points to consider
when buying a camper trailer
BALL WEIGHT. Make sure the camper you are interested in is of a suitable ball
weight for your vehicle. Can you lift the front of the trailer? A situation may arise where you
may have to unhook the trailer & turn it around in off road conditions or just
in the shed at home? A general rule of thumb is to have 10 to 15% of the
trailers weight on the hitch.
What sized bearings does the trailer have? Are they large enough to handle the
abuse of corrugated roads? How often do I grease them? How do I inspect
them for wear? Do I get spare bearings with the camper?
the camper have an onboard battery setup? How is the charging of the battery
done? Do I need a battery management system to control the charging from the
vehicle? How long
will the battery last? What type of batteries are used, heavy duty or deep
cycle? What size cable do I need to charge the batteries in the camper? How long
does it take to fully charge the battery?
Is there a 12 volt trickle charge to the onboard battery via an Anderson plug
when driving? What do I need to do on my vehicle to do this?
sort of bed does it have? Foam or inner sprung? What size is the mattress,
double, queen? Will it suit your back? How high is the bed off the ground & will
you be able to climb up into it? Are there plenty of mesh windows for
ventilation on summer nights? Can I leave the bed made up when I close the
camper? Can I get out of bed in the early mornings for a fish, without
disturbing my partner? Where do the kids sleep?
BRAKES. Hydraulic, mechanical & electric. Each have their own merits, but in an
off road situation trailer brakes controlled from an electric controller with in
the drivers reach is a very handy item, especially on a downhill trail. Do I
really need brakes? How do I adjust the shoes? What is the correct adjustment?
Has it got a handbrake?
weight canvas is the camper made from eg 12 or 10 ounce? Is it reinforced or
double seamed? Do I have to wet down the new canvas when I get home? Why do I
have to wet it down?
What is the chassis constructed of, RHS or angle? What wall thickness is the
RHS??? Has the trailer got a full chassis underneath it? Is the chassis painted or
hot dipped galvanized?
COMPATIBILITY. Have a look at the weight of the camper. What is the axle weight? Has
your vehicle the capacity to tow the camper? Will it be within the vehicle
manufacturers recommended towing capacity?
the biggest issue for most is the cost in purchasing a camper trailer new. Have
a look at the secondhand market. You could be lucky & find exactly what you
want, in good condition at the right price.
you require an off road coupling for maximum articulation? Where will you be
going? Will a standard ball coupling do the job?
CUSTOMER SERVICE. What sort of public relations has the manufacturer? Have they a list
of satisfied customers you can contact? Do they have factory tours to view
campers being made? Do they answer your phone calls & e-mail promptly?
DUST PROTECTION. Check the dust sealing of the camper. A bed full of dust is not a
great way to sleep at night. Check the rear tailgate seals. Will they keep out
water if doing deep river crossings? Are they vehicle type rubber seals or glue
on rubber strips?
ELECTRICS. Does the camper come with a 240 volt electric system for caravan park
stays. Has it got a battery recharging system? Does the battery recharge
automatically when I plug into a 240 volt supply???
a look at what extras are on offer. Extra water tanks & awnings, meshed gazebos,
tropical double roof, outboard racks, boat racks/firewood racks or extra rooms,
just to name a few. Can you get a deal on extras if you order with a new camper
rather than later?
choice of colours do they have? Can I get the camper colour coded to match my
vehicle? Have they got hot dipped galvanizing as an option?
sort of floor does it have? A hard or soft floor? Is the floor off the ground?
Will you get water in when it rains? Does the soft floor zip off? Do they have
pre-cut indoor/outdoor carpet to fit?
the camper have an on board fridge? Is it two or three way? Can you carry a
fridge on the drawbar or inside?
