Do you have an older camper and worry about a campground turning you away because you have heard they won’t accept RVs more than ten years old?
As more companies are building RV resorts, the “10-year rule” for the age of your recreational vehicle is being enforced more than ever.
What is the 10-year rule?
If your camper is more than ten years old, campground management can deny you entry to their park. There are many ways parks bend this rule and many ways for you to make a few changes to your current older RV so you can gain entry with no worry.
In this guide, I will discuss ways you can bypass the 10-year rule at most campgrounds, go over the do’s and don’ts of camper styling, and ways you can make your camper appear “ageless.”
As a full-time RVer with a 35-year-old Class C, I want to share with you all the tricks to get your older or vintage trailer into just about any campground in the country. Keep reading and see if by following some of the tips in this guide you can avoid having to purchase a new camper.
The Purpose of the 10-Year Rule
Many owners of older recreational vehicles find the 10-year rule to be discriminatory, but there are valid reasons many campgrounds have this rule in place like:
- Consideration of other campground guests
- Legal reasons
#1 – Safety
Unfortunately, many older campers and motorhomes may have issues with leaks. A leak could be a somewhat harmless water drip, to a serious stream of motor oil from your motorhome or tow vehicle or sewer waste from the RV black tank.
Each county has specific rules on what constitutes a reason a campground can get a fine, or even shut down a park entirely until the campground deals with the issue.
At every campground I workamp at, it impresses me the number of times county inspectors came through the park looking for violations. Because of this, campground management wants to avoid possible fines that could occur by the admittance of older RVs.
Another issue that could stem from older recreational vehicles is faulty or worn wiring that can blow out the power pedestal or start a camper fire.
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#2 – Guest Consideration
Unless you are staying off-grid or in a park that has a lot of spacing between sites, an older camper could be an eye-sore to other guests. If one or more of those guests complain, management will probably have to comp them for a free night or more, which is a losing proposition for the campground.
The potential for losses is the primary reason management wants to avoid the hassle of letting in older rigs. The losses will snowball if the campground, either through bad online reviews or by word-of-mouth, gets a reputation as being a low-class park that lets in “anyone.”
Camping trips should be a relaxing, fun, and safe experience, especially if you are paying $45 or more a night to stay at a particular campground. Even if you are the kindest people in the world, no one wants to look at or will feel safe if they have Cousin Eddie in the next site.
#3 – Legal Reasons
When on a camping trip, you may not think at all about the legal consequences that come into play when you park your RV within a campground. Most guests are there for a couple of days or even a week and gladly check out when their vacation is over, but what can a campground do when a guest either can’t or outright refuses to leave?
The easiest way to explain why the 10-year rule exists is to state that RV park laws and regulations are complicated, vast, and are different from state to state, and even between counties within a state. Just take a peek at these California regulations for RV tenancy to see what I am talking about.
Park management doesn’t want to take a chance on your old RV if there is even the slightest chance you won’t leave as your reservation states. Some states make management go to court to start eviction proceedings if a camper has been in the park over 30 days.
As you can imagine, many parks want to avoid opening this can of worms if at all possible. It’s another reason they may only allow a certain length of stay, for example, a two-week maximum, to prevent a campground guest from becoming a “tenant.”
Don’t get me wrong, people with shiny new RVs have been known to overstay their welcome, but if things go wrong, the campground may be able to recoup their damages by forcing the sale of the nice RV, or at least they don’t have a worn-out old rig sitting on their land that will upset other guests.
What Type of Older Camper Has the Most Problem with the 10-Year Rule?
Each style of recreational vehicle will have a different experience when dealing with campground age restrictions. In this section, I will go over each type of RV, and why they will or won’t have as many issues as other styles.
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#1 – Airstream
Airstreams are the most ageless of RVs since they still make them today in the same shape and designs of vintage models.
As long as you keep the finish shiny and you don’t have a ton of scratches or dents, you shouldn’t have issues with an old Airstream.
#2 – Vintage Travel Trailer
New vintage-look travel trailers are a hot seller today. If you have a very crisp old travel trailer, you may escape campground scrutiny because they can mistake it for a newer one, especially if you pull the camper with a late model truck or car.
Many campgrounds find the small trailers with a bold color stripe and matching awning to be very charming and will make an exemption for you.
#3 – Fifth-Wheels
A well-kept fifth-wheel is another type of RV that can appear ageless. Models and exterior color schemes and designs remain very similar year after year and even decade after decade.
#4 – Teardrops and Pop-Ups
Teardrop campers are having a resurgence in new RV sales, so if you have an older version in excellent shape, you shouldn’t have issues with age-restrictions.
