13 INDEPTH Tips to Consider When Buying a Truck Camper ~ INCLUDING A FREE BUYING A CAMPER CHECKLIST

Buying a Truck Camper

It’s an exciting time to buy a truck camper.  Whether you’re looking to travel the world on a budget thatBuying a camper is a life changing event. After I bought my first camper I drove 2200 miles in 30 days through some of the most mountainous and beautiful country America has to offer. Camping in yellowstone, Glacier & Rainer National Park. Buying a camper has lead me down a road of adventure for over 10 years, and I couldn't be happier with my new lightweight truck camper for my toyota tacoma. doesn’t require backpacking from hostel to hostel.  Or if your dream of traveling is hindered by expensive hotels, cruises, and all-inclusive resorts. Then you might want to consider buying a truck camper.

Picture a life on the wide open road, with nature as your playground and your bed never more than a few steps away. Picture backcountry camping without a tent, a room with a view and the freedom to roam wherever your four wheels can take you.  Minus the expensive hotel fees this is what you get with truck camper living.  Buying a truck camper opens a door to adventure & budget travel.

For many Americans “budget travel” consists of backpacking across Southeast Asia, but life has this unique quality of getting in the way, even for those with the best of “travel” intentions.   Pushing back those youthful long-term travel plans you had– oh so long ago.  As the days, years and months pass by your vision of long-term travel doesn’t include toting a backpack from one hostel to the next. Enter …..truck camper living!

Waterfront camping is so much easier after buying a camper. In the land of 10,000 lakes every dirt road leads to a tropical paradise eventually. With my new truck camper adventure awaits around every corner. Check out my camper buying guide if you have any questions about buying a camper. www.aowanders.comSo what do you do when you can’t afford luxury travel, or the time off for long term travel, or even limited funds? Is there a solution in the middle for people who dream of discovering the world – or at the very least pursuing an adventure for a couple months away from their employer?

Sure there is its called truck camper living, and  Buying a Truck Camper could be the solution to all of your travel dreams.

This complete guide to buying a camper covers everything I wish I would have known before buying my truck camper.  Click here to skip down the page to my 13 Camper Buying Tips.

Camper Benefits

The benefits of truck camper ownership sprawl across the RV industry.  Making it an exciting time to buy a camper. These innovative campers offer just as much comfort & living space as some of the most decked out campers on the market today. They’re spacious, luxurious & comfortable.  Camping no longer has to be a dreaded nightmare of acceptable torture.  Uttered through statements like, “Oh honey it’s good enough, relax.”

The days of reliancy & ultimatums between comfort and convenience are a sacrifice you no longer have to choose between. Modern technology has dramatically improved the design & quality in today’s truck campers.  Distinctly setting themselves apart from their ancestors with full-size kitchens, bathrooms & bedrooms.

If you’re thinking about “buying a camper” slide in truck campers are possibly the most versatile, adaptable & mobile campers on the market today.

Five Considerations Before Buying a Truck Camper

To ensure you buy the right camper.  You should consider why you want a camper in the first place.  It helps to avoid buyer’s remorse and sticker shock later on.  Trust me on this.  I’ve experienced both from one purchase.

Don’t make the rookie mistake of buying the first truck camper that comes along.  Make sure it has the features you require.  This way when you’re out there buying a truck camper you can feel more confident in your decisions & negotiations.  So that you can truly enjoy the truck camper life you were looking for.

One unique thing about buying a truck camper is you’re not required to purchase camper insurance or even registration, but you will need to consider a camper tie down system.  These can cost a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.  Every camper comes with its own added surprise expenditures.  The more research you do the less surprised you’ll be later on.

Buying a truck camper opens a world of adventure & exploration, but consider these five factors when thinking about becoming a truck camper owner.  These five elements will help you navigate the choppy waters of buying your first truck camper.

    1. Cost – Does it fit within your budget? Good Investment? Good resale value?
    2. Floorplan – How many people can sleep in your new camper? Is there enough counter space? Storage space? Logical layout?
    3. Size – Length? Height? How comfortable would you be moving you’re camper around? Where would you store your new camper?
    4. Weight – Can your vehicle tow your camper? Have you considered gas mileage?
  1. Functionality – Where will you use it? How will you use it? Who will use the camper, and how often will you use your camper?

Truck campers are generally cheaper, easier to clean, maintain, store & more fuel efficient than any other camper options available.

13 Tips For Buying a Truck Camper & All That Comes With Truck Camper Life!

Sometimes you don’t know all of the things to look for or ask about before buying a camper.  Be sure to bookmark this page because there is a ton of information here about buying a truck camper, and most likely will take a couple of reads to absorb it all.  Sorry about that.

Is a Truck Camper right for you?

This is a loaded question that doesn’t really have a right or wrong answer. To properly answer this question you need to take a page out of my Buying an RV guide, and ask yourself how do you intend to use your camper; “What will make you happy?  What do you want out of Truck Camper Life?

Truck Options

If you think a truck camper will make you happier than a more conventional RV than you need toThe ultimate toyota tacoma truck camper buying guide by aowanders.com consider the various truck options for your new camper.  While these two purchases are separate they are completely reliant on one another.  The camper you can buy will be determined by the truck you buy and vice versa.

Truck Payload & Towing Capacity

But the most important factor when buying a camper is choosing a truck and its payload also known as towing capacity.  In the truck camping world towing capacity dictates the comfort of living space and the features you can have.  Directly effecting the style of truck camper life you want to pursue.

Towing capacity is the recommended maximum towing capabilities of your vehicle. For example, my Toyota Tacoma has a towing capacity of 3,300 pounds. My travel trailer weighs 5,500 pounds, but I added  aftermarket airbag suspension to do so.

Which is why most full-time truck camper owners prefer 3/4 & 1-ton trucks.  If you’re like me who’s lived a minimalism nomadic lifestyle for a long period of time you might be able to get away with a 1/2 ton truck, but that will limit the campers you can choose from.

The larger the towing capacity the large the camper you can have, but the higher the payload the bigger & heavier the truck will be.  This might not be an issue if your planning on traveling around the United States or Mexico, but navigating around small towns can still be challenging at times.  Off-roading & backcountry adventures may present other challenges like ground clearance with a larger truck camper setup.