GAS BOTTLE. What size is it? Where is it mounted? Can I have a spare mounted there
also? Is it protected from flying stones? How long will the bottle last on
Are the hinges strong enough? Can the
doors/tailgate be removed?
much is insurance & what is covered? Is contents included? Am I covered off
JERRY CAN RACKS. Can you carry extra fuel or water in jerry's on racks in/on the
camper? How many can you carry & where? Can I lock them?
JOCKEY WHEEL. What sort of jockey wheel has it got? Solid rubber or pneumatic? How
do I set it up?
Is the kitchen internal or external? Is there plenty of cover if it is raining?
Do you have to erect the camper to access the kitchen? Can you have an easy
lunch stop on the roadside? What size stove has it got? How many burners? Has it
got a grill? Is it fuel or gas? Do I have to connect the gas hose each time I
use the stove?
it have 12 volt lighting inside or/and outside the camper? Is there lighting
over the kitchen area? Has the camper got cigarette lighter plug outlets so I
can use my 12 volt lighting?
it have side or front mounted lockers for extra storage? Are they lockable? Are
they dust & water proofed?
I lock the trailer to stop the thieves when parked in the street or in camp?
Can I throw the kids beds on top of the main bed without breaking them
down? Where do the tent poles, ropes & pegs go? Does the awning need to be
unzipped each time?
do you intent to take your camper? Check the underneath clearance if you want to
go on rugged 4wd tracks. What is the departure angle?
sort of wiring has the trailer plug got? How many pins are there? Will you have
to rewire the vehicles plug? Will they rewire it for me when I come to pick up
the new trailer?
you want to stay in caravan parks & use 240 volt? Does it have a 240 volt set up
& power board? Does it have a 12 volt on board power supply when the vehicle is
not hooked up?
you carry your boat, canoe or push bikes on an optional rack that fits over the
top of the trailer? Do you have to remove the boat to set up the camper or can
you simply swing it away? How much effort is involved? When on the road you will
have to do this each night.
REAR STABILIZERS. Does
it have rear stabilizer legs? What is involved in setting them up?
REAR VISION. Will I be able to see over the top of the trailer in the rear vision
mirror when towing? Can I see down the sides? Do I need extended mirrors?
REGISTRATION. How much does it cost to register the camper? Does rego come with the
RESCUE HOOKS. Does the camper have rear tow hooks? A situation may arise that
requires you to recover your trailer backwards. Where would you connect your
SCREENS. Are the
screens 'midgie' proof? Is a screen door standard???
SET UP. How
long does it take to set up the camper? Does it require one or two people in
setting up? Something that requires a half hour or more in setting up will take
longer to pack up. What is involved in setting up a quick overnight camp? Do I
need pegs & ropes?
it of a size to suit your needs? Can I add an extra room as the family grows?
the camper have solar panels as extras? What size are they? How long will they
extend my stay in the one place? Do I have to camp in full sun?
SPARES KIT. Have they got a spares kit on offer? Bearings & seals are a necessary
spare in out of the way places.
SPARE WHEEL MOUNT. Does
it have a spare wheel mount? Is it accessible is all situations? Can I open the
rear doors of my vehicle? If not can I get an extended drawbar?
STONE PROTECTION. See what sort of protection is on offer to protect the front of the
camper & more importantly, stopping the rocks rebounding into the back of your
vehicle & smashing a rear window on dirt roads. Has it got a shade cloth guard
or a bra across the front of the trailer?
can you gain access to your gear stored in the camper? Do boxes or draws slide
out, the bed lift up? How much gear can I fit in? Camp cooking gear, clothes,
chainsaw, fishing or bushwalking gear? Has it got a spare gas bottle rack? What
weight will it be loaded? Do you also need to load the rear of your vehicle?
SUSPENSION. There are coil, leafs & rubber suspensions to choose from in a number
of different setups. Each have their own merits in there own situations.
