Truck Camper Magazine readers give their best advice on how to properly inspect a used truck camper before making a purchase.
To follow up on 6 Tips For Buying Used Campers and How To Inspect A Used Truck Camper, we asked Truck Camper Magazine readers how they would inspect a used truck camper. Of particular importance, check out Tip 7: Check the Title Status.
Tip 1: Ask For An Overnight
“When I bought our used Northstar, I asked the seller to set it up at a local campground and allow me to spend the night. This gave me an opportunity to go over the unit at my leisure including preparing a meal, sleeping, etc. During this experience, I was able to test the camper for most things.” – Gary Massie, 2016 Hilux SR, 2013 Northstar Offroada 7
Tip 2: Inspect The Pop-Up Canvas
“On a pop-up, with the top up, inspect the canvas inside and outside for tears. Check for wear at wrinkle points which occur when the top is lowered. Check seams for damaged thread. Open and close all the canvas windows, and check for torn or damaged screens. Also, check the raising hardware at the attachment points.
Tip 3: Smell the Water Heater’s Water
For all campers, pour a tall glass half full of water from the water heater. Give it the sniff test. If it smells of rotten eggs there’s an issue to be dealt with.
Editor’s Note: Great tip, Dietrich! We have a great article on water heater maintenance. It talks about how to get rid of the rotten egg smell from the water heater’s water.
Tip 4: Check the Water Heater Temperature and Pressure Valve
Check the water heater temperature and pressure relief valve. Flip up the actuating lever. Water should run out. When released, water should stop. If there is an anode rod in the outlet, it will need to be replaced.
Tip 5: Exercise The Cabinet Doors, Drawers and Glides
Open and close every cabinet door and drawer. Pull drawers all the way out and inspect the tracks and glides. Check the bottom of the drawers for attachment.” – Dietrich Kanzler, 2015 RAM 1500, 2000 Northstar TC800
Tip 6: Test Water Lines With Air Pressure
“I would add an air pressure test to the city water line to your list. Add air, wait a few minutes or so, look at the inline pressure gauge to see if it drops.” – Jesse Taylor, 2006 Sierra 2500HD, In between campers right now
Tip 7: Check the Title Status
“I just read your articles on used truck campers. They are very helpful. I thought I might add one more thing you might want to let your readers know about.
Because truck campers are not titled in almost every state, there is no way to get a clear title to prove that a lien has been paid off and the legal transfer has been made. The lien is secured by filing a UCC in the state the person lives in.
If an individual is purchasing a truck camper from Craigslist, eBay, or from an individual, it is important to make sure that there is no outstanding UCC filing on the unit. When the bank files the UCC, they do not take the original MCO from the manufacturer. So, it’s very easy to look like the owner has a “clear title” when it’s the original MCO from the manufacturer and not a state issued title.
An example would be that a person has purchased a new truck camper for $30,000. After two years he realizes that he can’t afford it. The loan balance is probably $28,000. He could sell the camper to an individual for $20,000 and then walk away and never pay the loan off.
However, the bank would then put out a statement that if the serial number of the truck camper ever appears (in insurance claims, loan applications, repairs, etc.) it would be considered stolen and the property of the bank. The buyer of the used truck camper would then be out $20,000 and the truck camper.
To keep this from happening, the buyer should ask for an original bill of sale showing there there was no lien on the camper at the time of purchase. Or if there is a lien, a letter from the bank showing the UCC has been released from the bank on the unit.
I had a close call with this. I was told the unit was paid off and it was not. However, the customer did finally pay it off after my check to him cleared. It’s the same thing with tractors, four wheelers, outboard motors, etc. It’s quite easy to get scammed.” – Dave Hofert, D&H RV Center
Tip 8: Ask About Turnbuckle Use and Inspect Tie-Down Points
“While you’ve covered almost everything imaginable, many of which I’ve never done or even really thought of, the one item which I didn’t see mentioned was the type of tie-downs used.
By this I mean the I-bolts that are screwed into the camper to which you connect your Fastguns or other type of turnbuckle. I learned the hard way that our camper had standard steel I-bolts. On a particularly hard bounce I straightened out the rear two I-bolts and was left with my turnbuckle chains dragging on the ground.
I was fortunate that close by (this happened in a very small town) was a hardware store. I was able to replace with the same sort of steel I-bolts which worked until we returned home. Once home I replaced all the I-bolts with stainless steel which are noted to be much stronger.” – Dave Pracht, 2015 GMC Denali K3500, 1987 Lance LC 900
Tip 9: Always Verify Truck and Camper Fit Compatibility
“Make sure the camper will fit your truck. Newer Chevys have a small bump out in the side support near the tailgate which can put the camper off center about 1.5-inches, depending on the camper. I was able to rework the section and removed 1-inch from the camper’s wall in that area.” – Gene Funk, 2016 Chevy 3500, 1997 Alpenlite Laredo 10
“Make sure it fits your truck bed!” – Gordon Townsend, 2015 Silverado 2500, 2018 Cirrus 920
Editor’s Note: You are absolutely correct Gene and Gordon. We have another article titled, How To Match A Truck and Truck Camper that covers this important topic in detail.
