Buying a Catering Trailer - Beware of What You Are Getting

by Angie

Hi David,

Just an update I bought a catering trailer from eBay for a lot of money, because it looked great and it came with up to date gas and electric certificates.

Stainless steel all round spotlights in the roof and sides, all griddles, bain marie and generator included etc

Was buzzing and spent all my redundancy money on it.

But I decided to get the gas and electric checked just for peace of mind. Really....the chassis and lights were not earthed neither was the generator, re wiring was taped together behind the fridges with sellotape !

The cables for the generator were illegal and the ends were the wrong way round. The rubber gas piping was out of date by two years, cracked eroding and leaking gas, the regulator just spun round on the bottles and the stainless steel all way round including the counters were the griddles sit was cladding.

I could go on and on, both the gas and electric people gave me warning notices...anyway we are nearly sorted now but has cost us another grand in money.

Warning to all watch what you buy, pull equipment out, look in cup boards, check dates on rubber gas piping check certificates and see if anything has been added since they were done.

Ask to see the griddles electrical stuff is working look at regulators...mine was a death trap and through ignorance i didn’t know it was an expensive lesson.

Anyway I’ve got a site and a safe van and really looking forward to trading after nearly 4 weeks of tears, frustration, anger and sleepless nights.

I’ve just heard of someone who bought a trailer and the griddles don’t work..Poor things, my advice to new starters - ITS YOUR MONEY YOU WOULD NOT BUY A HOUSE/CAR WITHOUT CHECKING EVERYTHING!!!!

Thank you David for all your support and answering questions this has been amazing :-)

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I bought a trailer as well which had gas and electric certificates but were not legal
by: Anonymcolinous

I bought a 18ft showman trailer for quite a lot of money from ebay, I even travelled from Ireland to England to buy it which cost a bit. Anyway I checked trailer all over and new it needed some work doing to it, but when I got the gas man in he told me that the certificate had been made up, the work he had to do cost me another £450, after this I wanted to check the electrics, everything was working ok but again the certificate was made up, and not legal.
No matter what you think is right I think its like buying a car, you just dont know what lurks under the shell.

travel chef
by: Anonymous

yes you need to check the appliances but on mobile catering unit the chasise is most important

by: Magic Mike

Total cowboy; shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a spanner!

Gave them a brand new trailer to make some changes to (move and install some appliances)

Caused frost damage to the brand new water heater by failing to drain the water out in freezing temperatures.

Put a hole right through the trailer then tried to hide it from me by filling and painting over it (badly)

Nothing they fitted was flush or even with anything else.

Removed one of the two brackets anchoring a fridge in place to use elswhere leaving the fridge unsecured.

Broke a unique thermocouple on a very expensive oversized gas ring and tried to make out as if it was already broken.

Very very poor workmanship and engineering all around. Appliances secured to tables by putting screws through the rubber feet!

Avoid at all costs. If I could pay him the money again to just put it back to how it was, I'd do it and run away.

Buyer Beware !!
by: Glen

I agree with very very careful when purchasing a trailer from anyone...eBay seller and distance away especially...I had a worse experience 2yrs ago...

Saw a nice van on eBay pics looked good seller described it as a bargain....12ft twin axle ready to go. Now I know it's my fault at the end of the day and I'm paying the price to this day.

Gave him a £250 holding deposit...hired a truck with a towbar and off we set from Aberdeen to Leeds to collect it. Got there looked it over although not as good as I should have paid the remaining £1750 and off we set for the journey home.

Halfway back and by this time it was getting dark I was being flashed by motorists behind me...pullled in to a layby and rear lights wasn't working. That itself should have been the omen. After a couple of hours we had just rear fogs working nothing else and continued our journey.

Parked it on my mums drive and thought I got a bargain. The next weekend I went to look it over closely with a friend who has one already working.
Here's what he found...