When buying a camper towing capacity is a crucial consideration.  If you have a big SUV or truck you can tow any popup camper you like.  The same is not true for truck campers.  If your willing to take things into your own hands you can expand your choices, but you can only tow what can fit in your truck bed box.  To expand those choices do what I did to make my truck camper fit my Toyota Tacoma.

You don’t want to spend $80,000 only to find out your vehicle can’t tow it or will suffer severe mechanical breakdowns.  While towing something it wasn’t intended to do so. More on towing capacities & camper weights.

When buying a truck camper you need to consider both the size of your vehicle & camper along with your vehicles towing capacity to ensure you buy the right camper for your vehicle.

***PRO TIP*** Add air suspension to increase your towing capacity as I did.  For less than $300 I turned my 1/2 ton payload into a 1-ton payload, and it only took me an hour to install myself.  This is the air suspension kit I purchased off of Amazon.

Another ****PRO TIP****  During my camper research I found the most popular vehicles of choice for full-time truck camper living are the Ford “F” series model.  Besides having a large payload capacity they have an added bonus of popularity south of the border.  Making it easy to find a repair shop familiar with the mechanics of this vehicle. Should you choose to explore the Panama Highway.

Long Bed or Short Bed Trucks

The first thing I did after buying a camper was take in a sunset just outside Sandpoint Idaho on the Pend Oreille River. With the whole place to myself besides a vacant cabin the sky lit up in warm embracing orange tones. The current of the river crawled to an unnoticeable flow turning the surface to a reflective glass. Which mirrored the fiery sky above. With the cabin nestled on the shore surrounded by autumn colored forests it was if nature was congratulating me for buying a camper. Telling me there will be many more sunsets like this in your future. As I sat there in peace reflecting on my new rv purchase I couldn't help, but think this moment was made for me on that day only for that time. It was an odd, but overwhelmingly exciting feeling that I still cherish to this day. Buying a camper showed me the Pend Oreille River in all its glory that day, and helped me discover a town that will surely be a high volume tourist destination in the not too distant future. So get out there and buy a camper today so you too can enjoy the adventures of RV life.

I went with a lightweight truck camper to fit on my Toyota Tacoma because its what I owned at the time.  But short bed trucks will limit the campers at your disposal to choose from. While long bed trucks will give you more camper options to choose from now or when you decide to upgrade in the future. This is a personal preference and for me since I already had a short bed box that is what I went with.

Truck Cab Styles

Again no right or wrong here since it’s your preference, but when living in a camper more space is rarely a bad thing.  I use the back of my crew cab for my closet as well as extra storage for things I don’t need on a daily basis.

Gas or Diesel

One of the most debated topics among truck camper owners is gas or diesel, and I don’t understand why.  My biggest expense is fuel, and if I had to choose between 12 mpg or 20mpg. It wouldn’t even be a choice in today’s world of rising costs.  Until solar-powered engines find their way to the mainstream.  I will always be a bit envious of my diesel engine owning friends.

Two Wheel Drive or Four Wheel Drive

Again this is a no-brainer for me.  If you’re thinking about a 2WD rig then I would recommend buying a Toyota Dolphin RV, or other gas mileage friendly RV.  I bought a truck camper to avoid campgrounds and RV resorts.  To explore whats at the end of a jacked up dirt road or set up camp where others can not.  For me, it had to be a 4WD or it was a deal breaker, but for the weekend warrior frequenting campgrounds maybe you can get by with a 2WD. Who knows thats a choice you’re going to have to make.

Truck Price

You can find low mileage vehicles in great working order that will last for years, and will allow you to avoid the pain of dramatic vehicle depreciation  I found my Tacoma in North Carolina with only 70,000 miles for less than $15,000 at an estate sale.

Whatever truck you choose for your camper, the most basic models should you choose to buy new, will be in the ballpark of $26,000-$33,000, and the more bells and whistles you add the more expensive it will be.

***PRO TIP*** Manual Transmissions are becoming an extinct animal, but a wonderful option when hill climbing with your new truck camper.  Love my 6 speed Manual Tacoma!

Things to Consider Before Buying a Truck Camper

Truck Camper Living Space

Before buying a camper I visited over 50 RV dealerships to get an idea of the floor plan I wanted to call home. My favorite camper floor plan included a slide out, fireplace, office work space and a couch with a fold down table. Campers have this wonderful transformer technology and I love everything about them. Salesman must think I am always buying a camper, but in reality I go to camper and RV trade shows to get an idea of whats available. I am happy with my current setup, but if I am ever in the market to buy a new camper I want to know whats the norm & whats not. My next camper will for surely have a fireplace in my workstation next to the couch dinner table.

Modern truck campers are incredibly efficient at optimizing your living space with today’s transformer furniture technology.  However, if you think a truck camper can compete with the living space of a 40-foot long motorhome your in for a big surprise.  Truck campers have a smaller footprint to work with. So instead of having a five foot counter, you may only have 2 foot counter, or your shower may be a combo shower.  Combining the toilet & sink into the shower.  Truck campers are the equivalent of owning a penthouse downtown versus a mansion out in the country.  Things are more compact and efficient.

***PRO TIP*** Take a day or long weekend to walk through floor plans at your local dealership to find out what your likes & dislikes may be.

Truck Camper Storage

Many cities & towns across the country have ordinances that won’t allow you to store a camper or RV on your property unless it is on a driveway or parking pad. Creating the need for a storage unit to protect your camper investment. It’s an annoying aspect of camper ownership, but having an RV storage unit protects your camper from rotting in the backyard or collecting city violation tickets in the front yard.

Most cities don’t consider truck campers in their restrictive RV storage ordinances. So you’re free to store it in your backyard or driveway without the fear of getting a citation for violating an absurd and outdated city ordinance. Do your due diligence in order to avoid fines from your city.

Outdoor Camper Storage

If you choose to explore an RV storage facility try to find one with concrete parking pads.  A concrete pad works like a dehumidifier displacing the moisture in the air and prolonging the life of your camper’s undercarriage. This will protect your camper investment from the elements. Grass or dirt parking pads will only retain the humidity or moisture in the air speeding up the process of rusting out your camper’s undercarriage.

