When it comes to buying a used pop up camper, a lot could go wrong even if you previously knew a thing or two about trailer attachments.
How do I know this? Well, I have been in your shoes before and I know just how scary it can be to venture into the unfamiliar territories of used pop up campers. This scenario is made a lot worse if you have never owned a seasoned trailer attachment or used pop up camper before.
I receive dozens of emails on a weekly basis asking for simple tips on buying second-hand pop-up campers. While I do my best to reply most of the questions, it is obvious that drafting out a comprehensive guide will provide a lasting solution and also serve as a future reference for anyone interested in buying a used pop up camper. Does this mean I am a self-sustaining expert on this topic? Certainly not, however, I have gathered enough experience over the years from buying a few campers for my family and a few friends.
But before we take a look into my top 21 tips for buying a used pop up campers, there are few checks you should make.
Table of Contents
How Much Camper Weight Can Your Vehicle Tow?
Before you even consider selecting a popup camper, you need to first determine the capacity of your towing vehicle. It makes zero sense to buy a pop-up camper (used one at that) that your vehicle cannot tow. If you are not sure where to look, your vehicle’s owner’s manual is a very good place to start. There is a good chance that you’d find your vehicle’s tow ratings clearly stated there. Do not make the mistake of relying on the word of friends or ‘self-acclaimed experts’. No one would you know your vehicle’s capacity better than its manufacturer.
Once you determine how much camper weight your vehicle can handle, then you can set out to find campers that are well below your vehicle’s tow rating. This will ensure that your vehicle still has enough in store to accommodate passengers and camping gear.
What Features Do You Want Your Camper To Have?
Once you have determined your vehicle’s towing capacity, the next course of action will be to list out the features you will love your camper to have. Would you need all the features included? Or are you more of an old school camper? Whatever the case may be, you must make sure you know exactly what you need in a pop-up camper. For starters, you can ask yourself self these questions.
1. Are you going to be camping alone (nobody does anyway) or as a family? How many sleeping corners will you need? What are your kid’s preferences and how old are they? Chances are that you want to keep this camper for a long time, so it is wise to make sure that it meets your standards and that of your family.
2. What is the weather condition of your camping site? Is it cold or hot? If it is cold, then you will certainly need a furnace. This may not be an immediate need but your future adventures may require one. This certainly was my experience when I took my family on our first chilly trip. We came back with the determination never to go on a camping trip with a camper that does not have a furnace.
3. Will you need a bathroom in the camper? Or a potty? Campground bathrooms are always available but sometimes you may just need an alternative.
4. Will you be camping in warm areas? If yes, then you should consider buying a pop-up camper that has an AC compartment. For us, it wasn’t a huge necessity as we were always exploring cold camping grounds the majority of the time.
5. Will you be cooking in your camper? If you love home cooked meals like my family, then you should make sure that you buy a camper that has a large kitchen area. You could also look out for a large dining area if you intend to eat in your pop up camper. On the flip side, a removable stove and an outdoor gas hookup will be perfect if wish to dine outside the camper.
6. Storage space is another factor you should put into consideration if you won’t be going camping alone majority of the time. Pop-up campers are designed to be compact and sleek but they can also have space for you to organize your belongings properly.
7. A refrigerator will also not be out of place if your camper has one or a compartment for it. Most kitchen spaces in pop-up campers will likely have a space for a refrigerator, but in case the camper you are considering doesn’t have a refrigerator, then at least make sure that it has a place where you can fit one in.
While these questions should cover the majority of your camping needs, you can add others that you feel I must have omitted.
How Much Will A Used Pop-up Camp Cost?
Finally, you need to consider your budget before setting out to talk to a seller. You need to be sure you have all that it takes to buy the pop-up camper and carry out the necessary repairs afterward. However, when it comes to second-hand pop-ups, price is not usually fixed. In fact, the price may vary depending on the season of the year and area. The worst time to buy a pop-up camper is during the camping season. Prices will greatly increase during the camping season and may likely not come down until the season is over.
Fall and winter seasons are probably the best times to purchase a pop-up camper. You can begin your search for possible camper prices by going through Local Guides and publications. Here you can get a clear idea of the exact value of a prospective camper. These Guides have helped me during negotiations in the past. While they won’t give you all the information you require, at least you’d get a basic idea of what you are getting yourself into. You can always do a raw search on the internet, you should get basic ideas on what used pop-up campers in your area should cost from the results that pop up.
