Love to Camp? 4 Things to Consider Before You Buy a Camper

A New Toy Mrs. SPF and I have considered buying a pop up camper for the summer.  We both love to camp, and little SPF is big enough to take along on our summer green camping adventures.  However, before we take the plunge and purchase a pop up camper, there are several financial considerations.

Here is what we are considering:

1.  Buy new or buy used?  We could buy a new camper from Costco for $2,800.  However, the model we are considering, the Lifetime Tent Trailer Kit with Sahara Tent, is literally like a tent on wheels.  It will definitely provide protection, but the design and amenities are rather basic.  It does however double as a utility trailer. The price is right, though.  But should we pay $2,800 for a utility trailer that has a fitted tent add-on?

If we buy used, we’re considering the Quicksilver, which will run us $6,000 used.  This is definitely not as reasonable as the Lifetime Tent Trailer Kit, but it has more amenities and sleeps 6.  (Theoretically the Lifetime Tent Trailer Kit sleeps 6, but 2 of those people have to sleep on the floor.)  The design is also more sturdy and durable (made of aluminium).  When purchasing, we also have to consider possible resale value.

2.  How much to insure the camper?  Pop up campers must also be insured.  I’ve been looking at auto insurance in Ontario to determine how much each camper would cost to insure.  While the insurance is not that expensive, it’s still another cost we have to consider.

3.  How will gas mileage be affected?  Considering that the price of gas increases during the summer, we’ve also tried to determine what our gas mileage might be when towing each camper.  The Quicksilver weighs more than the Lifetime Tent Trailer Kit and will affect gas mileage more.  That is not necessarily a decision maker, but if we take long trips, the difference in fuel efficiency could be substantial.  The Quicksilver is made of aluminium however which is much light that traditional pop up campers.Zion?

4.  How easy is the camper to put up and down?  This last consideration isn’t a financial one so much as one of convenience.  Not every camper is created equally, and some are much easier to put up than others. When it is raining and our son is exhausted from a long day in the car do we want to put up a tent (time!) or pop open a tent trailer?  This is also an important consideration in deciding what camper to purchase.

A pop up camper will definitely save us money over staying in a hotel for each vacation, but there are important financial considerations to make before buying one.  We still haven’t decided which one to go with, but we likely will in the next few months.

Do you have a pop up camper?  What other considerations are important?

6 comments to Love to Camp? 4 Things to Consider Before You Buy a Camper

  • This seems like a great item to do a cost-per-use analysis on! For instance, if you bought a used pop-up camper for $6000 and used it for 3 weekends each summer, that would be $2000 per weekend for the first year. The numbers would decline depending on how many years it was kept and used. I think I would try borrowing a pop-up tent for my first outing – there are some kids who don’t adjust at all well to changes in routine.

    • Great point on getting our ROI out of a trailer. We currently tent camp but found that with a baby I had to set up and our tent is not a one person set up tent! We would have to commit to camping regularly to get our ROI back.

  • We’ve talked about this a lot and decided to purchase some better quality gear instead. Something to consider is what is it about trailer camping that you find most appealing. Can you get that without buying a trailer? Maybe. Or maybe you should infact go for a higher end model if it means you’ll get more use out of it

    • We have a decent Coleman tent. In hindsight the screened vestibule is not ideal – we would prefer to have more space! I do like the trailer in that it gets us off the ground and we can store gear in it (even though we drive an Outback and have a roof box baby gear (pack’n’play, stroller, high chair + toys toys toys + clothes and diaper gear) really takes a lot of space in our vehicle. If we get another dog the “trunk” is greatly reduced.

      What I did like about the Costco is that it is also a utility trailer which is great for hauling stuff. But again, that’s an expensive tent to put on top of it!

  • We bought a camper at the end of 2011 and last year was our first year using it. Our answers:
    1. Used – We bought a 23′ trailer that was a 2004 model. It saved us a lot of money. It was in very good condition as the prior owners used it 1-2 times a year for less than 5-7 days. The lack of wear was evident. We did need to re-seal the roof last year, which was a considerable cost, but it still saved us a huge amount over anything new or even more recently used.
    2. Insurance – Our insurance company allowed us to add this on and the cost is pretty minimal, less than $100 per year.
    3. Mileage – This one hurts. Our tow vehicle generally gets around 20MPG on a highway trip, but that’s cut in half when towing our trailer. We now budget for the cost. It sucks but we know what to expect now.
    4. Setup – Our beds fold out of the ends of the trailer, which is great to give us extra floor space that would otherwise be taken up. Altogether, from when we arrive at the campsite, it’s generally about a 1.5 hour process to get fully setup. That includes backing in, hooking up the power, getting unhitched, getting the awning down and the mats down, the beds put together, and the slideout and all that arranged.

    • Thanks MB. I believe I linked to those articles on your purchase.

      We would be looking at a much smaller/lighter trailer so our MPG shouldn’t drop quite as much. Also, given one is a utility+tent and the other aluminium, very light weight!

      I didn’t think it would take 90 minutes … perhaps a smaller trailer would be less? I think my tent + set up is around 90 minutes but it is a 2 person job.

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