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How to check a camper for problems, before you buy it.

Updated on February 8, 2012

Things to look for when buying a camper

When I went looking for my first camper I had some experience with campers, so I knew there were some very important things I needed to know about any camper I might want to purchase. All of the information I list here is useful with any kind of camper you may be looking to buy.

I knew from looking at the new campers what a brand new one looked like, then I went looking at the 10 year old used campers to get an idea of how they would be after 10 years. I had looked at enough of the different brands to figure out some were made way better than others. You will be able to figure out which campers are made better if you look at new and used ones yourself.

I looked at all the local RV dealers to see what was in my area, you need to look at all of the brands available in your area so you can figure out if a used camper made by an expensive company is better for your purpose or if a brand new unit made by a less expensive company is what you want. These are all things you, as the buyer must figure out for yourself, I can't help you with that. The things that I can tell you are what to look for to keep from making a very expensive mistake

Checking the basic structure.

I usually walk around the exterior of any camper before I go inside. I look outside first so if has some kind of damage, I can walk away and not waste time on it.

Wear clothes that you can get dirty, the next thing I do is inspect the underside and make sure there aren't things hanging down or loose that should be attached to the bottom of the camper. The salesman has no idea what you know, there shouldn't be pipes, wire or things sagging or leaking, look at the axles too.

Now we all know a leaky roof is not what we want, rather than tell you to get up on the roof, just look and see if the top 6 inches of the trailer looks like the bottom and if there are any discolored spots, if so take a mental note, look closely at those places inside.

Tires can be deceptive on a camper as they don't usually move enough to show much wear, check them for cracks and such as they may need to be replaced. You should also be able to see where the electric cord is to plug the camper in at a camp site. Where does the water hook up? There should be a place to hook a sewer hose and that should have 2 handles nearby to let out the black water and the grey water.

One last thing outside, look at the hitch make sure it isn't horribly rusty and that there is an electric cord to plug into your tow vehicle. Find the propane bottles and check them out and how they secure to the camper for travel.

interstate 70  near Grand Junction Co
interstate 70 near Grand Junction Co | Source

Inside the camper, is any thing wrong?

Now that you've made it past the outside portion of the camper, it's time to look at the interior. While its true that campers come in many sizes, and configurations, most of them have the same basic appliances; furnace, water heater, refrigerator, stove, air conditioner, and a water pump. If any of these don't work look out, they are the expensive components of any camper. Make sure you see these work before you buy the camper, my current camper has a refrigerator that only runs on propane, the components that enabled it to run on electric were gone. I was not happy when I figured that one out.

I would check the ceiling for sags and discoloration, also look in the closets and cupboards for the same, they may indicate a leaky roof. Funny colord patches on the wall tell a leaky tail, too. Walk all over the place and see if the floor feels sturdy, if its not, there may be a problem with the floor being rotted or worn out or damaged in some way, especially if it feels bouncy.

The last thing I want to mention is every thing that uses water, sink, shower, bathtub, toilet, you may even have an outdoor shower, or you may have gotten fancy with a washer and dryer. Try every single thing that uses water. Have the water heater hooked up too, make sure if it runs on propane it works and also check to see if it runs on electricity and it so that works too.

Interior furnishings

The last thing I want to talk about is what's left, the built in stuff and the window covering and floor covering. Just like in a house or an apartment, you should be able to find something you like that won't require major changes.

Try out the furniture to make sure its not hiding a flaw, say the cushion looks like it has support under it, but when you sit you hit the floor. Oh yes I have seen some strange things. Check the windows to see if they actually open and close, while you look at the window coverings, they could be mini blinds or real curtains, or nothing on the windows.

Yes there are a lot of things that could be missing, the trick is to know what is supposed to be there. There are overhead vents that should open and close and they too, should not leak or be broken. Check the cupboards, drawers and closets to make sure they open and close and have all their hardware.

The only thing I can say is, after you have checked all of this stuff you may find that some of it is missing, such as light bulbs or the covers for the lights. You have to figure out if you want to spend money fixing or changing the camper, some things are cheaper than others to replace.

The last important thing, I almost forgot to tell you a lot of the replacement stuff for a camper must be bought through an RV store, not all of it but most of it is manufactured just for a camper. If you are handy and can fix a lot of household stuff yourself, you may be able to adapt things from your local home improvement store to fit your camper.

Colorado  river  from interstate 70 near Grand Junction, Co
Colorado river from interstate 70 near Grand Junction, Co | Source


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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Will be looking for used campers for the first time to get an idea of what we would like to buy. Having knowledge of what to REALLY look for is going to make the difference on money spent. Thank you for opening our eyes and not let the sheer excitement of the day prohibit a smart decision.

    • franksg384 profile image

      Noah Franks 

      5 years ago from Anderson, SC

      I could have used this checklist before i purchased mine!

    • marywanders profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from minnesota

      wba yes I agree knowledge is power, thanks for the compliments.

    • profile image 

      6 years ago from upstate, NY

      Great ideas, knowledge is power, doing your homework can save you lots of money and headaches!

    • marywanders profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from minnesota

      @steeveo, Thank-you, I look at things from a different perspective, it was more practical to live in the camper when I moved 2-4 times a year.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Quite a commitment to live in one, very good idea to take your time and pick the right one. Good advice.

    • marywanders profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from minnesota

      Thank you, I gave myself 6 months to figure out what I wanted and what was going to work for me when I decided to live full time in an RV

    • CZCZCZ profile image


      6 years ago from Oregon

      Interesting hub, I think it is great advice for anyone thinking of buying a camper. Same as any item like a camper or a boat the new owner is so excited to be going camping and out enjoying the outdoors that we can ovfer look the obvious and find ourselves making a bad purchase. Good read!


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