Open roads and beautiful scenery, these are some of the pros of camping.
But large RV buses or trailers can sometimes limit the places you can go and the sites you can see. The solution? Truck campers.
These are compact, easy to drive and inexpensive, compared to other motorhomes.
In saying that, truck campers are often overlooked. Sure, they may not sport as many slide-outs as a large Class A, but is that really so bad?
I’d say that the cost benefit far outweighs the lack of added extras. So, how much does a truck camper cost? Let’s take a look.
What Is A Truck Camper?
A truck camper, also referred to as a TC, is a type of camper trailer you can fit on top of a pickup truck.
It’s basically one large room with the sleeping area situated above the pickup’s cab.
TCs are typically smaller than other types of RV but they do come in a range of sizes. And just like other motorhomes, TCs can feature slide-outs and pop-ups. They can also be hard or soft-sided.
When deciding to buy a truck camper, it is important to take size considerations into account. Ask yourself how many people will be camping in it and where will it be stored in the off-season.
The Cost Of Camper Trailers
Compared to other types of motorhomes, TCs are very affordable. In saying that, this does depend on whether the trailer in question is a new or used model.
The new cost for a standard model generally falls between $3,000 and $15,000.
These usually have a double bed, dinette, potential convertible beds, and a small kitchen.
This Capri Retreat is $11,995, you get two beds and even interior and exterior LED lights.
More expensive models can cost anywhere between $20,000 and a hefty $50,000 dollars.
These will usually have a little more space, and most include a bathroom with a shower and slide-out.
A nice model that has a good amount of features is the Northstar Laredo SC 2019, currently retailing for $24,995 dollars.
Bear in mind that truck campers will begin to decrease in value as soon as they are purchased.
Therefore, you might find a well-kept TC that’s only a couple of years old for 20 to 30 percent cheaper than a new model.
It’s also important to care for your truck camper well if you get one. There might come a time when you want to resell.
Finding The Right Camper
The first thing you should consider when buying a truck camper is what you will be doing with it.
Will it be used for the whole family, or just you and your spouse?
How much space do you need and where do you plan on going?
Families will need more sleeping options—here you might want to look for something with convertible beds. Having a bathroom will also come in handy.
If you are one of those campers who likes to go off-road, you will need a light camper that allows for this.
Pop-up or pop-top campers are often no bigger than the size of your cab.
They are lightweight and easy to bring to remote locations. This Northstar 600SS will fit on almost any small truck.
Truck Camper Considerations
Before you rush off, wallet in hand, to buy the truck camper of your dreams, take a look at the following considerations.
All will have some bearing on the total cost of your camper. Either as on-going maintenance, initial checks, or as part of the purchase cost.
The Importance Of Weight
Weight is by far the most critical consideration of a truck camper.
Unfortunately, manufacturers can sometimes be deceiving. You see, there usually is a “dry” and a “wet” weight.
These indicate the unloaded (dry) and loaded (wet) total weight of a TC.
But neither of these weights include things like installed extra air conditioning units or all the extras like equipment, food, and passengers.
What you can do is take the wet weight and add 1,000 pounds to it. This should give you an estimate of how much your camper will actually weigh when it’s loaded up.
If you don’t have this information, look for stickers placed in hidden areas, like between the door and frame, here you can often find the weight of the camper.
Center Of Gravity
A camper’s center of gravity (COG) is what indicates where the weight of the camper is centered.
With a truck camper, it’s crucial that the COG is located in front of the truck’s rear axle. If behind, it could undermine the handling of the truck.
It’s relatively easy to check where the COG is. Most TCs will have a sticker, or some other form of marking, indicating where it’s located.
To make sure the COG is correct, you will need to take your truck and camper to a scale and weigh it. If the front axle weighs less with the camper on, this means the COG is off.
Today, most truck campers are made of aluminum. But there are still manufacturers who make wooden campers.
Slide-Outs: Yes Or No?
The larger truck campers might have the option of slide-outs.
These are great in so many ways as they provide more room.
In saying that, they also have their downsides.
First of all, they are heavy. A slide-out will add at least 400 pounds to the camper weight. They can also leak and break down.
It all comes down to personal preference. If you feel you will need the extra space, go for it. But, if you plan on going off-road where you might need a lighter camper, this could be a bad idea.
Truck Camper Basements
Campers with basements will have an extra compartment under the floor to store the holding tanks. This will give you much more space in the camper itself.
The downside is that the camper will become much taller. T
his can make it more difficult when you’re driving on small forest roads.
Winter campers might also run into a problem here: tanks can freeze.
Some tanks will have heating, but if they don’t, being that close to the cold ground means freezing is more likely.
What Else To Look For
As we have seen, there are a few choices to be made when buying a truck camper. Here are a few things that I feel should also be included in a good TC:
- A sleeping area for two people.
- Dining area.
- At least two burners and a mini-fridge.
- Convertible beds, these will most likely be included in the dinette.
- Tall jacks at the front, for when the camper is stored.
If you choose to buy a larger TC with a bathroom, you might run into the option of a “wet bath” or a “dry bath.”
- Wet bath: Here, the shower, toilet, and sink are in the same area. When showering, everything will get wet.
- Dry bath: These will usually have a separate walk-in shower.
Are There Any Additional Costs?
Yes, there are.
As with any other motorhome, you will need insurance. The good news is that truck campers are relatively inexpensive to insure. The reason for this is because they are usually considered cargo.
Your truck will have its own insurance which, sometimes, will cover the truck camper, too.
When you go camping, you will have to pay the campground fees.
Now, because a truck camper is much smaller than the average RV, you might save some cash here.
Depending on the place and its amenities, you could be paying as little as $10 to $50 a night.
When your truck camper is not in use, you have to store it safely. You might be lucky enough to have room at home in the garage. If not, you will have to find a storage space.
These can be costly, depending on the type of storage you want. A budget between $20 to $100 dollars per month should cover this.
Finding The Right Truck
The pickup truck you use with your camper is very important.
Not only will it drive you to your desired destinations, but it will also have to carry your camper. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Experts recommend you find your desired camper first and then choose a pickup capable of handling the weight of your TC.
If you already have a pickup, make sure the truck camper you get is within your vehicle’s weight load range.
To find out how much your truck can carry, look for the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). This can usually be found on a card in the driver’s door or in the glove box.
Exceeding the GVWR is not safe for the passengers or for the people sharing the roads with you. Also, if an accident were to occur, the insurance coverage might be voided, meaning the cost is all on you.
Another important number to consider is the gross axle weight rating (GAWR). This indicates the weight rating for either the front wheels or the rear wheels.
Because the camper will be attached to the back of the truck, the rear GAWR is the most important. You can find this number either on a sticker in the car or in the payload certificate.
Choosing a truck camper can be lots of fun.
They give you so many more off-road exploring options than larger RVs do.
But remember, although they can be cheap, you still have to purchase, or upgrade to, a pickup truck capable of handling your truck camper.
New, these pickups start at around $20,000 and can rise to $50,000 or more.
On top of that, you have to consider all the extras, like campground fees and insurance.
Have any further questions regarding truck campers?
Did we miss any important factors when it comes to the cost of ownership?
Leave us a comment below, we’d love to hear from you.