Pop up camper vs travel trailer (detailed guide to decide)

Pop up camper vs travel trailer (detailed guide to decide)

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A pop up camper or a tent trailer is a smaller rv. They are often bought by people who want to experience the rv lifestyle in a modest way and with low cost. Travel trailer can be big or even very smaller, it also gives similar experience but it can be packed with many amenities.

Towing a bigger trailer is always a major differentiating factor as compared to a pop up camper which is way easier for towing.

Anybody who wants to get an rv at very little cost and with minimum elements packed in, can go for tent trailer or pop up camper. For proper good rving experience and a cost not more than $35,000 a travel trailer is a better option.

Lets deep dive and understand all the pros and cons of a pop up camper and travel trailer

1. Pop up camper or tent trailer is less costly

Rv’s in general are very costly and you can have a one that could be more than $1,50,000 and you also get modest ones like pop up camper or a tent trailer.

A pop up camper can be bought in a price as low as $1,000 to around $7500. Now, that’s a very good price you can afford.

What about travel trailers? well, even they tend to be cheaper if you compare them with other high end RV’s like class A motorhome or class c motorhome. A travel trailer, brand new one would on an average cost you around $13,000 to $45,000 or even more in some cases.

So, pop up camper is cost effective when you compare it with travel trailer. Its almost 1/4th the price that you pay for a new hard sided trailer. And, this can be a major factor to decide between these two towable rv’s.

For most families, modest rv’s which are priced less suite better, specially if its going to be their first rv.

Spending high initially is a big factor and most would not be willing to spend high on initial costs. And, that’s the reason tent trailer or pop-up tend to be most peoples first rv’s.

2. Tent trailer is better for storage

pop up vs travel trailer pros and cons

Storing a rv is a big headache if you don’t have that bigger garage. You need to have good storage else your rv could be damaged badly. Specially, during winter season you better have good storage.

Its a big factor to overlook. Else, you are looking at a season with a rv that will be of no real use unless you take it to a rv repairing processional. And get things repaired , fixed and replaced. Well, that’s the case with winter effects on rv’s and motorhomes.

Storage is really a big thing to consider with rv’s.

And here’s the advantage with pop ups, they need less space and you should be okay storing them in your backyard garage. But, that’s not the case with hard side trailers.They need bigger space. Else you ed up paying for rented storage.

Its up to you whether you want something that’s easy on storage or you are happy paying for that extra storage rent. Or if you already have a self storing area or garage then you would be better off. Check out this tips for storing a pop up camper (it always surprises me how small tips can make things incredibly easy)

3. Pop up tent trailer can be towed easily

towing pop up camper vs travel trailer

Towing a rv like travel trailer weighing more than 7500 lbs can be tough on your car or mini truck. Yourcar will be capable of towing upto certain limit and if its above or even closer to that limit then you are in trouble.

One question that you will always have with towable rv’s is, whether my car will be able to tow it or not. You need to think about this well before buying that 8000 lbs weighing rv.

On an average, travel trailer weigh around 3000 lbs to 8000 lbs and that is much of a weight to neglect when you are supposed to tow it with your car. When you compare this with pop up campers, the towing can be much easier, the reason? weight !

Tent trailer on an average weigh around 600 lbs to around 2000 lbs and thus, they can be towed very easily by any normal car.

The reason why they tend to be so light is because they aren’t hard sided and built with wooden walls and other amenities that puts on weight. You also get campers that are less than 500 lbs, that ultra light.

4. Pop up camper gives you real camping experience, its more adventure

Why do we even rv? Why not just go in a hotel or rent an apartment on air bnb? I am sure, you got it. Camping is more about going closer to the nature and enjoying the surrounding.

Sitting on camping chair and experience the wood fire makes it more enjoying (at-least for me, i am sure most of you do think alike)

Camping in a tent trailer gives you more of that real camping experience. You feel as if you are there in a tent, even though you are actually having an rv.

Wouldn’t it be boring if you were only inside that hard sided trailer and be just sitting or sleeping inside all the time.

With travel trailer its more like an mini apartment where you wouldn’t even feel the outside environment,f you kept yourself inside all the time.

Having hard-sided walls you wont even get the feel of outside temperature. With tent trailer you get both, to experience nature the closer way and also a good decent rv to sleep and relax.

I know this may not be the case with all trailers though. You also get travel trailers that could be low end and be similar to a tent trailer.

5. Insurance cost of a pop up camper is less

Buying a rv not only means you pay up high initial cost but also you pay yearly or monthly for the insurance. Its necessary that you pay for the rv insurance specially, when its initial cost is high and it is equipped with appliances inside it.

