DIY Trailer Build Budget

How much will it cost to build?


Compact Camping Trailer Explorer Box BuildCompact Camping Trailer with front deck packed








Entry level cost of building an Explorer Box(based on material cost June 2013)

Ext Finish$40
Tent Unit$895


An Explorer Box is built on a 4’ x 6’ frame. . There are a number of sources for 4’ x 8’ bolt-together frame kits which are easily shortened to be 4’ x 6’. Harbor Freight is a common source, their “Super Duty” frame kit on sale with 20% coupon has been $284 for at least a year now.. For a custom fully welded frame expect to pay around $1000. I also regularly see suitable used flat bed trailers for as little as $200 on craigslist.



You’ll need about $50 worth of clear grain pine 1×2’s for corner and shelf blocks. You have a few trade-offs to consider when choosing your plywood. If you go with ACX construction grade plywood, expect to pay $25 a sheet; you need four sheets. I normally use ACX construction grade for the floor, Baltic Birch ($45 a sheet) for the shelves / door backers and marine BS1088 Okoume ($109 a sheet) for the exterior. This combination saves 30-40 lbs and is very attractive with a clear finish.


Finish Type

This is another area with many choices.  On one end of the spectrum you could go with House paint inside and out for around $40.  I have not personally used it for a trailer box, but if you search the internet, you’ll find a number of small boat building sites promoting its use.  If you think about it, your house is exposed to the elements day in and day out, the last time I painted mine was 10+ years ago and it still looks good.

For a durable colored exterior finish, I like a roll-on bed-liner material called Durabak. A gallon will do the exterior and run about $140. For clear exteriors and interiors I’ve been using Daly’s Seafin AquaSpar a water cleanup polyurethane, it runs $28 a quart.



This category has a few different things. First supplies like screws, glue, nuts and bolts and sandpaper will run around $35.

Then there is hardware. Basic hinges are $6, the cast ones I use are $13. There are many latch options, basic barrel slides are $3, the locking cam style I use are $15.

Door seals (two 10’ boxes) $16.

A tongue jack $35. If you plan to Tent Top your trailer a pair of rear stabilizer jacks should be added to the list, $38