Buying a FEMA Camper

camper pulled behind car

FEMA campers were virtually unknown until the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, but FEMA trailers were around long before Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, and they continue to be in demand today.

What Are FEMA Campers?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, otherwise known as FEMA, has been providing temporary housing for many years, particularly to those areas affected by natural disasters. For example, when Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida in 1992, FEMA campers provided housing to people for as long as two and a half years until more permanent housing could be found. The term "FEMA trailer" didn't become a common phrase until the appearance of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, however.

FEMA trailers belonged to the United States government and were on loan to those in need during times of disaster. Many of these campers were placed next to the destroyed or damaged homes, and their purpose was to provide shelter until the homes could be repaired or rebuilt. Nearly all the trailers have the same typical layout, which includes two propane tanks for heating and cooking as well as a few fixtures.

Purchasing a Camper From FEMA

Once families found more permanent housing, the trailers were returned to the government leaving FEMA with a surplus of campers. At this point and with an excess inventory of over 100,000 campers, FEMA began offering them for sale. Many interested buyers immediately jumped on the bandwagon and began snatching them up for often half or even less of their actual worth. Are FEMA campers good options for those looking to enjoy the great outdoors? You decide.

Pros of Purchasing a FEMA Camper

Of course the most compelling reason for purchasing a FEMA camper is the cost. With a savings of several thousand dollars, purchasing one of these government-issued campers could mean money in the bank for those who would have purchased some kind of camper regardless of the situation. In addition, many of these campers were gently used and only lived in for a few weeks or months and are almost like new.

Cons of Purchasing a FEMA Camper

With such great savings, what could the disadvantages of purchasing FEMA campers possibly be? There is the issue of high formaldehyde levels in the trailers which were reported to contribute to respiratory problems, flu-like symptoms, and other irritations. In addition, while many of the campers are in tip-top shape, others are better suited for scrap metal simply because they need extensive work to make them inhabitable.

How to Purchase a FEMA Camper

If you are interested in FEMA campers, you have several options.

  • State and local auctions - Visit your state or local government website and search for auctions online. Depending upon your location, you may or may not find these campers for sale, but your state and local level is a good place to start.
  • GSA Auctions - The General Services Administration (GSA) is a federal government agency which handles the auctions of surplus equipment. Once you reach the site, you can search online for specific items or browse the site's inventory and see what's available. You'll need to register to place a bid, and if you live near the auction site, you may be able to view the merchandise in person.
  • GovDeals - This site offers an online auction of surplus equipment. FEMA campers can typically be found under the "Vehicles and Parts" tab. You'll need to register at the site to bid, and you can browse through all the inventory at your leisure.

Make an Informed Decision

Purchasing a FEMA trailer could mean significant savings, but do your homework before you commit to an online bid.

Buying a FEMA Camper