DIY teardrop trailer cost guide

DIY Teardrop Trailer Cost Guide

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With affordable teardrop RV campers getting harder to find, people are turning to DIY teardrop trailer builds but aren’t sure what it will cost and what supplies they’ll need.

If you’re considering building a custom teardrop camper, the good news is you can expect to spend anywhere from around $1,800 for a basic build with no hatch galley to $5,000 for a trailer with loads of features.

This guide will help you break down the cost of a DIY teardrop trailer build, including the framing, wood materials, and accessories. I also explain what carpentry, plumbing, and electrical skills you may need to finish the project.

By the end, you’ll be able to decide if building a teardrop camper is the solution you and you’re budget are looking for!

DIY Teardrop Trailer Cost Average

A DIY teardrop trailer

Anyone who builds anything knows that it’s nearly always more expensive than they first thought, and a DIY teardrop camper is no exception.

The perk of building a teardrop trailer yourself is that even with plenty of comfortable and functional design additions that will make camping less stressful, you can still keep spending to about $2,500 and hit the road in your new custom camper.

With the most affordable new teardrop camper prices starting around $8,500 and the average teardrop trailer price hitting $15,000, the allure of building a camper makes sense.

There’s no reason to waste money on fancy accessories or pay more for a brand name when you can streamline your teardrop design only to include the items you want and nothing more!

Better yet, you’ll know precisely how you built the camper, and you can select the highest quality materials for a structure far superior to mass-produced “tin cans.”

Farther down in this guide, you’ll find a complete list of materials with current market prices for lumber, various trailer sizes, and other supplies so you can tally up the cost estimate for your teardrop camper build.

Skills Required to Build a DIY Teardrop Trailer

Basic carpentry skills are a must to build a teardrop trailer from scratch.

You’ll need experience using power tools like drills and saws, plus understand structural needs like which type of wood flooring to use on the floor that will support the weight of two people.

If you want to add features like running water from a portable water tank, you’ll need to add wiring, a water pump, and pipes to the sink. This task will require electrical and plumbing skills or knowing a person willing to help you out.

You’ll also need to understand the trailer GVWR and keep the weight of your cabin low enough to leave room to add supplies without overtaxing the tires and axle.

There are plenty of free or low-cost DIY teardrop plans available online, that will help you organize the step-by-step building process.

How Long Does It Take to Build a DIY Teardrop Trailer?

Expect to spend one month on up to a year to create a DIY teardrop. How long it takes will depend more on how much free time you have to commit to the project and how many features and details you want to include in the design.

Most people finish up a homemade teardrop trailer in around three months, making this an ideal winter project that will be ready to use once warm weather and the camping season kick-off in spring.

DIY Teardrop Trailer Supply List and Cost

For this guide, I will list the materials to build a standard 4-foot by 8-foot teardrop. You can adjust the pricing accordingly if you want to make your camper wider or longer.

Most teardrops feature a rear hatch that opens to expose a galley. You can outfit this kitchen space with a 12-volt fridge, sink, and propane stovetop or leave it plain shelves and countertop to place your camp grill and cooking supplies during meals.

You can also opt to save the cost and hassle of forming a hinged hatch door and cook outside like you do when tent camping.

Next, I start with pricing for the basic building materials and then finish with the average cost of extra appliances and features you may wish to include in your build.

Teardrop Trailer Base

A new steel 4×8 single-axle trailer from Northern Tool costs $520 and has a payload capacity of 1,170 pounds or a maximum GVWR of 1,400 pounds. You can upgrade to a 5×8 version for $100 more.

Harbor Freight and other retailers sell a similar 4×8 flatbed trailer for $500, so this price is about average for a new trailer base for your teardrop.

A great way to reduce costs is to look for a good used trailer by shopping Facebook or Nextdoor marketplaces or checking Craigslist. Often you can pick up a small flatbed trailer for $200-$300 and put the savings toward the rest of your teardrop supply list.

Whichever trailer you select, make sure the axle rating can support the upper cabin’s weight, including the supplies you plan to bring along. The higher the GVWR capacity, the easier it will be for you to tow it safely when complete.

Another bonus is both new and used trailers often come complete with lights and wiring harnesses, so you can avoid paying around $30 extra for these components. Some trailers even come with electric brake systems ($250 cost), increasing towing safety and handling.

Teardrop Trailer Plywood Flooring Cost

Most teardrop plans use two sheets of 3/4-inch plywood to provide stability for the flooring.

The cost of a 4×8 3/4″ plywood sheet (which was much less expensive a year ago) now runs $65 each. Construction adhesive will bond the layers together, along with some screws.

Some people add a sheet of foam board insulation between the two for additional temperature control, which is optional.

Total cost for wood flooring/glue/screws$136
Cost of a 4×8 1-inch foam board panel$25 (Optional)

Teardrop Trailer Flooring and Insulation (Video)

Teardrop Trailer Plywood Walls and Roof Cost

Next, we will figure the wood necessary to build the walls and roof. Most plans will require 8 to 10 sheets of various thicknesses of plywood, plus 8-10 2×4 studs for bracing and 10-14 1×2 furring strips.

The curved sidewalls of a teardrop are two or three layers of plywood glued and sandwiched together. Once the glue dries, you cut out the main shape and any windows or doors.

Most often, the wall base is 1/2-inch plywood, with furring strips attached to the inner side of the wall with foam insulation fit in between. Next, 1/4-inch plywood (luan) covers the furring strips for a clean interior finish.

If you plan to leave the exterior of the walls exposed and finish it off with paint or stain, you’ll want to buy plywood with a sanded finish on one side, which costs more than rougher sheathing plywood.

