So….We Bought a Camper (Now What?)

Sometime last year I asked Adam what he thought about us maybe buying a travel trailer. My family had one for a few years when I was growing up, and I thought our kids would get a kick out of having similar adventures.  Adam didn’t jump at the idea… his family lived in one for a year (all seven of them) while building their house, and he doesn’t quite have the warm fuzzies about campers that I do.

buying a travel trailer

So image my surprise when a few months ago he told me he thought we should get a camper. He said he was ready for some family adventures, and taking off for a few days and getting far, far away from the to-do list sounded pretty darn great. Our boys are almost to that sweet spot age (currently 8, 6, 3 & 1.5 ) where they are old enough to not be babies, but young enough to still want to hang out with us. You have to take advantage of those years, because they are fleeting. Also, we’ve tried tent camping with them a few times and it’s the worst. Outdoor adventures + air conditioning and real beds seems like the perfect combo.

buying a used camper


So we sat down and came up with a list of things we wanted in a camper. Here was our list –

  • Used
  • Bumper Pull
  • Under 10K (hopefully more like 5 or 6K)
  • Local (within about 2 hours or so)
  • Sleeps 6 or more
  • Bunk beds (so our dining table and couch aren’t always in bed form)
  • Not huge (under 30 ft)
  • U-shaped Dinette (so we can all sit at the table together)
  • Didn’t need work (being outdated is fine, but I’m not looking for a project)

So we started shopping. For the most part we avoided dealerships (they never have anything in our price range) so mostly searched on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. And when I say “searched” I mean we both obsessively checked those sites five times a day for about three months.

buying a used camper

I don’t know if you’ve bought anything big on craigslist lately, but it like 50% scams. It’s crazy. I almost lost my faith in humanity shopping for a used RV. I wish I was kidding. And the ones that were in our price range and weren’t scams were gone before I could even think about loading the boys up in the car to go look at them.

where to buy a used travel trailer

ANYWAY, the one we ended up buying I found on facebook marketplace, about an hour away from us. I first saw it when it as listed at 12K, and I ignored it beacuse it was too expensive. A few weeks later the price dropped to $10,500, and I also ignored it. It was really new (2014) and if it hadn’t sold yet there must be a reason, since RV’s seem to be flying off the shelf this summer. A couple more weeks passed and it was still available, so I told Adam I thought we should go look at it. The layout was perfect and it checked all the boxes, plus the price was actually under blue book value. It was more than we wanted to spend, but it was also nearly a decade newer than most of the trailers we had been looking at and seemed to be in near perfect condition.

how to buy a used travel trailer

So Adam and I loaded everyone up to go look at it, got a flat tire on the way, and showed up super late to meet the nicest people. We looked at the camper but couldn’t help but be disappointed. Despite looking perfect on the outside, the inside looked….lived in. Rough, and quite a few things were broken. Not any worse than the others we had looked at, but this one was nearly twice as much.

buying an RV

So we explained to the sellers that we weren’t interested. I told them that everything about it was just what we were looking for, but the price was at the absolute most we could spend and the condition wasn’t as great as we had hoped. Then we headed home.

The next morning I get a text from the sellers saying they would sell it to us for 9K. I couldn’t believe they came down that much, taking off $1,500 off the price put it smack dab in crazy good deal range. Adam and I agreed that at that price it was too good to pass up, and since I’m a giant pain that loves to negotiate I responded with an offer of $8,700.

Should I get an RV?

