RVing

What to Look for When Buying a Pop-Up Camper

pop-up camper

Pop-up campers are a great way to get into RVing and camping. They’re also perfect for long-time campers who just want something simple and easy but don’t want to go back to a tent.

The pop-up is the logical move between the tent and a full RV. It’s easy to tow, handle, and camp with, and you can even find used ones extremely cheap. However, buying a good pop-up camper isn’t as easy as it is to live with one. Here are some things you need to look for when purchasing a pop-up camper.

Good Condition Hard Exterior

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

While the hallmark of a pop-up camper is its soft side material, there are still hard parts to the exterior of the camper.

When shopping for a pop-up, you need to make sure that the hard surfaces on the exterior of the unit are in good condition. 

If you notice any impact damage, failing seals or seams, or serious corrosion or other damage, then you should probably move on to another unit that interest you. These are serious issues, and at the very least the exterior of the camper must be in good condition.

No Water Damage

Water damage is the bane of every RV’s existence. When an RV gets too much moisture or has water damage then mold forms and that can be a serious health hazard to anyone who wants to camp in it.

The exterior of the RV is usually the culprit for water damage. If you notice any exterior damage, then there may be water damage on the inside of the RV.

Look for things like a sagging ceiling, separated laminate material, soft spots in the ceiling or floor. If there’s anywhere that looks like it has sustained water damage, consider looking elsewhere.

Canvas in Good Condition

Photo of pop-up camper with path selected and awning out
Image from Getty

The sides of a pop-up camper are usually made out of thick and durable canvas material or something like it.

If the camper you’re interested in has damaged or worn canvas sides, then you should think about looking for a different unit.

While the soft sides might not seem to be too big of a deal to replace, it can actually be quite costly and most people have to hire that out. This means that you’ll end up spending a pretty penny just to get the pop-up to a place where it can be comfortably used.

With all of the pop-up campers for sale out there, it’s usually better to just move on to a different possibility.

A Properly Working Lift System

The whole point of a pop-up camper is that it pops up and out. This requires a lift system and some additional structural components.

If these parts of the RV aren’t working properly, then you have a problem. It can be expensive to repair this, so think about looking elsewhere at a different unit.

What’s OK to Overlook?

RV Pop-up interior

At this point, you might be wondering what is okay to live with or move beyond. Well, there’s plenty of things. The interior of an RV, as long as it is sound from a structural standpoint, can be outdated or in minor disrepair and that not be a big deal.

You can always update and customize the interior of your pop-up easily. In fact, I encourage that you do so that it feels more like home.

Cosmetic issues aren’t an issue and should be overlooked when shopping. These are things that can be easily changed or updated for a low price. What you want to avoid are any serious issues.

As they say with homes, “You want good bones.” This means you should get something that’s structurally sound and generally in good condition. From there, you can adjust things as needed or wanted.


Are you interested in a pop-up camper? Check out all of the great pop-ups on sale at Gander Outdoors!

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4 comments

  1. Avatar

    I would also suggest checking on the trailer tires. Mine were 8 years old and developed a bubble on the inside sidewall. Luckily a person traveling behind me noticed it and notified me of a potential blow out. I pulled off the road and put on my spare and Monday morning I purchased 2 new tires and put back the spare. They age faster than car tires. They didn’t show any cracks from age on the side walls. I guess sitting part of the year in storage and back on the road again in the summer. Just a beware.

  2. Avatar

    Interested in good condition pop up campers

  3. Avatar

    If you go by this article. You may as well buy a new pop up. There are very few used pop ups that don’t have some problems. Anything can be repaired if your handy at fixing things. No repairs are that hard on these little guys. I’m doing new cables and tent on my 1992 Jayco. 1000. Dollars for tent. 40 bucks for cables. I like the older aluminum sided easy to take apart to do wall frame repair if necessary. One thing about tent trailers. They require a lot more care. You really need to keep them inside or under a carport. I keep mine under carport with a heater in it in winter to keep it dry in side. Roof vent open a little to let moisture out Mildew will rot the tent in one season. Rains a lot here in Washington state.

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