Things to look for /at when buying a used PUP

Discussion in 'Camper Pre-Purchase Questions' started by nineoaks2004, Dec 25, 2018.

  1. nineoaks2004

    nineoaks2004 Every meal is a picnic and every Day is a holiday

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    Oct 15, 2006
    Dukes, Fl
    What to look for when buying a used PUP

    • Lift system (does the roof go up and down, does it stay up if it's suppose to stay up)
      Most modern roof lift systems are designed to stay up once the roof is raised. Some systems require the roof be locked into places once in the up position. Try do do some research ahead of time on a potential camper's lift system so you know what to expect when you get there.
    • Suspension/Brakes/Wheels
      • Tires – camper/trailer tires only have a useable life span of 3-5 years. As such, they are all stamped with a date code. Learn to read the date code so that you can determine if the tires will need to be replaced. If you can't find the date code on either sidewall, the tires could be so old that they pre-date date coding requirements. You'll want to replace the tires if there's no date code, if they are getting into 3+ year range, or if you see signs of cracking sidewalls, bulging sidewalls or tread areas, bald areas of tread, or tread that is worn sawtoothed or diagonally cupped.
      • Wheels – bearings should be repacked annually, ask when the last time this was done.
      • Brakes – Depending on the camper brakes may or may not be equipped.
      • Leaf spring axles – check where the springs mount to the frame, and to the axle, and inspect these joints, as well as the springs themselves, for rust, cracks, and other damage.
      • Torsion axles – check the mount plates where they are welded to the axle, and where they bolt to the frame. Make sure the welds are not cracked or broken, and that the mounting bolts to the frame are tight. Also, if the camper looks very low, it's probably a sign that the torsion axle is sagging and needs to be replaced. These axles are not expensive, and the rubber blocks inside the axle tubes do have a life span.
      • Axle bow – all axles have an upward curve. Make sure that yours does. This curve allows the axle to flex under the load of the loaded camper.
    • Tongue jack
    • Chains – check condition, make sure they will reach your setup. Some chains may not be long enough.
    • Breakaway switch – Check to see if the breakaway switch works. Check the cable condition, cables can become frayed if it's been dragging on the ground.
    • Stabilizers
    • Doors (does everything open and close, latch or lock. Does the seller have keys?)
    • Bunks (do they slide in and out fairly easily)

    • Battery
    • Converter or Converter/Charger
    • water pump
    • Lights – Interior and exterior including running lights, tail lights, brake lights etc.
    • Hookup Cable – Check the condition, verify it works by plugging into your tow vehicle.
    • radio
    • electrical outlets, 110v AC and 12v DC
    • Furnace (the fan on the furnace normally runs on 12v DC, the actual heat is provided using propane)
    • Air Conditioner
    Propane System

    • Stove
    • Water Heater
    • 2-way or 3-way refrigerator (many pop-up camper refrigerators run on Propane as well as electricity)
    • Furnace
    Most RV refrigerators are either 2-way AC/Propane or 3-way AC/12V DC/Propane. Due to the time it takes to cool the refrigerator, this may be harder to test. See if the seller is willing to turn it on ahead of your visit, when you get there find out how long it's been on and how cold it is. 3-way refrigerators can be operated on 12V DC, however this is for traveling, not when you're actually camping. operating the refrigerator in 12v mode will drain your battery fairly quickly.

    Look for signs of insect damage
    look signs of water damage like rot or mildew, walk the floor, look in cabinets for soft spots.
    what is the condition of fabric and cushions
    roll out the awning
    is there excessive rust on the metal parts
    do the welds look fine on the metal parts
    Fresh water tank
    if equipped with gray or black water tanks, make sure the seller empties them.

    Look for holes rips and tares
    check the seams
    check the screens
    look for mildew

    If you're considering a Coleman camper equipped with an ABS roof, be aware there were problems with those roofs. Coleman is now out of business so replacement and repair options may be limited. Many of the roofs are fine but you will want to pay extra attention to the roof. Look for bowing or warping, does the roof seal appear tight, is there any indication that water is getting in when the roof is down. ABS roofs would include model years 1996-2003.

    For all other roofs, look for bubbles in the ceiling vinyl, soft ends and sides, especially where the latches and lifter posts are, water damage round the vent, broken caulking seams, etc.

    Know what the weight of the camper is and how much your tow vehicle can tow. Don't buy what you can't SAFELY tow.

    If possible, connect your intended tow vehicle to the camper to verify that everything connects they way it is suppose to.

    If this is your first camper and it is equipped with brakes, you may need to have a brake controller installed in you tow vehicle.

    Make sure the seller has the correct paperwork
    Be aware of what your state requires in order to transfer title

    Ask the seller if he has the manuals for the camper including any manuals for appliances. If you decide to buy you will know up front if he has these available.

    Each state has their own regulations and requirements, make sure the seller has a clear title and all the paperwork required to transfer the camper to your name. It would be a good idea to become familiar with what your state's requirements are so you will know what you should get from the seller or what to ask for if something is missing.

    If at all possible get the seller to show you how the camper sets up. Have the seller show you where and how the water service is connected, including where the water pump, water heater and water tank is located. Have the seller show you where and how the electrical service is connected including where the fuses, breakers and converter is located. Have the seller show you where and how to turn the propane on and off. Test the appliances connected to propane such as refrigerator, water heater, stove (inside and out) and furnace.