They accepted, and just like that our three-month camper search came to an end (and I managed to make it through without cursing out a single craigslist scammer. Props, Ashley, props.)

travel trailer bathroom

Now early in our camper search Adam and I had agreed on two things …

  1. It sounded totally fun to remodel a camper. It’s a small space so it would be fairly quick and simple, not to mention cheap.
  2.  We were absolutely, under no circumstances, going to renovate whatever camper we bought. We are DIYing our house and already have projects on projects on projects, so we just wanted to use the camper, enjoy it, and not make more work for ourselves.

travel trailer bedroom

A couple of days later we went to pick up our new camper, and we hadn’t even owned it ten minutes when Adam was like “We should definitely paint the cabinets…they would look so much better.” I quickly responded “NO. No more projects.” Unfazed by my rejection, he kept on talking.” There’s only a few, it wouldn’t take very long. We could even do it the easy way and just use chalk paint.”

camper kitchen

Now, that…that got my attention. Not because I was excited about painting cabinets, but because evidently he listens when I talk….even about boring stuff like chalk paint. Suddenly he was crazy sexy to me. So sexy, in fact, that I replied “Well, if we’re going to paint the cabinets then we should probably do one of those peel and stick backsplashes too.”

travel trailer remodel - before

And that was it, we were in full on “excited about a new project” mode. That hot, attentive bastard sucked me in. Not that I’m surprised, this is just who we are…I should have known better than to think we could leave it alone. Plus it’s just so brown, too brown…and I love brown.

travel trailer bedroom - before

Anyway, I’m not quite sure what the remodel will consist of (or even what direction we are taking it), but I’m not going to worry about it right now. For the rest of the summer we’re just going to use and enjoy it, and when kids are in school (and the weather cools down!) we will dive into the makeover.

RV renovation ideas

I do need some advice though, from all you seasoned RVers. We have our first trip coming up soon, but we haven’t set up the trailer at all. I did order a new mattress (this one) and some board games, but beyond that it is empty. Do you have any favorite items you recommend? Organization tips? Things you thought you needed but you never actually use? Wise words about doing this with a trailer full of small kids? I’m all ears!


You may also like –

That One Time I Painted My Shower (and it worked!)

Mudroom Reveal – Lockers, Brick Flooring, Shiplap and Organization

DIY White Concrete Countertops

Brown Paper Flooring – A Tutorial

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  1. Get a Blackstone grill, the biggest tv that will fit in the space and get going. It will take a year to find the spot between not enough stuff and too much stuff kept in the storage spaces. Don’t forget you can always run to Walmart for cheap necessities

  2. I got really impressed with this travel trailer. Really amazing idea. thanks for sharing this in such a detailed manner. Pictures are also cool. Well done.

  3. I recommend a Pur or Brita style pitcher for drinking water. The filters that are used on the fresh water hose outside reduce your water pressure inside.

  4. Congratulations!! We are long time RVer’s and I have a ton of hints/tips because I am all for easy and simple. Yet I don’t want to give it up the good things from home. Best tip, which takes time, is to stock the rv with duplicates on dishes, silverware, pots and pans, blow dryers, etc. Great place to put your home duplicates. My goal was always to be able to pack some clothes and food and be able to go. It makes a huge difference. Second good tip would be when buying anything for the rv, be sure to try and visualize it in it’s place. Square plates stack and store more efficiently than round. I got an Instant Pot to replace my slow cooker, rice cooker, etc. And always consider weight…..the rv is not a good place for heavy glass storage dishes. I have a ton of tips, so please let me know if you have a particular question. Happy Trails, Janet and Randy

  5. Hi Ashley and congrats on your RV purchase! As a seasoned rv’r I would recommend having most of the comforts of home in your rv (downsized of course) and also a grill of some sort. Some outdoor games and lighting to hang on the awning, some camp chairs for sitting around a campfire on those cool evenings. Also remember that camping is very popular (you will discover this when making your reservations) so make them well in advance. Drive out to campgrounds check them out for things like shade, how easy it will be to access or back in your camper to the site, how far the water, electrical & sewer hookups will be from the camper and make sure you have enough sewer line and connections to reach ( I have 40 ft). Another thing to consider is having the proper equipment to use for proper leveling of your rv, and a level ( a 2ft level works great and it stores easily in the rv). Remember this, try to keep everything you will need in the camper so when you go on your trips all you will need to pack is y’alls food and clothing!

