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About Park Model Trailers

It is quite difficult to find good information on park model trailers. After a lot of searching we have located some sites that provide information but even those tend to be more generally about house trailers and/or recreational vehicles.

The average park model is really very inexpensive. (see: how much will it cost)
A basic new unit can be purchased for as
little as $25,000. But ... like buying a car ... that can rise quickly. Many used trailers on
'rented' lots are available for anywhere from $5,000 and up. Most are priced in the neighborhood of $15 to $25,000 but can range
much higher with a lot of extras.

In resident-owned parks the whole cost
changes because you are now buying not
only the actual trailer but also your share
in the park itself.

They are all about the Same Size
400 Square Feet

- But that can be Misleading -

The trailers all start out at about 400 square feet. But then a storage room gets built and maybe an Arizona Room. There are all kinds of creative modifications done to enhance the living space. The climate allows for some pretty basic enclosures to be added that functionally serve as an addition to living quarters. But still generally retain the legal status as a vehicle.   

Park model trailers in Arizona cannot exceed 400 square feet if they are to benefit from vehicle status and not be subject to residential taxes.

     We eventually learned why that is. It seems that there was a municipal taxing issue of
     how to tax a park model trailer if it is essentially permanently parked on property. At
     what point is it a trailer (classed as a vehicle) and at what point is it a permanent
     residence. It still has wheels and can be moved. 

     A method was needed to distinguish between the more permanent trailers in a
     standard trailer park and those classed as vehicles. It was decided to use square
     footage. Under 400 square feet is a vehicle and legal ownership titles are handled
     by motor vehicles.   

The diagram shown here is a very typical park model design. This layout is very common, at least before any modifications or additions.  

     A standard layout consists of a
     bedroom, bathroom, and open design 
     Kitchen/Dining/Living rooms.

    The front door is typically patio doors
    and the rear door opens to the patio
 
or Arizona room. They are well designed and make good use of the space available.

The common width is 12 feet so the length is normally just over 30 feet. But there are still some that are narrower.

Some very old units are only 8 feet wide and tend to resemble a standard older traveling trailer. Then additions were designed to expand to a 12 foot width. That resulted in what is called 'slide outs' or 'tip outs'.

     The basic unit is 8 feet but there are sections expanded
     by (usually) an additional four feet. Some run the length
     of the trailer and some less.

     The trailer shown here is an early '80s model. In the late
     '80s and early '90s the manufacturers began making
      most park models a full 12 foot wide.

 

The most common trailer in the parks are the standard 12 foot width and are designed to

  appear more like a permanent
  dwelling with standard pitched and
  shingled rooflines.

  Windows and doors are more like a
  house and interiors also more
  house-like.

  A very typical trailer may be
 10 to 15 years old. The ones shown
  at the left are commonplace.   
    

Then there are the 'higher end' units that have been added to and modified.

These tend to be more common in the resident-owned parks (but not exclusively).

The owners in these parks have a much higher investment and monies spent adding to the unit represents a far smaller percentage of the unit total cost and possibly less risk. 

A variety of modifications and additions have added a lot more space and may even include a regular attached garage. 

The end result is some pretty elaborate set-ups for what began as a 400 square foot park model.

The Inside Living Space

Nearly all the Park Models have that standard layout (as already shown in the diagram) of the living, dining, kitchen area at the front of the trailer. Bathroom, storage, and rear/side door in the middle and bedroom at the back. There are some variations on this but those are pretty rare. (The Park Model used in the following section is about ten years old.)

                                            Front Living Area

    Probably more than half of the trailer
     space is the front living, dining,
     kitchen area.

     The open design adds both
     spaciousness and versitility. It is a
     very practical layout.

     Most units have ample windows and
     combined with the front entry patio
     doors they are very bright and
     open. 


                                                           Kitchen

The kitchen setup makes good use of space and generally there is ample cupboard space.
 
Most units also have some type of china cupboard and extra storage.

The appliances are pretty well what you will have at home with possibly one exception. Propane is fairly common for cooking and heating.

 

Dining  

    
     The dining area is usually set up for two or four   
     people. There is often a second china cupboard  and 
     possibly additional storage in this area.

     The dining area can be quite small but is really all that
     most need. Most units are only occupied by two people
     and most of the entertaining is done outdoors in the
     patio area or Arizona room. 

 

Bathroom

                                                                                                                                 
Bathrooms are pretty standard four piece. Usually quite small,
at least compared to todays large facilities in many homes. But they have come a long way from those tiny old travel trailer bathrooms. 

They are certainly very functional and are getting a bit larger
in newer units. They also have pretty reasonable storage
space.

 Bedroom

     Bedrooms tend to have quite a bit of closet
     and other storage space. Usually one wall is
     dedicated to double closets and drawers.

     The standard bedroom is probably in the
     range of 110 to 120 square feet. They are
     quite adequate. Although a king bed may be
     a tight fit. 

 

 

The Outside Living Space

Nearly all the trailers sit on a lot that provides anywhere from about 15 to 25 feet of side yard. Normally that side yard is covered 'patio style' and serves outdoor living and vehicle parking.

Some parks have deeper narrower lots allowing parking in the front while others are wider and allow parking at the side.

The climate is so conducive to outdoor life that the patio area can become like an added living room. It is possibly the most common area used for entertaining and maybe even regular dining. (No bugs remember)

 

The Storage Shed - More living space

An important part of the trailer unit. When you consider the limitations on trailer size the storage shed becomes far more valuable than your old shed in the back yard at home.