    You will want to know how to set the camper up for camping as well as breaking it down for traveling. Pay close attention, it's easy to forget. if you have a video camera it is a good idea to shoot video of the process so you can review it at a later date.

    Take a nice, bright flashlight. Open every cabinet and storage compartment, look under every cushion. Check every possible square inch of the flooring and enclosed wall space as possible for water damage or swollen particle board/plywood.

    Take your time looking over the trailer. Look for fresh paint (that may be covering up damage or rust etc). If it moves or should move, make sure you witness it moving. Have the seller work each lock mechanism and prove that they work. Open and close every compartment. Operate the tongue jack and the locking mechanism on the tongue.

    It's a good idea to educate yourself on what the various components on a pop-up camper can cost to ether replace or repair. If you determine that various items may require repair or replacement within a year, you can use this knowledge to negotiate a better price.
  2. penny

    penny Well-Known Member

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    Nov 9, 2017
    great post, accumulated wisdom is priceless!
    Lady Mj likes this.
  3. neighbormike

    neighbormike Well-Known Member Gold Supporting Member

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    Oct 6, 2012
    Nice job Roy! This should be a sticky (or whatever it's called)!
  4. Bibi

    Bibi New Member

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    Oct 4, 2019
    Very helpful post! Thank you!
  5. Eskimorob

    Eskimorob PUP life Gold Supporting Member

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    Jul 5, 2016
    Want to emphasize a thorough check of the floor from under the camper. Most of the ones I’ve seen are exposed osb and can be easily checked by crawling under the camper with a flashlight. Check for signs of water intrusion or heavy staining, there should be none. If you do find water staining, check for wood weakness and damage. That would indicate a water leak that might be persistent and has to be addressed. If you see signs of water staining, ask the current owner if they’ve done any repairs in the area of the damage, sidewall/doors/roof/canvas/windows. You then need to decide if the repair actually fixed the problem or caused the problem. A couple of key places to check are the perimeter of the floor especially the corners, any place where water lines or water fixtures are located and around the front storage locker, if so equipped.

    You should also check all of the wood inside the camper, inside every cabinet especially those near water fixtures for signs of leaks. This means moving all the cushions and looking in each cabinet/storage area.

    Check the inside of vertical panels of the top between the canvas and the top for water damage. If a camper had any leaks around the seams you might see signs of water intrusion on the wood.

    Lastly, check all around any through the roof fittings, like ac and vents for anything you can see.

    I am a bit paranoid about water damage, but I’ve seen firsthand what water intrusion can do on my old Palomino, it was a gift from my FIL. The damage had started years before it came to be mine and I was totally ignorant of this problem so I didn’t recognize the problems until it was too late. These forums are full of repair threads concerned with fixing water damage. Persistent water intrusion is enemy number one of any camper.

    It gets tricky if you do find signs of water intrusion. You have to decide if it’s old or persistent and then decide if it can be fixed. Personally, I would have to pass if I see any water problems because I want to ‘go’ camping not ‘go work on’ the camper.
    Kaytayqt, Lady Mj and HZK like this.
  6. JennG

    JennG Member

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    Jul 27, 2020
    Lakeville, MN
    I learned a lot of this the hard way, I bought a lemon but fixed it all up and sold it, I'm going today to buy another popup, the same one my dad had....thanks for this list, I printed it off!! What perfect timing!!
    Lady Mj likes this.
  7. Lady Mj

    Lady Mj Member

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    May 27, 2021
    Great idea to print off! Thanks!
  8. Lady Mj

    Lady Mj Member

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    May 27, 2021
  9. Lady Mj

    Lady Mj Member

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    May 27, 2021
    Thank you so much; so invaluable to us newbies:) But now I am thinking, am I gonna be able to tow a camper? Maybe I should just get very inexpensive conversion van but can I drive one of those...all these questions suddenly “pop up” in my brain
  10. jmkay1

    jmkay1 2004 Fleetwood/Coleman Utah

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    Oct 10, 2013
    Northern Virginia
    . It will take a lot of practice but you CAN very much tow a camper. I’m a single female and have owned a popup for many years and taken it all over the east coast. You put your mind to it, practice, you can do it. Besides Those vans are not much easier backing and will require just as much practice to feel comfortable with it. I’ve driven 15 passenger vans before with an animal rescue I volunteer for and it’s not fun and to find parking that fits, especially in small towns, is just as hard as towing with a camper. At least with the camper, you can drop it off at camp or something to go around town.
    neighbormike and Kaytayqt like this.
  11. Kaytayqt

    Kaytayqt Member

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    Mar 29, 2021
    Ohio, USA
    Hi Lady Mj!
    I'm a 42yr old woman who towed my popup across the country with a 2005 Toyota Sienna van! With 2 kids along for the ride! If I can do it, you can do it! I had the hitch installed professionally by a company that only does hitches and trailer repair. The first time out, drive around your neighborhood, take time to stop and walk around and make sure the chains are hooked up right, the locking pin is in place, etc. For your first camping trip, take a good friend who isn't afraid to get dirty if needed and go someplace local. Someplace close. If anyone asks if you need help backing in or for whatever, accept the help! And be fearless! You can do it!
    Pugwinkle and neighbormike like this.

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