Picture of Teardrop Trailer

Please visit my website for all the steps of this project:

Each step is one day.

First of all, my day job is software programmer. This is my first build. I have basic knowledge of wood working and I have some tools. The build is going to take a while (a month? two?). I only have time to work on it from 8PM until I go to sleep (about 3 hours) and in weekends when we have nothing else planed.

My plan is to keep the price under $1500 $2000. You can buy already made teardrops for $4000-$11000.

My Hyundai Sonata can pull a trailer of 1000lb max. My plan is to make the teardrop be under 700lb with all the equipment inside.

The only size of plywood that I can bring home is 4'x8', so everything that's made of plywood should fit in that size.

Here is how the side wall of the trailer should look like.

A list of parts with links from where I got them:

  • Trailer. I'm going to use the 4x8 Super Duty Utility Trailer from Harbor Freight Tools to built the teardrop on. On the time of creation of the website, the trailer was on sale for $350. I got in mail a %20 off coupon and that made the price $280. Note: If 4' wide is not wide enough for you, you can use this trailer. It's a little more expensive, but 1 foot wider.
  • Doors. You can build your own door. I won't. I'm afraid that I'm not going to be able to make it water tight, so I'm going to use already-built doors. I was lucky enough to find two brand new doors for $230 both, from someone who builds teardrop as a business. Here is his business website, he sells anything you need for a teardrop, including kits and custom made teardrops ( Note: You can use only one door on one side, and a window on the other side. I got two doors because they were cheap and I won't have to step over my wife if I have to pee at night. You also can get them from eBay.
  • Vent. I need a vent to put on the top of the trailer. I need one that's able to move lots of air (the door windows won't open on my doors). From my research the best vent is "Fan-Tastic Fan". I already ordered one from eBay for $120.
  • Hatch hindge. For the big door that lifts open at the back of the trailer. This should be water proof. I'm using a "Hurricane Hinge". Already ordered from eBay for $71. You also can get it from here.
  • Porch Lights. I need two porch lights to install above the doors. Ordered 3 from eBay for $63. 12V LED.
  • Dome Light. I also need some dome light for the inside the teardrop. Already ordered from eBay for $17.99. 12V LED.
  • Water pump. The best pump I found is the 12V Whale GP1352 submersible water pump. You can buy it from eBay for as low as $25.
  • Hatch handles. Got those from eBay.
  • Aluminum. I called around all the sheet metal places that I found in my area until I got the best price. I got mine from , they are from Portland Oregon.
  • Aluminum Molding. Go here and click "Online parts catalog" then go to "Moldings"
  • Sink/Stove combo. Got it from here.

Tools I use:

  • Box cutter
  • Pencil
  • Framing square
  • Wrenches. Big ones. You'll need for the trailer 16mm, 17mm, 18mm wrenches (I suppose this depends on what brand of trailer you are using)
  • Wireless drill
  • Jigsaw
  • Chop saw
  • Table saw
  • Sander
  • Belt sander

Cost so far:

Doors $230
Vent (Fan-tastic Fan) $120
Hatch hinge (5' hurricane hinge) $71
12V LED Porch lights (3 pcs) $63
12V LED Dome light (1 pcs) $18
Black spray paint (2 bottles) $12
1/2"x4'x8' Birch plywood x 3pcs (one for the floor and 2 for the side walls) $120
5mm Utility plywood 4'x8' x 2pcs (for side walls interior) $23
2x4x96 x 8pcs (for the frame, not sure if I'll use all 8 of them) $22
Exterior screws (1box) $8
Henry Asphalt Emulsion (1 gallon) $12
Brush $3
Bolts & washers & lock washers & nuts to bolt the floor frame to the trailer (3/8" x 3" 20pcs) $26
Bolts & washers & nuts for spare wheel (1/2" x 6" 2 pcs) $6
Hard foam insulation 1/2" 4'/8' (one sheet) $10
Hard foam insulation 3/4" 4'x8' (3 sheets) $30
Sink-Stove combo $187
12V Cigarette lighter socket (2 pieces) $16
Automotive Fuse Holder Box Holds 6 Blade Fuses $14
Electric Facet & Pump System $50
1/8" birch plywood (3 pieces) $70
Molding $16
Wood stain $12
Aluminum sheets 4x8 (1 pcs) 4x12 (2 pcs) $170
Aluminum molding, plastic insert for molding, External Drip Cap $160
1 Gallon Contact Cement $10
TOTAL $1759
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pattiemelt8 months ago

If you don't want the added weight of solar panels attached to the camper, I wonder if there is a way to add a small wind turbine for charging the battery while you drive, or even while parked.

you can now get roll up solar panels, surely they would be light enough? Failing that you can get free standing solar panels which could travel in the car as opposed to on the trailer if you're worried about you gross tow weight

Great work. I was wondering about the 5' hatch hinge. We are also using a 4x8 trailer. Did you need to cut the hinge to 4.5' or did you leave it as is?


