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Caravan Buying Guide

A caravan is one of the most exciting and expensive purchases you will make - revolutionizing your staycations and opening up a new wave of possibilities for you and your family to enjoy. 
But with this excitement can also come some stressful decisions - how much do I need to spend? Should I buy new or used? Single axle or twin axle?!
When you’re new to caravanning, or even if you just haven’t been in the market for one in a while, it can feel overwhelming thinking about all of the different aspects of your decision. After all, this is quite a substantial purchase.
We’ve put together an extensive caravan buying guide outlining what to consider when making your choice, covering everything from setting your budget, to choosing a model and finding the right insurance.





Setting a budget

The first step of the process is choosing how much you want to spend - it’s best to begin by understanding what you’ll get for your money. For a used caravan, you could be looking anywhere between £2,000 - £30,000, whereas a new caravan you’re more likely to be looking anywhere upwards of £10,000. 
 Here’s what we think you’ll get for your money:

Used caravans

£2,000 to £4,000 - Within this price range, you’ll be seeing a lot of caravans that are between 15-20 years old, if not more. When shopping within this section, it’s important you ensure the vehicle has been well looked after, checking the appliances and for damp as with a caravan of this age. Many of these models will be from brands such as Swift, Elddis, Compass and Lunar. 
£4,000 to £8,000 - This is probably the most popular range for second hand caravans. These vehicles will be around 7-15 years old. This selection will give you a wider selection of layouts than the cheaper models, as well as being more reliable.
£8,000 to £13,000 - This range is likely to include caravans that are around 3-6 years old. By this far down the line, they will have been through the largest depreciation they will face, this usually happens within the first 3 years. This works in your favour as they are not likely to depreciate too dramatically from this point, so the residual value will be better over the period of time in which you own it. 
£13,000 to £30,000+ - Upwards of £13,000 you’ll be looking more at caravans that are under 2 years of age. With caravans of this age, the price is usually based around the specifications, size, design etc as they’re likely to still be in relatively ‘good as new’ condition.

New caravans

£7,500 to £10,000 - Within this price range, you’re most likely looking at basic caravans from European manufacturers.
£10,000 to £12,500 - This price will give you a number of compact and lightweight caravans to choose from. 
£12,500 to £15,000 - This gives you more choice in terms of budget family caravans and mid-range 2 berths.
£15,000 to £20,000 - With this budget, you’ll have a wider choice of well equipped family touring caravans with up to date layouts and better towing weights.
£20,000 to £25,000 - In this price range, you’ll have a choice of desirable twin-axle luxury tourers manufactured by one of the bigger brands with your choice of layouts, equipment and furnishings.
£25,000+ - Once above £25,000, you’ll have a lot of choice across a number of manufacturers that could offer you a bespoke luxury caravan or a huge range of desirable models with the very latest layouts, specifications and gadgets.  


New or used?

Now that you’ve had a look at the pricing, you can begin to see the bracket in which you and your budget sit. It’s a good idea to look to see what your money could get you in both categories, both used or new, before then mulling over the pros and cons of each.

We’ve laid some out for you here:

Pros of buying a new caravan
  • It’s new! You can experience the factory fresh feeling, also no cleaning before you get going.
  • With most manufacturers, you’ll get to make some choices such as upholstery colour and added extras.
  • You’ll get a long warranty from the manufacturer which will cover you if anything goes wrong. 
  • The most recent technology will be installed ensuring you’re up to date with the latest necessities.
Cons of buying a new caravan
  • New caravans come at a premium price, so you will see a big jump between new models and similar used models.
  • You will have to pay VAT at a standard rate.
  • New caravans will depreciate in value quite quickly.
  • Not as much choice - this is because most manufacturers will sell their most up to date models.
Pros of buying a used caravan
  • It’s cheaper than buying new. 
  • Plenty of choice - you can choose various models and designs that may not be on the buyers market including older models, vehicles that are no longer being manufactured and limited editions.
  • If you’re buying privately, you have more scope to negotiate yourself a good deal.
  • If you're buying from a dealer, you would usually receive it serviced and with a warranty.
Cons of buying a used caravan
  • Other people will have used the vehicle, with the bed already having been slept in and the appliances already used. This is not a problem for all but will have an influence on some decisions.
  • There are more likely to be faults, damage or general wear and tear.
  • You can’t choose any personalisations such as upholstery colour, layout or specifications.
  • If you’re searching for a specific model, it could be difficult to find one that is exactly the same or in the condition you are looking for. 
  • When buying privately, it can be difficult to check that everything is working and it’s not as likely to come serviced or with a warranty. 


