Guide To Buying A Caravan
Caravan holidays have seen a big boost in popularity over the last few years. If you’ve been tempted to give it a go, you might be wondering where to start when it comes to buying a caravan. This guide is perfect for you, whether you’re buying your first caravan or upgrading your existing model for something newer or bigger.
By the end of our guide to buying caravan you’ll know what size caravan you’ll want, the many different types of caravans on the market, when to buy and more. This guide will help get you on the right track and help you find the perfect caravan.
What size caravan is suitable for you and your car?
First and foremost, you’ll want to determine what size caravan you can tow with your car and your driving licence. When it comes to your car’s towing ability, you just need to check the vehicle’s handbook. This will tell you the weight that your car can tow.
Next, you’ll want to check and see what you are legally allowed to tow based on your driver’s licence. The government legislation states that there are different rules based on when a person passed their driving test.
Driving licences issued before 1st Jan 1997
If you passed your car driving test before the 1st January 1997, you’re usually allowed to drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 8,250kg maximum authorised mass (MAM). MAM is the limit on how much the vehicle can weigh once it has been loaded.
Driving licences issued from 1 January 1997 to 18 January 2013
If you passed your car driving test between the 1st January 1997 and the 18th January 2013, then you were allowed to drive either of the following:
- A car or van up to 3,500kg MAM towing a trailer of up to 750kg MAM (up to 4,250kg in total).
- A trailer over 750kg MAM, as long as it is no more than the unladen weight of the towing vehicle (up to 3,500kg in total).
If you want to tow anything heavier, you must pass a car and trailer driving test.
Driving licences issued from 19 January 2013
If you passed your car driving test from 19 January 2013, you’re allowed to drive either of the following:
- A car or van up to 3,500kg MAM towing a trailer of up to 750kg MAM (up to 4,250kg in total)
- A trailer over 750kg MAM as long as the combined MAM of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500kg
Again, if you want to tow anything heavier, you must pass a car and trailer driving test.
You can read up on the rules for towing a caravan here.
Types of caravan
When deciding which caravan you want to purchase, it’s always a good idea to understand the different types of caravan that are available. That’s why we’ve broken down the different types of caravan for you, so you can see what’s out there.
Conventional caravans or single-axle caravans
The vast majority of caravans on the market are single-axle models that are between three and six-and-a-half metres long inside. These caravans are often referred to as touring caravans. These caravans are the ones you most often see on the road and usually sleep between two and six people.
Conventional caravans are usually kitted out with a washroom that features a toilet, basin, and shower for added convenience. And, you’ll also usually have a kitchen space that features a sink, a hob, and some work surface space for meal prep.
These are absolutely ideal for couples or small families who want to venture out and explore the UK and Europe, camping along the way. They’re spacious enough to be comfy, but aren’t as chunky and heavy as their twin-axle cousins.
If you need a bit more space than a standard single-axle caravan, then you may wish to opt for a twin-axle caravan. These models are larger than standard caravans and, you guessed it, feature two axles. This makes them much more roomy and stable, making them easier to tow on the road. However, twin-axle models’ size and weight can make them more difficult to manoeuvre when pitching on-site or placing them in storage.
Twin-axle caravans are perfect for couples or families who want a bit more space on their holidays, and they can sleep larger numbers in more comfort.
Opting for a folding caravan is a popular decision for those who appreciate the comforts of a caravan but face constraints such as limited storage space for a conventional, larger caravan or the incapacity to tow a heavier load. Apart from being easier to tow due to their lighter weight, folding caravans offer the added advantage of a lower height, which can help you with visibility when driving.
Folding caravans get their name because the upper portion of the caravan is designed to fold down whilst being towed, before being erected when you arrive at your pitch. This can be a little time-consuming and is definitely an inconvenience when compared to a more traditional caravan, but for some people the space-saving nature of folding caravans makes them a great choice.
Pop-top caravans, also known as pop-up caravans, closely resemble traditional touring caravans. The difference being that once you reach your destination with a pop-top caravan, the roof section can be elevated, popping up to allow you to stand at full height inside the caravan. This means that during transit, with the top popped down, these caravans are smaller, offering more visibility when driving.
They are also slightly easier to store due to their lower profile. While being more compact than traditional tourers, pop-up caravans are particularly well-suited for garage storage, with most fitting inside a standard-sized garage.
Despite their smaller scale, pop-top caravans often offer many of the same amenities as conventional touring caravans, including a toilet, kitchen, storage, and heating.
The teardrop caravan perfectly combines compact size, stylish design, and practicality, catering to enthusiasts who crave the charm of glamping without the necessity of a substantial towing vehicle.