Rebcaj11 days ago

where did you get the doors; were do you think I can find them?

thardigree1 month ago
Great job on the build and documenting the build. My wife and I are considering building one ourself now. Do you still use the trailer very much? Is there anything that you've discovered now that you wish you had done differently in the original build or anything you wish you had included?
kld19582 months ago

Hi, Great job! Did you screw the walls into the side of the floor or did you sit the walls on top and screw them down to the floor?

e1ioan (author)  kld19581 month ago
The walls are glued and screwed on the side of the floor.
bobuman2 months ago

Do you have to order a specific thickness of door?

jdweb2 months ago

How thick is the aluminum sheet that you are using?

e1ioan (author)  jdweb2 months ago
The aluminum I used is .032-5052
jdweb2 months ago

Amazing job documenting everything, very well done. This reminds me of my old Airstream so much that we are starting our build here in Ecuador!

One question... in the materials list you have the foam insulation as 1/2" 1 sheet and 3/4" 3 sheets. It looks like in the pictures you are using 1/2" birch on the outside walls and leftover material for the framing. Wouldn't this provide you with a 1/2" gap for the foam? If you only have 1 sheet in 1/2" that would not be enough to cover the project. I was wondering if maybe those numbers got switched? Only 1 3/4" sheet for the flooring and the rest looks like it is 1/2"? I was not able to see in there where you specify the thickness of the foam. The only reason I ask is because I want to double check before we buy these materials, especially since some of this might be hard to find here.

e1ioan (author)  jdweb2 months ago
The wall framing is 3/4" so the foam used for the walls was 3/4". The 1/2" foam was used for the floor. Remember, you don't have to use exactly the same thickness like I did, you can get all of them 1/2" or 3/4" or whatever is available, just remember to make the framing the same thickness as the foam. Also, I've seen lots of people who didn't use insulation at all, just the plywood walls... and if you can believe it, some people make the whole trailer just from foam (harder foam though), look up foamies at
ppeters05024 months ago

This is one of my favorite instructables to date! I'm currently working on building my own teardrop trailer out of my garage, using this and some resources on to follow along. I'm currently posting my progress on and will post a full instructable once I have it finished. Keep up the great work!

BobT624 months ago

Nice build for sure. Great pics and commentary on what you did that always helps us first time builders with ideas for sure. Just started mine 5x10 in a HF trailer. I find that i always have great ideas but some times they just dont work out the way iintended. We ill see what happens and once done i will come back and pist my build.

Thanks for sharing !!

AdrianM25 months ago

Great write-up! Starting my own build soon, have all my sketchup plans done up, mine is going to be an 8x4x5, with an alu skin also, still deciding how I'm going to skin the inside, whether with nice softwood battens for acoustic quality and snugness, or a Birch ply. I'm a bit of a tech geek and admire your electronic skill with the resistors on the fan, I think I will adopt the same method, as I hate noise in any form when I try to sleep, that's the whole reason for the teardrop in the first place, to get away from noise, though I'm still going to pimp my TD out with the latest camp gadgets and my entertainment system, which will comprise of my phone and my amazing Bluetooth speaker, my TV will probably be an android tablet of sorts which will also use the bluetooth speaker, I might run the whole teardrop on android now I've thought of it, I'll use tasker or some other automator and android apps to control lighting and heating,

mclancer2 years ago
What a great job building this trailer.
You did an even better job of documenting and presenting this build.
People would do well to learn from your work.
I have just 3 suggestion for you:
1 - a solar panel to help keep your battery charged.
2 - I would recommend some struts for your hatch
(the kind that minivans use for their hatches).
This way you don't have too lift the hatch up.
3 - I would have started the aluminum lower to cover the trailer.
It would just look nicer and prevent water from the sides getting
between the floor and trailer.
Great Job!
e1ioan (author)  mclancer2 years ago

1 - I have in plan to get a 30 watt monocrystalline solar panel
2 - That was my original intention, but I decided to make it this way to have more control on how to do it and how it looks like
3 - the aluminum sheets I had were only 4' wide... there was no way to put them lower.
I was also thinking of some sort of axle mount alternator on the trailer that would catch some of the energy while driving to your campsite to charge the deep cycle battery. Love the Solar panel idea very much, might do a suction mount vertical axis wind turbine as well...
e1ioan (author)  Madrigorne2 years ago
You can connect the trailer battery in parallel with the car battery and that way the towing car will charge the both batteries in the same time while you drive. Just pull a wire from the positive from the car battery, put a 30A fuse on it and connect it to the trailer battery. The negative from the trailer battery goes to the ground of the car. This is how the trailer shops are doing it. Just don't forget to disconnect when the car is stopped (else you use the electricity from both batteries).

A second option is to use a continuous duty solenoid, this way you don't have to disconnect the two batteries when the car isn't running.

I'll make 2 schematics and post them on the last page on how to connect the trailer battery to be charged by the towing car.

What a wonderful thing you have done, and what a wonderful service you are providing your followers like me.