Where should I look for a caravan?

When it comes to buying a caravan, it can feel overwhelming with the number of places you can browse, we’ve laid out some of the best places to browse below:
Online marketplaces
Online classified sites such as Caravans for Sale can give you excellent ranges to choose from as they display both new and used models, giving you the chance to view them side by side. It allows you to specify the make, model, number of berths and price to ensure that you can narrow your search down to only the caravans that are perfect for you. They offer a mixture of private sellers alongside dealers, allowing you to make the choice which avenue you’d like to go down. The listings are also constantly being added to so you won’t have to wait long for more options to come along.
View Caravans for Sale
From a dealership
This is a great way to buy a caravan as you can have an expert guide you through the process. The caravan is likely to be in good or brand new condition as well as being fully serviced so there is very little to worry about. 
The best way to find a dealer is by personal recommendation or following the recommendation of a reputable community such as the Caravan and Motorhome Club.
You are also more likely to be offered a warranty through a dealer as opposed to a private seller. Whether you take advantage of one or not, it’s always good to ask if there is one available as if they do not offer one, it could show that there is an issue with the caravan.
Private sales
The biggest benefit from buying from a private seller is that you can pick up a good deal, if you’re ready for negotiations. Private sellers can often be found on classified sites, online marketplaces and social media sites. In the case of a private sale, it’s a good idea to do a lot of research about the model and make a thorough inspection of any caravan as you don’t have the protection that buying from a dealership or manufacturer gives you. 
If a private seller has no service records, then you should ensure that the caravan is serviced before you take it on the road. A service costs around £165 plus any problems that may be found so it’s good to weigh up these costs in relation to how much the vehicle would cost from a dealership.
With manufacturers, you’ll be able to view all of the latest models and features to learn more about what you like and don’t like. Manufacturers will allow you to choose some of the final touches, a benefit that you won’t usually get buying from elsewhere. You’re also likely to receive a long warranty, covering you for any future issues. 
If you’re looking for used caravans, sometimes manufacturers will offer refurbished models too!
At a show
Many manufacturers will be on display at industry shows where you’ll be able to view the latest models on the market. These shows happen throughout the year around the UK so keep an eye out for one near you.
A show is also the prime spot to snatch yourself a discount as many dealers and manufacturers run promotions. Beware however, if the best price is from a dealer based a long way from home, this could be an annoying journey if you need to get it fixed under warranty or needs to go to that specific dealership for every service. 

Choosing a make and model

With the amount of money you’ll be spending, you want to make sure you have the perfect caravan to suit your needs. When choosing a make or model, there are a number of things you have to factor in alongside personal preference, including: availability, budget, servicing and spare parts availability. 

We’ve compiled a list of things to bear in mind when choosing your make and model:

Caravan weight

With caravans, a big part of your decision is down to what your car is able to tow, because unless you’re looking to buy a new car too, you have to choose something that’s compatible! 

For safety and legal reasons, your caravan needs to be a good match for the weight of the car or in line with the car manufacturers towing limit, as this can sometimes differ from the car’s weight. It is suggested that the weight of the caravan when it’s loaded should be no more that 85% of the car’s kerbweight. This is how heavy the car is when it’s empty.

Check with your car manufacturer for your towing limit as with some vehicles this can be less than its kerb weight and therefore won’t fit to the standard guidelines. Your manufacturer should be able to give you a maximum permitted combined weight for your car and caravan. 

Caravan size

A lot of factors to do with size heavily interlink with the issue of weight as we have discussed above as having a larger vehicle more often than not means having a heavier one. But there are a few other things to keep in mind when it comes to how big or small you go. 
Storage is an important thing to factor in as if you’re wanting to store your caravan at home over winter, you need to make sure it fits.
An important specification is the number of people the caravan will sleep. If you’re a family of 6, a small 2 berth caravan just isn’t going to cut it for your needs. Think about how many people it’s likely you’ll usually travel with and also how much living space you’d like when making the decision.  
Travel is another thing to consider. Think about where you’re going to be towing your caravan, is it likely to be narrow, winding rural roads or are you sticking to the main roads? This influences how wide your caravan can be. If you’re looking to travel abroad often, keep in mind that longer trailers will often incur a higher charge on ferries.
We’d suggest visiting a dealership or visiting a friend’s caravan to see the space available and get a better idea of what you need.

