Pop Up Camper Trailer for Sale

What is important to know when buying second-hand pop up camper trailer for sale: checkup list and guidelines

If you are already here, that means you are looking for the used pop-up camper for sale.

And the main reason for that is your conscious decision to save money by buying the used one.

Our duty is to provide you with tools and knowledge to help you to get the most “bang for your back”.

But even that goal cannot be considered as an ultimate success. The bottom line is - the ultimate success of your transaction will be measured by the level of genuine happiness enjoyed over the long period of time….

At this moment I assume that you already know what you want. In other words you have the list of:

  • Preferable manufactures and models;
  • acceptable size and weight range;
  • your budget
  • “must have” amenities and welcomed (but not mandatory) options
  • Estimated price range for preferred models of used pop-up campers for sale….


Next step in your process of buying a used pop-up camper is to decide where to look for it. Each of two most obvious choices has its pros and cons so let’s summarize them:

  1. Dealer’s pros
  2. The main advantage of this approach is usually quite good selection of available models for sell in one place (it saves you time and obviously time = money). You may also expect that some of these campers went through the check-up process; some may even have dealer’s limited warranty.

    Keep in mind that not all used pop-up campers for sale are those acquired by the dealer because of their value and good shape. Many of them may be poor-shape “trade-ins” that under normal circumstances, respected dealer will never buy on the secondary market.

  3. Dealer’s cons
  4. You have to be ready for the extra cost including: dealer’s profit, his advertisement, administrative and transportation costs, land and property taxes, commission fees, loan interest rate (if dealer does not have healthy cash margin) etc… Well, it does not really matter how do you call them - the bottom line is that someone has to pay for it and at the end it will be you – the buyer.

  5. Private owner pros:
  6. These are simple to characterize by just two words” No middlemen” (in other words no extra cost to cover). Occasionally you may also find a real bargain what is unlikely to happen at the dealer’s parking lot.

  7. Private owner cons:
  8. The obvious one is time. You may have to spend a lot of time checking adds in local newspapers, making phone calls and finally on the road. It can be exhausting and frustrating process, but if you can take it and you are not in rush, then this may be a good choice.


Armed with this knowledge you can move to the next step – probably the most important one which comes to:

How to increase the probability that you pay the fair amount of money (or less) for what you get (obviously you wouldn’t like to be on the opposite side of the equation paying more for less).

Here is the “little bible” that may help you to get “unscratched” through this process.

  1. Check-up list
  2. Have your check-list with you handy whenever you go to see the used pop-up camper for sale. It’s healthy to have good self-confidence and trust your memory, but keep in mind that due to emotions you may forget to ask important questions and check important items.

  3. First pragmatic look through.
    • Dealer/owner feeling – this is a short story and nothing to dwell on. If “things” look a little fishy, or “to good to be true”, do not loose your time - walk out right away. Trust your guts and/or intuition! This is not the only place you can find your future pop-up camper!
    • Canvas - Collapsible campers’ canvases are very susceptible to humidity and subsequently to mold. Keep in mind that pop-up campers spend most of their lives folded and if the owner did not take care of cleaning them and drying before folding them down the mildew will be deeply rooted in fabrics (including mattresses). You have to set-up (unfold) the camper and use all of your senses (including smell) to have an upper hand. Please note that in hot & dry climatic zones the probability of such damage will be lower compared to the cold and humid areas.
    • BTW – the mildew is certainly a bad sign, but this is not the only problem you may face in used pop-up campers for sale. Another source of your future frustrations may be the smell from the kitchen area. Canvas and fabrics have this unfortunate property of easily absorbing vapors and grease of cooked food. It is very difficult to remove such dirtiness. This is a common problem found in many campers without the hook for an external stove.

      Warning note: many dealers/owners will try to camouflage the bad smell with mothballs, trying to convince you that everything is OK and that this is just the preventive action. Well, use the common sense in your judgment!

