How to Buy A Used Pop Up Camper Without Regrets: 6 Considerations You Need to Know

used pop up camper

Covid has caused a lot of change- notably in the way families feel comfortable traveling. Whether temporary or permanent, a lot of folks have stayed out of the sky and instead hit the road! And what better way to travel than a pop up camper? I know you might be seeing dollar signs, but it is possible to find an older camper at a reasonable price. Let me teach you how to find a great used pop up camper, and make sure to check off all of these boxes to make an informed decision.

This may be the craziest purchase I’ve ever made. But sometimes, you get an idea and can’t help but see it through. I was able to help a neighbor remodel her RV, and went down the rabbit hole of used camper renovations. I had to get my hands on one of my own. 

Nevermind that we didn’t have a vehicle to tow a camper, or place to store it. We found a used 1999 Jayco Heritage pop up camper for sale only twelve minutes from our house, and pulled the trigger. The couple we bought it from was nice enough to deliver it to our driveway, where it stayed while we worked on it. 

As first time buyers, I wanted to share some insight to help you confidently purchase a used pop up camper. 

used pop up camper
Meet Piper!

1. Check the weight of the pop up camper

First, if you are purchasing a camper to keep and use (instead of flip and sell) you need to make sure you can safely tow it with your vehicle. A quick search through my car’s user manual revealed my Nissan Rogue will only tow 1,000 lb. The camper we bought is about 3,000 lb. dry weight. No dice. 

This can get complicated, and there are all kinds of different measurements you need to know and take into consideration. I would recommend reading up on towing here if this is all new for you.

2. Storage

I also mentioned how we are storing our camper in the driveway. This may not be possible for you depending on where you live. Always ensure you check with your HOA, city and county codes first. Technically, having a camper in our driveway for over 72 hours in 30 days time is against our city’s code.

We decided to be proactive, and wrote all of our neighbors a letter explaining that the camper is temporary and must be out and open while we fix it up. We invited everyone to feel free to come to us with any concerns. So far so good. But please don’t overlook the storage component. It could turn into quite a headache otherwise.

3. Water damage

The third thing I’d look out for when looking to buy a used pop up camper is signs of water damage. If you are experienced or interested in rebuilding the frame, replacing the subfloor, etc. then be my guest. But I wanted good bones with minimal work to the core of the camper. I wanted to focus my efforts on giving the interior a face lift!

used pop up camper

Signs of water damage are similar to things you would expect to find in a house. These include wet/damaged floors, ceilings, soft spots, discolored walls and signs of mold and mildew. It is normal for the canvas to show some signs. of discoloration, which can be cleaned off. But any damage that looks like it will affect the overall integrity of the structure was a no go for me.

4. Who’s selling it?

Finding trustworthy sellers is key. The couple who sold us our camper was transparent about the good, the bad and the ugly. 

The good was that the used pop up camper had new wheels, new cabling (what is used to raise the canvas walls), new AC, a new water tank, 2 king beds, a microwave, stove, and never before used toilet.

used pop up camper

The bad- one of the sides where the bed pulls out had bent rails and was super janky. The door, also janky with lots of velcro. An ant infestation. A crooked latch for the short partial door.

And last, the ugly. These were things I didn’t mind because I knew I’d be able to put my touch on them, and that was the whole point. Dated fabric cushions and curtains, dated laminate floor and countertops, dated oak veneer cabinets, original canvas in good shape but dirty, and interior foam on mattresses and cushions that was stained and had probably never been washed. 

The sellers were very transparent about all of these things. They walked us through it, pointing out all the upgrades, as well as features original to the 1999 camper. This was helpful in calculating how much we would have to spend to complete the renovation and get everything good as new.

5. Title in hand?

It is always good to know how many owners have used the pop up camper before you, and make sure the current sellers have the title in hand for a smooth transition. Ours was a two owner camper, the first owning for a very short time before selling to the couple who has had it since. This is also helpful in getting the most factual history (including water damage, flooding, etc.)

6. Where to purchase your used pop up camper

That brings us to where to buy your used pop up camper. I was scouring Facebook Marketplace once, sometimes twice a day. The cheap well priced ones sold in no time, typically within a few hours. I didn’t find much on Offer Up, and everything on Craig’s List seemed like a scam (don’t text or email anyone right off the bat, always message through the app first. If they say they can’t or only want to communicate through phone or email, it is likely a scam).

You could go through a local dealer, but I felt this would be more expensive than dealing directly with an individual. One night, I decided to check Nextdoor, a neighborhood app with a  “Finds” page similar to Facebook Marketplace. Low and behold, I found Piper listed just a few hours ago and was able to set up a time to see her. 

My last piece of advice would be to ask to see everything set up, and taken down. This demonstration should show you how well it moves, and make sure it is functional. You don’t want to get home and discover more problems than you were aware of when you negotiated the purchase.

So there are 6 considerations to teach you the basics of buying that used pop up camper you’ve been dreaming of. I’ve outlined our experience, and hope to provide you with more confidence in knowing what to look for, what to avoid, and how to make a smart buy.

Here is the mood board for Piper, can’t wait to see how she turns out

This guide is only the beginning. Now that we have our used pop up camper (“Piper” the pop up), she will be getting a complete face lift to go from 1999 to 2021. Be sure to follow along! I share live updates on Instagram, and have outlined the process on the blog as well.

USED pop up camper
used pop up camper