Buying a used truck camper is an excellent way to save money and avoid the initial decrease in value a new camper sees immediately after towing it off the lot.
Did you know…
A new truck camper typically loses 25% of its value in the first five years!
While buying a used truck camper has its perks, there are a few things you need to be aware of so you don’t end up spending more money in the long run on repair costs.
So, here’s what to look for when buying a used truck camper, along with some important tips and a downloadable checklist to ensure you don’t miss anything.
The first step is to get a clear understanding of the camper’s history. Just because it looks clean and well-kept doesn’t mean it was properly maintained or didn’t encounter other issues.
Ask the dealer or owner, depending on whether you are buying the camper from a lot or a private party, for any information or records about the vehicle’s past.
This step is less important for truck campers than it is for motorized RVs like Class-As, but any information you can get will benefit you.
Camper Exterior Checklist
Now, let’s inspect the camper itself, starting with the exterior.
One of the most neglected inspection checkpoints is the roof, but it’s one of the most important!
Why? A leaking roof can cause all sorts of issues, including water damage, mold, rotting of the structure, etc. And when this happens inside the walls, it can be hard to catch in a timely manner, requiring expensive repairs.
Roof Inspection Checklist:
- Check the roof for cracks and damage, especially along seams.
- Inspect the caulking and other seals for drying out or cracking.
- Check around the AC unit (if applicable), vent covers, solar panels, roof racks, etc., for cracks in the seals or the units themselves.
- Remove any vent covers and check for blockages, for example, debris build-up, animal nests, etc.
- Lastly, spray it with a hose (ask the owner for permission first). Inspect any areas that pool water and inspect the camper’s interior for dripping.
Walk around the RV’s exterior and inspect for any damage, including tears, holes, cracks, delamination, etc.
Stand at one end of the truck camper and peer down the side of it, looking for any malformation or bowing of the walls, which might signal a structural issue. Perform this step on the other side, ensuring the walls are level.
Windows and Doors
The windows and doors on a camper are another common entry point for moisture and are prone to other issues.
- Check around the windows and doors for any dried, cracking, or shrinking seals. Spray down the camper’s exterior with a hose and inspect the windows and doors for leaks.
- Check the screens for any tears or rips.
- Make sure the windows and doors open and close properly.
- Inspect for any missing screws or components.
- Ensure both the windows and doors properly latch/lock.
If applicable, open the awnings and ensure they roll out smoothly. Inspect the awning material for any tears or rips.
Lastly, make sure the awning closes smoothly and securely locks in place.
If your truck camper features slideouts or pop-ups, be sure to open them fully. Inspect the seals and any moving parts for damage or corrosion.
If allowed, another spray test with your hose or pressure sprayer while the slideout is extended will help identify any water leaks.
Close the slideout or pop-up and ensure it operates smoothly.
A PDI (pre-delivery inspection) is performed by the dealership before they sell an RV, which includes a propane system inspection. With a private party seller, you might not be afforded that luxury.
So, if you’re working with an RV dealer, ask for a signed PDI form. If you’re working with a private seller and they haven’t performed an inspection, ask that they have it done. Who pays for the inspection will just depend on how badly they want to sell it or how badly you want to buy it. You may even agree to split the cost.
Either way, we recommend a professional technician perform the propane system inspection.
Next, we want to check all the connections on the camper’s exterior, including power connections, water tank hookups and drains.
Ensure they are all in good working order.
Demount the truck camper, placing it on its jacks. Check for stability.
Finally, you’ll want to look under the camper for any damage or wear and tear.
Camper Interior Checklist
Once you’ve completed the exterior checklist, it’s time to move inside the camper.
The electrical system is the heart of your camper, powering many essential components like your fridge, microwave, AC, lighting, entertainment devices, pumps, etc.
So, it’s important to ensure the system runs properly, on both shore and battery power.
- Start with the breaker box and make sure all of the switches are properly functioning and that none of them are tripped.
- Test all of the camper’s electrical appliances and ensure they are receiving power and operating properly.
- Test all of the lighting in the camper.