You may cover my questions in your addition on wiring so I will look at that. I would like the tailer to draw from the car only when the car ignition is on, or in fact only when the motor is running. Will the solinoid you suggest solve this problem? Can I just connect the wire to the cars 12volt plug on the dash, which on my car only works when the key is on?

capman9118 months ago

The only thing I would do about the battery to battery connection is the wire that runs from the car battery to the trailer battery is to put in a proper size diode that would let the flow of current flow towards the trailer and block it from flowing back to the car battery. A diode lets power flow in only one direction and not back. If you run just a wire to the two batteries when you start the car it will pull from both batteries and possibly cause the wire to burn up because of to much amperage being pulled through the small wire to the car battery. I love the trailer design.

Can you tell me where in the car you connect to get 12vt power? I am thinking not the basic wiring harness connection for tail lights etc (which I don't thing provides the nessisay "house" power), but the "extra" wire that brings power to the trailer. And can you tell me where I can get the diode and how to designate it? Thanks a bunch.

tearworld53807 months ago

It seems the majority of the pictures for this are missing? I've tried it on multiple computers just in case it was something to do with mine, but I only seem to get a small fraction of the images. Even when I became a member and downloaded the PDF, still the same. Any ideas?

e1ioan (author)  tearworld53807 months ago

The pictures are fixed now.

Thanks so much for taking the time to put this out there. And for following up on these messages. I am pulling from a variety of sources in planning my build and this definately is a big help.

tanderson457 months ago

How did you do the axels? Did you place the axel 4 inches back from the original spot?

e1ioan (author)  tanderson457 months ago
No, I kept the trailer the way it was designed.

thank you.

ardrhi8 months ago

Nice tutorial, good detail, and a wonderful ending.

rawly old ardrhi8 months ago

Really great, but a bit labor intensive for a lazy old guy

like me

DeeRilee8 months ago

I may have missed it, but what was the total weight of your trailer (loaded for the road & just the trailer)?

I would love to build a teardrop, but want to build a rack to carry my Grumman canoe over the teardrop (it weighs 50 or 60 pounds). Thought about a rack to carry it on the roof of my car....but the canoe is almost a foot longer than my Accent, LOL.

Kinnishian8 months ago

(1) The only detail I missed was how you cut the aluminum siding for the doors. It's unclear how you made the cuts so clean. Was it easy becasue the plywood was already cut? And how did you initially pierce the siding?

(2) I take it that you are one of the wonderful software engineers who code with very good comments...because this thing is a really well laid out instructable. Thank you!

go back to step 25. he shows how to use a drill to start, how he had someone push on the other side to keep from making a bump and the router bit he used to cut the opening.

Thanks! You're completely correct, it's clear when I reread it. Not sure what I was thinking when I wrote the comment (about that part.)

More proof that the instructable was very clear, I guess :D. Nothing missing

a.steidl8 months ago

aha, I see, water protection. :) ^5

a.steidl8 months ago

I may be jumping ahead here, but did you put any plastic between the steel frame and the wooden one? If not, I hate to say, you could be looking at a LOT of water from the road, should you tow it in the rain.

r_e_l_a_x8 months ago

Excelente proyecto, muy bien detallado y explicado, tu Teardrop Trailer quedo muy bien. Saludos!

stevenrterry8 months ago

What a great instructable! I am blown away with how well you created the instructable and the teardrop. My hat is off to you.

Invention18 months ago

Nice build! I built mine on a 5' wide trailer, which gives room for a futon-sized bed inside. My wife and I have trouble sleeping well in a 4' wide bed. Also, a hint for those wanting to build one of these: A galley kitchen is nice, but skipping the galley kitchen makes the whole project far less complex and far more weathertight. If you are considering a build and want to make it less challenging, then skip the galley kitchen. We have a platform on the toungue of the trailer, just bring out a big rubbermaid box of stuff and cook right there. A 5' X 8' trailer allows room for a rubbermaid box and some folding chairs, and still pulls OK with our teeniest car. The sources of doors and windows you link to are spot-on, anyone should totally use windows and doors made for trailers as they are watertight and made to take the stresses inherent in moving a trailer. Trailers flex - that's a fact.

One BIG addition: You can buy rolls of BUTYL RUBBER SEALANT. This is a gooey tarlike rubber sealant that never dries. It keeps flexing as the trailer moves down the road. DO NOT caulk a trailer with silicone rubber - it will eventually fail because of joint movement. Put this stuff at all windows, edges of aluminum sheathing, and under all aluminum trim and your trailer will stay watertight and mold-free. If you dear reader are considering a teardrop build, don't skip the butyl rubber sealant.

abinc8 months ago

People like you give me hope for America! Well thought out and executed. Have you considered top-mounted solar panels for electricity? I know you have to be cautious about the tongue weight for your car so would it be wise to move the battery under the kitchen and install a 5-gallon propane tank near the hitch instead of using the little propane bottle as you have it now? Also, loved the photos you took of your work as well as those of the other campers. Finally, you're right about your wife! She and your little girl are so pretty. I hope you are a happy man.

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