Are you in the market for a camper? Like many people, my family has decided to buy a new camper this spring, and we have chosen to purchase a pop-up.

When buying a pop-up camper there are certain things you need to look for. Therefore, I have put together a list of things to look for when purchasing a pop-up camper.


The canvas is a very important part of a pop-up to consider. Things to look for are tears, mold, and leaks. Many times, campers sit in storage or old barns and mice use the canvas as a chew toy.

As for mold and mildew, I would normally say stay clear of it, but if you find a pop-up you just love there are ways to clean it. Things like seat cushions and curtains can be removed and washed in the washing machine.

As for the canvas itself, I do not recommend using bleach as it can strip the canvas of its water-proofing ability.

To clean it properly, first you will need to let the canvas air out in the sun for a day or two. Next, mix Dawn dish soap and water together and scrub the canvas down inside and out. I personally use Dawn, but you can use Ivory or another mild dish soap. Again, let the canvas dry.

Then apply a water sealant. If you are lucky enough to find a solid camper but the canvas is in bad shape, you can purchase a new canvas. If you need to replace the canvas, you can purchase one from Canvas Replacements. To learn more about how the canvas is created by Canvas Replacements, check out their video here.

Bed assembly parts/miscellaneous parts

Always be sure to ask the seller to fully set up the camper to ensure all parts are present. It would be horrible if you were to purchase your pop up then get it home only to discover parts were missing; parts like the poles to assemble and stabilize the beds, the crank handle to raise and lower the camper, and latches. It is a good idea to set it up and take it down and be sure the beds slide in and out smoothly.

Lift system

Again, by having the seller fully set up the camper you can inspect the lift system. You can buy replacement parts just like you can buy a new canvas, but unless you know what you’re doing I recommend buying a pop-up that is fully functioning.

There are so many out there for sale, so you can find a decent one with all parts and a good lift system for a reasonable price. When looking at the lift system you want to inspect the cables. Spend some time cranking it up and down just to be sure there are no kinks in it and that it is going to work well for you.

Image credit: CNET/Denise Taylor


The main thing to look for is if the frame is bent or rusted. If it has just surface rust, it won’t hurt anything because you can sand it and paint it. If the frame is bent — run!

Roof damage

Do a visual inspection for cracks, separation, and holes. If there is dirt and it is minor it can be washed and painted. I recommend washing and painting the roof anyway to ensure no leaks. Obviously, if it is brand new there’s no need for painting.

Tires and axle

When it comes to the axle, look for rust and inspect the components of the suspension. You can’t look at the inside of the axle, but you can take into consideration the campers age and how long it has been sitting.

We learned that campers that have sit awhile can rust from the inside out on their axles. When looking at the tires, look for cracks, including small cracks that can be a sign of dry rot.

Ask the seller when the last time was the bearings were greased. This would not be a reason to not buy the camper but a sign that you would need to tear it apart and grease it yourself.

Curtains and cosmetics

These are the last on my list to be concerned about because you can fix cosmetic issues easily. Cushions and curtains can be replaced. This would also give you the opportunity to add your touches and make it your own.


The most important things to look for are canvas condition, missing parts, bent frames, roof damage and leaks.

We have been RVing for many years and have purchased many kinds of RVs in our lifetime. Some lessons are learned as you go, and as far as axles go, I can’t stress how important it is to make sure that it is not bent. You do not want to be traveling down a highway when an axle breaks and a tire goes flying.

Frames and axles are as important as brakes; you always need all to work properly. Get on your hands and knees, and inspect the underside of the RV, no matter what style you are buying.