Pop-ups are another somewhat timeless design. It also helps that when you pull into a campground, the unit is compact, so unless the box is rusty or has severe damage, you won’t have to worry. Be aware that park staff will see your pop-up after you have set it up, so be sure you don’t have torn or shabby canvas on your pop-outs.
#5 – Travel Trailer
A simple, clean travel trailer of any length is another perfect candidate for an RV that can appear ageless. Travel trailer exterior design is pretty much the same as it was twenty, even thirty years ago.
#6 – Class A Motorhome
Class A motorhomes have the best chance in the motorhome category to pass muster for age-restrictions since they tend to have been expensive when made and hold up well over the years.
Even vintage Class A’s from the ’60s and ’70s that have gone through a thorough restoration will impress campground staff.
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#7 – Class C Motorhome
I can speak from experience that this style of RV is the easiest to date, so unless you keep it meticulously clean and maintained, you may have trouble passing off your old camper as one that fits within the 10-year parameter.
First, the front cab of newer model Class C motorhomes is beefier than older versions which are a big giveaway.
The second is the cladding on the outside of the camper portion. Older versions from the ’70s and ’80s have a corrugated-look siding that they don’t make anymore. If you have an older version with a flat-surface cladding, you are in luck since those are much harder to date.
The third is the cab-over window that was standard in classic Class C motorhomes. Manufacturers now eliminate this front window in newer models since they were so prone to leaks.
I suppose if I read an article like this one before I went looking to purchase an RV, I would have chosen another style. I would’ve had less stress worrying about whether or not a campground would judge me as I was also learning about the RV lifestyle, camper preventative maintenance, campground etiquette, and everything else that goes along with being a full-time RVer.
#8 – Class B Motorhome and Conversion Van
Class B motorhomes are in general a newer concept in the RV world, and therefore shouldn’t cause many problems for you due to age as long as it’s in good condition.
Conversion vans can look like sleek little motorhomes or can veer toward creepy. Don’t expect your colorfully painted old conversion van to slip past the eyes of a park manager, especially if it comes along with dents and a crack in the windshield. A solid, metallic paint job in a neutral tone can do wonders for an older conversion van.
What You Can Do to Circumvent the 10-Year Rule
The good news for all of us with old campers is that there are several options to get around the annoyance of age-restriction rules. In this section, I’ll go over ways to update the look of your camper, tips on making your reservation, and places you can go that don’t ever ask how old your camper is.
Affordable Camper Update Tricks
With some elbow grease, a few hours, and a small investment, you can dramatically update the look of your camper with these simple tricks. I put many of these to use to throw off anyone trying to put an age to my camper.
Takes these steps after you have done the obvious tasks of removing and replacing old, cracking caulk, and washing your camper very well.
#1 – Clear Coat
The fastest way to make your camper appear newer is to freshen up the clear coat on the exterior of your RV. All types of siding material that RV manufacturers use start to dull over time, making them look old. A quality automotive clear coat can cost around $100 and will make worlds of difference in the appearance of your camper.
When sunshine reflects off the glossy clear coat, any imperfections in the paint finish below will be much less noticeable.
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#2 – Decals
Worn, fading or peeling pinstripes and decals will catch the eye of campground staff and make them question the age of your camper. Eliminate this cause for concern when you spend a few dollars on decals to replace your old ones.
Strip off the old decals quickly with a power drill attachment like the 3M Pinstripe Remover or other similar products. Visit online stores where you can find an incredible array of widths, colors, and lengths of vinyl pinstriping as well as large swirls, swoops, and designs that will update your RV in a snap.
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Go a step further and order a couple of small custom-design logos that include numbers that could relate to a year of manufacture. For example, a decal that says “Wildwood16” that you place near the door or front end of your camper can fool a person into thinking that Wildwood is the make and year of your camper is 2016, even if it’s a very well-kept 2001 Jayco.
#3 – Chrome/Diamond Plate
Shiny, clean chrome screams new! Visit your local auto supply store or shop online where you can find rolls of chrome-look trim in several widths that you can add to your camper for instant updating.
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You can also purchase self-adhesive chrome letters and numbers, similar to the decals, that may indicate a year of manufacture of your camper. After five years and countless washings, my chrome letters are intact and as shiny as ever.
Diamond plate accessories are another way to clean up rough areas of your camper. I put a new cover over my rusty rear bumper with diamond plate angle trim that was 4-inch by 4-inch by 8-foot long.
There are so many variations of diamond plate dimensions available for purchase that make it easy to add it to a specific area on your RV that is worn, has damage, or is rusty. You can also add it all around the bottom edge of your camper to give it a custom-look update.
