How to select and finance off-road trailers and campers

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Ask a Lender
September 20, 2017 | Updated September 27, 2017

Editorial credit: Philip Schubert/

Key Points

Off the path: How to select off-road campers

  • Off-road trailers and campers differ from RVs because they don’t have motors.
  • There are multiple sizes, purposes and capabilities to fit individual needs.
  • Lenders often require a sizable down payment and may charge a higher interest rate.
  • Purchasing from a dealership isn’t a requirement as some lenders will finance private sales.

Anyone interested in outdoor adventure activities such as dirt biking, mountain climbing and camping knows it can be difficult getting the proper equipment to its destination.

If you like to leave the paved roads behind during your outdoors adventures, an off-road trailer or camper may be the best way to take all your gear with you. Before you buy one, however, you’ll probably have questions: Which type best suits my needs? How much do they cost? Can I get a loan to purchase one?

Types of equipment

It’s important to note that off-road trailers and campers differ from pop-up campers, rooftop camping tents and large recreational vehicles (RVs). They are smaller, nonmotorized units that sit on a single axel with two large, off-road tires designed to take a beating. Using a standard ball-and-coupler hitch, they can attach to any vehicle capable of off-road driving and hauling, including trucks, jeeps and SUVs.

One of the popular styles of off-road campers is the teardrop trailer. They generally range in size from 30 to 50 square feet, with room for two to sleep in a comfortable, off-the-ground manner. They’re generally lightweight, minimizing the impact to fuel economy when towed. Some models have lighting systems for increased warmth, small kitchens, roof racks and attachments for other supplies. Others include an array of luxuries such as a pop-up tent, generator, refrigerator, water purifier or shower, and even power outlets, USB ports and solar panels.

Military-style utility trailers, such as the M416; box-frame and A-frame trailers that may have larger internal-living spaces; and flatbed toy haulers, which are convenient for hauling things like all-terrain vehicles and motorcycles, are other common types of camp trailers. There’s a wide range of prices, depending on the size and features you’re looking for, but it’s common to pay around $5,000 for basic utility trailers and up to $50,000 or more for the largest internal-living models.

Terrain capabilities

Along with sizes and features, you may want to consider a trailer’s ability to withstand difficult conditions in the outdoors. Whether you’re purchasing online or at a dealership, inquire about the trailer’s terrain capabilities and the four-wheel drive needs of the vehicle doing the towing.

Four-wheel drive vehicles often have high and low gears to aid traction in difficult conditions. The high gear, or “4-High,” allows you to drive at faster speeds and provides better traction than two-wheel drive. It is commonly used on snow, ice, mud and rocks. The low gear, or “4-Low,” provides more torque, giving your vehicle the ability to escape situations where it otherwise might get stuck. It’s important to drive slowly — around 10 mph — in low gear. This feature is useful in steep areas, extremely slippery conditions, and treacherous surfaces such as deep water, thick mud or sand, or heavy snow.

Some trailers are built for easier conditions such as designated fire roads, where the “4-High” gear is rarely used. Others are good for moderately rough terrain, where the high and low gears may be used interchangeably. The top-rated trailers can withstand difficult terrain where the low gear is necessary.

Lender financing

There are lenders that specialize in financing off-road trailers and campers. A down payment of 15 to 20 percent may be required, although some lenders may waive the down payment if the borrower has good credit or is financing a relatively small amount.

Interest rates vary widely, from 4 to 19 percent, depending on the borrower’s credit score, which can make these items more expensive than an auto or RV loan. Terms are usually flexible, often ranging from three to 20 years. Some lenders require a minimum loan amount of $2,500 to $5,000, and will finance trailers worth up to $100,000 or more. They may allow you to finance sales tax into the loan, and they often include simple interest with fixed monthly payments.

Purchasing from a dealership may not be necessary as there are lenders who will finance a private sale. However, if you’re buying a used trailer or camper, it’s wise to do some research. Look to obtain a history report, including a list of repairs and any aftermarket parts. You may even want a mechanic to inspect the trailer. The lender may run a title search to confirm the seller has control of the unit and whether or not there any applicable title-transfer fees.

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