Used Travel Trailers For Sale: A Buying Guide For Pre-Owned Campers And 5th Wheels

In times past when families went camping, they used tents, but now used travel trailers and 5th wheels have become the way that many families enjoy the outdoors.  It is also a way that retired couples spend their retirement years traveling across the U.S.A.  Going out and purchasing something like this brand new can leave a big hole in your pocket or retirement fund, but you can reduce the expense by looking for pre-owned travel trailers for sale.  You can purchase one from an individual or visit a business that specializes in previously owned camping trailers and 5th wheels.  The one advantage of buying from a business that specializes in second hand inventory is that they may be able to offer you a warranty.

large-sundance-recreational-vehicleIn this day and age, when you are shopping for a camper, you are going to notice a variety of different name brands. You obviously want to find used campers that not only fit your budget, but also fit your style. This buying guide is one of our ways of lending you a helping hand. If this is going to be your first purchase, this guide will help you know what to look for and do in order to get the best deal and a quality camper or 5th wheel that had a previous owner but will still last you for many years.

Things You Should Inspect Before Purchasing A Second Hand Camper

When looking for a pre-owned caravan, you need to have in mind what you want it to include, the size, and of course, how much you can afford to spend or what monthly payments you can make. Buying a previously owned caravan can be risky, but if you follow these tips, you can reduce the risk of purchasing one that needs a lot of work to make it livable and travel-safe.

Here are some things that you should inspect before laying down your money.

  • Towing vehicle—this would be your car, SUV, van, or truck that you are going to use to pull the travel camper or 5th wheel.  You want to make sure that whatever vehicle you are using can support the weight of the trailer. Using the wrong towing vehicle can shorten the lifespan of the vehicle you are using to pull the camper and could be unsafe!
  • Bathroom—inspect the frame of the shower by grabbing it and see if you can shake the frame.  If it does not shake, it should be able to hold up to the bouncing the traveling trailer does when you are on the highway.  If it has a tub shower, you want to make sure that it has enclosures that are water tight.  If you find a little fan on the roof, make sure it works. You also want to inspect the toilet to make sure that it is working properly.
  • Interior—Look closely at the inside of the trailer or 5th wheel asyou want to make sure that you are okay with the floors and upholstery. If you’re not okay with the floors and upholstery and you like the price, you could always do some remodeling.
  • Check the water heater and all appliances—if possible you should turn on the appliances to make sure that they are working like they’re supposed to.  If you get to turn them on, you should listen for any strange noises when it is working.
  • Check the inside thoroughly—this means checking the walls, storage compartments, ceiling, windows, fans, etc.  You want to make sure that there is no mold or bug infestation in the storage compartments.  You should also look for any water spots on the ceilings and walls that could indicate that it leaks when it rains.  You also want to gently bounce on the floor to ensure that it is solid and does not need to be replaced.  Check the floors around the toilets and sinks to make sure there are no soft spots. Don’t forget to look at the doors and windows and make sure that they lock, close and open correctly.
  • Power Converter—the equipment that you will find in a pre-owned travel trailer or 5th wheel is usually made for operating on 12-volts, except for anything that plugs into an outlet for 110-volts..  The converter will be necessary when you are plugged into a campsite line for 110 volts to convert it to 12-volt in order to avoid messing up the wires on any 12-volt appliances.
  • Brake lights/lights—it is very important to know that all the brake and turning lights are working correctly. because if not, it can become a safety issue.  If the vehicles behind you do not know when you are going to turn or stop, it could cause a serious accident.
  • Tires—you need to make sure that all the tires are safe for the highway.  Get down and search for any signs of misalignment, cracking, or bulging in the tires.
  • Propane bottles—if the pre-owned camping trailer you are thinking about buying has propane bottles, you want to check to see if you smell any funny odors coming from the propane bottles or for any sign of leaks.

In addition to checking the second hand unit inside and out, you need to check on the type of insurance you need and know how much it will cost you.  It would be a good idea to make sure you can get a good deal on insurance before you purchase the caravan.

It does not matter if you are financing or paying cash for the had me down travel vehicle, make sure that you take the time to check all the paperwork.  You want to see if there is paperwork concerning any maintenance or repairs that have been done and when it was done.  One very important thing that you need to do is make sure that the vehicle identification number (VIN) that is on the travel vehicle is the same that is on the paperwork.

Pros And Cons Of Buying A 5th Wheel Or Camper That Has Been Previously Owned


teardrop-camping-trailerYou can get more for your money because used travel trailers will hold their worth longer than a new one.  It is also the way to go if you do not want to put money towards it each month.

If you keep it in good condition, you have a better chance of getting most of what you paid for it when you purchased it. With a new travel trailer, it loses value as soon as you take it off the lot.


There is a potential of having minor, or even major, problems that was not noticeable when you inspected it before you purchased it.  If you purchase it from an individual, you will usually be told that it is an “as is” purchase with no warranty.  There is a chance that the previous owner is not above board about what is wrong with the camping trailer.  You may be able to get a limited warranty if you purchase it from a licensed dealer, but in most cases, if there are any problems with the caravan, you will be responsible for paying to fix the problem.

The inside and out may need to be cleaned up due to the fact that it was previously used by other people.

When looking at pre-owned travel trailers for sale or 5th wheels, you will have to take whatever floor plan that it has.

Tips for First Time Buyers

  • When purchasing your first pre-owned 5th wheel, you should visit different licensed dealers to see the different types of used travel vehicles they have for sale.  Do not purchase the first one that you look at, instead, you should take the time to look at several of them before making your decision.
  • Take a list with you of the things that you need to look for in order to get the best deal for your money.
  • When you find the one that you want to purchase, do not be afraid to make a counter offer because many times, they are willing to come down on the price in order to sell it.
  • This may sound strange, but some of the best times to purchase a pre-owned travel trailer or 5th wheel is during the winter time or during their tax sale as they are more inclined to take less, so they do not have to pay taxes on the travel vehicles that have not been sold.
  • If you plan on financing the second hand unit, make sure that your credit score is good to excellent.
  • Research! Be sure to read the articles on this site and add any items you discover to your purchasing list.

If you are still not sure exactly what to inspect when looking at used travel trailers for sale, take someone along with you that has experience in purchasing these sort of travel vehicles.