Home » This $13,000 Coleman Camper Is Even Cheaper Than The Least Expensive New Car In America

This $13,000 Coleman Camper Is Even Cheaper Than The Least Expensive New Car In America

Nissan Versa Camper Ts
ADVERTISEMENT

Few things are cheap in today’s world. AriZona tea is still 99 cents, a Costco hot dog and soda will only set you back $1.50, and a 10-pack of Bic Cristal pens can be had for well under two bucks – all cheap and good. The same cannot often be said about vehicles. America’s cheapest new car is the $16,290 Nissan Versa. RVs are also pretty expensive, with many units demanding six figures or more. If you look hard enough, you can still find inexpensive campers here and there. How cheap are we talking? This Coleman Lantern LT 17 is just $13,000. You get a full, real camper for less money than a Nissan Versa, but be sure to temper your expectations.

Something I find disappointing about RV shows is that many manufacturers focus hard on large and expensive RVs. You’ll walk through row after row of monster coaches that tower above your head and block your view of the rest of the show. I get it, there’s a ton of money to be made selling large coaches. As someone who loves buses, I can also appreciate those units, too. However, some dealers and manufacturers have realized that not everyone can afford the six-figure rolling palaces and have rolled out cheaper fare.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

I’ve found a handful of travel trailers for well under the price of the average new car in America, but I want to highlight the absolute bottom of the barrel. The cheapest of the bunch is the Coleman Lantern LT, which costs a frighteningly cheap $13,000. Even my cheapest Smart Fortwo cost more than this thing.

Coleman

20240117 114750

Coleman has shown up a couple of times in my budget RV articles. Back in 2022, I wrote a brief blurb about the Coleman Lantern when it was $21,000. Last year, I showed you the Coleman Rubicon 1200RK, a super compact trailer that you cannot even stand up in that had a price of $15,000. The Lantern LT is now even cheaper than the Rubicon 1200RK, and you get way more camper for the money.

ADVERTISEMENT

Here’s a little bit of history for you to gobble up from my previous piece. Coleman is currently a brand of Dutchmen, which is a brand of mega RV conglomerate Thor Industries:

Dutchmen first opened up shop in 1988, building travel trailers and later fifth wheels. The company positioned itself as an entry-level brand and it became a part of Thor in 1991. Coleman, the company that you perhaps know best for lanterns, stoves, and coolers, makes campers under the Dutchmen umbrella. The company’s history goes back to the early 1900s when William Coffin Coleman sold gas lamps before making a lamp of his own design. Coleman expanded from lanterns into camp stoves in the 1940s, a plastic cooler in the 1950s, and all kinds of camping gear in the 1960s, including backpacks, sleeping bags, and tents.

In 1967, Coleman built its first camper, a pop-up tent trailer. By 1979, Coleman was the top seller of tent campers in America. Fleetwood RV purchased the rights to Coleman’s campers in 1989, eventually removing Coleman branding from the trailers. The name was revived in 2008, just to die again in 2011 when Coleman ended the production of pop-up campers. Today, Coleman camping products are sold by the Newell Group and Coleman-branded camping trailers are made by Thor’s Dutchmen.

The Lantern LT

20240117 114713

While I could not find information indicating exactly when Coleman began production of the Lantern LT series, I can tell you that they’ve been in production since before the pandemic. So, they aren’t new and it would appear that as production continues, pricing is coming down on these units.

Coleman says that its Lantern line is designed to maximize your camping experience while keeping costs and weight down. Both of these Lantern LTs are 21′ 5″ long and the 17B, which has a bunkhouse, weighs 2,985 pounds. The 17R, which trades bunks for more space, weighs 3,013 pounds. Otherwise, both campers are the same and the cost-cutting involved is pretty impressive.

20240117 114801

ADVERTISEMENT

It starts with the exterior. You’ll immediately notice that the Lantern LT does not have a power tongue jack, nor does it have front stabilizer jacks. The trailer also doesn’t have bits like outdoor speakers, a fancy set of stairs, or an outdoor kitchen. It’s a design that harkens back to the sorts of trailers that were on sale in the 1990s. There are no slides and no frills, just a box to sleep in. The corrugated metal siding is another throwback touch.

Your next reference to the trailer’s low price comes as soon as you open the entry door. Many travel trailers have plastic arms to hold the entry door open against the wind. Here, the plastic arm is so cheap and so flimsy that a wind gust bends it, ultimately causing the arm to fall out of the door’s cup.

20240117 114405

20240117 114449

Inside, you might be surprised to find a fully-featured living space. You’ll find a refrigerator, a sink, a microwave, a stove, a full bathroom, a heater, and an air-conditioner. There’s also plenty of sleeping to be had onboard as well. Both floor plans come with a large bed, plus a dinette that transforms into another bed. The 17B uses up some of the available space for the addition of bunk beds.

