Buying a Camper Trailer
Blog,  Jenny's Journal,  Trailer Tales,  Travel

Buying a Camper Trailer

Looking at the amount of border closures and traveling obstacles due to Covid-19 restrictions, I have decided that I need to reinvent my Summer travel. Yes, I am actually looking into buying a camper trailer! I imagined myself exploring outdoor locations and connecting with nature, while maintaining social distancing. I weighed out locations I could otherwise travel to this Summer, combined with the transport available, and lodging options. Ultimately, I have decided that I’d like to feel free, and somewhat self-reliant.

Thinking of Buying a Camper Trailer – Have I Lost My Mind?

Buying a camper trailer could fulfill all of of these needs. I cannot imagine such a long period of time without traveling, and there is still no way to know when international travel will be an option again. Therefore, I began to look at lightweight camper trailers.

I already own an SUV. While using my current SUV, I would have some weight limitations, but nothing I couldn’t work around. By already owning a vehicle that can tow, it makes buying a camper trailer, more affordable. Obviously if you do not have a tow vehicle, it would involve purchasing a full RV with a motor, or essentially two vehicles, which is not very cost effective all at once. But luckily, I’m halfway there. This rationale is working for me; It seems practical.

I have not seriously considered buying a camper trailer before. I usually choose to travel to many exotic locations, that require airplanes or boats. Plus, I like to mix it up and not be tied to one thing. However, this seems like a great opportunity to explore something new. When I started perusing images of camper trailers, it solidified my thinking. I would have my own bed, kitchen, and bathroom. During Covid times, this is appealing to me. I also love the fact that I could move around from place to place, relatively easily.

Buying an RV would offer the ability to really travel and explore a variety of different places. There are many camper trailer options to choose from. Based on already owning an SUV, I’m looking at camper trailers, also commonly called travel trailers. 

There is a part of me that thinks I have been quarantined too long and that I’m possibly losing my mind! Many images are passing through my head. I picture myself surrounded by beautiful tree-lined mountains. The sun is rising and white rays are streaming through the dissipating fog. I hear the enchanted singing of distant birds. The smell of freshly brewed coffee drifts out of the partially cracked camper door. I finish my blog post and head out for a morning hike. These are some of the visions that are keeping me moving toward the camper trailer idea.

Occasionally I envision a very different picture, one of retirement (LOL), vehicle maintenance, and leaking crevices, but I push those burdensome negativities aside and opt to dwell on the possibilities of the Summer that lies ahead. I am feeling more and more excited about the possibility of this RV idea.

For those of you really wanting to try out the RV lifestyle, but like me, are hesitant of purchasing, renting an RV is an easy and affordable solution. This RV marketplace leader has the largest selection of rental RVs on the web. It is a great place to start whether you want to test out your camping skills prior to purchasing, or if you just would rather enjoy and return when finished.

*If you are not a US Resident, but are planning an RV vacation to one of the beautiful US State or National Parks, we recommend that you think about insurance for yourself.

Smokey Mountain National Park, USA

Types of RVs

Being a person that has really never thought about owning any type of RV, I had to orient myself quickly.  The basics of what I have learned so far are that there are several types of RVs, including ones that are a vehicle, in and of themselves, fifth wheels that are heavier and sit in the bed of a truck, and camper trailers that attach to your vehicle. There are others such as popup and what not, but I am definitely no expert. Here is what I have found so far.

For lack of a better description, I refer to a “true RV,” as one that has an engine and you drive it. With this, if you want a vehicle to day cruise, once you arrive at your campsite, you’d need to tow it behind your RV. These types of RVs are large, luxurious, expensive, and a huge commitment, in my opinion.  They also require a special driving permit. Therefore, the “true RV” was not for me. 

I started looking at camper trailers that you tow behind your vehicle (also known as travel trailers). The main limitations here are the weight and length that your vehicle can handle towing. In order to create a lightweight trailer, there is usually some sacrifice. Some of the lighter weight campers do not offer all of the features that I desire, as I research what is actually available. It is like anything, a little bit of give and take, and prioritizing your needs.

