't gave a place to store one and my tear fits in my garage. 3) convenience and easy towing, tail gate parties in style!

If I would have been smart, I would have purchased one off craigs list, I have seen some sweet deals as I have been building mine.
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Re: The Perceived "High Prices" of Mfgd. and Custom-built TD

Postby Shadow Catcher » Sun Oct 20, 2013 6:29 pm

Ours is custom built and there has been a lot of additional work done and I would bet we are up in excess of $16,000, excluding the $9,000 repair bill from the accident. BUT the experiences in it, PRICELESS!
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Re: The Perceived "High Prices" of Mfgd. and Custom-built TD

Postby Zipline65 » Sun Oct 20, 2013 6:36 pm

Thanks for the pricing information and historical perspective. It's a good way to assess value. And value can be different from person to person depending on their wants and needs.
I know that we can build our own tear cheaper but there is something to be said about picking up a manufactured one and heading out on our first camp experience all on the same day. Some of the manufactured tears are just out of our price range but we found some this weekend in Wisconsin that should run anywhere from $5500. to $8000. depending on the options we choose. They would be more than a shell but not as tricked out as some of the others. It has certainly given us something to think about. We prefer a more minimalist camping setup although a coffee maker is a requirement.
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Re: The Perceived "High Prices" of Mfgd. and Custom-built TD

Postby robfisher » Sun Oct 20, 2013 10:32 pm

citylights wrote:Interesting.

The pricing logic doesn't hold up well. Used teardrop can be found starting at $4K on craigs list, both well home built and used manufactured. I think that probably matches the cost of materials in them. New manufactured tears start at about $8k for a shell and go up from there as you add accessories and packages.

Compare that to a 18 foot manufactured square box travel trailer starting on sale at $10k.

I opted to build a tear for 1) materials cost at about $4k plus labor, fully decked out. 2) I don't want to pay $100 per month or so trailer storage fees as I don't gave a place to store one and my tear fits in my garage. 3) convenience and easy towing, tail gate parties in style!

If I would have been smart, I would have purchased one off craigs list, I have seen some sweet deals as I have been building mine.


I'm not sure why you say the logic doesn't hold up well. I suppose you mean teardrop as compared to the 18 footer. First, it's apples and oranges. A teardrop experience is not a square box experience in any sense. It's like comparing a cruise ship vacation to a hunting trip. Two different deals.

You do point out the cost of ownership beween the tear and the box and there you are exactly on target. Plus you can add the different cost of tow vehicles, price of gas, ect. It's apples and oranges.
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Re: The Perceived "High Prices" of Mfgd. and Custom-built TD

Postby Nicolathecat » Mon Oct 21, 2013 3:57 pm

Personally I think a custom built TD should cost more than one you make at home...after all someone is doing it for you. They are putting their skills, time and money into building you a piece of art you can sleep in. I also think it is reasonable for a custom to cost more than an assembly line teardrop. One of the nice things about a custom teardrop is that you can decide what features are important enough to you to spend the extra money on. :thumbsup:
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Re: The Perceived "High Prices" of Mfgd. and Custom-built TD

Postby working on it » Mon Oct 21, 2013 6:55 pm

The custom builders must also pay legal and product liability costs that a home builder never faces, and in some cases R & D costs for trying out new materials or features ( if TnTTT folks didn't beat them to it). Overhead! I don't think many mfg's run a shop in their backyard, unless they build one at a time. Rent, lights, heat, insurance on a second address adds up too. And what happens if the maker has to eat the unsold costs? How many trailer builders went under since the 40's? Takes guts to try.
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Re: The Perceived "High Prices" of Mfgd. and Custom-built TD

Postby PKCSPT » Tue Oct 22, 2013 3:55 am

All I know is if I had tried to build one it still wouldn't be done and might never have gotten done given MY patience and ability.
By buying one already made and ready to go I have been camping and having a great time. FOR ME the price was just perfect.
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Re: The Perceived "High Prices" of Mfgd. and Custom-built TD

Postby slowcowboy » Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:25 am

when I was talking with a couple new to teardrops at a bank lawn years ago in riverton I was trying to explain I built my own they liked the little guy in front of them till they saw the price tag and they gave up on the hole world of teardrops in one look.

they shook there heads all that money and getting a loan for a tiney camper they said. that was that and that was the end of a new person in the world of teardrops they wrote off the little campers in two seconds. my local car dealer had 5 of them in lander and had them on the lawn of the bank trying to move them.

he never sold a single one!!!!!!!!!!!!

he ended up giving the teardrops back to the manafactures or the dealer as he could not sale a single teardrop.

all he has left on his lot is one rear door reverse teardrop. the only other teardrop in my area is a homemade one in lander and every summer the hole made guys come though on there travels.