Single axle or twin axle 

Another topic that sometimes crops up when choosing a caravan is whether to go for a single or twin axle model. With a single axle caravan, you have one axle and 2 wheels whereas a twin axle has 4 wheels. Generally, single axle caravans are smaller and lighter, whereas twin axle models are commonly longer and heavier.
Let’s have a look at the pros and cons of each type:
Pros of single axle 
  • Caravans are generally smaller and lighter, making them easier to manoeuvre
  • Save money on servicing - single axle means only one set of wheels and brakes to get checked out, fixed or replaced
  • These caravans tend to be cheaper to buy and insure
  • They can be towed by a wider range of vehicles
  • Easier to store
Cons of single axle
  • Limited storage and living space
  • Not as stable as its twin counterpart
  • Usually missing some more ‘luxury’ features such as water tanks, air con etc
  • Smaller payload meaning you can carry less than those with a twin axle
Pros of a twin axle
  • Greater stability
  • More living and storage space
  • It’s not as heavy on the nose as the weight is more evenly distributed 
  • Often fitted with onboard water tanks
  • More space on the roof, perfect for accessories such as satellite dishes
Cons of a twin axle
  • Can come with manoeuvrability issues as it is less agile
  • The twin axle models are usually heavier, making them less fuel efficient. You also have to ensure your car is capable of towing it. 
  • They tend to be more expensive as they are bigger models
  • Most remote controlled caravan movers can not turn on a circle
Although the pros and the cons are important things to bear in mind, the key aspect to focus on when making your choice is the layout you need. If you need the space that only a twin axle can provide, then that’s your decision made. 


With experience, you’ll come to learn which specific layouts work for you and what are your must haves. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference, with decisions mostly being made around beds, washrooms and the kitchen.
Popular bed layouts are:
The Two Berth Caravan Layout - this is usually the smallest, lightest and most affordable model. It offers a front parallel lounge which converts into either one or two beds. This is the main feature of the layout, accompanied by either a side washroom and rear kitchen or a full width wash room and side kitchen area. This is a good choice for couples or solo travellers, however doesn’t leave room for guests.

The Fixed Double Bed Layoutthe UK’s favourite layout, offering a fixed double bed meaning you don’t have to deal with assembling or dismantling a bed every morning/night. These are often present in 4 berth layouts as they are often accompanied by a front parallel lounge to allow for more guests. When it comes to the fixed bed itself, this can be positioned in a number of layouts such as a side double which means it runs along the nearside of the caravan or an island bed which is mounted at the back wall, meaning there’s space to get out of the bed on both sides. This could be better for if you don’t want to have to climb over your partner in the night to use the toilet. 

The Fixed Twin Single LayoutThis is a popular choice for families and group travellers as it offers two single fixed beds as well as the front parallel lounge. This means it can comfortable sleep 4 and there’s no arguments about bunk beds or the kids having to share! 
These are just a few of the many that there are on offer - we’d suggest popping into a showroom to be able to check out the full range of options or looking up floor plans online.
Also take into consideration the weight distribution - where are the heaviest items such as the kitchens, heaters or wardrobes? Are they positioned in a way that’s going to allow for stability when you’re on the road? Ideally your heaviest items should be positioned as close to the axle as possible.


When choosing a model, another important thing to base your decision on is the specifications that the caravan has. 
For example, does it have a toilet/fridge/heater/electrics etc? What do you need and what are your ‘would be nice to have’s? While these are all things you could install to a basic caravan if you needed, it’ll save you time and money going for a caravan that already has them installed. 
Another thing to think about is ease of use. It may have the amenities fitted but are they fitted in a way that works for you? For example, is the bed easy to make up? Are there enough kitchen work surfaces? Are the water and waste connected easily accessible? Your caravan has to work for you so make sure it does! Don’t be afraid to try things out for yourself.

Spare parts availability

While a rare or vintage caravan is great, make sure that spare parts are easily accessible in the UK before making your choice. This can be true of caravans that are continentally manufactured too. 
Top tip: Utilise reviews and the caravanning community when choosing your make and model. Seek out someone online who’s had that same caravan before and see how their experience was with it or research to find reviews or videos from previous owners. This will help you see everything the vehicle has to offer and gives you authentic information about its quality.


Important Checks

When buying used, it’s imperative you check the following things: 

Is it stolen?

