What Do I Need To Know Before Buying A Caravan
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What do I need to know before buying a caravan? Find out more about what type of caravan you should buy and things to consider before you buy a caravan.
What type of caravan should I buy?
If you're thinking of purchasing your very first caravan, congratulations! You're on the verge of embarking on some of the greatest adventures of your life.
Nothing quite beats the feeling of being able to head out to any destination you like, whenever you like, all thanks to the freedom that your new caravan will provide.
However, while it's fun to wax lyrical about the romantic life of a caravanner, there are some significant practical considerations to make regarding such large purchases.
This is especially true if you've been saving up for one of the premium caravans on the market. It'll only ruin things if you find out you can't tow the caravan you've chosen after you've paid the seller or that your caravan insurance is far more than you initially budgeted for.
Luckily for you, we've put together a handy guide to buying caravans that details all the most crucial elements for those new to the caravanning world.
We'll cover all the little things that some people forget once they're dazzled on seeing their flashy new caravan. However, we believe it's probably best to start with determining what is and isn't a caravan - we don't want you buying the wrong thing, after all.
Static caravans remain on a single pitch once you've bought them and cannot be towed - hence the "static" part. However, their lack of mobility means they can be much larger than other types of caravan, with more space for all the mod cons, facilities, lounge areas and bedrooms.
Most owners find them far more comfortable than other caravans, and since you won't be towing them around, you'll also be saving on fuel. But with all these bonuses comes a heftier price tag.
Even for a middle-of-the-road static caravan model, you'll have to fork out around £30,000. And that's not including your annual pitching and maintenance costs, which, on average, run to around £3,000 per year. Of course, it can be worth it if you have the money and plan on spending a significant amount of time in your caravan each year.
Researching possible pitches or campsites where you'll want your static caravan to reside is probably the best place to start. This will give you a more accurate idea of your annual costs, which you can then plan into your budget.
Once you've done this, finding an appropriately sized and priced static caravan should be relatively straightforward, so long as you're diligent and do your research.
Finally, a motorhome is essentially what you'd get if you combined your car with a touring caravan. They make for the ultimate practical holiday vehicles in a compact size, allowing you to jump behind the steering wheel and head out whenever to wherever.
But, this convenience means a big expense, with your average mid-tier motorhome setting you back roughly £50,000.
While they offer you vast amounts of freedom to make your holidays wherever you like, owning a motorhome has a few setbacks.
The first is that you'll need to insure it like a vehicle - given that it is, technically, a vehicle. They are also incredibly thirsty and will cost you more in fuel than most cars, which could limit your mobility.
Finally, since your motorhome is a combination of car and caravan, there'll naturally be less room in one compared to the other types of caravan mentioned above.
But this is the kind of concession you'll need to make to enjoy the freedom motorhomes have to offer. You truly can't beat being able to hop in and head out whenever you please. It all depends on what you want out of your caravan.
Touring caravans sit in the middle, somewhere between a large static caravan and a nimble motorhome. While smaller than a static, they'll still give you adequate comfort on your holidays. But it's the mobility that sells them. Whenever you like, you can hitch up and head out on the road to your chosen pitch for a holiday in complete freedom.
Another great selling point is the price difference compared to static caravans. Since they're smaller, touring caravans are also much cheaper, with budget models selling for around £10,000. However, possibly the most crucial thing about them is that you'll need a car or tow vehicle capable of towing them, which can sometimes exclude certain buyers if they aren't willing to upgrade their car when buying a caravan.
Towing a caravan is also something of an art form, which you'll need to invest quite a bit of time into mastering. There's no point in buying a touring caravan and upgrading your car if you can't travel in the first place. Additionally, you'll need to budget for the added fuel costs, especially if you're planning on travelling across the country.
Can your car tow a caravan?
