Used pop up campers are going to vary a lot by condition, age, and size, all of which will go a long way to help you determine a realistic value, so you don't pay too much. While there are some drawbacks and benefits to using these, instead of tents or hard side units, for this article I will assume you have studied both. If not, you are welcome to check out my article on pop up campers, which applies to both used and new models. Let's look at some of the basics you will need to know when you are looking at used pop up campers for sale. Getting a good deal is always a great idea.
This may be the single most important factor you need to consider when you look at buying used pop up campers from an individual or dealer. In fact, it's entirely possible the cost of canvas replacement or repair could exceed the value of the unit, even when the work has been completed. For this reason, the canvas is the first thing you must check.
Look carefully for holes. It's very common for mice to get into used pop up campers and chew holes in the tent canvas. If the seller is not willing to open up the unit and set it up, take it as a sign and move on.
Small patches, so long as they are waterproof, are probably okay. Ask to test the patch by putting a small, steady stream of water on the canvas patch. If it leaks, you have work to do. Patches done with things like duct tape or regular fabric are not generally going to last. Unless you are getting a great deal, you should avoid used pop up campers with this type of repair job.
In addition to patches, you must also make sure the tent canvas is not "dry." This essentially means that it's still pliable and not brittle. Make sure there is not any mold or mildew on the canvas. Scrubbing mold and mildew to remove it can actually remove the waterproofing from the material. This is important when looking at used pop up campers.
Generally the easiest way to find out if the used pop up campers you are looking at have leaking roofs is by checking the ceiling. A leaking roof will generally leave water stains on the ceiling or walls, along with soft spots (which are simply rotten wood).
Are there soft spots in the floor of the used pop up campers you are considering? If so, it's another possible sign of a leaking roof. In addition, repairs can be costly since you may need to replace the linoleum or carpeting currently in as flooring along with the subfloor material.
Condition of Tires
There's a good chance that a 25 year old used pop up camper will have 25 year old tires under it. Look for dry rot and checking. Tires can be expensive, so if they need to be replaced, take that into account before you make your offer.
How Many Will It Sleep?
Most used pop up campers for sale will have to pull out beds, one on each end, and a table that converts into a bed. Some will have an additional bed inside the main cabin. The sizes of the beds will vary by model. Also keep in mind that what the camping companies call a full size bed is not the same as a standard mattress.
I know that's a lot of things rolled up into one, but the point is to check the accessories to make sure they all work. Many used pop up campers won't have AC or a heater, and some won't have an actual 2 or 3 way refrigerator, relying instead on an ice box. Most units will have a stove, although some will hook up outside of the main cabin and some will be stationary. Make sure the air heater and AC work, if the unit is equipped with them.
The water heater is nice to have for dishes. It's much more convenient than heating up water to get grease off of the pots and pans. However, since most used pop up campers don't have a shower it may not be necessary to have one. Depending on the size and price range you are looking for, you may not find many that have a water heater.
How Long Is It?
This applies to the used pop up campers when set up and when folded down. Longer units will have more room and generally more beds. Most of the time, the main cabin will be 8-16 feet long. Many longer units will have dual axles, not just one. This is necessary for safe transport, but it means that you could have to replace up to 4 tires. In addition, as you move up in size, the needs for a bigger vehicle may occur. Many smaller units, say an 8-10 foot cabin box, can be pulled with an SUV or even a sedan.
Check The Cushions
Unless the mattresses have been replaced, the cushions will be the easiest way to tell how much use the used pop up campers you are looking at have had. Come right out and ask if the mattresses and cushions are original. If they are original and in good shape the unit probably hasn't had a lot of use.
Check Out The Propane Tanks
First up is making sure they are the newer style on the used pop up campers. If not, you may not be able to get an exchange and could have to buy new ones. If you are getting full tanks, consider it a bonus. If not, don't worry about it. The exchange rate is generally only about $20.
You should also check to see if you have one or two tanks on the used pop up campers you are considering. It is possible for your fridge, stove, water heater, and furnace all to run on the propane.
Many used pop up campers you see will have an awning or screen room that comes off the front of the main cabin, over the door. In addition, some will have a bump out that pulls out into an extra bed. Make sure they are in good condition.
Stand Back And Look
Your eyes are your biggest asset when you look at used pop up campers for sale. Is the overall condition good or bad? Are there excessive scratches, dents, and scuffs?
Watch The Set Up And Take Down
You want to witness the set up and take down of the used pop up campers you look at for sale. Make sure there are no problems with the cables, the system cranks up as it should, and that the pull outs come out straight.
Two Sets Of Eyes
This list is not complete. It cannot be. Used pop up campers will be different. Take a friend so you notice the things you may otherwise have missed.