Used Pop Up Campers: The Best Path to Affordable Adventure

By Ryan Wilson

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used pop up campers

Purchasing a used pop up camper can be an excellent way to save money while enjoying the great outdoors. With their lightweight design and collapsible structure, pop up campers provide a unique camping experience that combines the convenience of an RV with the open-air feel of tent camping. 

Used pop up campers are also great for those that are new to trailer camping and aren’t quite sure what type of camper they want long-term.

That was the case for me. I knew we wanted a camper to extend our camping season where we live in Alaska, but I didn’t want to spend a ton of money, especially before I knew what features were important to me. That’s why I went with a used A Liner that I purchased on an on-line auction site.

Before buying the first pop up camper you see, it’s crucial to know what to look for when buying a used camper trailer and how to avoid common pitfalls. This article aims to provide you with advice to make the most informed decision when purchasing a used camper. 

Key Takeaways

  • Buying a used pop-up camper can save you a lot of money while offering reliable shelter and outdoor enjoyment.
  • Ensuring that a used camper is in good condition and fits your needs is crucial for a successful purchase.
  • Research, proper inspection, and negotiation are essential steps in finding the ideal used pop-up camper for your adventures.

Advantages of Buying Used Pop Up Campers

A new camper will depreciate significantly as soon as you tow it off the lot. By purchasing a used camper, you get to avoid that initial hit in value. Pop up campers tend to be more affordable than other types of RVs, but buying a used pop up camper can make it even more budget-friendly. You can easily find well-maintained used pop up campers for less than $10,000.

Buying a used camper has the additional advantage that the previous owner may have already made upgrades and improvements to the camper. This could save you time, money, and effort compared to buying a new pop up camper and customizing it yourself. Plus, since you’re buying used, you’re also giving new life to an existing camper, making it an eco-friendly choice.

But, clearly the converse is true too. Just like when we’re buying used vehicles, you need to take a closer look “under the hood” to make sure everything looks good. The last thing you want is to buy a camper only to later find it requires thousands of dollars in fixes before you can safely use it. That’s why it’s important to thoroughly inspect any used camper you might purchase. 


What to Look for When Buying a Used Camper Trailer

what to look for in a used camper trailer

When evaluating a used pop up camper, there are some key aspects to consider. Having a checklist in mind will help ensure you don’t miss any crucial details. Keep in mind that many used campers will have some issues, so you’ll have to decide what you’re willing to settle for. 

But unless you’re ready to overhaul the entire camper, avoid campers that have significant issues that make it unsafe to tow or stay in.

Exterior Condition

Don’t underestimate the importance of the camper’s exterior. Start by inspecting the roof, which is a critical component of a pop-up camper. 

Check if there’s any damage, leaks, or cracks in the roofing material, which could be aluminum, fiberglass, or plastic. Next, examine the siding and frame, making sure there’s no rust, corrosion, or bending.

Ensure the door and latches all work well. Take a look at all the points where different materials connect to ensure they are not coming detached or delaminated.

Make sure any fittings that are screwed/bolted into the camper are not loose. Campers aren’t always made from hearty materials, so this is especially important when considering a used camper.

If you’re buying a used pop-up camper, make sure that the latches that secure the closed roof to the body of the camper are in good work order.

Interior Condition

Look at the floor and walls for any signs of water damage, mold, or rot. Check the appliances, such as the refrigerator, stove, and air conditioning unit, to ensure they’re in good working order.

For pop-up campers, pay special attention to the camper’s fabric to make sure it doesn’t have holes, excessive ware, or evidence of mold. These can be signs that the fabric has not be well-taken care of between camping trips and an expensive fix!

Many camper refrigerators are designed to operate on AC, DC, or propane. So make sure it works with all the different settings.

Check how the drawers and windows operate. A few loose hinges are easy to fix, but they can also be an outward sign of the level of upkeep of the camper and could be a red flag for bigger issues that are less obvious to the naked eye. 

