Travel trailers, especailly mini teardrop campers, are all the rage right now. That’s cuz it’s easy to hitch up, maintain and quickly hit the road on a camping adventure. Let’s dive into everything you need to know to buy a used teardrop trailer or small travel trailer. We’ll cover what to look for when buying a trailer, the best time of year to buy, and how to find an awesome deal.
Last September John and I purchased the Foxy Lady. She’s a simple travel trailer that we picked up way out in rural Nebraska off of Craigslist. Most folks refer to this basic style of camper as a teardrop, because of its shape. When we aren’t romping her in the desert and snaking up mountain roads, she’s been pampered in my garage, receiving small upgrades so the next time she hits the road, she’s ready to tackle whatever adventures we throw her way. Here are a few tips for buying the travel trailer of your dreams.
When is the Best Time to Buy a a Travel Trailer?
You can easily purchase a travel trailer, new or used, any time of year, however, some seasons are better than others. if you go to buy a teardrop trailer during the spring and summer months, you’ll likely have the most inventory to choose from. Also, you’ll immediately be able to use it since it’s prime time for camping and boondocking. However, you’ll also be paying top dollar.
The fall is the best time to buy a camper. People who didn’t use their trailers over the summer will likely be looking to sell, so the used teardrop trailer market will have plenty of options. The season is also over, so travel trailer dealers will be more open to making a deal. Plus, the fall is the best season for camping, so you’ll still have plenty of time to take her on the road
Winter is another good time to buy since it’s the off season and a lot of dealers will be looking to get inventory off of their lot. If you’re buying a used trailer, you might find that there is less to choose from in the winter. Also, it will be harder to get your trailer out if you live in a snowy climate.
Should I Buy a New or Used Travel Trailer?
Travel trailers and teardrop campers are the hip new way to get around. They are cheaper than a van and don’t require extra engine maintenance. However, they have become quite pricey due to their increase in popularity.
It’s easy to find a good deal on a used travel trailer if you know where to look and what to look for. You will likely save thousands of dollars if you buy a used teardrop camper.
Buying new is certainly an option, but just like buying a new car, the value of your teardrop camper will drop the second you drive it off the lot. Buying a gently used teardrop trailer is surprisingly easy and you don’t have to break the bank to do it.
Where to Buy a Used Teardrop Trailer?
My best advice is to troll Craigslist like that person that won’t stop commenting on your Instagram posts (jk, I love all of your comments). Search for things like “travel trailer,” “teardrop camper,” “mini camper” and more. Avoid large metropolitan areas and look at secondary cities instead. For example, we found ours by looking in Omaha, a far-cry from Denver. Sure we had to drive a bit, but the same camper here in town would have cost us two grand more, simply because we live in Denver.
Planning a desert getaway? Here’s your guide to RV and teardrop camping in the desert.
What to Look for when buying a trailer
Alright, so you’ve got some cash and it’s time to buy a teardrop trailer. Perhaps you’re looking at a mini teardrop trailer, or maybe you’re getting something a bit larger and more family-friendly. Be an informed consumer with this list of what to look for when buying a travel trailer.
You Don’t Need Every Bell and Whistle
The best teardrop camper is a simple teardrop camper. Solar panels, fully-piped propane, knobby tires and a big lift may look cool, but you really don’t need those things to enjoy a teardrop camper. Decide on the things that are difficult to change, such as mattress size, back hatch type, and storage layout.
If you’re handy, you can add a few bells and whistles later. For example, we installed a pull-out countertop that doubles as an interior desk with a few simple cuts of wood.
It is cheaper to size up wheels and tires than it is to buy it already completed. For bigger projects, such as solar, consider if you really need it. Most campers that have power will charge as you tow them. There are countless little hacks you can do to customize your teardrop. You’ll be paying a lofty price if you purchase it already tricked out.
Here’s a look at several easy DIY travel trailer upgrades.
Pay Attention to the Title
This is a double-edged sword. If you’re buying a used camper, make sure the title actually exists. Next, you’ll want to check if it’s a salvage title. Our camper got dented at the manufacturer and the previous owner bought it as a salvaged title. Nothing is wrong with our camper, it works and looks just fine. Although we got a cheaper price because of the title, I certainly paid for it with three separate trips to the DMV.
Know what you are getting into prior to purchasing a used camper. Make sure you have all the paperwork with you to avoid having to track down the previous owner for a few signatures. This varies by state, but you can always call the DMV and ask prior to pick up.
Check for Mold, Rot, and Caulking
Mold, rot, caulking, and insulation are key factors for a healthy trailer. A good quality camper is insulated, this is a no-brainer. Check under the trailer for moldy floorboards. Get in the camper and feel around for any soft spots on the floor, this is likely a sign of rot. Inspect other areas, such as the kitchen and any shelving as well.
Inspect the caulking along seams and edges on the exterior of the camper. Caulking is a simple fix, all you need to do is cut out the old caulking and purchase an RV-specific caulking or silicone-based caulk and recaulk the seams. However, this can certainly be a bargaining chip when buying a travel trailer. Teardrop campers that have been stored outside year-round should raise a red flag. Over time the weather and UV exposure can do quite a bit of damage that you might not see at first.
Inspect the Tires
Great tires are the key to the best teardrop campers. Think of it this way, you wouldn’t go on a hike without the right footwear, so why would you tow a trailer with crappy tires?
Does the camper come with a spare tire? If not, consider asking for a lower price. Are the tires a size that is easy to find and replace? What do the treads look like? If the treads are warped or wearing thin you should pay less. Tires aren’t the cheapest items in the world, and this will add some cost. Use this as a bargaining tool when buying a travel trailer.
If the tires are tiny or come in a weird size consider how that will affect your travel and maintenance on the teardrop trailer. Ideally, you’ll want 15-inch tires. Most trailer tires are around 14 inches. Upgrade the wheels and tires once the treads are worn. If the expiration date on the tires is more than five years old, you may want to consider replacing them to avoid an unwanted flat.
Inspect Her Closely
Trailer details are super important. Before you buy, know the plug type from the trailer to the vehicle and be sure it matches with your plug. Does the camper charge as you drive? What kind of battery does it use? Inspect the battery and look for leaks. Get underneath the trailer and make sure the floor and frame look sound. Be aware of rust, rot or splits in the floor.
For more RV, Vanlife, and teardrop ideas check out these awesome resources:
- The Mega List of Car Camping, RV, and Vanlife Hacks
- How to Find Free Camping Virtually Anywhere
- The Ultimate Guide to Car Camping for Beginners
- Car Camping Accessories You Can’t Live Without
It’s All in the Details
Finding a camper in good condition requires attention to detail. Make sure all the doors and locks work well. Inspect the back hatch hardware. Screws often pull out on dirt roads as the camper rattles along. If the door hardware has screws and you plan on taking your new teardrop offroad, consider thru-bolting your door hardware. This is another easy fix that you can do at home, but it’s something to consider. We’ve had plenty of screws pull out.
Again, simple is better here. If cabinets have doors, chances are they will rattle and bounce down the road. Another item you will have to maintain over time. Make sure things like the lights, trailer lights, and sockets are all in working order.
Don’t be afraid to hook up your teardrop to your vehicle before leaving! Make sure the harness works and your lights are in working order. The last thing you’ll want is a ticket as you drive home!
Now you’re armed with a little road warrior knowledge to buy the travel trailer of your dreams. With a little patience, you can easily score a great deal on a used teardrop camper.