Traveling in a camper instead of staying in hotels is a great way to save money. However, buying a travel trailer can be pretty expensive. Even the cheapest travel trailers without bathrooms cost $15,000 or more. Although you’ll likely breakeven after a few years of foregoing hotels, it’s still a large upfront investment. 

Instead of splashing out and buying an expensive travel trailer, I’ve decided to build my own camper to save money. Here’s an overview of why I’m doing it and how I’m going about it. 

Why I’m Building a Teardrop Camper to Save Money

One of the reasons I’m building my own camper is because of my car. I have a small, fuel-efficient Ford Fiesta, so most travel trailers exceed its towing capacity. I can only pull about 1,100 pounds with my vehicle, including my own weight and any luggage I want to bring. Most teardrop style campers are too heavy to work with my car, but I don’t want to buy a gas-guzzling truck. By building my own camper, I can use super lightweight materials like an aluminum trailer, cedar, and fiberglass so my car can tow it. 

Another reason I’m building a teardrop camper is to save money. The materials needed to build a trailer are less expensive than you’d think. Altogether, I expect to spend about $3,000 on the build, including a comfortable mattress for the interior. The camper will be pretty basic and only have a bed, a mini split for heating and cooling, and some cubbies for storage. But I don’t need a ton of creature comforts while I’m on the road, especially since I plan to park at RV parks with bathrooms and other facilities. 

I’m willing to rough it a bit to save thousands of dollars on a camper and avoid taking on a costly RV loan. 

How I’m Learning to Build a Camper

Although my partner and I have woodworking and building experience, this is probably our most ambitious project to date. To gain the skills we need to complete this build, we’ve been watching instructional YouTube videos like this step-by-step DIY tiny camper tutorial from Wander Tears. We also bought a book called The Handmade Teardrop Trailer, which includes helpful building plans that have kickstarted our project. 

Right now we’re saving up to buy the materials and luckily we’re almost at our goal.  We’re hoping this project will be complete by next summer so we can take our camper out on the road. 

If you don’t want to design and build your own camper from scratch, there are affordable camper kits you can purchase. Birch Campers sells ultralight DIY camper kits. The finished trailers weigh in at around 600 pounds, so even smaller cars can tow them. The kit comes with basically everything you need to construct your camper, except the trailer and tools. 

After buying the trailer and all the tools you’ll need to put the kit together, you can expect to spend around $5,000 give or take. Designing the trailer and sourcing the materials yourself would likely be cheaper. But this is still a good option for people without much building experience who want to save money. The cheapest ready-made campers cost $10,000 to $15,000 or more, so you’re still saving a bundle. 

Wrapping Up 

What do you think—are campers an affordable way to travel or a waste of money? Would you be willing to build your own camper to save money? Let me know in the comments section below!

Read More 

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