View Full Version : Build your own float ???

27-05-07, 01:00 PM
I get people asking all the time how come floats seem to cost so much .... and my reply often is .... "try building one yourself & see what it costs" ???

For the uninitiated ... it must seem that it's a pretty simple, straight forward thing to do for someones who's hubby is a welder or something ... Like how hard can it be ???

Here's a break down of costs ... to "Build your own" ... say a double straight load 3.7m long, 1.66m wide, 2.15m high with 2x access doors & lift up storm door to rear ... 2.5 tonne rocker suspension with drop axles & 4wheel elec break-a-way brake system. Float would be lisenced for 2.5tonne.

Something that will end up like this:

These are the recommended "Retail" prices for the items ....

Axles 3" drop $300
Springs 2.5T rocker $350
U bolt sets $ 50
Elec brakes both axles $740
Breakaway unit $305
Tow hitch elec brake $ 50
Bolts for hitch $ 10
weld plate for hitch $ 8
Hand brake cable $ 31
Chains & shackles $ 20
Wheels & tyres x5 new
white rims & LT tyres $890
Tandem mudguards $ 89
Jockey wheel (swivel) $ 75
Lights, wiring etc $180
Tailgate spring $ 70

Sub Total $3168

Fibreglass roof $1200

Alum extrusions $ 35
Alum checker plate $240

Steel for chassis &
sheeting $2500

Paint, thinners $680
20l contact glue $ 95

Windows, side sliders $560
Front windscreen $150

Rubber for floor &
t/gate $600

Ply for t/gate $220

Door handles flush x2 $ 80
Piano hinges x2 $ 50
Gas stays for storm
door x2 $ 50
Storm door lock $ 45
spring bolts x2 $ 20
Tailgate locks x2 $ 30
Roof vents x2 $120
Flush tie hooks $ 15


This doesn't include ANY labour to fabricate, paint & fit out the float or any consumables such a welding wire, gas, grinding & cutting discs. Also NO rent on factory unit, workers comp, superanuation, public liability, building & contents insurance ???

Float like the above would take around a minimum of 150hrs to build, paint & fit out ... without ANY options fitted like yards, water tanks & pumps, tack rooms etc.

So when you have some manufacturer's selling "budget" floats for a similar amount of money, as a completed drive away float ... does it not make you wonder just WHAT has been left out to make a "cheap" float in the first place ???

27-05-07, 01:11 PM
You raise a good point. When you really sit down and think about the little expenses it all does add up.
Hubby is a trade qualified boiler maker and keeps telling me that he can build a car trailer (he's a car nut, but has no idea of anything horse related) that will convert to a horse float when needed - and wonders why I go balistic at him everytime he mentions it.
I guess that old adage of "you get what you pay for" rings true. If you want quality (and let's face it, who doesn't when you are transporting your horses) you really need to dig deep.

27-05-07, 01:49 PM
We built our own float ONLY because we couldn't get anyone to build to our specifications inside 18 months. It took us 6 months and cost $7,500 in materials for a EXTRA large, long, high, strong straight load double.

When a friend asked dad if he would build one for them he answered "not in this lifetime"! We are going to build our own 5th wheel but only for the same reason as above.

Farmer Billy
27-05-07, 02:46 PM
Hiya Sparrow

Do you make floats for a living?

Just wondering because I'm currently considering buying my first float and I'm having real difficulty in deciding what I want! All I know for sure is that I want a double and I want one that is new or very near to it.

I've been doing a bit of research and now I'm quite worried (actually borderline scared after reading the horseproblems site) about some issues with floats both new and second hand. I also intend on keeping this float for a long time so I want to get it right!

Any suggestions on must haves? BTW at the moment I'm looking at olympic and unicorn?

27-05-07, 02:57 PM
Farmer Billy, we bought a new Unicorn float last year and haven't regreted it for one moment, it's great to tow and the horses actually travel much nicer in it, especially on the looong trips interstate. :)

28-05-07, 04:15 AM
Hi Farmer Billy ....

Yes we do !!!

Suggestion on 'Must haves' ??? .... well YES, a few !!!

For straight load float ....

2.5 Tonne load sharing 'Rocker" suspension as a MINIMUM.
4x wheel electric brakes with breakaway system.
Swing jockey wheel (steel rim with solid rubber tyre).
Extended min 1500mm long tail gate.
Draw bar made from 100 x 50 mm RHS .... 75 x 50mm is TOO small & WILL flex & BEND !!!
New light truck tyres .... NOT retreads or 'T.U.O' (trailer use only)
Rubber mats completeley SEALED so urine & water from washing will NEVER get between the mats & the floor.
Rubber 'slats' fitted to tailgate .... wooden ones are a disaster & create MORE problems than they solve.

