If you’re considering a restroom trailer purchase, cost shouldn’t be your only determining factor
As outdoor special events and weddings become more popular and, often, more elaborate, operators have found that luxury restroom trailers are becoming a lucrative addition to their services. “Our customers’ customers are increasing demand,” says Charlie Senecal, general manager of the trailer division for Satellite Suites.
Of course, they are a major investment in time and money. While many operators do reap the benefits in the long term, a little research on the front end is necessary before making the purchase.
A few major players manufacture and sell restroom trailers — from two-stall units to luxury units costing $75,000 or more. How, then, does an operator choose what’s best for his or her business?
Senecal says his company offers 15 floor plans, from a small 10-foot, two-stall unit for around $16,000 to a 28-foot, four-door, luxury package running about $75,000. So cost is obviously a consideration.
But while money is always a factor, Senecal says, “It’s more a factor in the first- and second-time buyer. They perceive all trailers to be the same. … If they buy the lowest price, they may get a lower-quality unit.”
Dan Fischer, sales manager for Comforts of Home Services, says customers definitely focus on costs — “especially startup companies; it’s always a main consideration.” He calls cost the “dividing rod” of those who will get into trailers and those who won’t.
“Some people get sticker shock,” he admits, but he notes that operators sometimes forget that trailers can be a big revenue producer.
Senecal recommends that operators worried about costs consider purchasing used trailers. “Used equipment is becoming prevalent … especially if they are just getting into trailers,” he says. “It is a good way to save money, but there are a lot of pitfalls. You really want to inspect that trailer in person. You have no idea what that restroom trailer went through.”
In addition to cost, intended use is often more important as a purchasing factor. Senecal asks potential buyers, “Who’s your market? Army base? Small backyard weddings? That will help determine size.”
Number of users is also a consideration, as well as the types of users. The traffic and user base at a smaller backyard wedding is much different than a unit placed at a busy highway construction site.
One question Senecal also asks is if the buyer is looking for ADA-compliant units. “Most forget to ask about ADA,” he says. “But people are becoming more aware of the requirements.”
Fischer also notes that operators should consider their location’s climate and whether it will be used year-round or stored in cold winters. “That’s important to know so it can be winterized.”
Such maintenance is another important consideration. Senecal adds that operators are always “looking for ways to operate restroom trailers more efficiently — those that are quick to set up. Ease of use is very important.” They are also seeking longevity in the units. Most manufacturers will offer a warranty.
Senecal says that restroom trailers can really help operators stand out in their region, especially if competitors are not offering something similar. “A lot of them are starting to get into restroom trailers,” he says. “Our customers who already have them are looking to differentiate themselves from the others, to separate themselves from their competition.”
Take Gretchen Hole, for example. The owner of Swanky Restroom Trailers in Howell, Michigan, started buying restroom trailers about eight years ago. All her units are two-room trailers from Comforts of Home. That size works well for the weddings and VIP events she caters, most of which host 200 people or less.
In addition to the size of the units being a consideration for her — “I don’t have a huge heavy truck to haul them around” — she also chooses trailers to add to her “swanky” image. “I want to be more boutique-y; exclusive.” For Hole, interior amenities are an important consideration.
“Mine are completely different than anybody else’s. I just try to be unique,” she says. “Put your own stamp on it.”
This article is part of a series on breaking into the portable restroom trailer market.