I was at a party last week when the subject of buying a new tent trailer came up. My friend had said she’d seen a nice-looking used tent trailer for sale and was considering buying it. The EatStayPlay.com “Royal” Family camped in a tent trailer, otherwise known as a pop-up trailer for many years.
(Until The Queen Mother decided it was too much work and made ESP Boss buy her a different RV. But that’s another story!)
Throughout our years of owning a tent trailer, we actually went through three different models. Since we’re something of an old hat at buying tent trailers, I wanted to share with you my top 10 tips; all from personal experience!
The salesman or previous owner will make it seem like a piece of cake to set up and tear down your new trailer. And it is; for THEM. For you, it is a brand new process.
And, of course, it goes without saying that before you buy an RV of ANY type, you make sure that your vehicle can tow it safely AND that you have the needed hitches, receivers, brakes, and connections!
- Take notes. It’s better if you have one person taking the notes and the other person following the seller around
- Draw pictures or take pictures. It’s amazing how little things like not pushing a bed in from the right angle mean that the bed won’t slide in at all! (Our Coleman tent trailer had a very finicky door. If it wasn’t done exactly right, it wouldn’t latch into the ceiling!)
- Have the seller do a complete set up and tear down for you to watch. Make notes of any steps they have trouble with, especially if you’re getting a used model from a prior owner. It might indicate that the part is due to be replaced, doesn’t want to work when wet (or dirty, or dusty, or on Thursdays…), or that the current owner didn’t use the feature much and isn’t familiar with it.
- YOU do it. Yes, you will look a bit foolish since you don’t really know what you’re doing, but it’s a lot better to practice when you’ve got the “expert” there to help you out. Plus, you’ll get a feel, right away, for how much work it is to do. You might change your mind at this point and decide that a tent trailer isn’t for you! (The previous owners of our Coleman tent trailer bought a top-of-the-line model with ALL the extras, took it out once and decided that it was too much work! My folks got a great deal, but think of all the money they spent on an RV that didn’t fit their lifestyle.)
- Take it home and then practice it again.
- Use EatStayPlay.com to schedule a test trip. You’re looking for a near-by campground that is easy to get to, has BIG level spaces, and is close to a major town so you can buy supplies, if you need them. This test run is just a test run — GO to a campground even if you prefer dispersed camping. Leveling the trailer on a nearly-level pad will make a big difference on your maiden voyage!
- Get to the campground when there is plenty of daylight left. There’s nothing worse than setting up an RV you’re not 100% familiar with in the dark!
- While you’re out, try out and test all the features of the tent trailer including the refrigerator, stove, toilet, inside and outside shower, lights, propane system, heating system, etc. If something doesn’t work, you need to get it fixed right away AND let the seller know about it! Going out with your new tent trailer is especially important if it is still under warranty.
- Make a folder with all the manuals in it and keep it in the trailer. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had to reference the owner’s manual while on a trip. Luckily The Queen Mother is very good about keeping all that stuff handy.
- Be patient! Be patient with yourself, your spouse, your children and pets. Camping should be fun. Don’t expect everything on your maiden voyage to go well.
Our first trip with our first tent trailer: The “moon” feet didn’t reach the ground so we couldn’t level the trailer and had to drive into town for wooden blocks. The hot water heater wouldn’t stay lit (pilot light gizmo needed to be replaced!) And, it snowed! Thankfully, the heater DID work.
Readers Weigh In:
- What do you do before buying an RV?
- Have you ever taken your RV out thinking it was going to be simple and had a disaster instead?