If you are considering the purchase of a pop-up camper trailer, then you should certainly make yourself familiar with some of the most important things to look at when you get to inspect your future purchase. If you are about to be a first-time owner of a pop-up camper, then you should not underestimate the importance of this step – it is the only way to ensure that you will get the best bang for your buck.
This might sound like a daunting task, but we assure you that it is worth the effort to try and learn more about the most important things to look at when purchasing a pop-up camper. Below, we go over some of the top things to consider when inspecting a camper.
The first and most important thing to take a look at is the roof. Typically, pop-up camper roofs are made of either aluminum, fiberglass, or ABS plastic – to begin your inspection, you want the roof to not be popped up. Regardless of the material used, there are two things that you must pay close attention to – the trim and the corners. The latter is usually the first thing to fail in a roof’s structure – of course, this is preventable with proper maintenance and timely repairs. If you see fresh caulk, then you know that the owners have paid attention to maintenance, but if you see any compromise in the caulk or around the trim, you might need to worry about water damage.
However, inspect both the trim and corners closely – if you notice any holes or cracks in the structure, then this is likely to mean that there is water damage underneath. Any signs of damage in these areas are a red flag, and you might be in for costly and tedious repairs. You want the trim and corners to be fresh, sealed, and free of cracks.
Pay attention to the surface of the roof as well – seeing traces of patched-up holes and dents may mean that the camper was hit by hail. You do not want to deal with the consequences of such damages – a roof that has been hit by hail will need to be patched up again and again and again. Take it from me: you really don’t want to replace the roof of a pop-up camper. I have, and it is a considerable task.
This is a basic piece of mechanical equipment, but you still need to verify its condition. The most important thing to check on is the rope itself – look for signs of wear and tear, and also see if the rope is greased up. Why do the latter? It can tell you a lot about the state/usage of the rope – if it is greased up then it is either maintained, or it is not used that much. In both cases, it is a good thing.
Canvas: Perforations, Stains, and Mildew
While the previous two stages required the camper to be closed, now it is time to pop it open. The three things to check for are holes, stains, and mildew.
Small holes and perforations can be patched out easily – it will be cheap and easy. However, if you notice a larger hole, then you might want to look into other offers. Bigger perforations are pricey to fix, and it might be necessary to purchase a whole new canvas – even used ones could go for well over $1,000.
If there is mildew, then the previous owner did not make an effort to dry it out before closing it. While this is not necessarily terrible, it may mean that the mildew has made its way inside – this could cause a lot of trouble in the future, so it is probably best to avoid moldy canvases.
Last but not least, stains. Seeing stains usually means that there was a water leak while the camper was closed. Even if the leak is fixed now, this fix is unlikely to be permanent. Stains should be considered a deal breaker.
Floor & Ceiling
Once the camper is popped open and you get inside, it is time to see the condition of the floor and ceiling. When you inspect the ceiling, check for spots by pressing on it all over, focus on the corners in particular. Typically, the corners and the area around the AC unit are the weak spots, so they are the places where you may find issues. If you find a weak spot that gives in, then you need to keep investigating to find the source of the issue.
The floor is pretty much the same – corners are the weak spot. Now, keep in mind that they are typically hidden by cabinets or storage of some kind, so you will need to open those to access the floor spots you want to press on.
The A/C unit is easy to check on – see if it manages to cool off the inside nicely. The good news is that even if it seems to not work that well, it is fairly easy to replace – a new one typically goes for around $350, and a used one can be found for as low as $150. An A/C unit that does not work well is not a deal-breaker, but you should probably try to bargain for a discount considering the cost of the A/C replacement.
Sinks & Plumbing
Sinks in pop-up campers are certainly not the greatest – the best you could do is to make sure it runs and see if it supports hot water. The same goes for plumbing – run the water and see if it drains nicely.
Other Appliances (Fridge, Stove, Furnace)
Appliances in pop-up campers are convenient, but you should not expect amazing things from them. Especially in the case of pop-up campers, which are the most affordable option when it comes to campers. The fridge/cooler, for example, is not powerful enough to properly cool off food or even drinks. Check if it works, but do note that it is not a reliable way to keep food cold.
The stove typically runs on propane, and it can be either an inner or outer one. While having a stove inside may sound convenient at first, it is not really great – cooking inside a tent can be a potential fire hazard and can cause ventilation issues.
The furnace is also important to keep the space warm, so make sure it works. A dysfunctional furnace is not a major concern – typically, pop-up campers are easy to keep warm with a small space heater. Of course, identifying non-working appliances is mandatory since it would impact the price in your favor.
What to bring with you for inspection
You will need to check if appliances are running, so bringing an extension cord and an Edison plug converter is recommended. You will need 30amp or 50amp to Edison depending on the power that the camper is setup for. Of course, make sure to meet up at a place where you will be able to connect and test electrical – this may mean you need to insist on meeting at the owner’s house.
Since you may need to crawl up underneath the camper or peak in dark spots, you should bring a headlamp and a flashlight.
Wheels & Bearings
Wheels and bearings may seem like an important deal, and a lot of people worry about them first when looking at a trailer, but the truth is they can be replaced without really breaking the bank. Tires are cheap (around $120 for a set, or less), and you can even sell your old tires to make some money back. Replacing bearings is also recommended, regardless of condition – it is easy to do if you’re handy with basic car maintenance, and you can get the parts at most auto parts stores for under $25. If you feel like the wheels and bearings are in poor condition, you can use this in your favor when negotiating the final price – but don’t let it stop you from buying a camper.
Upgrade your camper for free
Playing the camper market can help you get a nice upgrade for free. However, you will need to hold two campers for a while, so this is applicable if you have a storage solution, as well as the finances to purchase a new one before trading in the old one. So, what is the trick? It is really simple – wait for the cold months to buy a more modern camper, but do not sell your new one just yet. Winter prices are much lower, so you will be able to find some great deals. Once spring comes, it is time to sell your old camper – the market is much more active at the time, and you will be able to get a great deal. If you play your cards right, you might just end up getting a free upgrade, or at least save a lot of money like I did.