Serious Talk - Considering a "disposable" pop-up TC

Herbie

Rendezvous Conspirator
Hey gang, I'm hoping to tap the collective wisdom of the TC community here on ExPo, which has a slightly different view of the world than the TC community at large.

We've been happy Van camper owners for many years - our 4x4 Astro/GTRV has taken us a lot of fun places, but our daughter is getting bigger and we're getting to the point where a cozy "Weekender-plus" van isn't meeting all our needs.

We've been looking longingly at some of the latest truck camper offerings out there. Everything from a FWC Hawk Flatbed to the new "wedge" camper stuff (including spending a fair amount of time in a FiftyTen rig this weekend.) I've spent months looking for used Tigers, used FWCs, and a dozen other options. The thing is that our budget is limited enough that we simply can't afford (or justify) "the best". Given the old proverb that "The Best is the enemy of 'good enough'", I'm realizing that the fact that we can't afford a $50-$80k camper build might be stopping us from having a lot of fun.

To whit, I'm now seriously considering other truck campers with the idea that one will get "used up". I know that an aluminum framed FWC will be more durable, but realistically we've got about 8 years before daughter leaves for college, and we aren't going to be doing serious "expedition" travel in that time. Our usage is most likely going to be limited to forest service roads and open SoCal desert travel. Even if we do attempt a bit more rigorous off-road travel, I'm wondering if it's really the end of the world if the camper is basically a useless pile of sticks in a decade. Especially if the alternative is not upgrading our rig and that limits where and how often we travel.

There are a lot more choices in the $8k-$15k range for used (and new!) campers, and some of them do offer some advantages over the "top brand" options in terms of floor plans/layout. At this point, I'm feeling like a $15k used truck and a $10k camper that I can basically pay cash for and use now, beats the $30k camper and $35k truck that I'd have to borrow $$ to purchase, and which I'd probably still be paying off when it was no longer the right fit for an empty-nest family. Maybe it's because I'm a Gen-X "disposable product" culture, but it's actually easier for me to justify throwing away a camper I can pay cash for and "amortize" over 8 years than to finance 2x-3x as much just so I can have a salable asset at the end of the same period.

Am I nuts, here?

More importantly, am I in danger of over-estimating the life of a cheaper, wood-framed TC when subjected to mild "overland" use? (i.e. "Should I expect to not even get 8 years out of something like a Palomino when using it as stated above?")
 

UHAULER

Explorer
There is nothing wrong with used,older stuff. When I buy a vehicle, dirtbike, camper, I am the type of person who tries to have the most amount of fun for the least amount of money. I have friends and family who have to buy the latest and greatest and then lose big time when they sell. Northstar campers are well built and used ones are very reasonable.
 

Herbie

Rendezvous Conspirator
It's not so much that I'm afraid of used stuff, but that I'm very deliberately now looking at "lower end" product. Folks here (and at WtW) are often quick to dismiss some of this stuff outright. I hear the concerns, but I'm wrestling against the natural inclination to try to get "the best" thing and see if there's an adequate thing that I can actually afford.

Don't get me wrong - if I found a FWC that fit our needs at a price I can afford, I'd buy it. The problem has been that even used, they command a higher price than I can currently spend, and are scarce enough to make deal-hunting difficult.
 

Cummins_expo

Adventurer
There is many an old surfer down in Baja with his wood-framed camper who has taken it well off the beaten path who didn't know it wasn't supposed to be wood.
 

Forrestvt

New member
Your situation sounds similar to mine. Would love to buy/build a sweet van camper but the prices are ridiculous!! Not to mention, you spend all that money, you hate to abuse it too much b/c you have so much money sunk into it and stuck with payments usually. I drooled over friends 4x4 Sprinter/ford van campers for years but.... I went with a truck camper.