Tip 10: Check the Wings and Jack Attachments
“When the used truck camper is on the jacks inspect not only the camper’s underside, but the wings and jack attachments.
Tip 11: Look for Water Leak Stains around Plumbing Fittings
Pressurized water fittings (pump, water heater, hoses to faucets, etc.) will leave a stain if they have leaked. Stains in any wood raise the concern of dry rot weakening of the wood. Actually, the connectors are more likely to leak than the hoses.
Tip 12: Carefully Look At the Front Roof-Nose Seal
A roof seal likely to leak is at the juncture of the front of the roof and the top rear of the nose. It can be difficult to access, and therefore poorly inspected and maintained. The front bedroom window seal is always suspect.” – Philip Tron, 2009 chevy 3500 crew dually, 2012 Lance 1050
Tip 13: Use an Infrared Digital Thermometer to Detect Water Intrusion
“You pretty well covered everything except I prefer Sikaflex sealants over Eternabond and I use an Infrared Digital Thermometer to look for water intrusion.
With an IR thermometer, there will always be a temperature difference between a wall with no moisture intrusion and one with because the mold and rot behind the wallboard / wall covering will create heat and that will show on the IR. If you find a temperature differential, it’s time to investigate further.
Tip 14: Always Check the Front Nose Clearance Lights
Used campers are always suspect in the nose area, especially those with front windows if the owner hasn’t kept up with seal maintenance. One thing I’ve found, and fixed on both my campers, is the clearance light bases were installed upside down. That lets water in the weep hole. Flip them over.” – Daryl Davis, 1997 Ford F350, 2015 Palomino SS-1500
Tip 15: Use Photography As An Inspection Checklist
“Unless you are buying local it should be a confirmation process. When I put my camper up for sale I took 48 pictures of everything I would inspect as a buyer. The guy downloaded all of my photos and he used them to confirm what I had told him. I followed up to answer any questions. This was his checklist and also how I bought my used camper.
When I bought my camper, the owner in Idaho sent me 52 pictures that I used as my checklist. We agreed that if it was not what the pictures depicted he would reimburse my fuel costs. It took me less than one hour to inspect it because it was as he stated.
There was never a gotcha or regret that I did not inspect this or that. I had pictures of everything, compared them, inspected for operation and confirmed. I paid my balance due and in less than three hours I was on the way home. Photos = Checklist!” – Don Pryor, 2017 Ford F350, 2008 Arctic Fox 1150
Tip 16: Look For Modifications and their Quality
“Since 1969 I’ve had six recreational vehicles; three truck campers, a school bus that I converted to a motorhome and a 30 and 37-foot sailboats that I restored.
After viewing the photos depicting sealant application, I would like to add that when inspecting a used RV, the prospective buyer should pay close attention to any modifications or repairs done to the unit and in particular the quality of workmanship.
As an example, regarding the sealant photos, my impression is that while the applied sealant may be sufficient to prevent water ingress, the workmanship and application technique(s) are amateurish and sloppy and do not inspire confidence. I also do not recommend silicone for any sealant application. There are far better products that provide far better service.” – Jon Shavey
Editor’s Note: Our seal work isn’t pretty, but it keeps the water out. As a side note, we have seen many professionally applied seals that leak. In our eyes, any seal that doesn’t leak is beautiful.
Bonus: Supporting Tips
The following tips are similar to tips and suggestions made in our two used camper articles, but added some new perspectives. Thank you!
Always Hire A RV Tech
“I would pay a few dollars and take along an experienced RV technician. As a working technician, I have watched buyers and their friends pass judgement on any number of campers. They failed to find even the most obvious defects. Or they blow out of proportion the defects they do find.
While I think there is value in knowing which things work and don’t work, the reality is a great many things can be repaired for very little cost. On the other hand, some defects are much more expensive and it is important to know the difference.” – Steve Savage, 2012 Ford F350, 2004 Hallmark Ute XL
Take Your Time With The Inspection
“No matter the age of a used camper, there is going to be some repairs. As the article, Tips for Buying a Used Truck Camper stated, spend the day looking at the camper. The seller may not like it, but it is going to be your investment. You don’t buy a used vehicle without a test drive and inspection.” – Charlie Young, 2013 Chevy 2500, 2002 Lance 815
Check Roof Solar Panels, Seals, and Hatches
“Get on top of the roof and inspect all seals inspect solar panels for damage and see if the roof has been maintained properly. Check to see if the hatch over the bed works .” – Greg Gaser, 2014 Ford F350, 2017 Lance 1172
Inspect Windows, Screens, Doorways, and Hatches
“In the camper, confirm window operation and screen fit. Observe door and access hatch fit for deformation.” – Lou Pomerville, 2008 Silverado 3500, 2008 Snowriver 102RK