These tiny stylish trailers are particularly popular among those who prefer towing with a small vehicle, including classic cars, sports cars, and even trikes, which can effortlessly handle the task. Despite their petite size, teardrop caravans typically offer basic yet cosy accommodation, featuring a double bed that covers the entire floor. Some models include simple cooking facilities and ample space for storing kit and equipment.
The UK has experienced a recent upswing in teardrop caravan demand, leading to an expanding array of models that cater to diverse budgets, preferences, and requirements.
American Airstream caravans
The iconic American Airstream caravan is a true sight to behold. Shiny silver exteriors and spacious interiors guarantee you a stylish and comfortable stay once you pitch up on-site.
These chic trans-Atlantic caravans provide you and your loved ones with a luxurious experience, complete with all the creature comforts. However, this all does come at a somewhat higher cost, as American Airstream caravans tend to be at the more expensive end of the scale.
What are your must-haves?
Once you’ve decided what type of caravan you want to get your hands on, it’s time to work out what your must-haves are. That means determining exactly what it is you want your caravan to offer. It’s worth making a list of all of the essential elements that you need alongside some other nice features that you might like to have. This helps you prioritise what you need, making choosing a model much easier.
For example, one of the first things you’ll need to determine is exactly how many beds you need. Then, you’ll want to decide whether you need them to be fixed beds or if you’re happy with beds that fold away.
You may also want to determine if the caravan will mainly be for you, for you and your partner, or the whole family. And you’ll want to determine whether or not you’ll be taking guests with you occasionally. Being clear on these points and understanding how many berths you’ll require will help you when choosing your specific caravan.
When it comes to the individual features that you want your caravan to have, it’s worth splitting out your list by areas. Think about the kitchen and what appliances you want, then consider what you want in the washroom, before considering the living area, and finally the sleeping quarters. Once you’ve listed the must-haves for each of these spaces, you’ll be able to ensure that you’re only considering models that have all of your desired elements.
Another great way to decide what features you’re going to need in your caravan is to simply give it a go! If possible, head off for a short trip in a borrowed or hired caravan so you can see what it is you do and don’t need!
Once you’ve got this list together, you can start thinking about layouts. Do you need a big washroom? If so, you might want to look at models with washrooms at the rear that stretch the full width of the caravan. Do you need a separate bedroom and living room? Or will a space that can do both be fine for you?
What To Look For When Buying a Caravan
It’s time to offer some advice on the actual act of buying a caravan. There are so many things to look for when buying a caravan, from getting a new or used caravan to where and when to buy a caravan.
When is the best time to buy a caravan?
Did you know that certain times of the year are better and worse for buying caravans if you’re buying from a dealership? For example, if you’re looking for a bargain, then the Christmas period is a good time to buy a caravan. This is because over the Christmas and New Year period, many dealers will be trying to clear their stock in order to make space for any new deliveries that will arrive in spring.
And due to this influx of new models in March, April, and May, springtime is usually the worst time to purchase a caravan from a dealership.
Another reason why winter may be the best time to buy a caravan is due to the fact that dealerships often see less sales during this period, so may be more likely to offer you a better deal in order to secure the sale.
You may also find that during the summer months there are more second-hand caravans on the market.
Should I buy new or used caravan?
When buying a caravan, you’ll need to decide whether you want to purchase a new or used model. Before you make this decision, you’ll want to have a clear idea of what your budget is.
Used caravans are popular with first time buyers for a number of reasons. Firstly, just like a car, a new caravan will start depreciating in value as soon as you’ve purchased it. And, just like a car, the rate at which the value depreciates slows down as time goes on. This means that you can often get really great deals on caravans that are only a couple of years old that are heavily discounted on their original price. This also means that if you come to sell it, you may not experience as big a drop in value as you would if you purchased a brand new model.
Used caravans are also a great option for those with young children or pets so you don’t worry too much about a bit of wear and tear. It can also take a little while to get used to towing a caravan, so trying it out with a used model can sometimes be a good idea.
However, if you’ve got the budget for a new caravan, there’s no reason why first time buyers shouldn’t go for it. You are likely to have a wider range of options and you’ll have all the latest features to enjoy as well.
Where To Buy a Caravan?
We’ve discussed buying new or used caravans, now it’s time to talk about exactly where you can buy your caravan.
Buying from a dealership
The first place that most people think of when buying a caravan is a dealership. Dealerships will usually sell both new and used caravans, and they will often offer you a warranty with your purchase.