A covered unit also protects your camper from the rain as well as the harmful rays of the sun. If you store your camper in an area that has a winter season a covered unit will also protect you from the ice & snow. Which can wreak havoc on camper seams.   By parting or breaking waterproof seals so that they leak whenever it rains. If you can’t find a suitable camper storage unit or prefer not to pay for RV storage at least cover your camper with a tarp when it’s not in use. This will help protect it from the harmful elements and extend the life of your camper.

Camper Storage Compartments

Manufacturers do a phenomenal job at incorporating storage into these innovative campers. Remember though, the more storage you have the less living space you have.  Designers have come up with amazing transformer technology to give truck campers basement compartments, overhead & outdoor storage.  Keep in mind though they are not designed for full time living because the demand isn’t there.

The amount of storage in your camper is going to vary greatly from model to model. Some truck campers will have a massive amount of storage. While others models will have more outside storage compartments than inside camper storage.

***PRO TIP*** After buying a camper create your own storage.  I have a 3 drawer cheap plastic container I screwed to the underside of my cabinet to hold all my utensils that I found at the dollar store.  Ski racks and plastic totes fastened to the roof make wonderful storage options.  I added a front bumper trailer hitch receiver for more storage.

Free Camping Destinations

After buying a camper the first thing I thought about was all the free camping I was about to do. I love my camper and wouldn't trade it in for anything in the world. I have called more free camping spots home than anything else in the world in my 20 years of travel. Free camping is the only type of camping I will do. And after buying a camper the first thing I did was set out off down a dirt road in search of a free camping spot on the banks of a roaring river nestled in the mountains of Montana. I found this wonderfully beautiful turquoise raging river just outside Glacier National Park off the North Fork. Free camping here for over 40 days before I decided it was time to move on to bigger and better things. Love RV LifeThe most versatile camper you can buy is a slide in truck camper.  You can pretty much go anywhere you want.  Let me rephrase that.  I go anywhere I damn well, please.  Whether there is a road there or not.  I drive over logs, rocks and through rivers without a care in the world.

Considering there are paved roads I won’t drive down with my travel trailer, and mountain passes I can’t drive in my motorhome.  Truck campers definitely take the crown when it comes to available destinations, but make sure you have the right tires.  I learned that the hard way my first outing.  Check out my RV tires guide & Free Camping/Boondocking Guide.

Truck Camper Life rewards you with an endless supply of wonderful free camping destinations and amazing ADVENTURES!!!

Gas Mileage

This varies from vehicle to vehicle but comparing my fuel cost between truck camper and travel trailer.  The truck camper gets an extra 6mpg allowing me to travel an extra 100 miles per tank.  Some of my diesel engine owning friends get as much as 22 mpg.  I definitely get better gas mileage with my truck camper.


In the state of MN, truck campers are not required to purchase insurance, tabs or registration.  A truckExpenses of camper life start when buying a camper. All the unknowns of what you don't know began to unfold and sometimes overwhelm a new camper owner. For me it was an exciting an event, and truck campers come with the least amount of expenses out of all the campers I have owned. Buying a camper is a wonderful experience, and since no one will ever read this I am just going to add my keyword buying a camper one more time. camper doesn’t require oil changes, gas or other mechanical expenses.  But it does elevate the wear and tear on your vehicle.  Every camper will have their own unique expenses.  So far the only unique expense I have come across for a truck camper is the camper tie down system.


Just like houses and apartments, amenities will fluctuate from brand to brand.  All will have the basic necessities, but some will have better features than others.  The bigger the price tag the better the features.  The more features the bigger and heavier your truck camper will be.  Requiring a bigger truck to carry it from destination to destination.  Requiring more fuel to move it around.

Usage ~ Season

Almost any RV can be used at any time of the year.  Some are made for winter.  While others are made for desert camping.  Truck campers are no different, but depending on the season they do have their limitations.  On a warm sunny day in July, you can expand your living space to the outside.

On a chilly subzero temperature day in January, you’re confined to your camper.  Remember I’m a die-hard skier saying this.  Truck campers are wonderful creations, but they do have pros and cons.

Truck Camper Slideouts

Technology has completely transformed the RV industry in the last 15 years, and the creation of the slideout has been the biggest contributor to this game changer. Offering more living space & more storage. Ultimately making campers more comfortable. Buying a truck camper with slide outs increases your living space, amenities & comfort level.

Today’s truck campers can offer as many as three slide outs to increase your square footage. With a full-size kitchen, bedroom, living space & a bathroom that includes a shower, tub or both. Truck campers with slide outs offer just as much comfort as the big modern campers most RVers enjoy today.

Benefits of a Truck Camper Without Slides

Buying a truck a camper without slides lowers the price tag, but makes for a smaller living space.  Your truck will love you though because each camper slideouts can way up to 300 pounds.  Requiring a bigger truck, and limiting the destinations you can travel too.

When buying a truck camper or motorhome one of the biggest things to consider is if you should buy a camper with slide outs. Here is a chart of positives and negatives for buyinga camper with slideouts.


Another bonus to buying a truck camper is convenience. To take my truck camper off so that I have the use of my vehicle.  Simply involves cranking 4 handles & twisting 4 turnbuckles, and I am free to roam about wherever I please. In under 30 minutes.  I can explore the area without the weight, length or awkwardness of my travel trailer. There is no unloading my transport vehicle from a trailer or re-engaging my gearbox before heading off to a local restaurant.  My rig can fit into a single parking space.

If I want to explore what’s at the end of a jacked up dirt road or drive 90mph down the freeway I can. With my travel trailer, I can barely break 60 mph, dirt roads aren’t an option and I need a destination that provides at least a 60-foot parking space. Truck campers are convenient and won’t force you to make a comprised decision every time you have to make a choice.

Packing a Truck Camper

After buying a truck a camper I needed to relearn how to “pack my camper”.  I treated my truck camper like it was my travel trailer. Didn’t secure any of the cupboards, and left everything I shouldn’t have lying about. I know you’re rolling your eyes right now, but I’ve never had to give that much attention to securing items in my RVs before.