Pop up campers are economical, small and don’t cost much and thus this question is obvious, do they need to be insured at all? (check out the linked article it gives insights on all the important things you need to know)

Since a pop up camper wont have much appliances and amenities inside it and also because its initial cost itself is less, thus its insurance cost is also very less. Same, however is not true with travel trailers, their insurance cost is much more.

On an average travel trailer insurance can cost you around $250 to $500 per month. Where as a pop up camper can be insured to much lesser amount.

The initial pop up camper cost itself is so less, that people also think whether the pop up camper need insurance at all or not. But, to answer this, you need the insurance as it could be any thing an accident, fire or robbery for which you insure the pop up.

And thus, yes you need to take insurance for your tent trailer and it can cost any thing between $50-$300 per month and it totally depends on multiple factor like for which elements you want to cover.

6. Maintenance is little bit easier with tent trailers

Tent trailer are very small and then don’t have hard sided walls or doors. They are modest rv’s and thus, need less maintenance.

Travel trailer on the other hand have parts that could be needing more maintenance. Overall, you need to take you trailer to professional more often as compared to a tent trailer in general.

Read : Travel Trailer Maintenance Checklist

A single visit to a rv specialist then may mean you pay around $100 or so per hour.

Remember, maintenance is key when it comes to rv’s. Neglecting the maintenance can mean you end up paying more when it actually breaks down and you pay for the replacement of parts.

Awnings, piping system, and other appliances in trailer needs to be taken care of in time else you are seeing an repair that would be much more costly.

7. Weight is way less in case of tent trailer or pop up campers

understanding weights while towing

Tent trailer weigh much lesser then a normal travel trailer. You can have a tent trailer that can be as low as 400 lbs, that’s way lesser. Where as travel trailer can be as light as 2000 lbs but normally not lesser than that.

Having a light weight rv has distinct advantages when you are supposed to tow it. Even for motorhomes it better to have a light wight.

A bigger vehicle obviously mean you are not running economically. A more weight puts more pressure on fuel and your car miles per gallon reduce. Pop up campers are good for your cars mileage, no doubt.

8. Pop up campers may not have a life as long as travel trailer

An answer to rv lifespan is a subjective one. You can have those that live more than 20 years or even those that just go useless within 5-8 years. It all depends on the kind of care that you give to them.

A well sealed pop up camper and stored during winters can remain useful even after 15 years. Pop up campers in general can be used more than 10-12 years and even more depending on the maintenance that was done and repairing.

Travel trailer are hard sided and are expected to last 15 yeas normally but with extended care, roof repairing and replacements, it can go beyond 20 years as well.

You will find people using their 25 year good trailer without any major issue. But, yes they are to be credited for the care they took. A moving parts in vehicle normally needs better maintenance and scheduled one periodically.

9. Pop up camper gives issue in terms of complete insulation from rain water or chilling cold

Pop up campers are not hard sided and thus, your bedroom or other space inside it will not be fully insulated from outside. If you happen to be camping during rains there is good chance that you will feel the wetness or moisture. Similar is the case during too much cold, it will get very cold and you may feel the difference.

A proper trailer is similar to your home and will be properly insulated from water during rain. It will be like a proper rv and you will be better insulated from outside.

Not many people would be camping during rains or too cold in a pop up camper because of the same reason. You can add layers inside the pop up campers walls to insulate it properly but that will be at extra cost.

10. Travel trailer gives you secure feeling

Imagine yourself camping inside a deep forest where there isn’t much human life. Will you be okay camping inside a pop up camper not so insulted and wall not so strong? With wild life around, you will always feel some insecurity no matter what.

With trailer or any other proper rv that may not be the case as you know that you are properly protected inside. SO, if you want to feel more secured then pop up camper is not for you. With wild animals around there are always chances that some bear or any other animal attacking and its better not to take that chance.

11. Build quality is good with most travel trailers in general

As tent trailer are not hard sided, they tent to be more vulnerable to damage. The build quality also will not be as good as it will be in hard sided trailers. Also, pop up camper tend to be cheap and that’s their main point of selling.

And thus, they are made with material that may not be as great. If you happen to be buying it as your first rv then that makes sense though. As a first rver you hardly want to invest that big amount, and with relatively light camping activities you should be okay with the quality.

12. Not many amenities with pop up campers

pop up camper interior tour

If you feel having those all amenities inside a rv is a must then pop up is not for you. They will give you minimum things packed in and you cant expect it to give you all appliances which come inside a trailer.