Towing Limitations

With my older SUV, I have a maximum gross tow limit of 6200 pounds. This means that even with the most advanced hitch and tow system, the dry weight of the trailer plus the difference in additional loaded items, is is the maximum that I can safely tow. For example, if the trailer dry weight is 5800 pounds, I can only load 400 pounds of gear (including water in tanks) to remain at my limit of 6200 pounds.

I’m learning that you have to think about dry weight versus capacity weight, once full. The weight limitations of your towing vehicle are definitely a primary factor in what your options are. Towing an overweight trailer is both illegal and dangerous.

See Jenny In Wanderland upcoming article, 5 Things to Know When Buying a Camper Trailer

Things I Like About Buying A Camper Trailer

There were several factors I immediately liked about buying a camper trailer over other options:

  • Ability to Unhitch. Once at a campsite, you can unhitch and have your vehicle to drive around. This is important if you want to sightsee in the area or need to pick up supplies in town.
  • Value. I feel that you get a good amount of bang for your buck when choosing a camper trailer. They are more affordable than buying an RV, which has a motor and greater maintenance.
  • Variety in Size. Campers come in various weights and lengths so there is one that can fit any reasonable towing capacity vehicle.
  • Space. Many campers have pop out sections, making a smaller trailer, seem so much more spacious.
  • Financing. Many RVs are financeable, like a car. Therefore, you can put a deposit and pay it off like a vehicle in monthly installments. 
  • Low Cost Insurance. Insurance on a travel trailer is relatively inexpensive because you are not exactly insuring a vehicle, as it does not have a motor.
  • Easy Towing. While I am not yet educated enough on travel trailers to explain all of the technical aspects, what I have learned, is that as you read the specs on various towable camper trailers, you will see that some advertise special off-road tires, hydraulics, and wheel parts that are more conducive to smooth towing. Also, the hitch that you use to hook the trailer to your vehicle matters. Some make for a much more easy towing experience than others.
  • Variety in Style. There are so many floor plans to choose from, even for the same year and model. Within each layout, you can select additional options, such as recliners instead of a sofa. It was important to go through each model because I found that depending on the way the features were arranged, a shorter trailer may be more optimal than one a few feet longer, provided it is laid out well. 
Buying a Camper Trailer

How I Began the Search to Buy a Camper Trailer

Since I knew absolutely nothing about camper trailers when I began this process, I decided to start by looking online. I utilized basic google searches and then started looking through websites of close by dealers. Once I found some RVs that looked appealing, I also cross referenced information from the dealer sites and the manufacturer sites to compare them further.

I started by figuring out the maximum dry trailer wait that my SUV could pull. Then, I looked at the overall features in all the different brands and models and made a list. I divided it into 3 columns. The first column was the features I really disliked and did not want. The second column was for the things that I could take or leave. The third was a list of my deal breaker, must have items. 

For example, I like a good amount of natural light. During the day, when I take some downtime to work in my trailer, I want to be sure there are enough windows. I also deduced that I like a set up that had a living room and dining area separated type of feel, not both combined. Remember, these are my personal likes. There’s not a right or wrong in these choices. I will share my must-have list of features to help you visualize the possibilities and create your own.

Buying a Camper Trailer
U-Shaped Dinette
  • Separate dining table and seating area
  • U-Shaped dinette to allow room for 2 people to work on computers
  • Sufficient storage – I checked for a food pantry that had height for storing mops and vacuum and for a linen closet in the bathroom
  • Full indoor kitchen
  • Mid to full sized fridge
  • Outdoor kitchen
  • Electric retractable awning –
  • Shower with a door, not a curtain
  • Minimum 38 gallon fresh water tank
  • 2 propane tanks
  • Easy electronic leveling jacks
  • Storage area beneath the camper with doors on either side (called a pass through)
  • Ducted air conditioning and heat 
  • Skylight in the shower
  • Outdoor Shower
  • Queen sized bed
  • Small area upon entering to place shoes and coats
  • Kitchen counter space
  • Recliners, not a sofa

Follow my camper trailer saga here at Jenny In Wanderland, Trailer Tales. Will I actually do this? I’m even at a cliff hanger!

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