  6. To keep in camper:
    Beach towels, hats, shower shoes (flip flops), dedicated camping first aid kit (benadryl, anti itch gel, pain meds, lots of assorted bandaids, burn cream, gauze, waterproof adhesive tape, etc), camp chairs, outdoor rug, dvds, duct tape, scissors, plumbers tape, water regulator, dedicated bins for each child to store ‘camper only’ toys, books. Sorry! I could go on and on! Oh… Watch out for those errant Lego pieces! They will end up in every crack and crevasse!

  7. Invest in a good cast iron frying pan that can be used on a grill. Let your husband cook breakfast out on the grill and it can give you a chance to get everything in order upon waking. If you have fussy eaters that don’t like food items touching each other get those sectional trays from Camping world or buy sectioned paper plates. Parachute cord can be used as a clothesline. Enjoy!

  8. I’ve heard folks recommend those over the door shoe holder things for storing bathroom stuff. I’ve also heard your first couple of trips should be near home so you know where the stores are :)
    Have fun with it!

  9. Almost forgot. You will need a pressure regulator for your water hookup. You dont want to blow any water lines (as I did) in your rv. Another thing I do before hooking up my water is to flush my main house to remove the air and open the faucets both hot & cold in the rv as they will have air in them as well, turn on the water and let it run until all the air pushes out. Another thing to consider is storage tank treatment, I recommend 2 brands depending which is available, RV Digest It or Power Blue both are superior products!

  10. Congratulations on your new camper! You will live it! We bought a used class c last summer and have gone all over the country with it-so fun! Good lawn chairs, an outdoor rug and a grill are necessary. Lots of towels, pots and pans . We use only paper plates, cups and napkins. Who wants to wash all those dishes? We have sheets and pillows and blankets that stay in the camper. We really like state and national parks the best. Lots of trees and hiking paths and usually on a lake. Have fun!

  11. I just LOVE it!! And already looking forward to the updates you’ll make to it… with lighter paint it will be already a great difference! It looks really functional as well! Where are the bunk beds?

  12. Congrats on the camper! I loved your story as well.
    I will just add that your camper needs 12VDC to run lights, fridge, furnace, etc even when you’re plugged into shore power. If you ever want to boondock than you might want to upgrade your house battery (s) or even consider solar. Thought you could use another project. …lol.

  13. An intelliwizard to make the converter box more efficient.

    Replace the old battery with two Trojans wired in series.

    Remove big old useless valances and install blackout shades if they are not in their yet.

    A 50 foot fresh water hose. A 25 foot fresh water hose. Water pressure regulator. In line water filter. Elbow fitting for hose connection to trailer. An attachment that would let your hose fill up your freshwater tank.

    Learn how to use a multimeter to check battery levels.

    Campa clean Black water treatment. A rhino to do dumps. A flush King to attach to that rhino to flush out the black tank. A box of rubber gloves. a hose that you will use for black Water dumps and the flush King

    Leveling blocks. Chocks. A breaker bar with the drill or correct attachment to raise and lower your leveling jacks. A breaker bar to change a tire if needed. A Jack or small bottle jack to change a tire in situations where needed.

    A good first aid kit.

    An insurance policy.

    Figure out all of the things are that are broken and attempt to fix them. Especially find out if there are any broken water lines.

    Remove anode rod from hot water heater. It may have been sitting with water in it for a while. Empty hot water heater and flush it out.

    If you are on shore power, using electric space heaters will be quieter more efficient and more comfortable than trying to use the propane furnace that comes with the unit.

    Portable lithium ion battery that can be used to both jumpstart a vehicle and charge things like tablets and phones.

    A thermometer with a remote sensor that will show the temperature both inside and outside. A humidity monitor for the inside of the trailer. Anti-humidity things like damprid

    Fully stocked tool box with things like plumbers putty for emergency water leak repairs and various types of tape waterproof tape electrical tape.