Its a modest form of rving and you need to be adjusting to the things that you get. It will be basic setup with few must things for camping. Trailer on the other hand can give almost everything that a bigger motorhome like class c or even class A can give. A bigger television, dinning area, kitchen, sofa or couch etc. Its a proper rving vehicle with models and layout that facilitate for different amenities and appliances.

13. Lots of options in travel trailers

With travel trailers you get more options and plenty of models with different layouts and floor-plans. Travel trailer is one of the most popular form of rvs and no doubt you get so many options.

Having abundance of options means there is a great chance you will find a layout that exactly meets your requirements.

Also, with lots of different manufacturers into the competition results in competitive prices. With pop up campers that may not be the case, you will have less number of options and thus, you need to settle down with whats available rather than get what exactly you want.

14. Overall length in trailer could be more

No doubt with a travel trailer you get good space, hard sided doors and walls. Separate kitchen area, living area that is spaces but why is that possible anyway? Bigger length off-course. And, whats the issue with bigger lengths? It can become tough to tow, parking can be an issue.

Even the campground parking can be an issue. In fact, every campground has a certain limit upto which they allow. And, that length restriction is separate for motorhome and travel trailers.

Thus,a longer travel trailer may not find welcoming in your favorite campground. A 30 feet travel trailer, will give you lots of things inside but will that be a good one in terms of other restriction and disadvantages?

Probably an extra factor for you too worry.

And, what about pop up camper? A 10-15 feet is a charm and you will be better off for all the worrying things mentioned against lengthy travel trailer.

15. Travel trailer is better for families with children

travel trailer living

If you have family with 2 or more kids then a proper rv like travel trailer makes sense. A pop up camper can be good if you do an outing half a day or so. But, a camping with pop up or tent trailer is little bit restricting and for a family, it is not always a better option.

Apart from being a hard sided secure vehicle to sleep in, it also insulates you from outer conditions like rain, high cold. It gives you privacy and a bathroom that is almost a necessary thing even if you get this facilities at campsites.

16. Travel trailer are better for pets

If you love taking your pet dog or any other animal during camping then pop up camper could be restricting. Its only only logical, you get less space in tent trailer and it is going to be difficult to carry pets.

Also, with less space your dog or cat may not find it easy. A travel trailer with good space is better for carrying pets. Many people rv along with their pets and even at campground you will see people with their pet dogs or any other animals often. But, not all campsites allow for pets, you need to check it before heading there.

17. Driving can be tough in travel trailer

Travel trailer weigh so much and towing them can be tough (Following these tips can make it much easier though). As a car driver if you are not use to towing rv, then it will be tough for you carrying that 7000 lbs behind your car.

Things like backing up or turning sharp or making u turn can be hard with travel trailers. A pop up or tent trailer on the other hand can be easy comparatively.

18. pop up campers need more setup at campground

Towable rv’s in general need extra time for setup at the campground. A rv of any kind needs to be setup in campground and some people find it a tedious job.

You need to get the electricity hookup ready. Sewer be placed properly. Leveling of the rv. There are lots of things you should do before get going in the campground.

If you get out all the common things from the rv setup, pop up campers need extra things to be done. You have movable pop outs that need to be correctly placed.

Not all the time this will be fast and easy and at times that can take time. It all depends on the type and conditions of your pop up camper. You need to pull pop ups, adjust the support and make sure its properly settled up. This may take time and if you are like me, then you may not like it every-time. Its single time effort but you do it every time you head out for camping.

19. Travel trailer packing and unpacking is easy

Packing for rving is something that needs good planning. At times you may pack unnecessary things and other times just forget the main thing you wanted in your kitchen.

With travel trailer it will be little bit easier as compared to tent trailers. You get good storage and you adjust elements accordingly in trailers. But, with the tent trailers you need to be cautious about space and storage too will not be bigger.

20. Boondocking with pop up campers is better

If you prefer camping deep inside forest or mountainous region then pop up is the way to go. Bigger rv’s like travel trailer are not suited when the roads aren’t good. Driving through muddy roads is not a good idea for a bigger travel trailer.

21. Better privacy in travel trailers

Travel trailer have hard sided walls and doors and this provides for better privacy. With a pop up having curtain kind of door isn’t going to give you that privacy. Even the bathroom will have similar curtain kind of door.

22. Bathroom may not be present in all pop up campers

Pop up campers do not provide you bathroom always. Some of them may have bathroom but most of them wont have. Do you really want to camp without a bathroom? its upto you. Travel trailer will have bathroom almost all the time. Unless its a very smaller one.

G. Yoganand

A RV enthusiast who spends countless hours researching and learning various things related to RV camping. He believes in spending time doing Outdoor activities.
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