In fact, one time I accidentally traveled from Arizona to Minnesota in my travel trailer with a full glass of wine on the counter. 3,500 miles later I kicked up my feet to a relaxing glass of Cabernet that hadn’t spilled a drop. With the new truck camper, I found out everything was like inmates trying to escape, and they did! Before enjoying any new destination I would spend over an hour to put everything back where it belonged because everything gravitated to the floor during the journey. Talk about obnoxious!

A travel trailer has a lower center of gravity as well as its own suspension system. Items don’t need to be secured as well as they do in a cabover camper. A truck camper has a higher center of gravity while relying on your vehicle’s suspension. So things literally fly around a lot easier in a truck camper than they do in a travel trailer or motorhome. It took me almost 5 test runs to figure out how to secure everything. Which included these magnetic childproof cupboard locks. Quick, easy & cheap solution to my truck camper packing problem.

Truck Camper Surprises

Driving my new truck camper took a little getting used to. I have never felt like I was about to tip over driving up a small hill in my other RVs, or felt like I was living in a walk-in closet that included a bed, bathroom, kitchen & living room. I’ve never had to limit the number of groceries to buy or the amount of gear to pack.

My travel trailer bathroom had more storage and living space than the truck camper I bought this spring. After modifying it to include a bathroom & more storage options I have even less “living space”. That’s ok with me because it’s a cheap living option that allows me to travel more efficiently in the winter, and that is all I want right now.

Five things I Love about my truck camper
    1. I can go off-roading and actually use my 4×4 capabilities. It’s lightweight which allows me to go farther in the backcountry or further down dirt roads.
    1. Much better gas mileage. Compared to my travel trailer I get an extra 100 miles out of each tank of gas.
    1. Anywhere I park is home without relying on hookups or generators for power.
    1. Takes less than 20 minutes to detach my vehicle from my camper.
  1. No registration or licensing fees.

Having gone from a 30-foot travel trailer with one slide to a truck camper with no slides I’m still in the adjustment period, but it’s not hard to make the conclusion — A truck camper is more manageable, cheaper, functional & versatile.  Making Truck Camper Life so much more enjoyable than dragging around a 30 foot tin box.

Five things I hate about my truck camper
    1. You have to be organized. There is a limited amount of space. Whatever you are using gets put away immediately after you finish with it.
    1. I don’t need a master bathroom, but the shower in my truck camper measures exactly 27 inches wide. It’s functional, but so is a bucket of water.
    1. I can’t sit up on my bed without hitting my head on the ceiling unless I cock my head to the side.
    1. Anything not stored behind a locked cabinet will be found on the floor at the next stop
  1. I feel like I am living in a walk-in closet that includes a bed, shower, kitchen, fridge, table & couch.

Truck campers are perfect for solo or couples traveling, but to travel full time under any other scenario I would choose a different RV/Camper option. There is no way I would attempt to sleep more than two in this camper. If it was just for a long weekend at the lake house with family, or a hunting trip with longtime friends than by all means pack ’em in. But if it was for a 2-week road trip or longer I would make sure I was the beneficiary in everyone’s will because we would kill each other.

New Campers VS Old Campers

The most debated question in the RV world is: “Do you buy used or new camper?” Who doesn’t like new? New campers come with the most modern technology and amenities. Along with brand new water lines, appliances, holding tanks & electronics. A new camper is polished, clean and has that new RV “scent”. Straight from the factory it still has the shine inside and out as well as a manufacturer’s warranty that starts before you even drive it off the lot. Not to mention you get to brag and show off your new camper to friends. What’s is there to debate about buying a new camper?

Buying a new truck camper gets you a shiny camper with a sense of security, but the benefits stop there. Let me tell you why. Buying a new camper will cost you thousands of **EXTRA** dollars. I have talked to so many RVers over the years that regret buying a new camper. Some were even embarrassed to admit their first camper was a brand new one.

Why? Because most new RV purchases are made out of fear. Afraid of buying a lemon, inheriting a secret water damaged disaster or uncovering costly repairs you don’t know how to fix yourself. Newbie RV owners let fear drive their decisions, and ultimately end up costing themselves thousands of dollars more than they should.

When it comes to camper depreciation truck campers hold their value better than the rest of the RV world. In fact a lot better because RV prices are so inflated right now camper depreciation is at an all-time high.

Camper Depreciation

RVs, Campers, Travel Trailers & 5th Wheels lose 35% of their value the moment they are driven off the lot  

Should you buy a used or a new camper? You should never buy a new camper unless you like buyer’s remorse. Buying a used a camper will save you thousands of dollars, and make you a happy new camper owner.  RV & Camper deprecation is extremely high, and while they offer the comforts of home blue book values are still using outdated pricing algorithms.

Still not convinced? Enter the camper you’re thinking of buying into this  RV TRADER PRICE CHECKER
See what your 2 year old model sells for.  Shocking right?

Benefits of buying a used camper
  1. Cheaper
  2. Any issues or problems have already been addressed at the dealership under warranty.
  3. The previous owner may have added upgrades like solar, satellite or electric jacks
  4. A used camper has had time to get utilized so perks that enhance the floorplan have been installed or removed. (paper plate holders, drawer slides in storage compartments, etc)
  5. Lower depreciation.  Better investment.  Better resale value.
  6. Free Extras that the previous owner won’t need after selling — (spare tires, hoses, parking blocks, wheel covers, windshield screens, generator, Wi-Fi extender, satellite, keyless door lock and so much more)
Disadvantages to Buying a used camper
  1. You’re not the first owner
  2. Previous owner/s may not disclose structural water damage or other issues
  3. Older model campers may not be as fuel efficient as the new campers available
  4. No warranty or safety net.
  5. Older amenities and options.  Fewer floorplans to choose from.
  6. You might buy a camper thats considered money pit or lemon. New campers can be lemons too. About 25% of all new campers spend more time at the dealership for repair than they do out on the open road of freedom.
    ***Do your due diligence and there is no disadvantage to buying a used camper***

Do you have the right size truck for a cabover camper?

The first thing to consider when buying a truck camper is your truck bed size because there is no universal truck camper size. Two trucks made by the same manufacturer won’t even have the same size truck bed. Something I learned very quickly when shopping for a truck camper to fit my Toyota Tacoma.