I would keep up the hunt for a used FWC. There are other options but resale value is usually better for a FWC. Availability and prices on used ones seem to vary significantly depending on geographic locations. I pickled up my Grandby for 4k. Granted its the older style , needs to TLC but for a few $ and some time I can customize it, toss it in a truck, abuse the hell out of and smile. Kids, dogs, dents, wear, whatever! I do live in a generally wet/colder climate so condensation and rot are an issue
 

UHAULER

Explorer
This is what I had a couple of years ago. The truck was an 02 f-350 7.3 with about 160k miles and the camper was an 03 or 04 Northstar 650.
Sold the truck for 16,500 and the camper for 7,000.
I have had two Northstar's and I would rate them much higher than a Palamino. Look at how the roofs are built.
DSC00067copy.jpg

DSC00057copy.jpg
 

AbleGuy

[Back] Roads Scholar
..., but I'm wrestling against the natural inclination to try to get "the best" thing and see if there's an adequate thing that I can actually afford. Don't get me wrong - if I found a FWC that fit our needs at a price I can afford, I'd buy it. The problem has been that even used, they command a higher price than I can currently spend, and are scarce enough to make deal-hunting difficult.
With respect, you’re simply looking in the wrong places.

At California prices, yeah, you’re going to be paying a sweet premium.

Look instead through the various Colorado and Four Corners areas CL pages and you’re going to find much more affordable prices and plenty of decently priced, used FSBO inventory, especially when fall Camping and Hunting seasons are over.

Good Luck.
 

Pacific Northwest yetti

Expedition Medic
Its easy to wait for the " perfect " camper, or truck etc. Most of us will say the same, just do it. With what you can responsibly afford and enjoy the thing. I had a craigslist search alert for 5 years until i found what i was looking for. (Which was actually a Northstar 850sc, until i found an outfitter close I could not pass up)

I understand quality, but i would just pick up whatever you can find. Something that meets the growing needs of your family. Not feel bad if it gets beat up, and have money left over for enjoying it.

" go" now, dont wait- and start enjoying the memories.
 

AbleGuy

[Back] Roads Scholar
Its easy to wait for the " perfect " camper, or truck etc.... Most of us will say the same, just do it. With what you can responsibly afford and enjoy the thing....I understand quality, but i would just pick up whatever you can find....Not feel bad if it gets beat up, and have money left over for enjoying it.
Very Sound Advice, especially the last part...
 

Climber Rob

Observer
What type of person are you? Are you an engineer/tinkerer type? If so, buy a 10 year old FWC and customize it. If not, buy a newer Northstar or a new Palomino and go enjoy it.

I went with the 10 yo FWC and have customized almost every area of the camper so far. I enjoy it, and the camper is great but, really, it's not amazing. It's just a camper and it has its issues. I certainly am not in the camp that talks sh** about the lower end campers and thinks FWC is some amazingly high-quality product above and beyond the other offerings. They are all just production products made by hourly employees in a factory.
 

Herbie

Rendezvous Conspirator
Yes, I'm typically a DIY guy. Built our current camper from scratch. Literally everything, from poptop transplant, 4x4 conversion, cabinetry, even upholstery.

I'm burnt out on spending my weekends building my rig.

Having spent some time in various FWC models, I'm worried I'd have to go "back to studs" to get a usable floor plan on most examples. I don't want a Grandby, (8' bed+a crew/quad cab is just too big), but the seating options for even a Hawk are a compromise at best. The front dinette is really only one-ass wide, despite appearances, with the front wall storage in the way. The rollover couch blocks the aisle and can't be rolled back to a seat with 3 people inside the camper. Side dinette models seem closest, but they seem to all be newer examples, commanding a higher price.
 

AbleGuy

[Back] Roads Scholar
Northstar has one really neat pop up model that has a tent sided, side pop out bed (it goes out from the dinette). That’s gonna give you some better sleeping room for your daughter .

90149F95-8EB3-453A-AC5C-7A37065461FD.jpeg
 
Top