Popup campers have been popular for decades with families who need to sleep a fair number of heads as well as those who don’t want to invest in a gas-guzzling full-size pickup truck just to enjoy the RVing experience.
With RV manufacturers keen to capitalize on this general popularity, the market has been inundated with new and gently pre-owned popup campers.
It can be tempting to want to pull the trigger on what seems like a lightweight, easy-to-tow camper, but before you do, you might want to rub noses with some of the popup camper’s inherent problems.
If you are on the fence about whether or not you want to invest your hard-earned money in a popup camper, you might want to consider some of the following reason not to buy a popup camper.
What Is A Popup Camper?
When it’s on the road a popup camper is a compact, lightweight shell on wheels.
It is easy enough to tow that the average family SUV or a sedan with a towing package can pull it with confidence.
When you get to your intended campsite, the roof of the shell “Pops Up” and the sides expand out with heavy-duty canvas tent sections that house modestly comfortable beds.
How Much Does A Popup Camper Cost?
The cost of a bare-bones simple popup camper can be as low as $10,000 new off the dealership lot.
Though an average model that will appeal to a family that prioritize a few creature comforts will run around $20,000 to $25,000. With a few luxury models going up from there.
If you are interested in a pre-owned popup camper, you might be happy or discouraged to hear that they tend to depreciate rather quickly.
This means you might be able to get a pre-owned popup camper for around $5,000 to $12,000.
8 Biggest Reasons To Avoid Buying A Popup Camper?
While there are a few minor nagging points to popup campers, there are a few drawbacks that stand out big and bold as common complaints lamented by past popup camper owners.
Before you sink your hard-earned money into a new or gently used popup camper, you should consider the following well-known foibles.
1: Tent Durability
When they are new off the line a popup camper has expandable tent sections made from a special multi-layer heavy-duty canvas.
Every time you set up and take down a popup camper, these canvas sections have to bend and fold in specific areas.
As time goes on these spots can suffer increasing wear and tear, which quickly develop into cracks and eventually annoying leaks.
You also have to take into account storage and weathering. The cold of storing a popup camper outdoors in the winter can make the canvas tent sections increasingly brittle increasing the risk of cracks, leaks and delaminated sections.
2: High Tent Replacement Cost
Most popup campers can make it three to five years before suffering a leak in one of more tent sections.
While you might be able to patch minor leaks with duct tape or a canvas repair kit, these are only short-term fixes.
By the time the popup camper is 7 to 10 years old, the tent will likely need wholesale replacement.
The cost to do this can be prohibitive for what is at that point an aging camper that has lost most of its resale value.
3: pop-up Camper Will Depreciate Fast
All RVs suffer depreciation, though popup campers tend to rapidly depreciate.
You can expect that brand new popup camper to lose 35 to 40% of it’s value in the first three years, and suffer up to 75% depreciation by the time it hits 5 years old.
This means that it is very difficult, if not impossible to see any real return on your investment when you buy a new popup camper.
4: Poor Insulation
While the canvas tent sections are thicker than what you would get with a typical rustic camping tent, the popup campers tent sections offer very little in the way of insulation.
Even if you have a model with a heater, or you install a portable air conditioner, it will still be a challenge to deal with extreme temperatures.
Of course, the relatively thin nature of the canvas also means that there is little in the way of soundproofing.
You will be able to clearly hear what is going on outside the popup camper and people outside will be able to hear your every conversation.
This can be a real issue if you like to camp at tightly packed campgrounds or RV parks.
5: Lack Of Bathroom Facilities
Most popup campers don’t have any sort of formal bathroom, or perhaps a cassette toilet.
Even the “Luxury” models have a wet bath that eats up a lot of precious interior space.
Not to mention the reality of odors coming from the very small wastewater storage tanks.
This means you will likely need to limit your camping destinations to places that have bathrooms and shower houses rather than boondocking off the grid.
6: Lack Of Storage
Since they are light and relatively compact when they are traveling down the road, most popup campers have very limited cargo capacity.
The suspension system simply can’t handle a lot of weight and all the storage compartments have to be limited to what can fit under the shell of the roof when collapsed.
7: Lack Of Interior Space
Popup campers are designed to offer up a lot of sleeping areas with large beds on each end and perhaps an interior dinette that converts into a bed as well.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t translate into a lot of floor space. If you have teenagers who need their own elbow room chances are you will be in for a squabble or three as everyone tries to figure out how to move around without bumping into each other.
8: Poor Ground Clearance
A lot of popup campers have small tires, and minimal leaf spring suspension. This translates into low ground clearance.
You might easily find yourself in a situation where your SUV can make it over something, but the popup camper’s axle grounds out.
Popup Camper Alternatives Choices
Let’s say that you’ve weighed the negatives in your mind, and you’ve decided that a popup camper just isn’t right for your family.
Yet you don’t want to be left out of the RV experience altogether. In a situation like this, you might want to consider some of the following popup camper alternatives.
Teardrop campers are small and compact, weighing about as much as your average popup camper.
They tend to cost a little more, but they last longer and have a better resale value.
Many teardrop campers have rear hatch kitchenettes that rival or exceed what an average popup camper has to offer.
The tradeoff with a teardrop camper is a lack of headroom, as well as sleeping space being limited to just two or perhaps three people.
A-Frame campers have a lot of the same drawbacks as a popup camper. Though they tend to have more durable construction and are less likely to leak as only the sidewalls are made from canvas.
This also translates into better insulation and soundproofing. Though most will only have enough sleeping space for three to four people max.
Hard-Sided Hybrid Campers
This is a more durable version of a popup camper, except is has expanding metal side walls.
This gives it superior insulation, durability and soundproofing compared to a traditional popup camper.
Though the number of people it can sleep is usually limited to four or perhaps five.
Is It Worth Buying A Pop-Up Camper?
Popup campers aren’t for everyone, and that’s okay. It’s completely understandable to worry about seeing a return on your investment when buying a popup camper.
If you are trepidatious, but you still need to sleep with more than four people, a gently pre-owned pop up camper might be a better way to save money and stave off depreciation worries.
Though you will likely still have to worry about canvas leaks and limited interior living space.
Alternative options like teardrop campers, A-Frame campers or a reinforced hard-sided hybrid camper might be better ways to tie up your money, while still giving you the comfort your family prioritizes.
If you still aren’t satisfied, then you might want to consider stepping up your budget and investing in a lightweight travel trailer.
New materials and engineering has made some models incredibly light, and still within range of what a family SUV with a towing package can handle!