Travel Trailer Buying Tips

Ten Best Trailer Buying Tips

We bought a new to us travel trailer this spring.  It has been a dream come true and a major upgrade from our much-loved tent trailer.  We are really happy with our purchase and had a lot of help along the way.  I’ve already been busy organizing and have posted some great travel trailer organization ideas too. Today we are sharing our ten best travel trailer buying tips…

Trailer Buying Tips:

1. Team up with the salesmen at the dealership to get leads on potential used trade ins.
We have a friend with connections at a local dealership ~ giving the salesman our parameters and wish list allowed him to keep us in mind when the perfect used trailer was brought into the dealership.  Keep in contact and touch base with the salesman often.
2. Know your vehicle towing capacity and have an idea of the maximum weight that you are comfortable towing.
It is always better to tow less weight so that it is not as hard on your vehicle.  Add 1000lbs to the trailer weight for supplies like water, bikes, camp table, BBQ etc.  It can all add up surprisingly fast.
Noisy Creek ~ Campsite Review

Look inside!

3. View many different layouts and configurations before buying.
Just like buying a house, get a feel for what may be available within your budget.
4. Ask friends for advise.
Our friends Anita and Rob are self proclaimed “trailer trash”.  They met and fell in love while camping.  Their advise and feedback has been invaluable!
Gallagher Canyon Resort – Campsite Review

Write a list!

5. Write down a list of wants and needs.
How many beds do you need?  How much storage do you want?  Do you want a bathtub or shower? Seriously.
6. Where do you plan on camping? 
There may be size restrictions or limited facilities for certain trailers.

7. Know the road conditions to your favorite camping spots.  
Are there lots of hills?  Is the road dirt or washboard?  You may not want to tow something too heavy in those cases.
Conkle Lake Provincial Park ~ Campsite Review

Storage is important!

8. Where will you park or store the trailer?
Our new trailer purchase was larger than we planned for.  We had to do some last minute scrambling to figure out where to park it in the summer and store it in the winter.  It’s important to have a level spot.  Lucky for us our new trailer just fits in our driveway.
9. Look at local buy and sell sites for deals on used trailers.
This is a great option for savvy trailer shoppers who are somewhat experienced in trailer maintenance and know what pitfalls to look for and avoid.
10. When is the best time of year to shop?  
New trailer ~ winter when dealers are looking to sell off last years stock.  
Used trailer ~ spring when there is a larger selection of listings from trade ins.
Shuswap Falls RV Park Campsite Review

Our trailer buying story:

We purchased our used 2011 Travel Lite trailer from a local RV dealer this spring.  We have a Nissan Pathfinder towing the trailer and while it has a maximum towing capacity of 6500lbs we decided {together with the salesman} that we did not want to tow anything over 4000lbs dry weight.  Dealers will generally tell you to add 1000lbs for supplies and equipment as well.  Our trailer is 3600lbs dry weight and 4600lbs when fully loaded.  

Use a weigh station!

When in doubt you can drive to any weight station to check the loaded weight of your trailer.  Generally our favorite camp sites are with a three hour drive and there are lots of hills in our area.  We chose a layout that has a queen bed, bunkbeds for the boys and a fold down table for our foster daughter.  I also wanted a shower that has a small bath tub for easier kid clean up.  We have a ton of perks and accessories that are seriously fun too {like a freezer that makes ICE #whoop}.  
Sugar Lake Campsite Review

Buying used:

We chose to purchase used through a dealer because a) I am too cheap to buy a new trailer b) we are not savvy enough to know all of the potential pit falls when purchasing a used trailer on our own and c) we like being “taken care of”.  The dealership resealed the roof, painted the tongue, installed the equalizer hitch system, detailed the trailer, offered an extended warranty, hooked up and installed propane tanks and batteries, flushed and cleaned all the systems and showed us the ins and outs of every detail of the new trailer.  It’s totally the right fit for us and we can’t wait to go camping again asap!
Do you have more travel trailer buying tips?  Please share them with our readers…

about heather

Hello, I’m Heather!

I'm an active mom of twin boys who is always looking for opportunities to inspire creativity through fun crafts, do-it-yourself projects and delicious recipes. This blog has been an integral part of supporting my little family and I am so grateful to have you become a part of our journey! Let's create together... Read more...

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We purchased a new travel trailer at the end of this January and just completed our 4th trip with it! If you are buying new definitely shop around even if the one you want is out of your area. We drove 3+ hours and saved over $6,000 just by calling a different dealer! Definitely know your wants and narrow your choices online if you can so you only have a handful to go look at otherwise they all start to look alike! Budget some additional money to stock your trailer with things you will need…trust me it’s easier to leave it in there. We have hit a walmart on 2 out of our 4 trips to get things we needed or that will be useful. IKEA will also become your best friend during this process. You will also learn to plan WAY in advance to get into the best campgrounds…i’m still struggling with this! Definitely watch your weight limits for your vehicle, just because it can maybe haul it doesn’t mean it can safely stop all that weight. You for sure need a brake controller installed and a weight distribution hitch with sway control…those are usually in addition to the trailer cost too.

Great advise Kyra! Thank you so much for sharing. xo

Thanks for the great advice!

You left out the single most important tip of all!

When it comes to trailer weight, the question is not “can my tow vehicle pull it”. The question to ask is “Can my brakes stop it?”

Don’t buy the first trailer that has great looks on the outside. We fell in love with our travel trailer which has awesome graphics. Now that we have had it for awhile, the floor plan is not really what I wanted. So looks aren’t everything.

Also, speaking of the exterior, trailers come with aluminum siding or smooth fiberglass siding. The fiberglass is way easier to clean… just saying.

Very good tips, I especially like the tips number 3 and 4. In addition to “3. View many different layouts” you can also try many different layouts by renting first if there are rentals in your area. With the new peer-to-peer rentals sites, you could also get great advise from the owners of the RVs that you tryout. A great way to try before you buy.

3. View many different layouts and configurations before buying.

4. Ask friends for advise.

This is all great info, but even from the dealer you can get a bad trailer. They do not take pannels/skin off to check for mold or wood rot which taking the pannels/skin off is the best way to find it. They do try to find all this but cant.
I myself love the vintage campers, these were built to last. Using real wood paneling mostly birch paneling inside, the frames are much thicker and heavy duty then these new ones. They are easy to work on. The hard part is finding one that is in great shape. So if you find one you can rebuild is even better, because then you can do what you want with them.
This is why I have been restoring vintage campers now for over 11 years now, when I pull into the campground everyone is looking at my camper, after we set up there are always other campers coming over to check it out and ask about it.
So don’t be turned off from a vintage camper, think outside the box.

Wow thank you so much for sharing your information. We are looking forward to using .

Thank you for your great suggestions!
We have a tiny Carado trailer which we adore. Our only complaint is that the table and benches have to be dismantled before they can be “converted” into a bed. (If this sounds uncomfortable, that’s because it IS.) We thought about buying a small sofa bed in Ikea….which, with a folding table could be our dining area but if unfolded, even a mini-bed would end up propped against the sink. We love our trailer but the only ones who would be able to get a decent night’s sleep would be our grand-daughter’s Barbie and Ken (and that’s if they don’t mind their little feet in the sink.)