#4 – Hubcaps
For between $50 to $80, you can purchase a set of lightweight plastic pop-on hubcaps or wheel covers that will instantly make your RV look fresh. You can order your specific rim size in an array of finishes that work with the style of your recreational vehicle.
New hubcaps were the finishing touch that made my Class C look real sharp. INSIDER TIP: If you purchase this type of low-cost hubcap, expect the clips to wear out over the years due to popping them on and off to change tires or check tire pressure.
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While the outer finish on my set remained nice, I lost a hubcap while traveling and had to order a new set. I’m not sure if the shop (where I had new tires put on) didn’t push the hubcap on tight enough, or the clips finally gave out. Either way, the investment into these hubcaps is worth every penny as my camper looked surprisingly bad without it!
When making a reservation at a park you have never been to before, read over their website very carefully if they have one. Examine the information in every area, since they may place their age-restrictive rules in a place you may not expect it.
New “RV Resorts” that cater to Class A motorhomes and fancy fifth-wheels will have the most restrictive age rules that they’ll follow to such as extent as making you provide proof of age via your RV registration card.
The average camper has little interest in such a campground since they tend to be a bit uptight. I have no desire to stay at one, but if this is your ideal way to camp, I suggest that in this instance, go ahead and purchase a new RV and enjoy ten years of camping enjoyment at any park.
If you don’t see any mention of age on a campground website, place your call directly to the campground. If the reservationist asks you about your camper age, and you have kept your RV in great condition, you can choose any of these following ways to handle the question.
#1 – Little White Lies…
If you are lucky and have one of the types of RVs that have an ageless look, go ahead and make up a year that fits within their age parameters. The odds of staff coming out to inspect your camper is minimal if your recreational vehicle looks clean and maintains an overall nice appearance.
With the hundreds of makes and models of RVs on the market, there is no way campground staff can know the difference between a seven-year-old or 15-year-old camper without asking to see the registration.
This is the easiest way to avoid age-restrictive stress when booking a camping trip.
#2 – Pictures
If your camper is obviously an old version, but you maintain it beautifully, many campgrounds will bend the rules as long as you offer to send them pictures of your camper’s exterior and let them make the final decision.
I’ve had to send pictures seven or eight times over the years, and have always been able to book a campsite once management sees that my Class C, while old, is not a rust bucket eye-sore.
Wait for a sunny day and take clear pictures of all sides of your older RV and keep them on your phone and computer so you can quickly send over snapshots to park staff if they ask.
Unless a campground is so busy they can afford to turn away a paying customer, you can feel confident that providing pictures of your neat-looking camper will permit you entrance into their park.
#3 – Length of Stay
I worked at a park that had a fairly lenient 10-year rule but would also allow some iffy-looking campers into the park if they were only staying for a night or two. Management would deny these same campers if they choose to book for a week or longer.
Camping trips are meant to be an inexpensive get-away, and many campgrounds may look the other way if it appears you’re trying to spend some quality time with your family, even if your camper has really worn paint.
Whatever you do, if you think a campground may question allowing your RV into their park, don’t drive hours to get there just to find out you have nowhere to stay but the Wal-Mart parking lot. Call ahead and plead your case, you may find an understanding staff member on the other end of the line.
Campgrounds That Don’t Care About RV Age
Thousands of parks would never ask about the age of your camper. National and state parks across the US and Canada are the first campgrounds that come to mind that care not about the age of your camper.
Campgrounds that have a location away from tourist areas are just happy to get a customer and are far less likely to care about how old your camper is. Family-run parks tend to be very lenient and are my favorite places to stay when I want a unique park with personal touches.
The Midwest and Southeastern parts of the US tend to be more open to vintage and classic campers, whereas the West is opening a lot of Motorcoach Resorts, catering to retirement-age snowbirds. These parks not only restrict your camper on age but also on the type, as they ONLY accept newer Class A motorhomes of a certain length.
You can peruse online forums where you can find lists that members have put together of campgrounds that strictly enforce the 10-year rule, so you can avoid them.
The best thing about being a proud owner of an older, or as I like to say “classic,” recreational vehicle or if you’re thinking about buying one, is the price.
You can get many older campers for a steal and then spend a few bucks renovating it to your liking. You’ll enjoy your camping adventures that much more when you aren’t stuck with a massive monthly payment for a new RV.
You will find out, just like the couple in the below video did that the scary-sounding 10-year rule is nothing to fear.
I hope you found my tips on ways to circumvent a park’s rules on camper age limits helpful. Do you have an interesting experience with owning a classic camper? Please share your story with us!
Product data was last updated on 2020-07-30 at 12:59.