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Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming 82190

Ponderosa Trailers - Worst built trailers in America

Ponderosa Trailer
If you are thinking about buying a Ponderosa trailer, we suggest that you think again. In our opinion, this just may be the worst built trailer in America. A few years ago we made this mistake, and we have put together this web page to keep you from making the same mistake.

The trailer that we purchased is pictured to the right. We found ourselves in a time-crunch and were unable to purchase the trailer we wanted before our season began, so we ordered this trailer from Ponderosa.

The first problem that we encountered was that it was not built to our specification. Almost none of the features that we ordered was present, but time was not on our side, and we had to take it, as our season was beginning.

Ponderosa Trailer Weld
This is one of the welds on the trailer. Give us an hour, we'll teach you how to weld better.
Our troubles began about 50 miles into our first trip, when we blew one of the extremely cheap tires that came on the trailer. The reason the tire blew because was two fold: 1) Ponderosa's telescopic gooseneck would not retract far enough to accommodate a taller pickup truck like Dodge, thus placing all of weight on the back axel. The trailer might as well not have three axles. 2) We doubt that you can buy cheaper tires than those that come on a Ponderosa trailer.

After replacing the cheap tires on the back axel with 14 ply tires, we made our 1,500 mile trip. Before arriving, however, the brakes and the lights quit working. We had to take the trailer to a local shop and have it completely rewired.

The man who rewired the trailer warned us that he had never seen a poorer welding job, and sure enough, that was our next problem. En route to a pack trip, we blew one of the expensive new 14 ply tires that we had put on the trailer. The weld on one of the inside gate-hangers had broken loose, and the gate-hanger went through the wall of the trailer and stuck into the side of the tire. (See below for more difficulty with gate hangers and welds.)

Ponderosa Trailer Kickwall
Kickwall already coming loose with less than 6,000 miles on the trailer.
The next thing that we discovered is that the trailer leaks like a sieve. We once put new saddles and blankets in the nose-cone after a pack trip and waited to unload them because it was raining. The next morning, everything was soaked.

After the first summer of using this trailer, we pretty much parked it and only used it when we were forced to. One such occasion came about a year after we had purchased it. When we went out to hook onto it, it had a flat, and so we sent the trailer to the local tire shop. What we found was that we had to replace the four remaining original tires because they were coming apart with less than 5,000 miles on them.

Among the options that we ordered on the trailer were kickwalls and floor mats. The mats were very thin, did not cover the entire floor and were put down with staples. Instead of cutting the mats to fit the floor, Ponderosa overlapped them so that the horses catch their hooves on the lip, thus ripping up the mats. The kick walls were made of really thin, cheap plywood. They are already coming loose, as pictured to the right.

Ponderosa Trailer Kickwall
Cross member (or floor joist) that Ponderosa didn't bother to weld.
After having so many problems with the trailer, we began to make a comparison between our Ponderosa and Wrangler trailers, both of which are 32 feet long. Beneath the floor, the Wrangler trailer has 24 angle iron cross members (or floor joists); the Ponderosa has just 12 for the same distance, and the angle iron is 3/16" x 1.5" x 1.5" whereas the Wrangler has 1/4" x 2" x 2".To the right is pictured one of the twelve cross members that Ponderosa did not even bother to weld on one side.

The other most notable difference between this trailer and our Wrangler trailer is that it is constructed with lots of thin angle iron and corrugated metal, which leaves rough edges that can damage stock. To the bottom right is a picture of what one of the divider gates did to the butt of our mule Joe during our 1,500 mile trip to Montana. (Fortunately, Joe made a full recovery and has no lasting scars.)

Ponderosa Trailer Kickwall
This is what the sharp edges in the Ponderosa trailer did to the butt
of our mule Joe.

The Final Chapter

After three seasons and less than 15,000 miles, we decided that it was time to bite the bullet and retire our Ponderosa trailer because it was just too dangerous to use. Alas, the story was not over.

When we went to clean up the trailer for trade-in, we found that the last time we had used the trailer, the floor had fallen through beneath the mats. So we pulled back the mats and discovered broken tongue and groove lumber. At first glance, we couldn't figure out why they had used tongue and groove, because obviously such a floor would not allow the urine to drain and would cause the floor to rot much faster. But as we tore into the floor, we began to understand.

The top frame shows the broken tongue and groove floor; the bottom frame from beneath the trailer shows the bowed angle iron and flat iron strips not even touching the flooring.
By using tongue and groove flooring, Ponderosa was able to use fewer and lighter cross members (as mentioned above) because the tongue and groove distributes the weight across more of the boards. However, it is a pretty poor substitute for a good piece of iron.

The support beneath the tongue and groove flooring consists of 12 3/16" x 1.5" x 1.5" angle iron cross members and six thin strips of flat iron running the length of the trailer (pictured to the right). The over all effect is the creation of a net under the floor. Unfortunately, the net gives, and the boards don't. All of the cross members and the flat iron strips have bowed, and in the end, our horses were standing on a tongue and groove floor with almost no support. As you can see in the picture to the right, the boards simply broke under the weight; they weren't yet rotted, though they will be in time.

By contrast, the flooring in our Wrangler trailers runs parallel with the length of the trailer and has small gaps to drain the urine. What this means that not only does our floor drain and remain dry, but also that each board has a piece of 1/4" x 2" x 2" angle iron support every 15 inches.

The truly frightening part of this is that when we purchased this trailer, the Ponderosa salesman encouraged us to pay extra for three additional strips of flat iron for extra support. This means that ordinarily they only use three strips instead of six.

The top frame shows the gate hanger from the inside; the bottom frame shows the weld on the outside where it broke loose; note that the weld didn't even penetrate the metal
While replacing the flooring, we discovered that yet another gate hanger had broken loose, and because the weld didn't even penetrate the metal, we felt obliged to show you a picture of it to the right. Look very closely at that weld.

Aftermath

Since purchasing the trailer, we have learned of many people who have had similar problems with Ponderosa trailers. One woman's trailer fell apart within a month of purchase, and Ponderosa would not stand behind it. After taking the trailer to a local welding shop and adding a lot of reenforcement to it, she was able to use it. Furthermore, many people have begun to contact us with their own Ponderosa horror stories. (Feel free to send us yours.)

In October of 2007, Ponderosa's lawyer sent us a letter threatening us with a lawsuit if we did not take down this page. After we pointed out our First Amendment rights and that everything on this page is true, they got quiet. We have our trailer parked out back and plan to use it as Exhibit A should they ever actually sue, but the truth is a pesky thing.

In conclusion, what we can tell you is that we have lost more money in downtime and repairs than if we had just gone out and bought the trailer that we wanted. All of our other trailers are Wrangler trailers, and we find them to be very acceptable and not especially more expensive than a Ponderosa trailer, certainly not when you consider the money that we have spent on our Ponderosa trailer. Our trailer dealer won't even sell Ponderosa dealers, claiming that they are "the worst built trailer in Arkansas." We wish that we had listened when he told us not to buy one. On the upside, we learned the lesson so you don't have to.

Finally, if you value your life or the life of your horses/cattle, consider that this piece of junk just might come apart with you when travelling down the road.

Sincerely,

Jett Hitt
Yellowstone Wilderness Outfitters

Yellowstone for Violin and Orchestra

Be sure to check out the number one selling CD in the Park by your outfitter and guide, Jett Hitt. You can download samples of this full scale violin concerto that was inspired by the Park and recorded by the Slovak Radio Symphony. It is the perfect sound track to your Yellowstone vacation.

Yellowstone CD