Points to Consider

hints when buying a camper trailer



points to consider
when buying a camper trailer


AWNINGS. Can I leave the awning on when packing up. Are there optional extra width awnings available? Are canvas walls & screens available for the awning. Can I get an awning on the other end of the camper trailer tent?  

 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.

BEARINGS. 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?

BATTERY. Does the camper have an onboard battery setup? What type of batteries are used, heavy duty or deep cycle? What size is the battery or batteries? How long will the battery last? How is the charging of the battery done?  Is there a 12 volt DC to DC to charge the camper trailer battery via an Anderson plug when driving? Can I charge the battery via a solar panel & what size panel do I need? What size cable do I need to charge the batteries in the camper via the vehicles alternator? How long does it take to fully charge the battery while driving? What do I need to do on my vehicle to do this?

BED. What 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? Is there a rung style (hard on bare feet) or step style ladder provided? 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 within 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?

CANVAS. What weight canvas is the camper made from eg 10, 12 or ounce? Where is the canvas made?  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?

CHASSIS. 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? Will it be suitable for travel along roads with endless corrugations & potholes?

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?

COST. Probably 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 & low kilometres.

COUPLING. Do 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 manufactured? 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 240 volt charging system? Does the battery recharge automatically when I plug into a 240 volt supply??? 

EXTRAS. Have 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?

FINISH. What choice of colours do they have? Can I get the camper colour coded to match my vehicle? What sort of paint do they use. Is there powder coating available? Have they got hot dipped galvanizing as an option?

FLOOR. What 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? (handy when camping in mud) Do they have pre-cut indoor/outdoor carpet to fit?

FRIDGE. Does the camper have an on board fridge? Is it two way (12volt & 240 volt) or three way (gas/12volt/240volt)? What is the amp draw? What is the average amp hour draw over 24 hours? Where is the fridge placed in relation to the kitchen?

GAS BOTTLE. What size is it? Where is it mounted? Can I have a spare mounted also? Is it protected from flying stones? How long will the bottle last on average? Do I need to connect the gas to use appliances each time I stop?

HIRE. Is there a hire option available so I can try the camper trailer out for a weekend to see if it will suit my needs?

INSURANCE. How much is insurance & what is covered? Is contents included? Am I covered off road?

JERRY CAN RACKS. Can you carry extra fuel or water in jerry's on racks in or on the camper when travelling into remote reigons? How many can I carry & where? Can I lock them?

JOCKEY WHEEL. What sort of jockey wheel has it? Solid rubber or pneumatic? What size? Will it be easy to push around at home? How do I set it up?

KIDS ROOM. Is an optional kids room available? What is involved in fitting this on? Can the room be left on when packing up? 

KITCHEN. Is the kitchen internal or external? Is it mounted on the swinging tailgate or is it a trailer length slide out kitchen? Is there plenty of cover cook 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 liquid fuel or gas? Do I have to connect the gas hose each time I use the stove?

LIGHTING. Does it have 12 volt lighting inside and outside the camper? Is there lighting over the kitchen area? Has the camper cigarette lighter socket outlets so I can use my portable12 volt lighting?

LOCKERS. Does it have side or front mounted lockers for extra storage? Are they lockable? Are they dust & water proofed?

LOCKABLE. Can I lock all doors on the trailer to stop the thieves when parked in the street or in camp?

PACKING UP. Can I throw the kids beds on top of the main bed without fully disassembling them? Where do the tent poles, ropes & pegs go? Does the awning need to be unzipped each time?

PLACES. Where 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?

PLUG. What sort trailer plug has it? 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?

POWER. Do 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?

RACKS. Can 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? How wide is the camper trailer? Can I see down the sides with the vehicles side mirrors? Do I need extended mirrors?

REGISTRATION. How much does it cost to register the camper? Does rego come with the deal?

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 shackles?

SCREENS. Are the screens flyscreens or finer mesh midgeeproof? 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?

SHOW DEALS. If viewing camper trailers at a show, are there specials if you order that day?

SIZE. Is it of a size to suit your needs? Can I add an extra room as the family grows? Do I need a 16 foot wide tent for the two of us? How heavy is the canvas? Can two manage to pack the canvas up of a large tent? Are you intending to do travel holidays moving often or setting up camp for a week or more?

SOLAR. Does the camper have solar panels or are they extras? What size are they? How long will they extend my stay in the one place? How long is the solar cable from the panel? 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 fully? 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?

STORAGE. What is the payload capacity in kg? What is the ATM (aggregate trailer mass) weight when loaded? How can I gain access gear stored in the camper? Do boxes or draws slide out on tracks, 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?  Do you also need to load the rear of your vehicle? The trailers ball weight is also part of the vehicles payload.

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.

TAILGATE. Does the tailgate fold down or hinged to open to the side?

 Check 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. 

TRACK. Does 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 dustproof the canvas when travelling? If a vinyl soft cover will it handle the harsh Aussie sun? Is the soft travel cover adjustable so I can place extras like camping chairs, kids beds etc under it?

TYPE. Is 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, side or forward?

WARRANTY. How long is the manufacturer's warranty? If necessary where to take it for repairs? What sort of backup service do they have?

WATER TANK. 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.

WHEELS. Do 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.

WINDOWS. How 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?

ZIPS.  What brand zips are used? Do they look as if they are up to the wear & tear they will receive.


buying secondhand

hints when buying a pre-loved camper


* 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) receipts?
* 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 condition.
* 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 camper trailer. 


Buying a camper trailer http://www.campertrailers.org/buying_a_camper_trailer.htm

Choosing the right camper http://www.campertrailers.org/buying_the_right_camper.htm

Towing regulations http://www.campertrailers.org/towing_regulations.htm

Weight distribution http://www.campertrailers.org/balancing_act.htm


information by Rob