Independent coil, heavy duty leaf springs, solid axle with leaf springs & shock
absorbers & torsion bar suspension to mention a few.
the recommended towing capacity of the towbar. Is the ball weight or downward
weight on the tow hitch within the limits set by the towbar manufacturer? If
over it could void your vehicles warranty.
the trailer have the same track as your vehicle? When towing in sand or mud will
the trailer sit in the tracks of your vehicle?
TRAVEL COVER. What is the travel cover made from? Is it a hardtop or a soft cover?
Will the cover dust proof the canvas when traveling? How will it handle the
harsh Aussie sun?
it a fully devoted camper body or is the camper based on an off road box
trailer? Can I use the trailer for other things like taking waste to the tip?
Does the camper open out to the rear or side?
long is the manufacturer's warranty? If necessary where do you go for repairs?
What sort of backup service do they have?
WATER/FUEL. Where is the water tank? Is it plastic, fibreglass or stainless steel?
Has it got a gauge? Has it got a stone guard? Can the filler lid be locked? Has
it got a hand or electric pump or better still both? It is a good idea not to
have all your water in the one tank in case of a leak.
WEIGHT DISTRIBUTION. Does
the rear of the vehicle sag when hitched up? Is the drawbar overloaded? You may
require towing aids such as Polyairs, uprated suspension or adjustable shocks.
I have a choice of tyres? Can I get the same tyres I have on my vehicle? It is a
good idea to have the same wheel/tyre combination as your vehicle if traveling
to remote places. With two spares, a good tyre repair kit & a pump, you can get
yourself out of trouble & on the road again.
big are the windows? Can I have extra large windows made when I order? Are they
big enough to allow a breeze through for summer sleeping? What size mesh is
used? Will they keep out sandflies? Can you get clear covers for when it's
raining? Do the awnings keep out the rain?
What brand zips are used? Do they look as if they are up to the wear & tear they
hints when buying a
Unfortunately there are a number of camper trailers that are stolen
& resold these days. Please make sure the VIN, chassis and rego
numbers match with those on the registration papers. A new VIN plate
could be cause for alarm.
* Buckled rims..... cost of new rims.
* Bent axle. Stand back behind the trailer & check wheels are upright & tires
for uneven wear..... new axle & tyre costs.
* Broken leafs on suspension..... remove & repair or re-new costs.
* Drum brakes can be in any condition. The pads could be worn out & the hub may
need machining, especially when used on the dusty/muddy roads of the outback.
* Tyres age..... old & cracked tyres are dangerous towing at high speeds & may
cause a failure. Tyre experts are now advising against the use of tyres that are
more than six years old
due to the
effects of ageing.
* Check shock absorbers for oil leaks..... cost of new shockies.
* Ask when were the bearings last greased/replaced/checked (self or workshop)
* Ask when were the brakes last serviced. Are they electric or override?
* Check seams for stress & stitch fraying..... repair costs.
* Check canvas folds for fray & wear..... repair costs.
* Check eyelets on tent section & awning for stress..... repair costs.
* Check condition of zips..... repair costs.
* Check for mold on canvas..... cost of treatment.
* Check for loose rivets..... drill out & replace.
* Check chassis for cracked welds & components..... cost to re-weld cracks
* Check electrical trailer plug for compatibility to your vehicle..... new plug
* Check tow height of hitch..... buy new tongue to level trailer.
Check 10 year inspection date on bottle..... new bottle cost if in bad
* Check rubber gas hoses for deterioration..... cost of new hoses.
* Broken parts on stove..... are spare parts available.
* How often was it used? A camper which is hardly used is probably in worse
condition, as rot starts to set in, tyres break down and develop flat spots
which lead to blowouts.
* Canvas becomes very stiff/dry and looses it's water resistant qualities when
not used. Someone who regularly uses their camper is more likely to keep the
maintenance up so it will most likely be in good condition.
* Carefully check the VIN, chassis & rego numbers to those on the rego
papers. The last thing you need to do is unwittingly buy a stolen
Buying a camper trailer
Choosing the right
information by Rob