Walls not food grade or fireproof (need replacing)
Flooring not non slip (need replacing)
Main fusebox unsafe (need replacing)
Griddle rusted and won't pass EH standard.
Holes in floor covered by Lino (need new floorboard)
LPG gas lines cut or damaged under the trailer (need new)
Of 6 burners only 2 are workable.
Electrical wiring would not pass PAT testing.
Serving canopy beginning to collapse under weight (needs replaced)
Worktop badly needs replaced.

I have managed to replace the floorboard and replace new non slip flooring. I also bought and replaced all interior walls. I then bought a new worktop too.

Now money has run out and van sits on the drive my dream still not realised!

It now needs new griddle and Bain canopy installed all new electrics and all new gas lines installed then a outside reprint. All in all Iv spent £3250 and no closer to working for myself.

I'm so dejected I'm thinking of selling it as it stands to someone who wants to finish it.
Oh and on top of all that the savings I had left I had to use to bury my father who died 5mths later with no insurance policy.

So please please please check and check and check everything before parting with any money.
Or you will end up like me....broke and with a trailer and a dream I can't put into action.

new trailer
by: Anonymous

Beware of even new trailers, had mine 2 years and all ready self destructing. Look inside dean boiler, mine was not sealed properly so had to drive all the way back with it, also lowest setting is to high. Just been told pipes leading up to appliance are to suprisingly thin and can easily get blocked and do.Probably why hard to light.Rail over top of hatch joined in middle,why!!!! lets in water.Vents put in to tight i think now cracking.I think wrong sealant round floor to wall all come away. Made not to last.Made on the cheap, won't be buying another A.J.C trailer.

Caveat emptor
by: Norman

Latin for "Let the buyer beware".

Purchase of catering trailer
by: Vivienne

I too have recently purchased a catering trailer, and feel I've been ripped off, on closer inspection It has become apparent that all the wires underneath need replacing.

The jockey wheel has had better days and the stainless steel panels that look great round the van are hiding corrosion. The fat fryer does not work, and the van leaks everywhere, I am still trading and keeping my chin up, but I feel there are some dishonest people out there ready too sell you anything.

Thats Great News
by: David

That’s great news, I hope you do well out of it. Thanks for letting me know how much you are currently paying for insurance as this will save someone else a lot of money. Please keep us updated and let us know how you get on, best of luck

Catering Van
by: Anonymous

Hi dave,

I have sent them another e-mail and received a reply back today from the council but from a different department, and they state that they do own the stretch of road and don't have the authority to issue permits but i'm allowed to trade from there and the only time they would get involved is if someone makes a complaint or I cause an obstruction to the highway, neither would happen :)
And as for the van insurance i'm using Aviva and have 3rd party fire and theft, and it's only costing me around £75 a month, I also have £150 excess....

Mobile Catering Setting Up
by: David

I would try and contact them again Roy either by email or a phone call. If you still get no response then you can decide if you still want to set up and let them come to you instead.

Also out of interest how much are you paying for the van insurance as another reader has just indicated that he is paying £300 a month for his van insurance which is on the high side. Thanks for you help!

Catering van
by: Roy

I'm in the process of buying a burger van, I have seen photos and have been speaking to the owner on a number of times asking a lot of questions and getting all the answers I need.

Ive never done anything like this before and have already got my food and hygiene certificate, got the van insurance sorted and when I pick it up all I have to do is tax it as current mot runs out April 2014.

I also have public liability insurance sorted and as soon as I get the go ahead from the council I will pay for that.

The only problem I'm getting at is that the area I will be trading in belongs to another council, they have been great on telling me how much a permit will cost and even sent me pdf maps of areas that need consent including trunk roads and industrial sites but they seem to have stopped replying to e-mails so do I just set up on 1 of their trunk roads and wait for them to either move me on or ask for a fee, or shall I try e-mailing them again?

Buying a Catering Trailer Beware
by: C

i recently bought an four year old ajc catering trailer for £4000 and was told it would be ready to work straight away.

