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.
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.