    There’s a lot of stuff I’m probably forgetting but with those Essentials and the kindness of strangers you should be fine on the first trip at a campground with hookups. If there is a sewage hook up, I would not keep that Rhino hooked up all the time but just do dumps when you need to and have enough gravity pressure


  14. On the topic of craigslist scammers:

    There are only a dozen or so scammers countrywide, who hit up all the different craigslists. I finally got sick of them hitting me up, so I decided to get rid of them, by engaging them in their scam. When they do their bullshit “send me your address and I’ll send you a check” thing, I actually pretend like I’m believing them and give them the address. (I give a po box I address I happen to have, but you can give any address you want… if you’re not comfortable giving out your home address, or a fake address, I suggest giving out the address to your local police station :-)

    Then what they do is overnight you a check (spending $15 to do so, because they think they’re getting a payday). After it shows up, they want me to wire them money of course, which I don’t do. Instead, I make it clear that I know they’re a scammer, and that *I* just scammed *them* out of $15 to mail me a fake check.

    Sometimes I’ll tell them that the check didn’t show up, and I’ll get them to send me a second check.

    After doing this about 15 times, all of the scammers figured out what I’m doing, and now I’m “blacklisted”. They know what my account and information is, and they stay clear from contacting me. When I contact their fake adds, they immediately block me.

    I haven’t had to deal with a scammer in over a year.

  15. We are kind of new at it ourselves at a year mark and loving it. All links I send are as a reference and might be cheaper in other places, but a picture is worth…

    Jack Stand pads, light compact instead of the wood blocks, they hose off nicely and store neatly. about leveling my wife and I seem to eye ball it well with her pouring some water in the shower to make sure it goes in the drain. Or a simple level not a fan of sticking anything on the camper.

    Coleman Stove- we like this as it saves the camper the unneeded smells etc.

    Gas grill for fast cooking, not sure if your camper has a propane connector for the grill in the back or on the side someplace if it does not I carry an additional tank that I link together with the two hoses needed for the Coleman and grill together instead of using the small bottles.

    Spliter+ plus hose for coleman and gas grill. one propane tank two items connected. Get a milk create to put it in fits perfectly with a 20lbs tank.

    sewer hose support and possibly as long a hose as your willing to buy, some times where the camper needs to be parks is not always close to the train hold.

    Water Fileter extra house with spliter to get those boys cleaned up before they enter the RV.


    Hang filter off the pole not off the trailer….
    Get two tires with mounts and a shop jack that can handle picking up the camper to swap a tire. God helps those who help themselves… :)

    cheap cheesy Christmas lights to toss around the awning. a long extensions cord to plug into an additional outlet where you will plug in camper not the campers outside outlet. Electric tea pot if your into that to plug into that LONG extension cord. :)
    did I mention go camping yet?

  16. keep your spices in a plastic bin, get pop up trash cans, use your shower as storage, dump/clean toilet religiously, get solar panels to recharge your batteries so you don’t have to use the generator all the time, know the width of your slide out so you don’t have to re-park it when you get too close, when you arrive at a campground mom takes kids somewhere for a solid hour so dad can set up in peace. leveling a trailer, getting stuff sorted is stressful enough for dad’s without the littles running a muck. Then mom gets time without kids to make the place pretty (string lights, put out tablescape, prep dinner).

    1. Thank you for the tips Toni! Taking the kids away while Adam or I sets up is probably the best advice yet…we always try to do things together, but more often then not one of us just asks the other to leave and take the kids. It just easier to get things done by yourself than with a helper and four kids!

  17. Yeah ! Congrats. You guys are going to have so much fun. I would head over to your $1 store and stock the trailer as if it was your kitchen and bathroom. Hang a white board somewhere so you can add to the list during the trip. Then after a couple weekends you will be all ready. Just buy things that you will keep in the trailer. Pretty much before a strip you just unload your house fridge into your trailer fridge and off you go with a small bag of clothes.