Three measurements to decide if a truck camper will fit your truck

  1. The distance between the wheel wells of your truck bed.
  2. The distance from the front of your truck bed to the end of your truck bed or end of your tail gate when it is open.
  3. Distance from the bottom bed of your truck to the top of the cab of your truck.

Truck Camper Tires

The most neglected component on any camper is the tires. They are not glamorous and nobody wants to spend money them. Let alone good money, but buying good camper tires will save you thousands of dollars later on.  I used to buy cheap camper tires until I broke down one too many times in the middle of nowhere. Now I will gladly hand over my money for the best camper tires on the market.
Good camper tires last longer & allow you to explore further. I even put camper tires on my vehicles.  The current tires have been on my truck for over 7 years.  Learn more than you ever thought possible about camper tires from this article on Cheap RV TIRES.

How to Check For Camper Leaks

The number one problem when purchasing a used a camper is water leaks. Class C RV’s and truck campers built in the 80s & 90s are notorious for water damage in the cabover compartment.  Mainly because people forget about the height of an RV while driving and run into tree branches or other hanging things they don’t normally have to look out for.  It’s usually pretty easy to spot, but sometimes previous owners will cover it up and try to pass it along to the next camper owner.

Five ways to check for water leaks in a camper?

    1. Ask to use the homeowner’s hose, and spray down the camper for 20 minutes or longer while your partner stands inside
    1. Hookup the camper to a water source and turn on the faucet & shower while viewing water lines inside cupboards.
    1. Dump water down the drain while viewing pipes & waterlines both inside the camper and outside.
    1. Dump or spray water on the windows, vents, roof & doorways to see if water gets in.
  1. Flush the toilet while watching for leaking water on the floor.

Solar vs Generator vs Shore Power

The technology we have today is remarkable, and while the electronic industry is benefiting the most. The RV industry is coming out of the stone ages rapidly. The battery industry is accumulating funding in places they never even knew existed ten years ago. With solar powered generators and engines already on the market today you’d be a fool not to explore a camper with solar capabilities.

Solar power is the wave of the future for a lot of industries. Just ask the cities that are replacing cement sidewalks and asphalt highways with solar panels. Shore power will always be an option in some sense no matter where you go, and generators are a great back up plan. But when buying a camper you want to buy something you can grow into not out of. When buying your next camper you should make sure it has solar powered capabilities, or you may suffer from buyer’s remorse sooner rather than later.

Cabover Sleeping Space

I have looked at a lot of RVs & campers over the years, but I have never been as shocked as I was when researching truck campers to buy.  Anything built before 2000 will have an illogical awkward cabover sleeping space design.  Some you won’t even be able to sit up in bed.  Others will surround you with cupboards hiding electrical outlets and cables jack.

The new models will bring focus, comfort, and logic to the user, but this comes at a price. With the ability to sit up, cup holders, swinging food/laptop trays and even skylights you could stand up in. Mattresses that could be found on beds in homes across the world. Spaces that pull double duty for storage and work duties. Overhead cabinets as well as hidden under the bed storage spaces. Appropriate lighting, speakers & various other miscellaneous comforts. The most important aspect was modern truck campers provide functional, accessible user-friendly space while older models just leave you guessing at the blood alcohol level of the camper designer.

Truck Camper Tie Downs

If your looking for cheap truck camper tie downs for your cabover camper you have come to the right place. I made for torklift frame mounted truck camper tie downs for $15/piece and only took me 30 minutes. check out my stie to find out more information.One of the biggest surprise expenses I encountered when buying a truck camper were camper tie downs.  You need a system that will secure your new camper to your truck.  There are quite a few different camper tie down systems you can choose from, and they can range from a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars.  So make sure you factor this into your budget when buying a new truck a camper.

Through the course of buying a truck camper, I became aware that there are two main types of truck camper tie downs, and multiple variations of each camper tie down system.

The two main truck camper tie down systems are 1) Frame Mounted & 2) Pocket Mounted.

Frame Mounted Camper Tie Down System

Frame Mounted camper tie downs are a fastening system that secures your truck camper to the frame of your vehicle through a bolt on or welded on frame mounted anchor point.
  1. Expensive
  2. Most secure & most popular (Follow this link to learn how to make your own  frame mounted camper tie downs for less than $100)

Pocket Mounted Camper Tie Down System

Pocket Mounted camper tie downs are a fastening system that secures your truck camper to your truck bed through a bolt on pinch anchor point using the pocket holes on the walls of your truck bed.
  1. Cheaper
  2. Less stable and less secure. The bigger the truck and the smaller the camper the safer this option is.

Truck Bed Frame Mounted Camper Tie Down System

Another way to secure your truck camper to your vehicle is by bolting it to the frame.  I wouldn’t recommend this for any of the big 3 slide out truck campers, but it is an option.  Simply remove the bolts holding your truck bed to the frame, and swap them out with bigger & stronger bolts.  Drill a hole in the floor of your truck camper and insert the bolts with a massive washer to displace the stress. Securing them to your frame like the original truck bed bolts.

  1. Cheap and easy camper tie down system
  2. Less Secure & Less popular.  The strength of the bolt is all that is securing your truck camper to your vehicle.

Ratchet Strap Camper Tie Down System

I would not recommend this in any way shape or form, but I have seen it multiple times.  Friends of mine swear by this, and even though they have never had a problem I would never entertain this idea.  Instead of securing your truck camper to your vehicle by bolts, welds or chains I’ve seen people use a ratchet strap. By simply looping it over the entire camper & truck.  Ratcheting it down until it couldn’t get any tighter.  If I was only traveling a short distance I might consider this, but anything over a 1/2 mile I wouldn’t even think about it.

  1. Cheap
  2. Dangerous

Camper tie downs are a necessity just like camper jacks, but if I would have bought camper tie downs from a store it would have cost me over $3,000. I explored the truck bed bolting method, and almost bought bolts at $27 a piece.  But check out how I made my own frame mounted camper tie down system for less than $100.

***PRO TIP*** Search facebook garage sale groups and craigslist for used camper tie-downs and camper jacks to save thousands of dollars.

Do You Want a Shower/Bathroom in Your Truck Camper

When you think of bathrooms.  You think of sinks, showers, toilets, and cabinets, right?  When buying a truck camper I figured out there are actually 5 different types of camper bathrooms.