You’ll use two to three layers of 1/8 inch luan sheets to cover the roof curve, but first, you’ll need to cut 2×4 studs in half for bracing ribs to attach the two sidewalls.

These boards will mount vertically around the edges of the walls every foot or so and give you nailing to create that nice bend teardrops are known for. In addition, the gaps between the studs are deep enough for a layer of high-R-value batt insulation.

You’ll need two sheets for each layer, so a total of four to six sheets of luan for the roof plus the two panels necessary for the interior finish layer over the insulation.

1/2-inch plywood/sanded finish$48 a sheet
1/4-inch plywood/sanded finish$21 a sheet
1/8-inch plywood (luan)$12 a sheet
2×4 studs$6 each
Furring strips$2 each
4×8 1-inch foam board panel$25
Package of R-30 batt insulation$60
Construction adhesive$2 a tube
Total cost for walls and roof$380-$480

Teardrop Trailer, Walls (Video)

Teardrop Trailer Hatch and Galley Cost

Putting together a galley will require a locking hinge and bracket for the rear hatch door (you’ll already have enough wood for the door from the roof supplies above) and a sheet or two of 3/4-inch cabinet-grade lumber to create a countertop, shelves, or cabinets.

3/4-inch plywood cost$65 each
Piano hinge$13
Hatch bracket/hurricane hinge, handle and lock$75
Total cost for galley and hatch hardware$153 – $218
Small bar sink with faucet$200
12-volt fridge (cooler style)$300
Propane stovetop$80
Water pump$40
Water storage and waste tanks$60

Teardrop Trailer Door and Window Cost

You can build a door or purchase a new teardrop door kit or windows to make the installation easier. Installing windows that open is a massive help for air circulation and can help you avoid installing a vent in the camper roof.

To lower costs, you can opt for used or salvaged versions from an old teardrop camper. You can also go with a single door instead of the traditional two.

A single door with a window that opens$400
DIY door with hinges and lock$75
RV window (small)$65

Total Cost Estimate for a Basic Teardrop Trailer

Traditionally shaped teardrop camper

You will have a basic teardrop RV built at this stage, and you can decide if you want to add any of the features below like water, electrical, or propane systems.

The estimate for a DIY teardrop build with two doors, insulation, and a no-frills galley using all new materials is $2,014-$2,479.

Even with the current higher cost of lumber, this estimate for a DIY teardrop camper is still under $2,500, which I find pretty impressive.

If you stick with a trailer using less plywood for the roof and walls, a homemade door, and a clearcoat exterior finish, you can drop the costs down to around $800! But, unfortunately, the teardrop may look inexpensive and may not withstand the rigors of travel and camping.

Next, I will break down the average costs of all the extras you wish to include in your teardrop camper build. I will exclude the mattress for sleeping as some people have no problem using an inflatable camping bed for $30 while others will demand an $800 pillow-top to sleep peacefully.

Teardrop Trailer Electrical and Propane Costs

If you want your small camper to have 12-volt and electrical power or built-in propane for heat or cooking, you’ll have to add these items to your budget.

ELECTRICAL SUPPLIES:

  • Fuse box – $24
  • Shore Power Inlet – $25
  • Deep Cycle Battery – $140
  • Converter – $130
  • Wire – $50
  • Outlets – $15
  • Lights – $30

PROPANE SUPPLIES:

  • 20-gallon LP tank – $45
  • Copper pipe – $90
  • Fittings – $30
  • LP regulator – $35

Teardrop Trailer Weatherproofing Costs

Once you have your camper built, you’ll need to decide how to treat the exterior to keep your teardrop water and weather-proof.

While I’m a huge fan of the vintage wood look, many people feel more comfortable cladding the exterior in fiberglass sheeting or Filon and sealing off all the edges.

If you decide to stain or paint your wood and clear coat, do expect future expenses to maintain the finish, as it will wear down and need a recoat after several years, especially if you store your camper outside.

Cost of paint or stain and heavy-duty clear coat$150
Cost of an 8.5′ x 30′ foot sheet of Filon for roof and walls$780
Trim for fiberglass exterior$100

Teardrop Trailer Interior Design Costs

Adding interior storage nooks or shelves, finishing the walls with paint, wallpaper, or wood slats, and getting pillows, blankets, hooks, baskets, pictures, or other decorative items will be the last expense to consider for your DIY teardrop build.

Most campers opt for adjustable cargo net storage to optimize space, but some insist on small cabinets or a lifted bed to gain some underside storage.

All in all, I would add $100-$400 for the finishing touches, depending on your tastes.

Fully-Equipped DIY Teardrop Trailer Cost Estimate

When adding up all the extra features you could add to your camper, including a full kitchen and fiberglass siding and roof, the total comes to $2,124.

Add this amount to the $2,250 average cost of a basic build, and the grand total comes to $4,374.

So, after all the calculations, you can still expect to build your teardrop trailer for less than $5,000 using new materials.

I can’t imagine the savings you could achieve by getting used or free materials, lowering the final cost dramatically!

Final Thoughts

Teardrop trailers are super easy to tow with most vehicles due to their aerodynamic and lightweight design. Teardrops are also a more comfortable upgrade from tent camping and are not super expensive or difficult to DIY.

When you want to enjoy the outdoors, a teardrop puts you right in the heart of camping country. You’ll have no worries your RV is too large for the campsite, or it’ll require a fortune in fuel to reach your destination.

I hope you use this guide to figure out what a DIY teardrop trailer costs and put your carpentry skills to the test. The results may surprise you, and the ability to go camping whenever you please will be priceless!

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How to Build a Teardrop Camper Start to Finish Time-lapse (Video)

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