A storage shed is common fare and they are usually about 8X10 feet or larger. They are extremely valuable, especially when you consider you have no basement and the trailer size is limited. In fact I don't know what you would do without one.

The storage shed is rarely just a place for storage. Of course they are used for storage but the creative uses are pretty wide ranging. They are a natural location for a workbench and a common use as a place for your own washer and dryer.

But sometimes larger sheds are almost used as extra living quarters ... TV or computer rooms and even the odd one with a mattress for extra visitors. Although probably against some rules they do tend to serve in an emergency.

The Arizona Room - Even more living space

Many people add a room at the side of the trailer to provide some extra living space. These rooms are known as 'Arizona Rooms'. They are constructed in varying sizes over part or even all of the side or patio area. (Apparently in Florida they are known as a 'Florida Room')

                                                                    There are many different designs and 
      layouts, some quite basic and others much
      more elaborate. 

      They serve a variety of purposes including
      space for guests with some even adding extra
      bathroom facilities.   

      But probably the most common is for the
      Arizona room to serve as a type of 'family
      room'
... similar to the one in your house
      back home.

Extra Room for Guests

It seems every trailer has a sofa bed (or whatever they are called in your area) to accomodate extra guests. They are pretty well standard fare in the living room. And just as common in the Arizona Room.  

In addition, some storage sheds will have means to accomodate guests sleeping quarters with a Murphy Bed or some other arrangement.

Visitors are common in the parks and it is easy to tell when it is 'spring break' or (naturally) Christmas and other holidays. The kids and grandkids come to visit. And of course friends from 'back up north' will visit to experience some winter getaway.   

The Vegetation

Most parks have a variety of plants and some lots may have small growing spaces. And of course there are the Citrus Trees, Palm Trees, and the Cactus.

Breakfast in the Back Yard?

The citrus trees are commonplace throughout the trailer parks. It is quite
common for a trailer lot to have mature grapefruit and orange trees. They are
a very special treat for us northerners who can't imagine going out in the morning and picking off some grapefruit and oranges
for breakfast. But that is pretty normal for many RV park residents.

 Palm Trees - the unofficial emblem of RV Resort Parks

     And of course a symbol of the south to us northerners are the palm
     trees
, a common site in the parks.

     They epitomize a warm holiday place for those of us who only see
     them in pictures. And that is probably why they are used as an
     attraction for the northerners.

     If you can't find the park just look over the landscape for a collection of
     Palm Trees and that may be it.

 

Cactus

And the cactus is also a symbol.

It is a symbol of the desert. There are many varieties, some only found in desert locations. They are a common fixture on RV lots.

There are wonderful cactus blooms in the spring and they certainly add to the flavor of the desert location.

The larger cacti often take on the role of Christmas trees when that season roles around. (The picture on the right was taken last Christmas in an RV Park in Apache Junction.) 

 

Checking Trailer Condition

  • Trailer age
  • Roofs
  • Floors
  • Wiring
  • Plumbing
  • Termites
  • Heating
  • Air Conditioning
  • Swamp Coolers

The condition of the trailers will of course vary widely. Older units can have some real serious problems. They are generally not constructed to the same standards as most houses so judging the expected condition of the unit by age is different than for the typical house. (A twenty year-old trailer is viewed as much older than a 20 year-old house ... also see watch out for the rules section about impacts of trailer age.)

A couple key items to look for are the condition of the roof and the floor. Roofs are most vulnerable. They can certainly be prone to leaks and weakened by previous water damage.

Older trailers came with metal roofs and a common site is an old roof with patches over patches. Newer trailers have traditional shingled roofs and are really not much different than your normal house roof.

Floors can become weakened from previous water or termite damage. What seems like a simple floor squeak can be a sign of bigger problems. It is a good idea to have a look under the trailer to see the condition of the floor. 

Electrical wiring can be somewhat less than up to normal household standards as well. Again, this can be more of an issue in older trailers where modifications may have been made over the years.

Plumbing in trailers is often done using plastic water lines and over time some of this older plastic becomes hardened and can easily break, especially at or near joints. Plumbing is usually not that hard to access and lines can be repaired and even (quite easily) updated.

Another common issue in the Phoenix area is the termites. They can really wreak havoc with a trailer. They are common and if the owner hasn't done proper prevention they can infest the trailer.

If you are not familiar with what to look for it may be a good investment to have an inspection by a pest control company.

Heating equipment is similar to a regular house with the possible exception of the common use of propane. Especially in the older units. Many are equipped with propane for both heating and cooking.

Cooling is by central or window air conditioners and an item we had never heard of before, the 'swamp cooler'. Swamp coolers are most common in older units and are quite a reliable and inexpensive method of cooling. But they only work in very dry climates.

 

Swamp coolers use water evaporation to provide cooling that is then blown throughout the trailer.

 

The best explanation I heard to describe the concept is to imagine putting on a wet t-shirt on a hot day and then blowing yourself with a fan. The rapid evaporation of the moisture provides considerable cooling effects.

 

Swamp coolers became quite out of fashion and almost suggest 'old'. But there may now be some resurgence. They can be more economical to operate than air conditioners and will save on energy. They require some regular maintenance but do seem to be quite an affordable means to provide some relief from the heat in earlier fall and later spring.

 

 

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