Do the beds, tables, chairs, and couches all appear to be in good condition, or a condition that you find suitable?

Mechanical Components

Carefully inspect the tires, making sure they have adequate tread and no signs of dry rot. Test the trailer brakes and suspension system, as faulty parts can be dangerous on the road and be expensive fixes.

If it’s a pop up camper, how well do the mechanisms for setting up the roof work? Does it have all of the required pieces?

Check that the trailer’s stabilizing jacks are in working order. Similarly, check the trailer jack and the trailer hitch all function as they should.

Plumbing and Electrical Systems

Examine the water lines for leaks and test the water pump. Ensure that fresh water and waste water tanks are working properly and don’t have any leaks. If the camper has tank sensors, make sure they work properly.

Check all electrical connections, making sure lights, switches, and outlets are working without any issues. 

Make sure carbon monoxide, smoke, and propane detectors are in working order.

Check to make sure vent fans work well. 

Throughout your inspection, be mindful of any red flags or signs of neglect. Does it seem like the previous owner took the time and effort to maintain the camper properly? Trust your instincts. If a camper and its price seem too good to be true, it likely is. 


Common Problems to Watch Out For When Buying a Used Camper

leaking

When looking for a used pop-up camper, it’s important to be aware of some common issues that can arise. In your search, keep these potential problems in mind to ensure you’re making a smart decision.

Water Damage and Leaks

These are a common issue in used pop-up campers. Be sure to carefully inspect the canvas and roof for any signs of leakage or water damage. This could include discolored spots, sagging, or mold and mildew. Repairing water damage can be costly and time-consuming, so it’s best to avoid campers with these issues.

Rust and Corrosion

This can be another potential problem, particularly in areas with high humidity or coastal locations. Check the camper’s frame, wheels, and other metal components for any signs of rust. While surface-level rust can often be treated, deep or widespread corrosion may lead to structural problems and higher repair costs.

Mold and Mildew

These can be caused by leaks, poor ventilation, or leaks from an improperly winterized camper. Mold and mildew not only look unpleasant but also create an unhealthy environment, especially for those with allergies or asthma. When inspecting a used camper, ensure there’s no musty odor, and check hidden areas for any signs of fungal growth.

Appliance Functionality

When buying a used pop-up camper, you want to make sure that all appliances, such as the refrigerator, freezer, stove, oven, and air conditioning, are in proper working order. Having to repair or replace these items can add to the overall cost of your purchase.


Where to Find Used Pop Up Campers for Sale

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There are various sources to find the perfect one for your needs and most you can utilize from the comfort of your own home.

Online Marketplaces

You can easily browse through popular online marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist to find used campers. These websites offer a wide range of used pop up campers with the added benefit of being able to communicate directly with sellers.

Surplus Auction Sites

Another great option is surplus auction sites. Government surplus websites and storage unit auctions often have used pop-up campers at discounted prices that can be a real steal—just make sure to do your due diligence when bidding.

I bought my A Liner Expedition on a government surplus auction and got it for a great price. I bought it for thousands of dollars less than if I had bought it from a dealer or someone online. It had been used as a rental pop up camper for troops stationed on a nearby base.

It had a fair amount of wear-and-tear, but still functions great and serves our main purpose of giving us somewhere warm and dry to stay while camping in our home state of Alaska.

Dealerships Specializing in Used Pop Up Campers

If you’re looking for a more curated selection, dealerships specializing in used campers can be a great resource. Websites like RVT or RV Trader are excellent places to start browsing for used pop up campers.

Local Classifieds and RV Clubs

Don’t forget about your local classifieds, either online or in print. Keep an eye out for used pop up campers for sale in these ads, and you might even stumble upon a hidden gem. Additionally, connecting with local RV clubs or facebook groups devoted to pop up campers is another great way to network with other camping enthusiasts and potentially find someone looking to sell their used pop up camper.