  18. Lot of good advice so far. Camping is an ever evolving process that you learn through your own experiences. Unfortunately the best advice in my opinion was Peters. Low to mid end RVs are generally poorly built, high maintenance, expensive to repair, and depreciate in value at an alarming rate. Try selling it tomorrow for 20% less than u paid and u will quickly realize the true value. Don’t get caught up in keeping up with the Jones and upgrading every few years. Dealers will love u but you will realize too late that u are. Upside down.

    1. The build quality is definitely poor, I was surprised when we started looking just how cheesy they were. We don’t buy new, from dealers, or get loans though, because of what you just said. The people we bought it from paid $23,000 for it four years ago, and we bought it from them for $8,700 (they were upside down). I know it will lose some value over the years, but nothing like the 14K hit they took (not to mention interest, registration, etc).

      1. Ashley were on the same page. Used is the only way to go. Your investment is minimal if your family enjoys it for the next five years. Keep a close eye on the roof,windows, and doors for water intrusion. Water and the ensuing mold will ruin a camper and make it unusable in no time.

  19. Love the rv. Great job!!! Everyone has such great ideas about what you need. It took me a good year to finally have everything ready so when I’m going to take off I just need some food and clothes and I’m out the door. One fun thing I have really enjoyed is my propane fire pit. I use it every time I go anywhere. It’s so convenient, and there are many places that don’t have fire pits at all around here. It’s nice to sit with the family around a nice fire. Enjoy the rv

    1. That is our goal, to pack food and clothes and have everything else be ready to go. I’ll have to look into that propane firepit!

  20. Make sure to use mattress protectors and pack extra sheets for your kids’ beds. There is nothing worse than waking up to a stomach bug and having to deal with the mess. Love your trailer you will have a great time.

  21. As new rv’ers we attended several seminars at local Rv shows and dealerships. These were most informative and I would encourage you to see if there are any in your area. One speaker said “if you remember nothing else from my suggestions please remember that zip lock bags are an rv’ers best friend”. He was right. Storage is at such a minimum and large containers do not fit, stack, etc. a perfect example is cereal boxes and cracker boxes. Also use for coffee instead of a can, magazines, coloring books and crayons, plastic ware. And great for fruit, veggies and left overs in our smaller refrigerators. Hope you and your family enjoy camping as much as we do.

    1. The build quality is horrible, there’s no arguing that. Every RV we looked at (in our price range) was the same…cheesy finishes, crappy quality. Despite that, I do think we got a good deal, and after three months of shopping and research I have no regrets about our purchase (so far).

  22. Linen Towls (To save space) and NO peel and stick back-splash. In my experience they Peel off of the wall during the weather changes.

  23. We stocked our camper with extra clothes, seasonally, so we could pick up and go easily. Usually clothes that were more work quality because of the hiking, fires etc. We also had a fold up small propane grill, fold up clothes dryer, over the door shoe holder with pockets for socks, shoes or whatever. Very important to have an easy way to keep things organized in such a small space. We also packed a screened in pavilion for hanging out outside the camper if it was buggy or too sunny of a spot. So much fun, our kids (25, 22 & 16) still remember it all fondly. Also, it helps if everyone has a job to do once you pull into your site so that setup is super quick….

  24. You guys got one hell of a deal! So excited for you. I have some extremely fond memories of RV camping when I was a kid and then again when my daughter was small. Enjoy!!

  25. You guys are too funny. But your right, they are sexy hot when they listen to stuff we said months ago and bring it up at the perfect time. Allie at Proverbs 31 girl has just done one up for like $300 and it looks amazing. Check out her Instagram stories. She will be blogging it soon. Not matter what, the boys are going to remember the fun times and memories you make as a family.

