Purchasing Second Hand
Thinking of buying a pre-used camper trailer, here are a few tips to ensure you get not only what you pay for, but the camper trailer of your dreams
If you see electrical tape joining two wires together, run!
As the weather warms up, it could be a great time to invest in a brand-new second-hand freedom machine, or a pre-purchased camper trailer as some may call it. As with any second-hand purchase, there’s always the chance of buying a lemon, or somebody else’s problem. Alas, we’re not about to let that happen. With that in mind, here are a handful of tips and tricks to help ensure your next camper trailer is a winner.
The condition of the camper trailer’s exterior can be a very good clue as to the kind of life the unit has had. Bumps, dings and scratches along with stone damage underneath are a pretty good indication that the camper has seen its fair share of dirt road and would warrant closer inspection of things like the chassis and suspension mounts for cracks in the welds or weak points.
Exposure To The Elements
Moss or mould growing on the roof of a solid roof camper may indicate that the camper has been left out in the elements, probably in a damp location. Then of course there’s the campers that have been left in direct sun the whole time. The concern here is any rubber seals for windows or panel joins may not be as water-tight as we would like thanks to the sun drying them out and turning them brittle. If you suspect this is the case, pay particular attention inside the camper for water leaks, which would usually leave a discoloured stain where water has dripped, then dried.
Kitchen and Appliances
It’s a good idea to check that all the kitchen appliances are working and in good order.
Test the stove including all of the burners for correct operation, and the fridge to ensure they’re in proper working order. Check the rubber hose LPG lines for cracks, fatigue, or physical damage too.
Start with the basics and make sure everything is in working order, including things like lighting, 12V fans and any other accessories. It’s also a good idea to have a look in the actual electrical compartment to ensure everything looks neat and tidy. Ensure the battery is mounted correctly, and there are no signs of damage to the wiring or corroded connections. If you see electrical tape joining two wires together, run!
There’s nothing worse than getting dust right through your camper trailer’s compartments, so take the time to ensure the seals are all in good condition and holding up well. Be sure to check they’re not brittle or hard as they need to squish and mould into position to create an effective seal.
Naturally, you need tyres to keep your camper trailer rolling. So, it makes sense to ensure they’re in good condition. Check the age of the tyre by looking for the 4-digit code, which indicates the week and the year that the tyre was made. Anything over 5 years old should be replaced to avoid rubber fatigue. Naturally, you’ll want to check for cracks or damage to the sidewall and tread blocks, as well.
Tyre can also tell a story too. For example, a tyre that’s badly worn on one side of the tread may indicate a wheel alignment issue.
The undercarriage of a camper trailer has a story to tell. A rusty, bent or broken chassis is a big problem, so steer well clear of any chassis damage. If the suspension components look rusty too, there’s a good chance the camper has seen its fair share of salt water at one point or another, which can severely shorten the overall lifespan of the camper.
Pay particular attention to the suspension bushes and look for wear and tear, and while you’re up near where the drawbar meets the chassis, inspect for cracks, especially along the welds. Up the front of the drawbar, ensure the coupling is in well-greased and in good working order, the safety chain and auxiliary plug are in good working order and the handbrake actually works, too.
Tent and Canvas Condition: For pop-top or tent-style camper trailers, carefully inspect the tent or canvas. Look for tears, mould, or signs of wear that could compromise its waterproofing. Marks and stains might not seem like much of a problem, but they create a weak point for rot to worm its way into the fabric, so opt for a clean and well looked after example of a tent.
Last but not least, review the ownership details and documentation. Ensure the camper trailer has a clear title and that all necessary paperwork, including registration and service history, are up to date. Your local road authority can help fill in the gaps or identify red flags by offering a free or low cost search on registered or previously registered camper trailers.
Remember, a thorough inspection may take a little extra time, but it can save you from headaches down the road. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, negotiate the price and take your time. After all, your camper trailer will be your home on wheels, so make sure you can trust it to take you on countless adventures.