Tips for Negotiating the Price of Used Pop Up Campers

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Buying a used pop-up camper can be an exciting experience, but it’s important to make sure you’re getting a fair price. Here are some strategies to help you negotiate like a pro and save some money in the process.

Do Your Research

It’s important to know the market value of the pop-up camper you’re interested in. You can use websites like RVT and read similar listings to get a good idea of the asking prices. This will help you determine if the seller’s asking price is reasonable and give you some room for negotiation.

Set a Budget

Determine your maximum spending limit before starting the negotiation process. This will help you stay focused and avoid going over your budget during negotiations. Be honest with the seller and let them know your budget constraints. They may be willing to accommodate if they understand that you’re working within your financial limitations.

Be Prepared to Walk Away

If you can’t reach a fair price agreement for the used pop-up camper, it’s important to know when to leave the table. You shouldn’t feel pressured to make a purchase, especially if the price is higher than you’re comfortable with. Try not to get emotionally-attached to a camper before it’s actually yours. 

While negotiating, mention any issues or concerns you’ve found while inspecting the camper. For example, if you notice some wear and tear or potential repairs, point those out to the seller. This can help you negotiate a lower price, as the seller may be more open to reducing the price if they understand these issues need addressing.

Remember to be patient and maintain a friendly tone during negotiations. It’s essential to be polite, respectful, and approachable. People are more likely to offer you a better deal when you build a positive rapport.


Important Paperwork When Buying a Used Pop Up Camper

documentation

When you’re purchasing a used pop up camper, it’s essential to have proper documentation. It helps protect you as a buyer and ensures you have all the necessary information about your new-to-you camper.

Obtain the Title

Obtaining the Title is the single most important document you need after purchasing a used camper from someone. The title serves as proof that you own the camper and you’ll need it to register the camper in your name with the DMV and get license plates for the camper.

There are ways to get a new title if the previous owner never had one or lost it. But it’s a much bigger hassle and there’s no guarantee that the DMV will allow you to get one. There’s also the potential that the reason a title isn’t available is because the camper has been stolen or had serious damage to it that the owner doesn’t want you to be aware of.

Bill of Sale

This essential document acts as proof of your purchase and includes important details like the camper’s make, model, year, and VIN number.

Owner’s Manual

A camper’s owner’s manual is full of highly relevant information about your “new” camper. It will help you troubleshoot many of the problems you might eventually encounter. They are also very helpful for helping you better understand how different components of your camper work.

If the previous owner doesn’t have a copy of the owner’s manual, you can likely find it online, or at least one for a similar model.

Maintenance Records

Don’t forget to obtain any relevant maintenance records if they are available. These records provide insight into the camper’s upkeep history. Proper maintenance plays a significant role in the camper’s lifespan. By reviewing these records, you’ll gain an understanding of how well the previous owner cared for the camper, and if any recurring issues need to be addressed.


Summary

Buying a used pop-up camper can be an exciting and cost-effective way to enjoy the great outdoors. Be sure to not fall in love with the first used pop up camper you see unless it meets all of your needs.

Be sure to know what to look for when buying a used camper trailer. Thoroughly inspect its condition, looking for any signs of wear, damage, or potential issues. Remember that a good deal isn’t always the cheapest option.

Look on sites like Facebook Marketplace and RVT.com to find good deals on used pop up campers.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek advice from fellow campers and online forums. The camping community is a wealth of knowledge, so be sure to tap into these resources as you embark on your used pop-up camper search.

Once you finally purchase a used pop up camper, check out our pages on how to winterize a camper and how to keep mice out for tips on how to keep your camper working great.

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Author

Ryan is an avid outdoorsman who loves camping, hiking, and backpacking. He was initially reluctant to join the camper world, but after his first camping trip in one, he became a convert. He especially loves how camper ownership extends the camping season and makes it easier to be more adventurous with young kids. When not enjoying his free time, he works as a professional wildlife biologist studying the ecology and conservation of large mammals in Alaska.