This means that if you buy through a dealer you’re often better protected if anything were to go wrong. A dealership is also obliged to sell you a caravan that is fit for purpose and of a certain quality, meaning that if they were to sell you a model that does not meet these standards, you are within your rights to ask for a repair or replacement.
Whilst most dealerships are reputable, there are some less-reputable businesses out there. One great way of ensuring your buying from a reliable dealership is to select from the Camping and Caravanning Club's Preferred Dealers list.
Buying from a private seller
There are a number of places online where you can buy a used caravan from a private seller. You can use a number of websites that allow you to browse through thousands of models, allowing you to specify the make, model, berths, price, and features.
You can also use online auction sites, like eBay, where you can often find good value deals or search through classified adverts on the lookout for your next purchase.
If you do buy from a private owner, be sure to do all you can to be confident that the person selling the caravan is the actual owner. You will also want to avoid parting with any money until you are in possession of the caravan.
The National Caravan Council (NCC) serves as the representative body for the UK caravan industry and oversees the Central Registration and Identification Scheme (CRiS), with the objective of providing a similar function for caravans.
Every caravan manufactured by a NCC member (or individually registered by its owner) since 1992 is expected to possess a Touring Caravan Registration Document, safeguarded by the caravan's registered keeper.
This document contains the caravan's distinctive 17-digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and a description of the caravan. All this information is also stored in the centralised CRiS database. If you are considering purchasing a caravan, you can conduct a CRiS check by dialling 0203 282 1000, which allows you to confirm that the person selling the model is the actual owner.
Buying from a show
Caravan shows offer fantastic opportunities to explore a diverse array of new caravans. In addition to expansive indoor showcases, open-air exhibitions are held throughout the year across the country. These events allow you to have a firsthand look at the latest layouts and styles, with salespeople from various dealers competing for orders, resulting in enticing offers and discounts.
While a dealer located many miles away might present the best initial price, it's crucial to weigh the potential challenges. The apparent savings may lose their appeal if issues arise, requiring you to tow your caravan a considerable distance for warranty repairs.
Additionally, the inconvenience of returning for regular servicing should be factored in. Before committing to a purchase from a distant dealer, it's wise to consider all associated costs, including your time.
Can you buy a caravan on finance?
In short, yes, you can purchase a caravan on finance and by doing so you can spread the cost of your caravan over many monthly payments. There are a number of finance brokers you can work with, and many caravan dealerships will offer you financing directly.
Financing through a dealer can be convenient, quick, and easy. Many caravan dealerships will offer finance calculators so you can find the best deal for your specific needs. And you can often leave a lot of the paperwork to the dealership. In many cases your finance deal can be approved on the same day you enquire.
So there you have it, we’ve given you a detailed outline of all the things that we feel might come in handy to help you buy your first caravan. So, to bring this blog post to a close, we thought we would offer you a quick list of things to look for when buying a caravan…
What To Check When Buying a Caravan
- Be cautious of ‘too-good-to-be-true’ deals: First things first, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Approach any deals that seem a bit over the top with caution.
- Meet private sellers at their home: Always arrange to meet a private seller at their home. This means you can check the documents against their address, making sure that everything adds up and that they are who they say they are.
- Check paperwork: Make sure you check all the paperwork is in order when buying a caravan. Check the CRiS documents and ask for any records of servicing that has been carried out on the vehicle. This is particularly important when buying from a private seller.
- Look out for damp: The big thing you need to be on the lookout for is damp. When you first step inside the caravan, see if you can detect a musty or damp smell. If you can, you’ll certainly need to get a proper damp test carried out to see if there’s damage. Have a good look around and pay particular attention to places where there might be water damage, such as around windows, doors, and seals. Many people like to do a damp test, whether it smells musty or not.
- Inspect the bodywork: Make sure there’s no damage or oddly placed stickers or decals trying to hide dents or scratches on your caravan’s bodywork. Make sure you take a look at the tyres too, to see if they are going to need replacing soon.
- Try all of the equipment: It’s always a good idea to ask the owner for a demonstration if you’re not sure how things work, or ask if any of the instruction manuals are still around. This is just to make sure you are well aware of how all of the equipment operates before you finalise your purchase.
- Try out the beds: Don’t be afraid to lie down on the fixed beds and see if they suit you. This is also a chance to see whether the mattresses might need replacing any time soon. Make up any other beds and see how easy it is to do and test these ones out too. If things are going to need replacing, make sure you factor this in when negotiating over the price.
There you have it. We hope this guide helps you understand the journey of buying a caravan better. However if you have any questions or need any further advice, please do not hesitate to contact us at Chipping Sodbury Caravans.