The list could go on forever .... but you have to decide what YOU want in a float.

John O'Leary has done a great job of starting to get horse people thinking about the 'Potential' damage that can occur to horses from floats .... but unfortunately too many people don't use common sense & just don't appreciate that ANYTHING pointier than a bale of hay ... IS a potential injury waiting to happen ???

Reccomendations for a float ??? ... don't bother talking to 'Salesmen' .... talk to people who have had & used one of their floats for a few years ... THEY are the one's whom will usually tell you all about the float ... and any short comings too !!!

28-05-07, 04:47 AM
Can you tell me exactly what a breakaway system is?
I've often wondered.

28-05-07, 05:06 AM
A "Break-a-way" system is incorporated into the floats braking system so that should the first line of defence fail ie. the tow hitch break (or heaven forbid, someone FORGOT to clip it down properley).... and the second line of defense fail ie. the safety chains break or rip outa the draw bar ... then the only thing that will prevent the float from sailing down the road NOT attached to the back of your tow vehicle ... IS the break-a-way system.

Most common is the electric break-a-way system ... obviously FOR floats fitted with electric brakes. This basically is a stand alone unit that incorporates a small 12v battery & some electronics to regulate the charging of the internal battery. It is supplied power from the tow vehicle when in normal use. How it works if & when required ... is by means of a small electrical switch fitted to the draw bar that has a short lanyard that attaches to the tow vehicle, independant of the safety chains.

Should the float become 'un-attached' from the tow vehicle, the lanyard attached to the tow vehicle will pull the plastic pin from the switch mounted on the float draw bar, causing the contactors to close & complete the circuit ... which then applies power from the break-a-way unit to the electric brakes.

It is a legal requirement now for any new trailer with a GVM EXCEEDING 2000kgs .... MUST be fitted with a break-a-way system.

28-05-07, 05:41 AM
Thanks Sparrow.

28-05-07, 07:25 AM
The other thing you didn't mention Sparrow, is that even if the axles are only a mm or so out of alignment you get sway. Not sure if the average home trailer builder could be accurate enough to make a float that tows well.

My float cost me just on $8000, and I need to spend another $500 or so to get it safe, like plate on the draw bar and rear frame, and putting extra padding in. I went for no maintanence and got torsion bar suspension.

28-05-07, 08:20 AM
"Not sure if the average home trailer builder could be accurate enough to make a float that tows well"

Well from what I have seen Nicko from repairing & re-furbishing many other manufacturers floats .... there are PLENTY of so called "professionals" that either don't know how to use a tape measure .... or think that accuracy in manufacturing is somehow ... optional ???

You wrote to HP about the float you bought I seem to remember ???

A few things even YOU pointed out could do with improving ... but since you bought "budget" float ... you got what you paid for ???

Terms of suspension ... that horrid torsion type suspension gets used for one reason alone ... it is the absolute CHEAPEST suspension you can buy !!! If you want a few for spares .... I have about 15 or so sets out the back that I have removed from people's floats & goosenecks .... and fitted "proper" load sharing suspension.

The inherent problem with those torsion bar suspensions ... and I'm talking the cheapy ones .. NOT the super expensive Alko brand ones .... is the fact that they wear tyres out like there is no tommorrow .... hardly work unless the float is fully loaded to it's suspension's rated max capacity .... and DO NOT load share between the two axles.

When people bring those types of floats to me & ask what can be done to stop the float bouncing all over the road when empty ... and get more than a few years outa a whole set of expensive light truck tyres .... well I advise they go the whole hog, get rid of the cheapy suspension .... and get "Roller / Rocker" load sharing suspension with drop axles.

This is what I use & recommend:

Never EVER had anyone get replacement suspension as per my recommendations .... and been unhappy !!! Without exception .... EVERY single float owner comments after using their float with the new suspension that they can't believe how well it travels, doesn't bounce all over the road when empty .... and later down the track ... how long their tyres NOW last ???

But like ANYTHING ... you get what you pay for .... budget floats get budget suspension ??? Everything is a compromise when you are restricted to a certain price range !!!

Farmer Billy
28-05-07, 11:10 AM
Thanks Sparrow

Also, I guess you might know a bit about towball download?? What would an approx be on a straigt load float, say 1000kg, with one horse, say 500Kg?

I'm struggling to figure this out!

thanks again!

Farmer Billy
28-05-07, 11:24 AM
Hey Tasconpark

Glad to hear that both you and your horses like your unicorn! Unicorn floats seem to have a lot safety features as standard on their floats, and are a bit more expensive but worth it by the sounds of it!

