How (not) to buy a touring caravan
So you're thinking of buying a touring caravan? Here's the best way to go about it - and what to avoid!
Use your nose!
Your nose is really your best tool if you're buying secondhand. Try to sniff out any dampness or mustiness and explore all the nooks and crannies including cupboard space. Sometimes caravans will just seem damp because they haven't been used or aired recently (that's typical when someone's selling a caravan they haven't used in a while). Damp can usually be tackled but make sure you can identify the source of the dampness before you commit to buy. A damp meter is a cheap DIY tool that will help you out here.
Check it thoroughly
Check every part of the caravan including all the seals, doors and windows. Little things that are broken, such as door fixtures, can be costly to repair. This doesn't mean you can't buy it - just make sure you negotiate the price down over any issues you identify. Have a good look underneath and examine parts such as the chassis, hitch and suspension for signs of rust and corrosion. Check the exterior bodywork for any scratches, dents or signs of repair.
Verify the age of the caravan by doing a HPI check (if the van is less than 20 years old it should have a VIN number (usually starting with the letters SG) stamped onto the chassis or carved into the window glass. Visit hpicheck.com to see if the caravan has any outstanding issues, such as previously being reported stolen.
You should also ask about the van's history, such as when it was last moved and how many miles it has done. If the caravan still has a handbook or service history that's a real bonus - make sure you examine this thoroughly.
Be realistic about your needs
It's best to be honest with yourself about how you'll be using the caravan. Although you might like the idea of it just being yourself and your partner, in reality the caravan is going to need to house all your noisy grandchildren at some point. Get one that will best suit the reality of how you use it. It's also best to be honest with yourself about how much maintenance you're really going to do on a regular basis. If you don't keep on top of your home repairs, don't expect that you'll be any better at maintaining and repairing a caravan. It's usually best not to buy something that needs a ton of work doing to it, especially if that's not normally a project you'd tackle.
Consider how you'll move it
You need to match the caravan you buy to your towing vehicle. A good rule of thumb is your caravan shouldn't exceed more than 85% of the kerb weight of your vehicle. If you're new to towing, aim for a lighter caravan than this. Wider caravans may need a commercial vehicle to tow them.
It's important to bear your safety in mind. Make sure all the gas and electrics are safe and fit for purpose, and see if you can get hold of relevant certificates. If you're buying second hand, beware of any signs that the previous owners have attempted any DIY repairs. It's always worthwhile getting a professional to take a look (and buy a carbon monoxide meter - they cost less than a fiver and could save your life).
- Do your research
- Buy sight unseen
- Buy on impulse
- Trust the seller rather than yourself
- Believe everything you're told
- Be unrealistic about your lifestyle