    • Moving parts - Folding pop-up campers have many moving parts. You have to check their condition by opening and closing, checking if moving smoothly, no “dents”, squeaking etc (especially kitchen amenities, table, sliding out elements and camper’s setting-up/folding down mechanism). The latter should be lubricated.
    • Electrical and propane units – AC, heater, fridge, internal and external lights, electrical outlets, stove, electrical brakes (if equipped) etc. Please note that most campers may be run on AC (from electrical outlet)), DC (battery) and propane and you would like to know if all these features work properly. You have to turn on and off each unit to make sure they work as expected.
    • Pipes – check water pipes and faucets for potential leaking, rust in water etc… (you have more complex checking process if your favorite used pop-up camper is equipped with an internal shower and toilet).
    • Overall tear & wear – This is not necessarily disqualifying the camper. It is important to properly estimate the level of tear & wear and correspondingly negotiate the price discount. In a way it may be even beneficial to change canvas and mattresses for new provided that you buy the pop-up camper at the right price (or better)! Check for any holes, and/or signs of excessive use….
  • Do not loose the “cool head” (pragmatism), especially if you are a handy-man. Many small “things” can be repaired at low cost and effort, others (like new canvas or beds) may bring the used camper to the shape and look of an “almost” new one. It is all the matter of the right compromise between the immediate cost and the future expenses and efforts. Anticipating such possibility you may first check the price of new replacement items.
  • Mainframe integrity – well, there is little to compromise here. You have to make sure that the frame is intact, no bends, traces of an accident, no major corrosion, etc..
  1. Stay Focused
  2. Do not get “de-focused” or distracted by long answers to the questions you never asked. The dealer or owner may try to focus your attention on some features, options and upgrades. They may be attractive but usually it is a “bait” helping you to “fall in love” with the pop-up camper. Even worse – sometimes it may be an attempt to divert your attention from potential problems. Remember – your first and most important task is to get answers to your questions!

  3. Ask well thought questions
  4. Do not lose time asking questions when you cannot verify answers. For example if you ask the owner how often the pop-up camper was used, what is the millage, what were the maintenance and storage conditions etc., you know upfront that the answers will be the best possible (but ONLY from owner’s point of view). Ask the questions you can verify. For example asking for the millage, you can check tires’ tread. It may be also a good idea to lift-up the camper by side and check bearings for any unusual noise… Otherwise you may hear that camper was used only in local area, once a year and on well maintained roads….

  5. Test on the road
  6. Ask the dealer/owner permission to tow the used pop-up camper on the road using your own car. It is important to check braking and have a feel of camper’s handling on the road. Any sign of skidding during braking may be an evidence of problems with the geometry of the camper’s frame (potentially pointing to an accident in the past). The test drive may also help you to figure out if your camper is not too “ambitious” given the size and towing capabilities of your car.

  7. Paperwork
  8. Paperwork – check if the VIN on the frame matches the one in papers. Ask for any records or repairs and maintenance work. Keep in mind that nothing, literally nothing replaces you careful visual and technical inspection. You have to personally try it, touch and sniff…. One more step you can do is to check on NADA website for any repair history of a given camper provided you have its VIN number.

  9. Importance of an unbiased Opinion
  10. Take your “technically” knowledgeable friend with you (at least once you identified your “target” and need the final objective opinion). That is the best way to remove “emotions” from your final decision!

If you pass all the above then most likely by signing the deal you will open the new era in your life – as a happy camper!

If you are a bit depressed after reading all these advices let me remind you that when you decided to go for a used pop-up camper, you made a wise choice.Used camper does not mean that it has to be an “overused”, poor shape, piece of junk. There are a lot of people that after buying a new pop-up camper and first camping vacations change their perceptions and preferences. They may decide to sell it and that is the opportunity for the dedicated buyer like you. Another advantage of buying the used pop-up camper is that the owner often upgrades the camper with optional stuff (and part of it may be actually useful!). Well, if the owner is also a dedicated seller, you may get for example a bike rack, awning etc. for few bucks. That may be one of these offers hard to refuse…

But the most important reason you started this process is the fact that most likely you can get what you want for just “half price” (the new pop-up camper out of the dealer’s parking lot already lost about 10% of its value….).

If you want to re-start the process of buying the used pop-up camper trailer please go to: Buying Used Pop-up Camper Trailer 

Good luck :-)

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