Things to Look for When Buying a Camper

Camping has a well-earned reputation for being an affordable, fun, and adventurous way to spend your vacation. However, if you want to take your experience to the next level and buy an RV, you can count on making a significant investment. Yes, that’s true even if you buy a used vehicle!

Don’t let the cost put a damper on your excitement! Over 70 million Americans love taking RV trips, and some discover that the sense of freedom it brings eventually awakens a desire to take this lifestyle full-time. 

There’s no question about it, though — if you get a fifth-wheel or similar vehicle, you’ll want to make sure it’s the right one for you. This guide is dedicated to helping you get there by giving you a better idea of key considerations to keep in mind.

  1. Lifestyle Considerations

First off, make sure you always “try before you buy.” Don’t even think about investing in a recreational vehicle if you don’t know whether you enjoy these kinds of trips! RV rentals are a great way to test the waters without having to make a long-term commitment, and we recommend at least three vacations before you buy your own. (Even better, get a different type of rental each time so you get a chance to “tour” your options!)

Once you’re sure you’re ready to make a purchase, you’ll have a more realistic picture of the way you’ll use your camper. This experience will help you rule types and models in or out. 

Let’s take a look at some important questions to ask yourself along the way:

  • How do you intend to use the vehicle? Will you take it to national parks, campsites, on cross-country adventures, or are you considering off-grid camping? 
  • How many weeks or months per year do you think you’ll be on the road with your vehicle? Will you take long trips or only short ones?
  • What’s the size of your party? Your vehicle will need to accommodate everyone who vacations with you. That’ll often mean your immediate family, but some people plan to take their friends RV-ing, too.
  • Are you the adventurous type, or is comfort a primary goal of yours? Answering this question honestly can help you decide whether a bare-bones model is a good choice for you or whether you need a higher-end vehicle to be happy.
  • How much storage space will you need? (Plus, how much storage space do you want? It’s good to fall in love with minimalism when you embrace the camping lifestyle, but you know yourself best.) Include outdoor hobbies and supplies when you ask this question. Paddleboards and fishing stuff take up a lot of space.
  1. Practical Things

So, you’re currently considering a towable model, like a trailer or fifth-wheels? These models offer the advantage of being detachable so that your main vehicle, whether it’s a pickup truck or an SUV, is available for everyday use when you’re not vacationing. They’re generally more compact and easier to store than integrated units. However, there’s a lot of variety — and much to think about. Here’s a start:

  • Research the types of vehicles on the market so that you know which best suits your needs. You can choose from travel trailers, fifth-wheel trailers, folding trailers, teardrop trailers, and truck trailers — among other, less common options. We’d recommend watching videos of people vacationing in each type to understand the differences.
  • What size camper do you need based on your needs and intended use? What about the layout?
  • If you’re looking for an option that your current vehicle can tow, make sure to check the maximum weight and towing capacity. The last thing you want is an RV you can’t tow.
  • Do you have a place to store your recreational vehicle when you’re not using it? What are the dimensions of your storage space? This can help you determine whether a model is suitable for you.
  • Do you prefer batteries, a generator, or solar power as your energy source? 
  • How big are your air conditioning needs? This will depend on where you’re going!

This is not an exhaustive list. As you learn more about your options, you’ll also want to consider safety features, waste and water systems, and the projected cost of servicing the vehicle. 

  1. Financial Factors

We’ve saved the least exciting bit for last, but we do have to cover it. Money will always play a critical role in your decision-making process. You don’t just have a lot to think about, but we also see a hefty dose of number-crunching in your future.

Besides determining your available budget and shopping around to find the model you’re eyeing for less, there are some other points future buyers should pay close attention to:

  • Don’t just think about the cost of the vehicle itself. Consider how much you’ll pay for upkeep, campground fees, storage, fuel, upgrades, winterizing, and so on. 
  • You never know what the future will bring, and it’s always good to be aware of the current and projected resale value of any vehicles you’re considering buying. 
  • Other fees that should be on your radar include camper and campground insurance coverage, taxes, and registration fees. 
  • If you’re planning to take out a loan to finance your new mobile vacation home, getting pre-approved before you research specific models is a good idea. It will give you a fuller picture of your budget, and this step will also streamline the purchasing process.
  1. In A Nutshell

Like any major investment, buying a mobile vacation trailer can be as daunting as it is exciting. Planning ahead helps you ensure that you’re fully informed, and you’ll wind up with a model that actively adds value to your life. 

Taking the time to research and reflect on all the points and questions we covered in this quick guide gets you a step closer to your dream RV. Next stop? The open road! Fun, freedom, and nature!