Caravan theft is a real issue within the community so it’s important to check that you’re buying your caravan from a reputable source. There are a number of things you can take into account:
Cash payments - Most payments are now done via bank transfer or card payment so if your seller is insisting on cash then there could be something untoward going on. 
A price being too good to be true - Someone with a stolen caravan is likely to want to get it sold quickly, therefore they might advertise it at a bargain price. If this is the case, it could be a good idea to ask some questions to get a better understanding of whether the advert seems genuine. 
A dodgy advert - Does it seem legitimate? Scammers sometimes use stock images or interior images that don’t make the model they’re advertising. You should also check their description alongside the manufacturer specification to make sure it matches up. A good thing to look out for is that a legitimate private seller will often post photos of their caravan on their drive or from holiday photos, which can give you a better idea of whether the ad is legitimate.
Make sure to CRiS check - A CRiS check helps you to verify the history and previous ownership of the caravan. You can then cross check this with who is selling the vehicle and the information they have given you. It’s also a good idea to look for the VIN CHIP security label, which is often located on the window. If this has been tampered with, it’s likely that the caravan could be stolen. These CHIPs can be found on all UK touring caravans that have been manufactured since 2016. 
Check it out in person - Much like anything you buy online, we recommend making sure you see the caravan with your own eyes before parting with any cash. We have seen some sellers trying to encourage a payment to ‘hold’ the caravan before you visit it but this should set alarm bells ringing. We suggest not providing a holding deposit or any sort of payment before you have seen the caravan in person.
Inspect the vehicle - It’s imperative you do some checks to identify whether the sale is legitimate. When viewing the caravan, look out for damage to the towing hitch as this is a significant sign of it being stolen. You can also look to see if the wheels or alloys are mismatched as this could show that the wheel was removed or damaged in a rushed getaway when the caravan was stolen.

Is it watertight?

It’s really important to check that the caravan is watertight as this can cause damp or worse. This could lead to spending a lot more on your purchase than you bargained for. Even just a small leak can cause extensive damage to the interior walls, roof and flooring. 
There a few of checks you can make to see whether the caravan passes the test:
Use a damp meter - These are available at most DIY stores. It’s the easiest and quickest way to check for damp as it will help you to understand how much moisture is in the areas of the caravan that you test with the prongs. Most second hand dealers will have a sophisticated damp meter and will be happy to check it over for you. If they are not willing to do this test, it could be a good idea to look elsewhere.
Inspect the interior - Checking for leaks is a key part of making sure the caravan is watertight. Make sure to thoroughly check the area around the sink and the joints of all pipework, ensuring that they are firm and well sealed. In the bedroom, check the beds and mattresses for smells or staining. You should also do this for any other upholstery including seat cushions and curtains.
Press the walls and flooring to check for any soft areas of rot and inspect the wallpaper or veneer to check that it matches and hasn’t been recovered to hide damp damaged walls. Window frames should be looked at to ensure they are tight. Test this by applying light pressure to the frames to see if there is any movement and feel for drafts around the edges to check for faulty seals.
Use your nose - Damp smells musty and you’ll often be able to tell as soon as you step into the caravan whether you’ll have any problems to contend with. No one wants a caravan that smells stale!

Are the tyres in good condition?

It’s really important that a caravan’s tyres are in good condition as this will make towing it a lot safer. If the tyres of the caravan are not in good condition, it will cost you even more money to replace them so keep this in mind during pricing negotiations.
The key things to check are:
Tread depth - Once a tyre’s tread gets too low, its performance on the road will diminish greatly, affecting the ability to brake and grip the road. It’s important to check the tread is inline with UK law. This states that they must have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm across 75% of the tyre’s circumference. However, we suggest that once the tread is below 3mm you should look at getting them replaced.
Wear and tear - Tyres go through a lot when they’re on the road so it can be easy for them to show signs of wear and tear. You should check all of the wheels for cuts or bulges. This type of damage will more often than not warrant a replacement as points of weakness such as these can cause accidents. 
Tyre age - Even when a caravan is not in use, the condition of the tyre will still deteriorate and as it gets older, it has more chance of failing. To check the age of the tyres, find the DOT code. This can be seen on the side wall of the tyre as a series of numbers. The last four digits represent that age of the tyre. For example, 2605 would represent the 26th week of 2005. If a tyre is more than 6 years old, it’s in need of a replacement, as the rubber compound is likely to have degraded and become weak.  

When was it last serviced?

As with when you get your car serviced, the owner should be given an invoice and a document detailing the results of the service, as well as having the service manual stamped. It’s important to ask to see the service history records as this will put your mind at ease about any problems the caravan may have. 