This is the most important question if you're planning on purchasing a touring caravan, as it'll be your car that allows you to get away on holiday. You'll need a car capable of towing the weight of the caravan you're looking at. Your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) tells you how much your car weighs itself, which will be useful throughout the process.
As a general rule, the weight of your chosen caravan cannot exceed around 85% of your car's total weight with a full tank. Additionally, the maximum combined weight cannot exceed 3,500kg with the car and caravan together. This applies only to those who received their driving licence after the 1st of January 1997.
It's important to have all this in mind when you go to purchase your caravan, as there's nothing worse than getting your heart set on something you can't have. If you choose a heavy caravan in mind, you may need to upgrade your car in order to tow it.
Before you buy a caravan
Before you head out to a dealership or private seller to make a new purchase of your chosen caravan, there are a few things you need to do. These are especially crucial if you're buying privately, as there are fewer regulations and consumer rights protection purchasing this way.
Can I buy a used caravan?
Buying any caravan is a big decision, but there are extra considerations to make when buying a pre-owned one. While it will give you a few options, making all the right caravan checks is crucial.
If you carry these out, you shouldn't have anything to worry about, and you can enjoy many years of happy holidays worry-free. Here are some of the most important things to consider when buying used caravans.
When Inspecting the Caravan
It's important to stay focused when inspecting any caravan's condition when you're thinking of buying. This is especially true for new buyers who've never owned one before.
It can be a little overwhelming when you first set foot inside one, and it's easy to be distracted by all the gadgets and fancy upholstery they come with. But, if you remain objective in your decision-making, you should be able to see through the shiny parts to where the real attention needs to be paid.
Caravan online auctions
While the convenience of purchasing a caravan online through auctions is very tempting, there are some significant precautions you need to be aware of.
The most important of these is that you do not buy anything unless you've seen and checked it in person. And don't buy the first thing you see; always have a specific brand, model and year of caravan you want before you bid on anything.
One advantage that buying online does give you is that you can check the feedback on a particular vendor from people who've previously bought caravans from them.
This will help you to decide if the vendors are trustworthy. However, even if you find the perfect caravan and the perfect seller, try not to get too carried away - you don't want to find yourself in a bidding war that spirals out of control.
It'll also be prudent to check the seller will accept your prefered method of payment and to pay them only when you collect the caravan.
Check the body of the caravan.
A visual inspection of the caravan's bodywork and windows is a good place to start when you go to view it in person - and bring a tape measure just in case. Keep a wary eye out for any dents, broken components or missing pieces. Bulging panels in storage areas are also something to pay particular attention to.
Besides the bodywork, the hitch and tyres also need an inspection for damage or wear and look for signs of the caravan being re-sealed or repaired by the previous owners. It might also be handy to check the door locks. All of these checks will put you in good stead for caravan ownership.
Caravan damp test
Alongside using your eyes to check over the caravan, your nose will come in just as handy. Damp issues are a big problem for most caravan owners, so if something smells mouldy during your inspection, it may be a good idea to walk away. Of course, you can always use a damp meter for more accurate readings.
Other key signs that there may be damp in a caravan include stains, discolouration, mould or soft panels inside the roof lockers. Additionally, water ingress is usually caused by issues with the outer body shell, meaning you should double-check this and arrange necessary repairs or replacements.
Is there an aftersales service?
Before signing anything, it's a good idea to ask what sort of warranty or breakdown cover the vendor will give you. You can also ask if they will cover the cost of any necessary repairs.
Both you and the vendor will need to agree on this, and it is best to get any agreements in writing, including what will be repaired, the costs and the timescale for when you will receive the caravan. These are slightly more crucial if you're buying second-hand caravans.
Check all the caravan's documents.
Alongside the owner's manual, you'll want to ensure you receive the manuals for the caravan's electrical, gas and water systems.
A service history also wouldn't go amiss, along with the details for any previous repairs the caravan has gone through. Another essential document for caravan owners is the Caravan Registration and Identification Scheme (CRiS).
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