Several retail websites should have a huge collection of pop-up campers for you to choose from. However, do not make the mistake of selecting the first camper that comes your way unless you come across an amazing deal that you simply cannot ignore. Otherwise, make sure you look around a bit. This way, you’d be able to compare amenities and conditions of the camper to the asking price. Chances are that your findings will lead you to change some of the items on your wish list.
Generally and based on my past experiences, a small camper fortified with all the basics should cost $1500 or less. This price may change depending on the area you find yourself and the size of the camper. Some campers may cost as low as $500 or a little above the $1500 mark. Prices for secondhand pop-ups are not fixed but these figures should give you an idea of what your budget should be like. Large pop-up campers with extensions such as a bathroom, sliders, and kitchens will run into several thousands of dollars. In the end, you’ll probably be getting what you can pay for.
Having said all that, let’s get right to my 21 tips for buying a used pop up campers. For clarity, I’ll be splitting these tips into short headings. Let’s get started.
Things to Look Out For When Choosing a Used Camper
The major issue you will have to deal with when you decide to buy a used camper is damage repairs. No matter how clean a second-hand pop-up camper looks, there will always be a part of it that require some sort of repairs or remodeling. The very first used pop up camper we purchased didn’t require a lot of fixing. The roof just required some patching and that was it. This helped us to save a lot of money in the long run. So the lesser the repair you will have to make on the camper, the better for you. Make sure you carry out a thorough check of the pop-up camper before you proceed into any form of negotiation.
2. Ease of use and Convenience
Another thing to look out for is user-friendliness and convenience. This is very important especially if you are always going to be going on camping trips with family and friends. It makes a lot of sense to buy a pop-up camper that you can prepare and set up within minutes after arriving at the campground. The ideal pop up camper will equally be easy to tow away from the campsite once all your camping activities are over.
3. Weather Resistance
If your family is like mine, then you’d probably be embarking on a lot of adventures so protection is key as weather can be unpredictable at times. Your pop up camper should be able to protect you from rain (when you don’t want them) and the scorching heat of the sun.
You also want to buy a used pop up camper that can be folded easily when it’s not in use. Well, this shouldn’t be an issue since most pop-ups manufactured today are designed in a way that allows them to be folded up in a four feet tall box. This makes storage incredibly easy.
There are quite a number of pop up camper brands out there in the market, and it is important that you have some of the best brands in minds before setting out to buy a pop-up camper whether used or brand new. This will help you filter your options and leave you with only the best. So to continue our count down, I will introduce you to some of my favorite pop-up camper brands. Let’s begin with my favorite.
The coachman clipper is my personal favorite since it is designed primarily for the family. It has space for a least 7 people to sleep in and enough room left for storing other belongings you wish to take along with you to the campground. The entire length of this pop-up camper is about 60-70 feet and meant for camping trips with the entire family.
Asides all of these, the Coachmen pop-up camper makes towing incredibly easy thanks to its aerodynamic profiling. What’s more, it is fortified with state-of-the-art Glide-N-lock bedding technology. It comes with two different options for hitch weight; 73lbs and 105lbs with external open lengths of 9-foot and 14.5-foot respectively. External closed length stands at 12-foot 11-inch and 12-foot 4-inch. These are the standard dimensions for clipper express.
As I said earlier, this is my personal favorite, you may consider the brands below if you are looking from something different.
6. Livin-lite Quicksilver Tent Campers
This tent camper from Livin-lite features a fiberglass exterior that comes in different colors for you to choose from (second-hand purchase may rub you of this privilege though). It also has at least for different floor plans for you to choose from. You can always settle for the floor plan of your choice while searching for a used pop-up camper.
This Quicksilver Tent Camper is one of the best because it avails you the luxury of making choices that will suit your specific camping needs. It is budget friendly but it only has a sleeping capacity for six people and in some cases only three. When unloaded, the Quicksilver tent camper’s initial weight can drop to as low as 110lbs. Maximum weight with cargo onboard can extend up to 1140lbs. Regardless of the model that you buy, all Quicksilver Tent Campers come with 12-inch tires.
7. Newport (Aliner and Somerset)
If you are a lover of simple things, then you will certainly find this pop-up camper interesting. It is incredibly cheap and it does not feature super fancy accessories. As you would expect, it comes with a simple floor plan and does its best to offer all the goodies you may want in a simple package.
This is the perfect pop-up camper for people who don’t have a huge budget or want anything fancy. This means that you shouldn’t expect too much luxury items or accessories in the Newport pop-up camper. Thanks to its simplicity, you can set it up easily within minutes after you arrive at the campground. It has a vehicle weight (base) of 1150lbs. The trailer (when closed) has a width of 6-foot 8-inch and a length of 12-foot 11-inch.
