RVing

Is a Used Pop-Up Camper a Good Idea?

A pop-up camper set up next to a truck and an awning

If you’re just getting into camping and don’t want to go all-in on a full RV or if you’ve been tent camping for years and want something a little more, a pop-up camper might be a good option for you.

However, a new pop-up can be a little pricey. That’s where used campers come into play. But is buying a used pop-up really a smart idea? Let’s take a closer look.

Why You Should Buy a Used Pop-Up Camper

Used pop-up campers are a great choice for the right camper. If you want the privacy and comfort of a travel trailer, fifth-wheel, or motorhome the pop-up isn’t going to be for you, but if you know what you’re getting a pop-up is an excellent choice and going used can be really smart.

First up, used pop-ups are cheap. I’m talking really affordable. Depending on the year, make, model, and condition you can pick one up for just a few thousand bucks, and even a nice one can be found for less than $10,000.

Next, I have to note that some cars, most SUVs, and all trucks can tow a pop-up trailer without any issues whatsoever. If you have limited towing capacity and still want to camp, a pop-up is a great option. Pop-ups are really lightweight, with some weighing in under 1,500 pounds.

Pop-ups are also easy to set up, keep you closer to nature, and make camping extremely easy in general. As long as you really like the outdoors, you’ll like camping in a pop-up camper.

What to Look Out For If You Do Buy a Used Pop-Up

a pop up camper parked in a campsite

With all this said, there are some issues with buying a used pop-up. There are issues with buying any type of camper used, but pop-ups have a few special considerations. Here’s what you need to look out for.

Torn or Damaged Canvas

The canvas sides of the pop-up camper that you’re considering need to be in decent shape. If they aren’t, you’ll have to replace them and this can get to be more costly than you might think. If you see a used camper with damaged sides, move on to another possibility.

Damaged Roof or Ceiling

Just like any RV, pop-ups need a good roof. This is one of the first places you should look at for damage or wear. If the roof is damaged, the seals and seams look bad, then there could be water damage, which is a huge red flag.

If you don’t see anything on the outside of the camper, take a look at the ceiling inside the unit. Even if the outside looks good, the inside of the camper could show water damage. If you notice soft spots or sagging in the ceiling, think about looking elsewhere. There could be serious damage, mold, or both.

Obvious Water Damage

Even if the roof and ceiling look to be in good shape, keep an eye open for any other spots in the camper that look like it could have sustained water damage. Things like soft spots on the floor or stains are clear indicators.

If you see them, ask about them. Depending on their severity, it might be smart to move on to another option.

A Non-Functioning Lift System

If the pop-up won’t open or has trouble opening, you need to think about a different one. This is an important part of the pop-up, obviously. It’s also expensive to replace or fix. Make sure to test opening and closing the camper a couple of times to ensure it does so smoothly.

Damage to the Body of the Camper or its Frame

Any other damage to the body or frame should be taken into account. Frame damage is a major red flag. You should actually get under the camper to look at it. If it’s bent or damaged, the trailer likely won’t tow properly, and that can be a safety hazard move on to a different option.

There are Plenty of Used Pop-Ups Out There

coachmen viking pop-up camper

Because pop-up campers are inexpensive, they often change hands. Everybody wants to give the pop-up camping experience a try. This means there are plenty out there. Don’t get stuck on one particular model.

Some minor cosmetic damage is not a big deal, but if you notice any of the issues listed above, you should move on to a new used pop-up camper.


Are you interested in used pop-up campers? Gander has many in its inventory right now, check them out!

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