Once you’ve made your decision, it’s important to take a look at insurance. This is essential regardless of whether your caravan is on the road, pitched up or being stored on the driveway.
Although it is not a legal requirement, we’d strongly advise that your caravan is fully insured following your purchase. Your car insurance policy will cover you for third party only while the caravan is attached to the car. This means that if you are in an accident that is deemed to be your fault, your insurance company will only pay the amount you are legally liable to pay to the third parties. Regardless of who is at fault, your insurer will not pay out for damage to your caravan.
Most insurers will offer standalone comprehensive caravan policies covering you for accidental exterior and interior damage, whether it’s parked up or being towed. It will also provide cover for your caravan’s contents, as well as loss or damage to awnings, generators, gas bottles and more. 
This type of policy will also cover you if your caravan is stolen while being detached from your car, i.e. when it’s parked outside your house or pitched in a UK campsite.
So how much does it cost? NimbleFins, an insurance aggregator, has conducted research to find the average cost of insurance for a touring caravan. You can see this below: 
Touring Caravan insurance costs
There are a few things you can do to lower the cost of your insurance, including:
  • Increasing the excess on your policy - but beware to not set it too high that you end up having to fork out high amounts for small pieces of damage.
  • Only buy the cover that you need - there are plenty of optional extras that will be offered to you during the process but this can push the cost up.
  • Use an accurate valuation of your caravan - this makes sure you’re not being overcharged for a more expensive caravan but also makes sure that if you do need to claim, you receive the cover that you require. 
  • Improve your caravans security - Many insurers will reduce the cost of your premium if you fit extra anti-theft devices such as wheel locks, alarms, trackers, hitch locks and register your purchase with CRiS.
  • Take a driving course - if you’re a first time tower, this could be really helpful with not only getting you to grips with how to tow, but also bringing down the cost of your insurance.


Learn the jargon 

If you’re a first time buyer, it can be overwhelming when faced with so many new words and phrases! You’ll quickly learn what all of them mean as you become more and more familiar with the caravanning community.
We’ve made a list of some of the top terms you might come across:
AL-KO ATC - This is an electronic stability device that fits onto caravans to prevent snaking. You may be offered this as an optional extra.
Berth - This essentially means bed, often used to describe how many people a caravan can sleep.
Breakaway cable - This is the thin steel wire that attaches your towing car to the caravan. It is usually coated in a coloured plastic.
Cassette toilet - This is a toilet that is built into the caravan but has a separate cassette in which the waste is collected. 
CRIS - This is the Caravan Registration and Identification Scheme, a national organisation with an ownership database of all caravans. They can help you to check that a caravan is not stolen.
CRIS number - This is the 17 digit unique reference number that you’ll be able to see in the corner of most windows and on a plate near the door. This can also be referred to as the serial number, VIN number and chassis number. 
Dinette - This is a combination of seats that allow for dining in the caravan and often convert into beds.
EHU - This stands for electric hook up and refers to the EU cable, the post in which you plug the cable in and the caravans socket.
GVW/MAM - These are acronyms for Gross Vehicle Weight and Maximum Authorised Mass, meaning the maximum permissible weight of a loaded vehicle. You must not exceed this weight.
Hitch head - This is at the front of your caravan and attaches to your car’s towball. It is also known as the hitch head coupling.
Hitch lock - This locks onto the hitch head as a security device to prevent theft.
Kerbweight - This is the weight of your car when it is empty. This usually allowed for fuel, engine fluids and sometimes a driver. 
MRO - This stands for mass in running order, which means the weight of the caravan without any personal items loaded and in standard specification. 
MTPLM - This stands for maximum technically permissible laden mass. This is the maximum weight that the caravan mustn’t exceed. You can find this on the weight plate often found by the entrance door.
NCC - The organisation that represents the caravan industry’s supply chain and governs its policies.
Noseweight - This is the downforce from the caravan’s hitch onto the cars towball. Your car will have a noseweight limit as quoted by the manufacturer so you should make sure you do not exceed this. 
Payload - The payload is the difference between the MRO and the MTPLM. This weight is the maximum weight of items you can load into the caravan.
Snaking - When a caravan displays an unstable motions when it is being towed, usually caused by high winds, being overtaken and erratic driving. 
Abbie Rogers
Marketing Executive
Published on 15-09-2020
Abbie is a member of the Caravans for Sale marketing team. She will provide weekly content covering a range of topics including advice, how to guides, travel blogs, technical advice and latest news.