Five types of Camper Bathrooms to choose from

  1. Dry Bathroom ~ Also known as a full bathroom.
    • This is a bathroom just like in your house.  Where shower, sink, toilet & cabinets are all separate with their own plumbing.
  2. Wet Bathroom ~ Also known as combo baths
    • This is where the toilet & sink are in the shower to save space.  Pretty common in older campers & RV’s, but can still be found today. Especially in Class B RVs or Vans converted to campers.
  3. No Bathroom
    • Just as it states there is no bathroom.  My Sunlite 690 didn’t come with a shower, sink or toilet.  I had to install them all myself.
  4. Toilet only ~ Also knowns as the hunter’s option
    • These camper’s only come with a toilet.  Some will have a sink, but in most cases it is just a toilet.  WhichPortable Water Heater (Triton 5L) in older campers may come with a dump pan option.  Newer models the toilet will be attached to a conventional black water tank allowing you to clean out your toilet at normal dump stations.
  5. Toilet & Outdoor Shower ~ Considered the Beach Bum option
    • These style campers provide a toilet inside, and a shower head outside.  Some will provide a temporary barrier of sorts, while others only provide the shower head.  Another thing to watch out for most outdoor showers won’t have hot water.

My Sunlite 690 also didn’t have a hot water heater, but nowadays tankless hot water heaters won’t break the bank.  This is the one I put in my Sunlite 690, and if you click on the photo it will take you to where I bought mine.13 INDEPTH Tips to Consider When Buying a Truck Camper ~ INCLUDING A FREE BUYING A CAMPER CHECKLIST Outdoor Adventure RV Travel Blog AOWANDERS Travel Blog

The one thing I found out when buying a truck camper was that most models came with an outdoor shower only. Most truck campers do not come with toilets or bathrooms because of the extra weight they create and the valuable space they take up.

Water weighs 8 pounds for every 1 gallon!

Add in the waterlines, water pump & holding tanks. Weight adds up quickly while storage & living space gets deleted.  Add in the fact that most truck campers aren’t getting lived in year round.  Designers figured they could get away with not including this feature.

I went out of my way to create a bathroom, but I am also living full time out of my camper. If I was only using my truck camper at RV parks or campgrounds a few weekends out of the year I would have no need for a bathroom/shower. It does add rare value to a truck camper, and make it more appealing when it’s time to sell. But there is a reason why truck campers don’t come with this option by default, and it’s probably the same reason why tents and hammocks don’t have permanent showers and toilets.

Air Conditioner

I love my air conditioner in the travel trailer, but I also rarely use it. Yeah, I live in my RV full time, but summer is “ADVENTURE” season. Summer is when you spend the time outdoors exploring, grilling & fishing. I don’t spend many hot summer days in my RV sitting in the air conditioning, and truck camper life will have you uncovering all kinds of new adventures.

Air conditioners are wonderful, but they are expensive and heavy. Which is why you don’t see A/C units on a lot of truck campers, and the ones you do are usually being hauled around by a gas guzzling dually.  Besides being heavy & expensive you need a 4000-watt generator or bigger to run an A/C unit, and I have never seen a solar power RV setup capable of running an A/C unit. Air conditioners take a lot of power. So do microwaves & fridges.

Truck camper air conditioner units are nice, but sometimes they are more of an inconvenience than they are a convenience.  

Camper Insurance

Camper insurance is so cheap it would be idiotic not to have it. I literally told my insurance agent that if a bird poops on my camper I want to be able to claim the car wash, and I pay $23 a month for $0 deductible full coverage insurance. Unless I come off the ski slopes to find out an avalanche swept my truck camper away I’ll never make a claim, but to have the option for a full replacement for only $23 a month. I’m going to jump on that every chance I get.  Camper insurance is dirt cheap.

Buying a Camper

I know this was a long read, and if you’re still with me then you’re pretty serious about buying a Providing RV Life Tips, Guides & Stories one travel adventure at a time. Follow along with me as I discover new destinations & uncover the secret to RV life. Whether your searching for RV hookups, free camping spots or tips on how to buy your first RV AOWANDERS has got your covered.camper.  I couldn’t recommend it more. It will open a world of freedom and adventure.  Buying a camper is the best thing I have done.  I am officially a truck camper lifer!  Bye bye RV life!   Again sorry about the long read, and if you still have any questions leave them in the comments below.  Wish you the best on your new RV adventures, and hopefully the buying a camper process goes as smooth for you as it did for me.


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  • Hello!

    What an awesome truck camper buying article! Very detailed and well thought out! Thank You for the information! I am looking to buy a truck camper and this is exactly what I was looking for!

    Sean 🙂

    • Sean,

      Thank you for your kind word on my truck camper buying guide. I wrote this truck camper piece after I bought my toyota truck camper. After months and months of emailing prospective truck camper owners off of craigslist and rvtrader I learned so much about truck campers. Figured someone else might be able to benefit from all this slide in camper knowledge I gained when looking for my own. SO I’m glad you found it useful! Is there anything you wished it would cover that it didn’t, or vice versa anything you don’t think is necessary to include in this lengthy truck camper buying guide?

      Thanks again for your kind words.


  • This is a wonderful article thanks for putting all of this together for us new truck camper owners. Its a long read, but I have never seen so much information on truck campers in one place. This is awesome and definitely the best article on truck campers anywhere on the internet.

    I had 12 other web browser tabs open to different rv travel blogs, but after seeing the table of contents on this truck camper buying guide I closed them all and started reading. Your an amazing writer and really enjoyed reading this. Thank you again for putting all these truck camper tips in one place for us. I was a bit worried about buying a slide in cabover camper, but I’m pretty confident in buying a cabover camper now for my truck. And I am definitely not buying a capri truck camper now, but will be turning to craigslist to find my new slide in truck camper. Thanks.

    • Etic,

      So glad you enjoyed my cabover camper article. It took some time to put this all together, but its all worth it if others are finding it beneficial. Truck camper life opens a world of freedom that most only dream of. Hope you find the cabover camper you’ve been looking for and get to discover all the destinations of your dreams.