ADVERTISEMENT

How did Dutchmen achieve this? Start looking at everything closely. The air-conditioner is a wall unit and your heater comes from a simulated fireplace. There is no ducting for either unit; you just get heat from in front of the simulated fireplace and cold air from the small vent of the air-conditioner. Obviously, this is not a unit you will be chilling out in during a Chicago winter.

20240117 114515

20240117 114511

The cost-cutting continues from there. The primary bed is a thin pad that rests on a hard board. You’ll want to bring your own mattress if you want anything resembling good sleep. The sink is plastic and you get just a single basin. Also, there’s just one sink. You do get a flushing toilet and working shower, but the bathroom does not have its own sink. All washing is done in the kitchen. The cost-cutting is apparent with the stove as well, which is a tiny two-burner job.

In terms of holding tanks, you get storage for fresh water, grey water, and waste. All three tanks are 28 gallons each.

ADVERTISEMENT

Everything in the Coleman Lantern LT is cheap, from the cabinetry to the countertop. The backrest for the dinette is thin and has light securement. If you have kids, recommend that they do not roughhouse around the dinette.

20240117 114520

20240117 114440

While everything in this trailer is cheap, it does appear that some care was taken to put it together. I did not find any obvious installation errors or parts broken right from the factory. It’s sad that something as simple as a light switch being properly installed is even worth noting, but Dutchmen did that. Again, everything in the interior is really inexpensive. This is basically the trailer equivalent of a Mitsubishi Mirage.

Of course, this trailer also isn’t moving the needle with construction. It’s made with wood framing, lauan plywood walls, a rubberized roof, and fiberglass insulation. You will need to tend to the roof as well as the camper’s seals to prevent leaking and it’s a battle that, as someone with experience can tell you, is one you may not win. But, at the very least, the interior does not appear as if it was built on a Friday at 4:59 PM. I was also surprised to see that the frames were powder-coated. Normally, that wouldn’t be anything to get excited about, but the bar has gotten that low.

ADVERTISEMENT

20240117 114554

In the pictures, you’ll find that the cover for the water heater has been removed. A lot of the campers at the 2024 Florida RV SuperShow were previously winterized, and manipulating the water heater’s valves is a part of the process. I took a peek and didn’t find anything visibly broken in there.

You get all of this for an MSRP of $13,995, but some dealerships are selling them for $13,000. A Camping World representative told me you can get that lower price at some dealers after giving them your information. I bet you could negotiate even more off of that price. As I said before, I wouldn’t expect this to be a forever trailer. You could see with your own eyes how Dutchmen saved money on this build. But I could see some years of good use, maybe longer if you’re really on top of the maintenance. And then when it gets worn out, toss it into the woods and use it as a hunting cabin or something. Honestly, it’s just nice to see some cheaper options out there.

20240117 114528

20240117 114425

ADVERTISEMENT

20240117 114730

20240117 114245

(Images: Author)

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
62 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
FloridaNative
FloridaNative
2 months ago

Honestly, I wouldn’t trust an RV of this size at this price. It will be an even bigger pile of heaping garbage than the average RV, which is saying a lot. I bet it won’t make it out of it’s warranty period without falling apart.

Erik McCullough
Erik McCullough
3 months ago

I don’t mind the electric heater approach on this, but I will say that this is going to 100% require you to have hookups to operate the heater and that will turn off some use cases. For example, with propane heat and a 12v battery on board, you can stop overnight at a Walmart, Cracker Barrel, etc.

rctothefuture
rctothefuture
3 months ago

Ooooo, Coleman trailer!

I almost bought one right before the pandemic as the wife and I were getting serious about our canoeing/camping trips. We decided to hold off as we didn’t know if we’d have a job or not when everything shut down. I remember touring one at a local Camping World and being very impressed with the build and features for such a low price!

A coworker heard me talking about it and he wanted one, so he bought one. He would take his wife and dog on “remote work trips” across the Midwest and he seemed to enjoy it. After awhile though, he stopped doing them. Turns out the axle had snapped on him on the way home and he was waiting to get parts in. Axle got replaced and some the interior bits started falling apart. Last I heard, he sold it on Craigslist and was now looking for a RV.

If you can find a used one for cheap, they aren’t a bad deal. A solid box with decent features and easy enough for your average handyman to repair and do upkeep. If I can find one for under $6k, I’d probably buy it tomorrow. However the fine folks at camping world do love to tell me that it’s only $36/month to own a new one…

62
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x