Spring is on the horizon, and camp lovers everywhere are just itching to ditch the city! If you're thinking that this might be the year you invest in your own home on wheels, first read our article on Why Buy A Tiny Vintage Camper Trailer. It might convince you that buying a light, vintage caravan is a great alternative to buying a brand new 5th wheel.
If you're already on board with the idea, it's time to start thinking seriously about how much you want to invest in your new camping hobby. What is your budget? Then, what's your REAL budget?
Buying used is smart for first time trailer campers. Even if you've borrowed a camper in the past, you never really know how you'll feel about owning your own at the end of the season, Did you use it enough? Did your enjoyment of it outweigh the cost and work involved? You won't know for sure until you've given it a good run.
fixer upper or ready to go
First consider how much time and monetary investment you want to commit to in order to get your trailer up to date? Vintage trailers are very trendy now and have a lot of cool features you won't see on modern trailers, but what you're imagining through a pretty Pinterest filter probably won't be in line with what options you'll find in your local classifieds. Be prepared to see through the personalized decor choices, dust and grime. Anything aesthetic can be changed to your liking over time, and depending on how handy you are, it can happen on a reasonable budget. If style is important to you (It was to me.) focus on the exterior condition, original details throughout that are in good shape, and the structural health of the unit. Swelling plywood indicates a water issue for example. This can be fixed, but in order to do so properly you'll need to have some know-how and a place to work. It'll also add to the cost. You might find it helpful to decide on a number for what you would spend of a fixer upper. Also, what can you reasonably spend on a camper that is in good, ready to go condition? Just in case that gem reveals itself, you want to be honest with yourself.
We know a bit about how a budget can be stretched in the heat of the moment. I had been searching the classifieds and local papers for a lead on a Boler for sale in Winnipeg. I found one that hadn't been listed online yet, and made an appointment to see it. Lucky us, we were the first to check out the unit, but the entire time we were viewing it, another potential buyer was tapping his foot at the end of the driveway. Seeing him there out the back window of the camper really pushed us over the edge. Sure enough, as we shook hands and left for the bank to get the remainder of our deposit (we went over budget of course) the owner was bribed by the man at the end of the driveway. He'd pay $500 more if the owner would sell it out from under us. Thankfully this seller was true to his word, because we would have been heartbroken! Avoid sneaky tactics and come prepared to spend just a little more for something you really love.
I started trailer camping in my late teens, which is when my parents bought their first trailer. It was a cute late 70's wood frame model with fold out beds that my mom carefully cleaned and re-uphostered. My dad put new floors in and they polished up the wood interior. After a few years of use, that facelift helped them double their investment when they sold it for twice as much!
The good news is that vintage, light weight camper trailers are either maintaining or increasing in value! That feels good, because the same can't be said for that brand new fifth wheel off the lot.
Do some research ahead of time to determine market value for the types of trailers you're shopping for. It's not easy because value is kind of arbitrary on vintage items, based on rarity, availability, condition, and location. It's a good idea to browse online classifieds (like Craigslist or Kijiji) in your area, but also in other areas of the country. Many buyers find a great deal by taking a road trip to view and purchase their camper. We've heard stories of lucky deals found by simply knocking on a door and asking if that neglected looking trailer in the back of the property is for sale? If it looks like it hasn't been used in years, then it's a good possibility that you might be able to strike a deal. Bottom line is, if you don't like the market price for the camper you're wishing for, get creative and find another market!
Road Ready COSTS
Just like buying a car, there are some costs associated in getting your camper set up to camp. You'll need a license plate / insurance, possibly a safety inspection, and a place to store it when not in use. Your towing vehicle will need to have the proper hitch, adapter and wiring installed before you can get on the road. Don't be surprised by the follow-up costs and you'll quickly find yourself all set to go!
Shopping for a new home on wheels is exciting, nerve wrecking, and fun all at once. This one purchase has the potential to change your life for the better BIGTIME! Oh the places you'll go ! Keep your head on straight and you'll do just fine.