Every modern pop up camper should have a VIN number. Occasionally, if it’s a very old model, one produced before 1981, it might not. This can occasionally cause problems, and we’ll discuss what you can do about that a little later. But the basic answer here is yes, pop-up campers have VIN numbers.
What is a VIN Number Anyway?
A vehicle identification number, more commonly referred to as a VIN number or just VIN, is a 17-character identifier that is exclusive to your vehicle. It’s a string of numbers and letters that tells you a lot about your vehicle, such as where it was built, what year it was produced, what kind of vehicle it is, and so on.
VINs have existed as a vehicle description since 1954, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has mandated that all vehicles sold have one since 1981.
Each of the digits and letters in the VIN for your pop camper has a specific meaning, and can tell you, and others, a lot about it. It’s important to note that the information they convey is NOT the same as that conveyed by a VIN number on a vehicle that has an engine: i.e., a car or truck.
Some of the information that a VIN number on a pop-up camper can tell you includes:
- Trailer type
- Year produced
- Location of production
- Number of axles
- Serial number
This information is very helpful when the camper needs repairs, as it is the best way to ensure that the right parts and methodologies are used. It’s also very helpful if you are buying a used pop-up camper, as what you are being told by the seller can be confirmed by looking up the information the VIN contains (not all used vehicle sellers are completely honest.)
There are lots of places you can do this, but VINPIT is an easy to use (and free) option that is also free. You may also be able to find out even more information about the camper, such as previous owners, as it may have been insured previously, which would require a VIN number, or had its VIN logged during a repair that was then used as a part of a vehicle history report.
You’ll need to know our pop-up camper’s VIN number to insure it, too. Separate insurance for a pop-up camper is not a legal requirement in the US in any state, but if you lease or finance one, your lender will mandate it.
You may also want to consider it as should you be in an auto accident, and it is your pop-up camper that causes damage, and not your car or truck, your standard auto insurance policy probably won’t cover the damage.
Some insurance companies offer specific additional coverage for campers and trailers that can be added on to a standard auto policy, so if you go camping often and tow a pop-up trailer, it’s certainly something well worth considering.
Are the VIN and Serial Number One and The Same?
Technically, yes, a serial number and a VIN on a pop-up camper are considered to be the same thing. In reality, a serial number is part of the VIN, most commonly the 12th-17th characters of it.
Where (and How) To Find The VIN Number on a Pop-Up Camper
Not sure what your pop-up camper’s VIN number is? Or where to start looking for it?
VIN numbers are standardized, but where you’ll find them on pop-up campers is not. Before you even begin to look, it helps to know that you might be looking for an etched number, or there may be a raised metal plate affixed somewhere that features the VIN number. Or, in some cases, usually if a trailer has been refurbished, you might even find both (although the numbers should be the same.)
If you have the original documentation for the trailer, it should be there, and if you have recently purchased or leased it from a dealer, the paperwork they gave you should certainly have it. However, if you don’t have paperwork (or can’t remember where you put it) you’ll need to check the trailer itself. Here are some pointers for tracking down the VIN number on your pop-up camper if you are not sure where to start:
Check the Tongue
The first place to look is around the trailer’s tongue, or where it links to a hitch. The more recent the trailer, the more likely it is to be found here. Because it will be best protected from extreme weather and traffic conditions inside the tongue beams, the VIN is most likely to be there. It may also be etched on the underside, so check there too.
Look Around the Axles
If you don’t find the VIN number around the camper’s tongue, try checking around the axles, starting with the front axle. As it might be hard to spot here, do so with a flashlight and maybe even a magnifying glass, in hand. The flashlight on your phone might be handiest. Also, having your phone with you as you hunt for the VIN will be helpful, as you can snap pictures rather than trying to write the long number down (and risk getting it wrong.)
Search the Frame
If you haven’t located the VIN in either of the two places we have already mentioned, unfortunately you will need to search all over the frame. It’s rare that a VIN will not be in one of the more common locations, but it does happen. Before you give up completely, consider taking the camper to an auto shop with experience in RVs, they may be able to spot the VIN even if you could not.
It’s also worth noting that if your trailer was likely produced before 1981, it may not have a VIN number at all. As we covered, they were not mandatory until 1981, and some manufacturers did not include them until they had to (even though they had been in existence for over thirty years at that point.)
What To Do If You Can’t Find the VIN on a Pop-Up Trailer?
You have looked, and looked, – and a professional has looked – but you still cannot locate a VIN number for your pop-up camper. Unless it is a very old model like the one we described, and a trailer brought into service before 1981 would be at least forty years old at this point – this is a highly unlikely scenario, but it could feasibly happen if the camper has been extensively rebuilt.
There are certain situations that might arise that really do call for you needing to know that VIN number, though, primarily if you are trying to insure your pop-up camper. An insurance company will require that you provide them with it before issuing a policy, or adding the vehicle to your existing one.
As a vehicle you do not know the VIN number for is almost certainly a used one, you could try contacting the previous owners, but if you no longer have paperwork, that is likely to be a long shot.
As a last resort, most states will issue you with a new VIN number for your pop-up trailer. The process, however, varies from state to state, and involves plenty of its own paperwork, as you will need to definitively prove that the camper belongs to you (as changing a VIN number is a trick that would be used by thieves if they were given half a chance.) You can find out what the procedure is for your state by contacting your local DMV.
Why It's Important to Have the VIN Number When Buying a Used Pop-Up Camper
It’s commonplace these days for people to buy used pop-up campers from online marketplaces like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. This isn’t a bad idea in itself, as you may be able to score a great deal on a recreational vehicle you might otherwise have struggled to afford right now.
As a part of the crucial due diligence that should always be performed before buying a used vehicle of any kind, you need to get the VIN number (as you have likely figured out for yourself by now.) Once you have the VIN number you can take the steps we outlined earlier to verify the claims being made by the owner are truthful, and you’ll be able to insure the vehicle easily should you want to in the future.