      Happy travels,


  • What a great truck camper buying guide. I am so glad I came across this truck camper post. Me and the wife are planning retirement and are trying to figure out what would be the best boondocking rig for us as we travel across the United States. You have really opened our eyes with everything that goes into Truck Camper life, and I really enjoyed reading your RV Nightmare Post. Keep up the great work.

    • Terresa,

      Thanks for your kind words. Glad you found this so useful. If you have any questions in the future don’t hesitate. It always brightens my day when I’m able to help someone avoid the mistakes I’ve made along the way. Your going to love Truck Camper Life. Its a level of freedom most only dream of.

      Happy Travels,


  • I like how you said to take into account how heavy a truck cabover slide in camper is, as it can affect gas mileage. My father would love to get a truck camper. These tips could really help him, so thanks for sharing that. Also I really love your camper buying checklist you provide for free!! That has helped us so much in figuring out what to actually look for when buying a truck camper.

    • Taylor,

      Thanks for visiting my rv travel blog. I am glad you found some useful hints and tips here, and happy my camper buying checklist is helping you figure out which truck campers to avoid and how to navigate the small truck camper world.

      There is no best truck camper out there because everyone approaches truck camper life a little differently, but truck campers with slide outs definitely offer a much more comfortable truck camper life.
      Keep looking and keep looking diligently. Used truck bed campers can be a nasty money pit or a dream come true. And the best truck camper tips I can give you is biggers isn’t always better. Remember the its all about how your going to use it and where your going to use it. Which is what this truck camper buyers guide is all about. And the best thing about slide in truck campers is they super versatile and don’t require insurance hahaha.

      Happy truck camper buying,


  • Thank you for your advice about truck camper living. We have been searching all over the internet for the best truck camper to live in, and which truck campers to avoid. Living in a truck camper is so exciting, but comes with so many questions. We haven’t bought our truck camper yet. Still in the research stage, but this truck camper living guide is full of wonderful tips we never even thought of. What do you think the best truck camper is to live in? Before buying an cabover camper do we need to look into RV storage rental spaces, or are there specific rules about being able to store a slide in truck camper on your property? We have so many questions before we go out and buy an RV/truck camper.

    By the way my wife loved reading your epic rv road trip post. https://aowanders.com/epic-rv-road-trip-that-ends-in-a-fight-to-the-death/

    • David,

      Thanks for visiting my RV travel blog. I’m very excited your thinking about exploring truck camper living and all the wonderful options that will open up to you along your travels. As you do more research you will figure out there isn’t a “best truck camper to live in.” Because every starts out on this journey for different reasons. For example, a surf bum looking for minimal shelter on the Baja California Peninsula in Mexico isn’t going to need the same features as someone road tripping through British Columbia & Alaska for a couple weeks with their family. Before you can dive into truck camper life you need to define what you want to get out of truck camper life. A message I really drive home in my RV buying guide. https://aowanders.com/complete-guide-to-buying-an-rv/

      For me the best truck camper for truck camper living is one that adheres to your needs while remaining versatile. Truck camper life is more focused on the freedom versus the comforts of RV Living. Or as one of my good friends always says on his travel blog is truck camper life is more geared towards the benefits of “cheap RV living” instead of the luxuries of RV Life. I am happy your looking into the best truck camper to live in full time, but before you buy your first truck camper make sure you know why your buying it. So you don’t buy the wrong camper.

      If your looking for large living space, ecentric amenities, lavish comfort and massive storage you will be disappointed with truck camper life. To be truly happy with truck camper living you need to be comfortable with the bare minimum. Truck camper living isn’t about the home. Its about the destinations, memories and versatility to go anywhere at anytime. If after reading my https://aowanders.com/complete-guide-to-buying-an-rv/ and answering the questions I lay out for new camper owners you still think truck camper living is something for you than let me help you out.

      To get the best of truck camper living I would invest in a solid highly reliable 4×4 work horse truck. Something like a Ford F550 or Dodge Ram 2500/3500 or something along those lines. Something with an excessive amount of horsepower and payload capacity. I would also recommend to get the best truck camper to live in would be to purchase a vehicle with a long truck bed or one that your willing to replace with an aluminum customized flat truck bed. I recommend upgrading to a customized flatbed setup because most truck campers don’t provide a lot of storage, and if your going to be living out of your truck camper full time your going to need camper storage. Gear and tools take up valuable storage space. With a customized flatbed setup you can increase your camper storage with outdoor tool boxes mounted in the wasted space infront and behind your wheel wells. You can also get custom fabricated tool boxes to fit under the wings of your truck camper to give you even more camper storage options.

      Along with upgrading your truck bed to a flat bed configuration you will also want to upgrade your suspension to increase reliability and payload capacity. After doing all of that than I would go truck camper shopping.

      There is no “one” best truck camper that fits everyone’s needs. When looking at possible truck campers to purchase. Look at the layout. How much counter space is there to prep meals? Where will you store dry good foods? Is there a place for clothes? Where will you put your books & movies? How many plugins are there? Is there enough for a TV, computer and cell phones to all charge at the same time? Where will you store your generator? Is there room to upgrade to solar power? Do you have a dog? Where will they sleep? Is there a shower and bathroom?

      The best truck camper to live in will be one that will allow you to go anywhere, and not compromise any of your needs. You need room to prep meals. Sleep comfortably. Shower easily. Relax effortlessly, and answer the call of nature. All of these variables come down to personal requirements. Can you go weeks without a shower, or be willing to shower outside or at a public place like a gym? Would you be comfortable going to the bathroom outside? Or better yet, how comfortable would you be always having to find a public bathroom if your urban camping like I was last winter? https://aowanders.com/how-i-saved-20000-in-3-months-at-a-temp-agency-job-to-travel-for-a-year/ If its raining for 9 days straight will you be comfortable confined to your truck camper living space?

      If go into buying a truck camper with these questions and answers already determined you will buy the best truck camper for your truck camper life, and will easily be able to spot which truck campers to avoid.

      Check out my RV buying guide you can find it in the 6 pack at the top of any page your on at my RV travel blog. It will help answer all your camper buying questions and put you in the right mindset to buy the right camper you need to enjoy all that RV life has to offer.

      Good luck and if you have any more questions please come knock on my door. Always happy to help.