BTW what model did you get? I cant decide weather I want a tack box or not, decisions, decisions....

28-05-07, 11:31 AM
We got the one with the tack box and had a water tank and pump fitted, plus rug rack, bridle rack and had rubber put up the sides. Yeah they are more expensive, but after visiting the factory and being able to see them through all the different construction stages we decided that it was definately worth it just for the workmanship. My partner was very impressed with the welding and joinery. If your in SA going to visit the factory is certainly well worth it :)

Farmer Billy
29-05-07, 10:09 AM
BUMP cause I need to know how to work out towball download is!

29-05-07, 11:11 AM
Hi Sparrow and everyone else.

My dad is a welder by trade has his own company etc etc and he has built me 2 floats. The first one was when we first got in to horses and it was a basic 2 horse float with open sides and the second one was a 2 horse extended float with stainless rug rack and tack box.

After having my horse for 6 years and always floating in a straight load she decided one day that she no longer likes floating in straight loads so we made the decision to get an angle load.

As sparrow said it is VERY EXPENSIVE. We ended up actually getting a float made thing time instead of dad making it.

For the 2 horse angle load he made me it cost him $10,000 in materials and thats without a breakaway system.

So this time dad said no we will buy one especially because of how time consuming it is to make one and also it works out really just the same price to get one made!

We now have an angle load... but ahhhh the dramas of actually getting it was unbelievable will NEVER get a float made from the same company thats for sure.

29-05-07, 11:13 AM
Good luck mate .... some float builders don't seem to be able to grasp the concept of 'ball weight' ???

Depends mainly where the axles are positioned in relation to where the horse stands. I want at least 5% ball weight so I aim for @100kgs for a std float. This ensures that if some knob takes float home & decides to load 2x elephants in BACKWARDS .... it will STLL not be front 'light' ... which IS what causes trailer swaying.

Most big 4wd's have @10% GTM as an acceptable ball weight .... just depends on the vehicle.

29-05-07, 11:20 AM
OHHH while I remember Sparrow you dont happen to make or know of anyone who makes swing out take boxes at a REASONABLE price?

Farmer Billy
29-05-07, 11:38 AM
Thanks for the clarification, but I'm still trying to get my head around it!

So would i need to ask individual float makers what weight each float exerts on the towball?

Me a bit confused, would a towball download specification of 150kg be ok for towing a straight load with one horse? or will it just depend on how the individual float has been built?

The more I look into towing the more complex it gets :)

29-05-07, 12:07 PM
Would be fine I'd imagine ... more depends on your tow vehicle & what the maximum rated down force on the ball is ???

And yes ... most float makers could give you a good idea of what the ball weight is for their floats depending on options fitted.

"The more I look into towing the more complex it gets"

AHMEN" but at least you ARE looking into it .... better thna what some people do !!!

"you dont happen to make or know of anyone who makes swing out take boxes at a REASONABLE price?"

Depends on what you call reasonable ??? Would I or anyone else work for 10 hrs or so building swing out tack box and sell it to you for less than what it costs them in TIME & material ??? Ball park figure supplied WITH a new float would be @ $1200 ... to 'retrofit' into existing float would be considerably MORE as you have to weld brackets on etc ... and THEN touch up all the paint ???

What does you dad charge as an hourly rate in his welding business ??? .... as you probably won't find anyone cheaper than him unless they are not a proper business, or registered for GST & don't have all the usual business 'overheads' ???

Farmer Billy
29-05-07, 12:19 PM
Thanks again sparrow

The tow vehicle that I want is rated up to 2 tonnes and the maximum towball download of 150kg.

I will be wanting to tow 1 horse in a straight load float, most likely without anything fancy

I'll be careful to check with the float makers what the download is before I buy :)

I've been looking into this so much because I want to tow safely within my budget and not waste $$$$$ on the wrong stuff!

29-05-07, 01:55 PM
Ball weight depends a lot on how you load gear in to the float as well.

A well designed float should take all the weight of the horses through its own axles and put minimal weight on the towing vehicle. The rear of my vehicle drops further when I stand on the towbar as when the float is hitched up, so the float would be putting less than 90kg on my ball, even with my horse on. I also use a load levelling device (absolutely necessary according to my vehicle's manufacturer, thus insurance). And my float doesn't bounce when empty, they make their own suspension and don't just attach prefab components. I had to wait 14 weeks for my float from when I put the deposit on it (only $50) as they have so much work on because of their reputation. There was another company I went to that was a little cheaper, and they had 3 available ex stock so I walked away.