The gas man took one look at it and told me the way the bottles are connected was illegal, a gas leak in the bain marie and water boiler and the water heater for hand washing didnt work so had to be removed.

This cost £212 to get right and cost me a weeks trade. the griddle was rusty and every nook and cranny seemed to just leak grease.

We have had to deep clean the trailer four times. what im trying to say is even if you get your trailer from a trustworthy source beware THERE IS A REASON THERE SELLING IT IN THE FIRST PLACE the most likely reason is its a death trap and they know it.

Also on a unrelated note can anyone tell me a good estate or van that is capable of towing 1500kgs but would have a comined weight of trailer and vechile of less than 3500kgs.

ps i am not wanting a land rover or a 4x4. I want an estate or a car as im a young man and insurance per month for me is more than most adults pay in a year.

thank you for your time. pps is ncass worth the 200 they want to join thanks again

Never careful enough when buying a trailer
by: Belkhier

Hi Angie, I'm sorry you had to go through such bad experience, but certainly we are all learning from it thanks to your warning.

I really appreciate it. I guess going through stuff like this when you're trying to get your business off to a start is a big blow, but by getting on with it and not giving up.

You've proved how determined you are to succeed in this business and that I'm sure it's made you stronger.

I'll have to buy a catering vehicle soon and now I know just exactly where to check thanks to you and of course, David as well, who passed this onto us. I wish you the best luck in success in your business.

by: Kulie

Hi, so sorry to hear that people can be go cruel but ignorant on the consiquence to other people's Safty. Glad you got there in the end though determination pays off and you win now not them. Good luck

Buying an used trailer
by: Excel Trailers Ltd

Our company builds catering trailers and refurbishes used trailers for customers. Unfortunately, what you have experienced is very common.

Yesterday, a customer brought a trailer into us that they brought from a well known online auction site. It looked really nice from the outside, it was freshly painted. However, on closer inspection, the axles and coupling were under-rated, this means that they were not powerful enough to tow the trailer, if the customer had of been stopped by the Police, they would have compounded the trailer as it was illegal.

In total we found 29 faults with the trailer, many of which were illegal. The poor customer was unaware and just thought that they had brought a good looking trailer for a bargain price.

In addition to the advice already given on this page, I would include the following:

1) Check that the gas certificates have been issued by a LPG gas engineer, not a caravan gas engineer; the latter are not legal for catering trailers.

2) Look for a plate on the trailer stating who made the trailer, some manufacturers will tell you the age of the trailer if they have the serial number

3) If the trailer has not been professionally built by a reputable manufacturer, do not buy it. It could be a death trap waiting to happen!

4) If the offer looks too good to be true, it probably is. Good trailers can make the owner a lot of money, so why are they selling it?

Hope this helps. Regards Excel Trailers

Thanx for advice
by: Dawn

Hi angie, thank you for the warning and sorry you had to experience this drama, i will be looking for a catering trailer shortly and i am going to very aware thanks to your warning. like david said in his comment it didnt put you off and are getting on with your catering business and i wish you all the best for the future. Also like to add this is a great site and i have learnt alot from it.

by: Anonymous

we also recently purchased a trailer from ebay in Feb but it never turned up. Had to report it to the police and ebay. Ebay are a complete waste of time and still havn't got back to us. Turns out to be Fraud and is being investigated. We've lost £2500 and so far unble to get this back. BEWARE OF EBAY.

Catering Trailer Safety
by: David

Hi Angie,

Firstly thanks for the update, just finished reading your message, and I can see that you've experienced your own drama - but didn't give up on your business.

So well done to you!

You are also a good inspiration to many and also deliver a very important message.

This is, do your own due diligence when buying a catering trailer and make certain to take all necessary steps to ensure that you’re investing in something that’s legal and safe to trade in for the long-term.

Wishing you the very best success for your first day of business, make it a good one, and keep us updated on how you are doing.

Best of luck always!


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