  • So I am dying to see your rig and know what you put in it. I am in nursing school, just sold my sunrader and am a strict Toyota girl. But I have to have a slide in truck camper for all the reasons you mentioned above and I do not want extra weight or slide outs. I want to be able to drive off road and fish 2 hours up a mountain road for a few days and I also am going to be living in it. I definetly need a 4 door toyota tundra and the new Lance trailers look so nice. I wish we could chat not on this platform, I cannot believe all you had to do to increase the payload capacity on Tundra was add air suspension. I wonder how and if I could find deals in the pandemic. I am aiming at being a travelling nurse and this set up could save me so much money!

    • Louise,

      Truck camper life provides an amazing new level of freedom that other RV’s & campers can’t, and in combination of a “Toyota Tough” rig theres no where you can’t go. If you would like to chat some more about toyota truck campers you can always email me [email protected] and you can see what my rigs look like by doing a simple google search for “toyota truck campers,” or “tacoma truck campers,” mine is the 1st pic shown by google, or you can always check it out on my site within this article https://aowanders.com/toyota-tacoma-truck-camper/. I can always email you more photos too if that would be helpful just shoot me an email. If you need help while looking at campers to buy I would be more than willing to help you critique possible campers to make sure you buy one that is compatible with full time living and off grid adventuring.

      Or you could always build your own from scratch for less than $10,000 and I can put you in touch with welders, carpenters and designers that would be willing to do that on the cheap. Maybe we can meet up and have a fishing contest sometime 😀

      Lemme know how I can help. Thanks for visiting my RV travel blog.


  • Thanks so much for your detailed and well-written truck camper living article. I have been living (mostly) in used pop-up trailer for 15 months, traveling south last winter. With the pandemic, I’m leery of the sunbelt “hotspots” and have been researching truck camper slide-ins. As with you 4WD is critical to me so I can get into the backcountry and explore all that truck camper life has to offer. And it’s great to know that with good insulation, one can remain comfy during winter’s chilling temperatures. Your tips will be especially useful as I continue mey research and shopping. Only a couple months before the snow starts to blow up here in northern Vermont!


    • Daniel,

      Thanks for visiting my RV travel blog. I can honestly say I am impressed that you’ve been living out of a pop up trailer. The logistics of that situation have got to be taxing, but I can reassure you that if you pull the trigger on truck camper living you will not be disappointed. Just keep in mind a few things. A truck camper roof is great for storing all your camper accessories, and solar panels are key to longterm truck camper living. If you choose not to go with solar here is the best generator on the market https://aowanders.com/best-onboard-generator-for-travel-trailer-for-less-than-200/. After I purchased mine my brother bought one and my 2 best friends switched from their honda generators to this Champion RV generator beast! Another essential camper accessory you will want to pick up for any RV you buy is the Norwesco water tank https://aowanders.com/how-to-find-cheap-longterm-rv-lot-for-rent/#Norwesco_35_Gallon_Water_Tank. And the last but not least thing you will want to do is upgrade your truck camper’s ventilation system. I went with radiator fans instead of the stereotypical max air RV roof vent fans because they are 80% cheaper, but more importantly they move 500% more air and use less power.

      Good luck and happty truck camper hunting. You will love the freedom that truck camper living provides, and as an added bonus truck campers don’t ever fall victim to campgrounds 10 year old rule! Huge bonus


  • I so LoVeD reading your Blog Adam. It was entertaining (questioning the alcohol blood level of camper designer) to all the minute details and comparisons – A feast! Just prepping now for 2022. Thank you.

    • Coleen,

      Ahh shucks, thanks!!!

      Sometimes you gotta question the logic of some of the most trivial things. For example, today I took my mom on a tour of ice castle fishing houses (an RV trailer made for Minnesotan’s so they can fish on the frozen ice in winter), and the most expensive rig we looked at had no running water. Think about how drunk that engineer was to design a fishing camper with no way to wash your hands, take a shower or clean the fish you catch!

      Your going to love camper life. Just remember whatever problems you come across make sure the solution is always something you can grow into and not out of. Oh and I am here to help in any way. Just shoot me your questions.

      Happy hunting,

  • Your article is quite helpful! I have so many questions, and you have answered many. Thank you! Such a nice and superb article, we have been looking for this information about 13 professional tips to consider when buying a truck camper including a free checklist. Indeed a great post about it!!

  • Thank you very much for sharing about 13 professional tips to consider when buying a truck camper including a free checklist, it’s difficult for me to get such kind of information most of the time always… I really hope I can work on your tips and it works for me too, I am happy to come across your article. Can’t wait to buy a truck camper for the summer camping season love your website.

  • This is an incredible truck camper buying guide. Thank you so much for putting this all together for readers like me. My wife and I just bought our first track camper because of you. My wife even printed this truck camper buying guide off, and brought it with us every time we went to go look at a camper. Thank you immensely for helping us purchase the right camper the first time. I hope others feel like we do. Adam I love your website, and all the information you share. Happy Holidays & may many good things come your way.

    • Woody,

      I am so happy for you and your wife. The adventures you’re going to have, and the places you’re going to see are going to make this whole journey of buying a truck camper worth it. So happy for you, and thank you for the well wishes.

      Happy Holidays Woody,

  • It’s great that you mentioned how truck campers offer just as much comfort & living space as some of the most decked-out campers on the market today. My wife and I love camping and we are thinking of buying some things for our camping hobby. A slide in pop-up truck camper sounds pretty nice, so I’ll talk to my wife about it.

  • Hello Adam,
    We are from France and we have the dream to buy a truck-camper. Difficult to go to the hotel at the end of day when we are in the backyard.
    Thank you so much for your blog. It helps us, for sure.

    • Morning Balmat,

      Have you bought your truck yet, or are you still researching? From my experience I would recommend regular cab with longbed dually setup so that way you can carry a truck camper with a slideout wall without issues. That extra 4-6 feet of real estate really makes or breaks the truck camper life experience. I’m in a crew cab tundra with a short box, and I made it work, but I really did have limited options to choose from. Mainly because of this vehicles payload capacity, but also the center point of gravity on most truck campers would have been behind my rear axel. Wish you all the best, and if you have any questions send em my way. I’ll try to help out as best I can.


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