How to buy a trailer tent
NEW OR USED?
There’s a ready supply of both new and used trailer tents and folding campers out there, so the decision to buy new or used usually comes down to price.
The best places to start are specialist camping shops and dealers where you’ll be able to see a full range erected to get an idea of the sort of space you’re likely to need together with an indication of the sort of prices you can expect to pay.
Most trailer tent specialists will carry an extensive range of new stock and some specialists carry a good selection of used tents as well. It will cost a bit more to buy from a dealer than a private sale but it gives you a little more protection if something goes wrong.
Another good source of used trailer tents and folding campers is the classified sections of the local paper where it’s still possible to pick up a real bargain. But by far the widest selection is to be found online, where auction and classified sites like eBay, Gumtree and preloved.co.uk to a roaring trade. You’ll find ancient models going for less than £100 right up to pristine top of the range units – but the same rules apply to them all. Know what you’re looking for and never bid without seeing the tent erected and the electrics working.
Buying new can be a more convenient option than going second-hand and takes a lot of the uncertainty out of the process. Even if you do decide that trailer tenting isn’t for you, you should still get a significant proportion of your money back when you come to sell.
When buying new, on some budget models, items like the corner steadies, spare wheel and kitchen unit are extras – so check with the dealer rather than assuming that they’re included.
Some dealers will throw in extras such as a full gas bottle to clinch the deal and you might want to haggle to get a camping grade extension lead to provide power if your trailer doesn’t have a hook-up point.
By far the widest selection of used trailer tents is to be found online, where various auction websites like eBay, Schpock and Gumtree usually have dozens on offer – from barely serviceable scrappers for less than £100, right up to nearly new ex-demonstrator models which a dealer needs to sell quickly to make way for new stock.
When browsing online, it’s important to know what you’re looking at in terms of the make, model and any extras included. Don’t bid on anything you aren’t 100% certain about and ask to see the tent erected at the vendor’s home prior to bidding. Make sure they still have the manual and instructions and if possible, ask if they can connect it up to the car to check the lights.
Classified adverts are still a good source for used trailer tents and scouring your local newspapers’ small ads might yield a real bargain if you stumble across a barely used trailer tent which the owner is keen to offload.
Whatever your source, check the wheels, tyres and hitch for any signs of damage or excessive wear. On older models, look for cracks in the tyres’ sidewalls, as these will often degrade before the tread wears out.
Check the poles are straight and any mechanisms operate smoothly without the need for excessive force. Check all the seams for unraveling threads or other signs of stress and also inspect any stains or fading. If you find any signs of damp, walk away. The odd small rip in non-critical areas is easily repaired, but larger tears or cracks in the window plastic are a more complicated undertaking. Finally, check every zip carefully, as replacing these can be costly.
Be wary of any electrical or gas items and get them checked over by a properly accredited fitter. Second-hand trailers tents from manufacturers like Combi-Camp or Camplet still command hefty premiums on the used market and tend to be harder to find, so if you’re set on one of these, it’s likely to take longer to find a good one on the second-hand market and you’ll still pay a premium for it. A good quality folding camper from brands like Pennine and Conway can be picked up for less than £1,000.
You’ll pay a bit more for a used tent at a dealer than you would for a private sale, but you should get a warranty of sorts and if you do find anything wrong with it when you get home, the dealer will put it right.