8. Forest River Hard side Pop-up Camper
This unique pop-up camper from Forest River has a solid exterior design making it look like your everyday travel trailer. This gives you the rare opportunity to experience what both worlds have to offer. It is certainly one of the brands to look out for.
Externally, the camper is made of fiberglass vacuum and it is very easy to set up. It also gives you great storage and towing advantage that other pop-up campers may not give you. To add to this, you get to enjoy all the added amenities that will probably be found only in travel trailers. This Forest River Hard side Pop-up Camper also gives you eight different floor plans to choose from (you can include your preference in your search). It is budget-friendly and features a compact living section, a wood look linoleum, and a maple interior.
This camper is perfect for small family camping trips and adventures. It is so comfortable, you could easily forget that you are actually not in your living quarters. However, space becomes a major challenge when you have to go camping with more members of the family or friends.
9. Jayco Jay Sport Camping Trailer
This camping trailer from Jayco Jay stylishly combines luxury, comfort, and ruggedness together. It is the perfect pop-up camper except if you are in search for one that is significantly big (just like me). However, this camper makes camping a lot more fun and relaxing.
It can be folded and comes with a robust warranty period making it a camper that you can rely on. The Jayco Jay Sport Camping Trailer features a high-quality vinyl flooring (wall to wall) coupled with a faucet and sink made of acrylic. The camper has a stainless steel stove that can be used both indoors and outdoors. Its cabinetry has a residential feel to it that makes you want to spend a lot of time at your campsite. To add to this, the camper has a dinette with reversible cushions. This is luxury at its best and you can add a lot more features to enhance your overall convenience.
Questions to Ask the Seller
Now that you are sure of what to look for when buying a pop-up camper for yourself or family, here are some reasonable and equally vital questions that you could ask the potential seller of the used pop-up camper you wish to buy:
10. How often and under what weather conditions was the camper mostly used?
Answers to this question will give you an idea of what to expect if you decide to buy the unit. You will also know if the camper can survive under different weather conditions
11. Was a regular maintenance routine observed? And what parts of the pop-up camper needed replacing in recent times?
12. How many people can sleep in the camper comfortably in your experience?
Sometimes, the manufacturer’s statistics and specifications may not be applicable in real life situations. So it is best to get first-hand information about the pop-up camping unit from its previous user.
13. What’s the capacity of the water tank? Knowing how much water the tank can take allows you to plan your camping trips a lot better.
14. Can I see the camping unit raised up so as to examine both the exterior and interior before buying? Most genuine sellers will grant you this privilege.
15. Does the camper have a standby battery or do you have to station an electricity hookup right there at the camp to power the unit?
Things To Take Note of Once You Own A Used Pop-up Camper
This is the very last stage and you want to make sure you do not get carried away. It’s important that you take care of the new (not-so-new) camping unit. It may not be as expensive as an RV trailer but it’s still an investment.
16. Keep The Camping Unit Organized always
No matter how big your pop up camper is, space will always be a limited resource. So make sure to keep everything organized at all times in order to create as much space as you can.
17. Store camper with care
When storing or folding your camper, you need to take extra care. For example, folding a moist camper can lead to a lot of damages that will eventually cost you money to fix. Make sure the camping unit is completely dry before storing. This is even more important when you are storing the pop-up camper for a long period of time.
18. Observe A regular Maintenance Routine
Whether you buy a new or used camper, it is important to maintain the unit. This is because pop up campers, unlike RV trailers, are made of canvas that requires regular maintenance. You can start this routine by frequently checking for cracks and breakages. You can take things further by repairing holes and vacuum cleaning the camper. Then pay your mechanic a visit for routine camper maintenance from time to time.
19. Customize your pop up camper
If you had a small budget and you could only afford an old pop up camper, you don’t have to leave things the way are. Do your best to spice things and make the camper a lot more comfortable and luxurious.
20. Go on your first Camping trip with your new pop up camper.
You’ll never know how good and dynamic your camper can be until you go for an actual camping trip. The experience will give you ideas on what to add to or remove from your camper.
21. Create a storage space for your camping unit
If you have never owned a pop-up camping unit before then you should start looking out for spaces in your home where you can fit it in. Your garage will most likely be the best place to store the pop-up camper when it is not in use.
Well, that concludes my 21 tips for buying a used pop up campers. Good luck and enjoy your camping adventures.