  26. I read through some of the comments and have to say I was surprised by how mean some people can be. Who cares how blah the trailer looks now. As long as you are happy with it that is all that matters and I am sure you will fix it up and make it beautiful. You have also had a lot of really good advice so I will try not to repeat too much. My main thing would be to check the air conditioner gasket and make sure it is in good shape and that the bolts that hold the air conditioner are not too loose (this is caused by vibrations from traveling and using the unit). To check this you need to remove the grate inside on the ceiling. We have found that most RV leaks are because this gasket is faulty or the bolts are loose. If there is a leak a lot of times it appears in places other than near the air conditioner because RV leaks tend to “travel” (no pun intended). So check that first, if you haven’t already. Then make sure all your water lines are not leaking, etc. And, if you do run into any problems with your RV, don’t sweat it. RV’s really are a lot easier(and cheaper) to work on then the RV industry wants you to believe. We have fixed a lot of stuff ourselves by getting online and watching a couple videos. As for stocking the RV I think that is different for everyone. I agree with other commenters that it is best to stock your RV with doubles of what you use most in your home such as spices, pots and pans, etc. After a few trips you will have a good idea of what is best for your family. Most of all enjoy your RV. You will make great memories with your children and that is the most important thing.

  27. I noticed a lot of comments about cheesy build, but let’s face it–High end in expensive & heavy. Weight is everything. You don’t want to have to buy a heftier tow vehicle. You & your husband are experienced DIYers so you can fix what needs fixing & make it work well & look good.
    Forget chalk paint for the cabinets. It needs to be sealed, esp. for kitchen use, making it a 2-step project. I’d use a good semi-gloss latex or I’ve heard that alkyd enamel is nearly as durable as oil-base but with water cleanup. I’d paint the backsplash area also.
    You’ve received a lot of good advice regarding equipment & maintenance, but not much about dry camping (no water or sewer hook-ups). Holding tanks & fresh water tanks are not limitless. Use paper plates & do a lot of grilling & one dish meals to minimize the cookware you have to wash. You don’t want to spend a lot of time on KP while the family is having fun anyway. We keep all paper trash separate to go in the nightly campfire, if fires are allowed.
    Keep wipes for kid cleanup–4 kids washing hands can run a lot of water down the drain. If you’re dry camping, don’t expect to shower every night & when you do it’s get wet, turn shower off, soap, rinse, done.
    We have a small set of Tuppperware mini modular canisters for a few staples & keep a selection of canned goods that we cycle out at the end of the camping season. Pare down spices to what you use most often. I only have 6 or so, including salt & pepper. Minimal cookware but include a cast iron skillet in spite of it’s weight–it doubles on grill & campfire & also in the oven. I have only minimal kitchen tools.
    Pre-cook ground beef or turkey, store in 1 quart Ziplocs & freeze flat (so the pkg is thinner & thaws fast). Great time saver. Pack as much into your freezer as you can so save refrigerator space for cartons of milk (space hogs), eggs & other perishables that can’t be frozen. You might want to save a freezer spot for 1 carton of ice cream as a special treat for a hot &/or miserable day.
    As you go along you will figure out what works best for you.

  28. You guys will have so much fun! We had several trailers over the years and we all have a million memories of our times away, they were part of the fabric of our family. When your boys are older and having summer sleepovers, the RV may also come in handy!

  29. Wonderful article! I wish I had your insight on this topic and could write as well as you. I hope many people get the opportunity to enjoy this great content. Thanks for the great information. It is really helpful for me.Goeuro discount code

  30. Don’t sell it obviously, this is a dream come true for you. But be prepared for challenges that are ahead, that’s just the way life goes. Before we got into the rv life I found three channels on YouTube that are just the absolute best. Long long honeymoon, changing lanes, and keep your daydream all have amazing content and it’s visual so you are seeing it first hand. Tools would be my advice, make sure you have them. Things do go wrong sometimes and having the tools to help will make a huge difference in your trip. Have a wrench and socket for every sized bolt on your trailer and don’t ever take the tools anywhere else, they are now just a part of the trailer.

  31. Great to hear about your camper. We remodeled ours and painted the cabinets. Word of advice, sand first, prime, paint, then spray a UV protectant spray. Helps seal without getting sticky.

  32. Just bought a used Class C and brought it home Wednesday. Good project to keep us ‘socially distanced” as D removes/rebuilds the upper cab area and I take down window treatments and start the cabinet door painting.

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