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There are few feelings that compare to the moment when you finalise the purchase of a caravan. Just knowing that many adventures lie ahead is extremely exciting. Opening the door in the morning and breathing in that fresh countryside air from within your latest purchase is surely one of the best parts of caravanning. When it comes to purchasing a used caravan - whether that be online or from a dealership - there are times when it can become a bit daunting and overwhelming with all the information. It’s a big investment and for that reason, you want to make sure that you get it right and end up with the model that best suits you.

So, we decided to offer you some useful advice. Here are some tips to help you when you’re on the search for a great caravan that is good value for money.

Make, model and layout

Make, Model and Layout

The first thing to decide upon is exactly what you’re after. You will want to do your research, see the caravans that are out there and decide which size and style of caravan you’re after. Check how much different caravans will be to insure. You will want to consider the size of your caravan as well as its layout and features. For example, the size and power of your tow car will have an impact on the size of caravan that you will be able to pull.

When deciding what you’re after you will want to consider how many people will be holidaying with you or if you wish to entertain guests in your caravan. You should also consider how far you will want to travel and how much time you will spend camping in one location. All of these can impact on the type of caravan that would best suit you. So, do your research and decide on the minimum and maximum size you’re after and note down all other requirements.

You will also need to consider the weight of the caravan. It's important to find the correct weight of the caravan for your car. This is for safety and legal reasons. Remember to check your driver's licence as you may be restricted to towing a car and caravan with the combined maximum weight of 3,500kg.  

Budget

Budget

Once you know what you are after you will have a pretty clear idea as to how much you are willing to spend. It’s important that you come up with a budget and that you stick strictly to it. You won’t want to overspend and leave yourself financially vulnerable.

When budgeting you will want to consider, not only the initial outlay but also other added costs that could be incurred. These can vary from maintenance and added fuel costs to storage costs and the cost of any additional features and accessories you may be required to buy.

It’s vital that you factor all of the above into the equation when budgeting, as this will make your purchase worthwhile and won’t leave you regretting it six months down the line.

Think about payment plans that are available that may make buying a caravan more affordable for you.

New or Used

New or Used

Weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of buying a new or a used caravan. Think about your situation and what would suit you best.

Buying a new caravan will be more expensive to begin with but in theory, should be more of a guarantee that it won’t need any repairs or maintenance done on it in the near future. You will also have some kind of warranty on new caravan.

On the other hand, buying a used caravan will be a lot cheaper but you may get caught out with repair fees later down the line, but this is not to say this can’t happen with a new caravan too.

If you buy a used caravan you should always check the CRIS number. All caravans since 1992 have been CRIS stamped with their identification number on at least seven of the windows and on a variety of other locations on the chassis.

These checks are relatively cheap for the amount of money they can save you in the long run as they can tell you whether the caravan has been written off or stolen. If you contact CRIS and they cannot find the CRIS number that you have been given then it could be that thieves have changed a few of the digits in order to make it seem more genuine. You should also ask to see a copy of the seller’s I.D as well as proof of ownership. And, it is also worth finding out if the handbook is available.

Write down the pros and the cons for buying both a used or a new caravan and decide what would be best for you.


Buying Options

Buying Options

Next, you will need to consider whether you are looking to purchase from a private seller or a dealership, or if you aren’t too worried, you could consider both options.

You may wish to go through a private seller, and if this is the case then you will want to check out online classified sites and other publications such as local newspapers and specialist magazines. When purchasing from a private seller, you will want to ensure that you are taking the right precautions to avoid purchasing a stolen caravan. Whilst this isn’t an issue that should worry you too much, it is always worth being vigilant and prepared. Here is some advice to help you when it comes to ensuring you don’t purchase a stolen caravan.

You should also carry out a thorough inspection of the caravan before you agree to buy anything. If you aren't happy that you can do this yourself, get an expert to take a look for you. This will prevent you from buying a caravan that is going to cost you even more in the future.

Some of you may decide to opt for a reputable dealer when purchasing your caravan. These are often able to offer you warranties, which is one of their major selling points. They are also able to offer you a wide variety of models to choose from and can also provide you with a number of services such as gas and other safety checks. If these checks are carried out at the dealership then you won’t have to pay as much to get them done somewhere else.  

There is also the attraction of ‘safety’ when purchasing through a dealership. This is mainly down to the fact that these businesses will have to abide by certain legislations which are in place to protect the customer. You can buy either a new or used caravan from a dealer.

Viewings

Viewings

If you are purchasing your caravan from a private seller then there are a number of checks that you will want to carry out to ensure that you are buying the caravan from someone who is honest and reliable as opposed to someone who is trying to sell you a stolen caravan.

We would advise you to speak to the seller via email or the phone and then meet them in person before you agree to the purchase. You will want to cross reference what they say with what they have written in the description. It’s also worth cross-referencing this with the manufacturer’s standard. When checking out the caravan ask the seller for any receipts from buying or servicing the vehicle and check for any obvious damage from tampering with the hitch, door locks or windows.

Most individuals who are selling their caravan will be absolutely fine with you picking it up from their house. However, thieves may want to meet you halfway at a service station in order to keep their address from you.

You should be careful if this is the case and always pick up the caravan from the home of the seller. They may be making it easier for you by meeting in the middle, but by collecting from the home of the seller, you can be sure that you are buying a caravan from a genuine owner.

You will need to see the caravan and make sure that everything is as described in the ad.

There are a number of things that you will want to look at when you get the chance. For example, you’ll want to ensure that all of its appliances are functioning correctly - or at least as they were described in the ad. This is particularly the case when purchasing from a private seller. Make sure there is no damp in the caravan, this can be expensive to repair.

Ask questions. Anything you are unsure of make sure you ask, the seller is there to give you all the information you need, ask when the last service was, you have the right to know especially when you're spending out a lot of money on something.

Here are a number of things that we would recommend checking before you hand over the money:

  • Seats - Are they still supportive and is the upholstery still intact?

  • Fittings - You will want to check all of the cupboards and doors etc to make sure they all open and close with ease.

  • Beds - If the caravan has pull out beds then you will want to ensure that they are all working well. Pull them out and check the slats and be sure to test any retractable bunk beds.

  • Water system - We would also recommend that you get the owner of the caravan to demonstrate how the pumping system works along with the taps, to make sure that everything is in working order.

  • Gas - As with the water system, it’s also wise to check that the gas works properly and is all safe and sound.

  • External checks - You should also take a look at the outside of the caravan. Check its grab handles are secure and look for other signs of damage. Keep an eye out for cracks or damage to the awning rail. Dents and scratches should result in the price dropping slightly.

    If any of these things are not to your satisfaction then you are well within your rights to use them to negotiate the price.

Completing the purchase

Completing The Purchase

Make sure you read through both finance agreements/loan agreements and any papers before signing them. Make sure you have been given the correct finance plan that you have agreed on and check that you have all the papers needed to hand over the ownership of the caravan.

Once you have driven the caravan away, it is completely your responsibility so double check everything before you do.


A guide to buying a caravan

Spencer Thomas
Marketing Executive
Published on 2015-06-04