The cost of a pop-up camper can vary greatly depending on your budget and your needs.
So what does a pop-up camper cost? Pop-up campers are probably the lowest price in comparison to the other RV’s available new off the dealer lot. New pop-ups can range between $10,000 to $20,000 plus depending on the model and size. This low price makes them attractive for many new families trying out camping for the first time. Used, tent trailers, are usually in highest in demand for purchase and tend to maintain a higher resale price, typically in the $2,000 to $10,000 plus price point. Renting starts at $30 per night for a weekly rental and up depending where you live.
The purchase of a tent trailer has many more costs beyond the initial purchase price which I call the cost of ownership. There is depreciation, financing, maintenance, additional wear & tear on towing vehicle, cost of campsites, insurance, trade up costs and cost of experience.
Sure, buying new is great, but it comes with a cost. New comes with a warranty, everything is mechanically tight, has that new smell and you can finance it through the dealer. What they don’t tell you is how much it will cost you when you buy it new.
Generally, speaking buying something used especially in the RV world, prices tend to be much cheaper used than new. Not so much when it comes to tent trailers. The depreciation is much less on a percentage than new. Initially, new they depreciate about 20% the 1st year, then drop about 10% for 2 to 8 years, then they flatten out after the 8th year. The higher priced models tend to drop more and the lower priced models tend to slow down after 5 to 6 years. Tent trailers typically do not lose the percentage value as other RV’s on the market due simply to the lower price and the higher demand for these types of campers. As more people are just getting into camping as a past time, tent trailers provide the lowest investment to try out RVing. What people don’t say is that pop-up trailers are more similar to tenting on wheels and IS not the same experience as a travel trailer or motorhome.
Paying cash is always the best option, but this is not always the case for some people. Or the other option is to save up for the tent trailer, which could take a few years. The most popular financing time is 20 yrs. If you choose to finance it, the additional cost in your purchase price can be an additional 2/3rds of the amount over what you initially paid for the tent-trailer. So let's take an example. A 15k trailer paid over 20 yrs, with nothing down at an interest rate of 5.25%, (which is probably high at the time of this writing) and monthly payments of $101.08 would cost you $9,258 over 20 yrs. The cost of the depreciation would drop faster than the price of the tent trailer. You can calculate what it might cost you here. There are other options to lower the price, which ultimately reduces your overall cost.
Although when you buy new, there’s a warranty. It does run out and the more that your pop up trailer is used, wear and tear ensues. Eventually shelling out money to get things repaired or maintained is inevitable. Though, if you are handy and you can source out parts, it is possible to reduce this cost to just the cost of the parts. Assuming your time is free for the upkeep of your pop up.
Insurance is typically cheaper for a trailer than it is for a motorhome, none the less it is a cost to owning a trailer. The cost varies based on the state, province or country of your residence. The cost will probably be different for New vs used as well so it is best to check with your local insurance company.
If you drive a small car, upgrading to a larger one that will allow you to tow a pop-up camper often weighing from 1,000 lbs to 3000 lbs. Or if you have a vehicle that can tow a pop already, then there is the additional wear and tear on the vehicle from towing the camper on weekend outings. Plus if you don’t have a hitch with the brake package, the additional cost can be from $600 to $1200 to add to your vehicle, though it is a one time cost.
The actual cost to go camping depending if you are staying in state parks, private campsites or going off the grid, which is the cheapest option by far. Most people choose either private campsites or state parks, which will set you back anywhere from $20 a person up to $60 a day.
Tent trailers typically have a shorter time frame of camping in the season than other campers such as trailers and motorhomes. So for the rest of the time, the vehicle sits in storage. The Question is where? So depending on where you live. It could be your garage, your back yard, or paid storage. Paid storage really varies where you live and whether is it indoors or outside. Indoor storage is probably the most expensive. Starting prices are typically from $100 a month to $400 a month.
When you 1st buy your tent trailer you might be thinking that you will have this for years to come, but the numbers say differently. Many RV owners often upgrade to a newer or bigger version based on the experience they have with their current rig. After a few times camping people usually discover what they don’t like about what they have with their existing RV and want a change to something different. Pop-up trailers are no exception to this. So then there is the cost of depreciation and trade-in costs as the dealer also wants to make money off of your tent trailer when they sell it again to someone else.
As the commercial says, it’s priceless! This is one that cannot be tallied up as a cost, those memories that I have spending time with family, really is priceless! I guess that is why we go camping. My daughter can’t stop talking about going camping next. Those nights by the campfire roasting marshmallows, singing, looking at the stars. Spending the endless days on the lake and in the lake swimming. It really just does not get better than this. Is it worth it, yes!
Renting is probably the lowest cost of entry to try out camping. Being organized and planning is the most important aspect when renting as there are lots of competition for RV rentals at the dealerships. Many of the dealerships start booking by the fall of the previous year for weekly rentals of RV’s. Many of these places also offer to tow your RV out to the location and set it up for you as well as take it down. You just show up and load your stuff in and start camping. Though you are still responsible for the campsite fees.
Today with the internet there are many more places to check for rentals of RV’s such as Craigs List or RV rental Apps that have recently shown up as well as rental websites. These websites operate similarly to private home rentals such as Airbnb.
The most popular currently are:
If you think that you might be using your tent trailer almost every weekend throughout the summer, or you have rented a few times and you're sold on going camping with the family. The next logical step is to take the leap and purchase one. The best ways I have found to get a tent trailer at a lower cost is to find the deal! So how do you go about doing that?
Every year people buy things and then decide they can’t afford it. So they end up liquidating something they purchased at full price for half the price because they need to after a couple of years. So first off you need to know the going price of used tent trailers by age. Finding tent trailers that are just a few years old is probably your best bet. Then look out for the discount that appears, and be ready to buy with cash. The best places to look are online classifieds such as craigslist and look out for signs on tent trailers on the side of the road. Sometimes people want to push hard to haggle for an even better price. I would advise against that as there are lots of people out there looking for a deal. Do not just send money to hold it. You will want to look at it and inspect it yourself. This certainly needs some kind of skills, so this strategy is not for everyone.
Just like cars, there is a year-end clearance for RV’s as well. So near of the season or the beginning of the year, the old stock needs to be cleared for the new. This is your time to get a deal, though this might be a little more difficult depending on how popular RV’s are in your area.
Once you own your Tent trailer, the cost of ownership is really a sunk cost. Unless you choose rental of your RV on the weeks that you are not using it. RV rental websites are now giving RV owners competition to RV dealers and rental companies similarly to Airbnb’s idea of hotel rentals. Here's an article that goes in-depth into this option. This is certainly an option to reduce your depreciated costs of ownership. Though the additional use may increase your maintenance costs.
With that said, many people really do enjoy the experience of tenting on wheels, with a few extra amenities than just tenting on the ground, plus the option of towing and storing more gear than packing all your gear in the back of a truck or car. When you buy an RV there are always advantages and disadvantages of choosing new or used.