I would say its not a real money making deal to manafature teardrops. manafactured and brand new in hard economic times when its so hard to get a bank loan to even buy a car is kinda a bussiness disastor!

most people home build as they can't even get a loan approval let a lone come up with that kind of dough.

when its so cheap compared to a manafactures price with such a huge diffrence in cost.

the home builds win just about every time!

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Re: The Perceived "High Prices" of Mfgd. and Custom-built TD

Postby wagondude » Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:49 am

Those who can, build. Most don't have the knowledge, skills or tools to build, so they buy. Comparing a tear to a travel trailer is the wrong thing to do even though the cost is similar. Just looking at travel trailers will show you that quality, reputation and nostalgia come at a price. A 16' Airstream Bambi costs more than a 30' Jayco fifth wheel toy hauler with all the bells and whistles. You have to absolutely want to have a tear if you're going to spend the money. The cost of a manufactured tear does seem high at first glance. But once you consider all that goes into it, It's really not that bad. The truth is that if you have to mortgage the house to get one, you probably should be thinking about going another route.
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Re: The Perceived "High Prices" of Mfgd. and Custom-built TD

Postby Miriam C. » Tue Oct 22, 2013 10:14 am

:shock: I built mine because I couldn't afford to lay out all the money at one time. It still cost money to build it and yes I put a little better wood in it. I would like to point out that a Vet cost more than a Kia! If you are paying someone to build you should understand this is not a hobby it is a professional trade. Now if you find a hobbyist who is good and will build a cheap td then go for it.

btw I priced Aluminum for my current..... :? That doesn't count trim, screws, glue...I found the little stuff sure added up so in agreement with Grant.
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Re: The Perceived "High Prices" of Mfgd. and Custom-built TD

Postby Verna » Tue Oct 22, 2013 10:30 am

I call it "instant gratification". Instead of my garage bring taken up by a project that I may or may not finish, I get to camp now. I love all of the home builds. I drool over 48Rob 's masterpiece. But, even though I have most of the needed tools, I'm not convinced I could build a water proof teardrop. So, I'll keep my Little Guy Silver Shadow, and I 'll enjoy her...but I 'll still drool over the masterpieces of the home builds.
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Re: The Perceived "High Prices" of Mfgd. and Custom-built TD

Postby roadinspector » Tue Oct 22, 2013 10:44 am

I agree, there are many additional cost to buying mfg. as opposed to home built. I built a cargo toyhauler conversion. I shopped around before I decided to build. It scared me away quickly. From price, quaility of manufacturing, and not what I wanted pushed me to do my build. As far as cost goes, My labor cost are lots cheaper when I'm working for myself than when on someone else's payroll. It's pretty simple, it takes money to play. Choose your poison, go camping and have a good time.
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Re: The Perceived "High Prices" of Mfgd. and Custom-built TD

Postby stumphugger » Tue Oct 22, 2013 4:20 pm

PKCSPT wrote:All I know is if I had tried to build one it still wouldn't be done and might never have gotten done given MY patience and ability.
By buying one already made and ready to go I have been camping and having a great time. FOR ME the price was just perfect.



Same here. I got a Little Guy that the dealer was selling "at cost"--so they said.

I found out it really wasn't for me. I wanted something with more room, for camping a while in nasty weather with my dog. I didn't want a side tent. I'd gone to a teardrop to get rid of the problem of the wet tent.

I found what I wanted, and sold the teardrop after 5 days on Craig's List. The buyer drove 4 hours to get here, and bought it. I got what I paid for it out of it. They got a nice teardrop.
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