Pop up campers have been an age-old mainstay for families since the 1960s, when pop up camper manufacturing exploded. Not every pop up camper is created equal and you can buy them brand new, right out of the factory or well-used and loved, whichever your preference. So, how much does a pop up camper cost?
If you include the used with the new, then pop up campers can range from $1,000 all the way up to a wallet-breaking $20,000. In the new category, you’re looking at $10,000 to $20,000 while used pop up campers can go as low as $1,000 for a restoration project and shouldn’t be any higher than $8,000, or you’re getting a raw deal.
It’s also important to define what a pop up camper really is. Some micro-campers have a lot of “pop up” features, but that doesn’t necessarily make them a “pop up” camper. For the purposes of this article, a pop up camper should only be defined as a camper that is unlivable unless its several moving parts are extended up and/or out.
Should you get a pop up camper over a traditional RV?
Understanding that a pop up camper is something that you can’t live in unless it’s extended, what else is involved that separates pop up campers from other campers?
As it turns out, not a whole lot, however, there are several advantages to owning a pop up camper over a traditional RV:
- Lower maintenance costs
- Can be towed by anything with a hitch
- High level of storage options
- Easier to maintain
- Depreciate less than RVs
You would think that dealing with canvas would require a higher level of expense and more frequent maintenance and, in some ways, that’s true. But doing a repair job on an RV roof is going to be far more expensive than patching a canvas. This comparison holds true across the board as well.
They’re also far simpler to maintain. The tanks are smaller, so sure, if you have a miniature bathroom in there, your waste tanks are going to fill up faster and your freshwater won’t last as long, but they’re quick and easy to dump and maintain.
Almost everything that you have to maintain on a pop up camper is simpler and less expensive than it would be on an RV, even a small RV. Speaking of expense, pop up campers don’t depreciate as rapidly as an RV.
Of course, it makes sense that you would get a more rapid depreciation with an RV than a pop up, simply because there are more expensive materials and hardware baked into a new RV over a pop up.
Another thing that separates a pop up from an RV is how easy it is to tow. You don’t need to hitch it up to a Nissan Titan or a Dodge Ram to get from point A to point B. They’re lightweight enough that you can tow them with just about anything. There are even motorcycles out there that are retrofitted to haul toy campers and pop ups, so there’s a good deal of portability there that exceeds that of an RV.
Price difference between used & new pop up camper
A brand new, large pop up camper is going to approach the maximum limit of around $20,000, while a comparable, used pop up camper that is around 5 to 6 years older will have depreciated by 50% to around $10,000.
Let’s take a more in-depth look of the two categories, shall we?
Used pop up campers
Used pop up campers have a few advantages over brand new pop up campers. Many of those features aren’t things that you would probably consider at first glance:
- Depreciated and more reasonable price tag
- Additional features added by the previous owner
- Depreciate slower than traditional RVs
- More immediate customization options
- There is a large market for used campers
If you’re looking for a pop up camper that falls under the “used” umbrella, there’s no lack of inventory. Whether you find one on the Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, NextDoor, or from a used camper lot at an RV dealership, there are just as many available options as there are with new pop up campers. If not more options.
You also have the unique advantage of looking at used campers that are sold along with whatever renovations or additions the previous owners saw fit. For example, you might look at a pop up camper and notice that it has heating and air conditioning. But, if you pull up that same pop up camper on Google, you’ll see that it wasn’t manufactured with A/C and heating.
Since they depreciate slower than traditional campers, pop up campers will often demand a premium price, despite being a few years old. While that may seem like a disadvantage at first, it’s actually a testament to how durable and long term a good pop up camper can be.
The immediate customization options available with a used pop up camper are usually things that bounce off of what the previous owners have already done. Let’s say the original owner cleared out a flooring section and added a mini-fridge, so now there’s room for you to add a small stove.
New pop up campers
If you’re in the market for a new pop up camper, there’s no lack of options available and there are several advantages and disadvantages with this choice as well:
- Value is much higher
- Buy small, renovate big
- All appliances are brand new
- No lingering problems to deal with
- More expensive than used models
If you want a pop up camper that is a fully loaded monster, you’re going to pay a premium price tag for it. But you can also opt for a much smaller pop up camper and add the things that you want as you go along.
Buy small and renovate big. Going with a pop up camper that isn’t fully loaded, provides you with a unique opportunity to not only make it your own, but to do it on your own good time. You can add a mini fridge when you’re ready to.
Perhaps you have your own propane stove and would love to install it in your brand new pop up camper rather than fork over an additional $1,000 for that premium model that thinks its own propane stove is made out of 14k gold.
Buying small and renovating it makes it your own in a way that living in a used camper would take years to provide. Of course, one of the most appealing positives when buying brand new is that you’re not going to have to deal with any issues that may not have made it into the fine print.
Everything is brand new and the only depreciation that occurs is the depreciation that you and time permit.
What are the towing requirements for a pop up camper?
Used or new, the towing capacity remains the same. No matter what pop up camper you decide to buy, you’re looking at anywhere between 1,000 and 3,000lbs. That means that you can tow with anything that has a ball hitch and can handle up to 3,000lbs.
For instance, you wouldn’t think that a Hyundai Santa Fe or a Honda Odyssey would make a great vehicle for towing; these are family cars after all, designed for hauling a bunch of screaming, snot-nosed kids, while keeping them entertained.
The fact is, the Hyundai Santa Fe’s tiniest engine in the cheapest trim option can haul 2,000lbs and 3,500lbs with the Calligraphy Trim. The Honda Odyssey can just flat out haul 3,500lbs, regardless of trim, so long as you opt for the towing package.
Not only can your vehicle probably tow a pop up camper, but it gives you a lot more in the way of options. Knowing what you can tow before you sign the dotted line and make yourself the new owner of a pop-up, will help you decide whether to go with the 1,000lbs pop up camper or the 2,750lbs version.
Even vehicles that didn’t come with a tow package have the capability of being converted. This is especially true if your vehicle has a trim option for a towing package. If you already have a tow package, all you need is to install the right ball hitch for your pop up camper and you’re ready to go.
Due to their lightweight and small, compact sizes, pop up campers are relatively easy to tow, new or used, so even if they are approaching the tow capacity of your particular vehicle, they won’t be hard to maneuver and navigate.
With their small size, you have a lot of options when you choose your campground or you can simply pop everything out in the backyard and let the kids camp out for the night.
Due to the inherent longevity of pop up campers, it’s really up to you what you want and what you want to do with it. There’s a host of reasons in favor of buying either one and you can tow either one with just about any vehicle with a capable towing package.
Regardless of which version you decide to go with, you’ll have loads of customization options, an extremely portable camping system, and something that the family can enjoy for years to come.