20 Feb

Thinking About Buying a Pop-Up Camper? Consider This…

Stephanie and I often joke that buying our first pop up camper was the best and worst decision that we ever made.  When we say that we really mean that entering into the RVing lifestyle was a profoundly awesome decision for our family–but we bought the wrong pop up camper.  We bought a shiny new unit with all of the bells and whistles for over ten thousand dollars–when we probably should have bought a used one for two or three thousand dollars.  Don’t get me wrong–our camper had a bathroom, stereo, air conditioner, large slide out, hot water heater, kitchenette etc, etc, etc, and in many ways it was pretty awesome.


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So what was the problem?  Well, we loved RVing so much that we started to camp a lot, and we started to take longer and longer trips.  After spending 16 days in Vermont and Maine on a four stop trip we realized that all of the setting up and breaking down was eating up a lot of precious vacation time.  Eventually, we decided to sell the pop up camper and buy a travel trailer.  Unfortunately, we owed more on the camper than it was worth. This is common when you buy an RV with a long term loan and sell it too quickly.  Just like with an auto loan, those early payments are mostly interest–and RV values depreciate more quickly than car and truck values.  Live and learn, right?


So that’s why I wished we bought a used one–so that we would have been better prepared for the highly desired upgrade two years later.  You see, an awful lot of RVers start out with a pop camper, fall in love with camping and traveling, and move up into larger units–and that’s why it’s wise to start with a used unit and pay cash–not because you won’t use the camper, but because you will, and you may want to upgrade very quickly.

Two of our friends, who have become our close camping buddies, took this approach when they purchased their first pop up camper.  They found a used unit, in great shape, at a great price.  They also fell in love with RVing, but when they eventually sold their little Jayco pop up after almost two years they actually made a profit.  So, I would recommend that you buy a used unit, or a less expensive one than we bought.  But, as you can see, the memories we made in our first camper were absolutely priceless.


When I was young my grandfather often told me that he did not spend enough time with his children when they were growing up–and he told me not to make the same mistake.  Well, I can confidently say that I am not making that mistake. I think that our decision to purchase a pop up, and then a travel trailer, has played a major role in bringing our family close together over the past four years.

So the best advice I can give you is this: if your thinking about buying a pop up camper but having some doubts, put them aside and buy one.  Here are ten great reasons to take the plunge:

1. Campgrounds are much cheaper than hotels.

2. Campgrounds usually have more family-friendly activities than hotels.

3.  You save tons of money by making your own meals instead of eating out in restaurants.

4. You can put your kids to bed and hang out around a campfire instead of setting up a mini bar in the hotel bathroom.

5.  Sleeping in a pop up camper on a cool fall night is heaven itself.

6.  Your bed is your bed.  A stranger did not sleep in it the night before, and the night before that, and the night before that.  You get the point.

7. Closer and easier access to nature: hiking, swimming, canoeing–all of God’s creation is waiting outside your door.

8.  It is acceptable for children to run around and scream at a campground–at a hotel? Not so much.

9.  If I can figure out how to back the darn thing up, then you can too…

10.  You will meet other campers.  And campers are happy people.  You will be happy, too.







10 thoughts on “Thinking About Buying a Pop-Up Camper? Consider This…

  1. Great advice. We also purchased a used pop-up, used it for 4 years, sold it for the same price. Bought a new pop-up and used it for 10 years before we bought our current hybrid, 11 years ago. We tend to hang onto things for a while. I love the ten reasons to RV rather than moteling it.

  2. After years (alright, alright.. decades) of various forms of tent camping (started with cycle camping and currently glamping) I’ve decided to ditch the job and cross country RV for a few months. Much as I smile whilst watching a fellow camper set up a pop up, feel like a modified tear drop will best fufill my current needs. I do need to pay close attention to resell,depreciation and the initial cost though so thanks for giving thoughts of BTDT.

    • The teardrops are cool. Depending on your tow vehicle’s ability you might check out a really lightweight travel trailer like a Jayco Swift. You may pay a little extra for the style and novelty of the teardrop.

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  4. My wife and I bypassed the popup all together and went right into a small 21 ft microlite travel trailer but have been second guessing our decision and wondered if we would have been better off with the popup with its own toilet and possibly a shower?

    Downsides of the TT include: Storage (no place to store and have to pay $50/month to store due to size versus a popup in our garage), cost (around $18k new), tow vehicle needs to be able to tow at least 5,000 lbs which puts you in a larger vehicle with bad mileage compared to a smaller SUV like an Escape, and cost to travel anywhere gets really expensive. I would say our gas mileage drops from 21 MPG down to 9 MPG when towing. We go on long trips across the country so round trip gas price is usually over $1,000 which has me thinking a smaller camper or getting a flight and renting a hotel would be considerably cheaper all the way around. We plan traveling about 4,000 miles a year in the TT… .

    The main reason we went to the TT first was concern about noise when sleeping and to have a our own bathroom for the middle of the night trips and also to have our own shower but thinking this can be addressed with a popup. Anyone have both and want to weigh in?

    • Hi John–Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. On our last episode of the podcast, we talked about first time RV purchases and how hard it it to know what you want ahead of time. You really bring up some great points and we would love to share them on our next episode! Let’s see if anyone else has opinions about this…

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