- Test all of the electrical outlets to ensure they are receiving power.
- Test any safety devices that may be hard-wired in.
- If the RV has a battery bank, ensure the batteries are corrosion-free, have the proper voltage (around 12.6 volts), and check their age.
Water Damage and Mold
Water damage is one of the most common types of damage in a truck camper. And as we explained above, it can wreak havoc on your camper, leading to costly repairs.
Signs of water damage can include:
- Brown spots on the ceiling
- Bowed or bubbling ceiling
- Warped walls or floors
Windows and Doors
If you didn’t check the windows from the inside while running through the exterior checks above, now’s the time to ensure they open and close properly, the cranks work, and they are sealed when shut.
Heating and Cooling System
Your truck camper’s heating and cooling systems help make it livable, especially in extreme temperatures. So, we want to make sure these are in good working order.
Checking the Camper AC
Turn on the air conditioning unit and ensure cold air blows out of all the vents. Let it run for 20 to 30 minutes and listen for any weird noises or squeaks. Ensure the inside temperature of the camper is indeed cooling down.
Additionally, you’ll want to ensure:
- There are no leaks around the AC unit
- The filters are clean
- The fan mode works
Checking the Camper Furnace
Turn on the furnace and ensure it fires up properly. Again, listen for any weird squeaking and ensure warm air comes from the vents.
The last thing you want is plumbing issues the first time you take your camper out on the road! They aren’t fun to clean up, can be hard to diagnose, and can lead to water damage.
There are a few major components we’ll want to inspect, including:
- Tanks: Hook the camper to city water and fill the freshwater tank. Ensure the tanks fill properly and aren’t leaking. Unhook from city water.
- Fixtures: Test all of the fixtures in the RV, including the faucets, shower, toilets, etc.
- Water pump: Ensure the pump is working properly and all fixtures receive water.
- Water heater: Ensure that the water heater powers on and that hot water flows out of the faucets.
- Drains: Once all the above has been tested, ensure the tanks drain properly.
Test all kitchen appliances and ensure they are in good working condition. This will include testing the air temperature in the refrigerator and freezer, testing all of the burners on the stove and temperature in the oven, etc.
Remember, some appliances may use electricity and gas, so test them in both modes.
Check the operation of any TVs, satellite dishes, audio systems, wifi routers, etc., and any remotes that operate these components.
Test all the safety devices and alarms in the camper, including gas, carbon monoxide, and smoke detectors.
Be sure there is at least one up-to-date and functioning fire extinguisher.
If the camper includes a generator, you’ll want to make sure the fluid levels are optimal and that it runs smoothly. Fire it up, let it run for a few minutes, and ensure it does what it’s designed to – provide power to your RV.
Lastly, visually inspect every little nook and cranny of the RV. Test storage cabinets, cupboards, and drawers, look for evidence of rodents, etc.
Buying a Used Truck Camper Checklist
We put the above truck camper inspection checklist into a downloadable PDF and shareable infographic!
Buying a Used Truck Camper FAQs
What Should I Ask When Buying a Used Truck Camper?
A few important questions you should ask before buying a used truck camper include:
- How many people previously owned the camper?
- Do you have the title for the camper?
- Do you have the previous maintenance records?
- Has the camper been in any major accidents?
- Where was the camper stored when not in use?
- Is there any warranty left on the camper?
- Can I extend the warranty?
- What is the size and weight of the camper?
- Is it compatible with my truck?
Combining these questions with the truck camper checklist above is an important step in getting the information you’ll need to make the right buying decision.
How Long Do Truck Campers Last?
A truck camper can last anywhere from 10 – 30 years or longer, depending on how well it’s taken care of. You can extend a truck camper’s life with proper storage, maintenance, and care.
Is Buying a Truck Camper Worth It?
Buying a truck camper is worth it if it meets your specific camping needs and budget. Truck campers are much cheaper than motorized campers, are easy to drive and maneuver, low-maintenance, and economical. Plus, they hold their value better than many other camper types.
Keep in mind that you will need a truck compatible with the camper and able to haul it.