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What to consider when buying a second hand caravan

CaravanSecond hand caravans tend to hold their price very well – the Caravan Club, for example, goes so far as to say that a second hand caravan does so far better than a new one.

If you are just starting out or if you are looking to change the caravan you already have, therefore, buying second hand might be an attractive and cost effective option.

For all the euphemisms about their being “preloved”, however, there might be a natural reluctance in making what is still likely to be a significant investment in something that has already been used.

The following tips and suggestions, therefore, are intended to help you rest more easily about knowing what to look for and what to take into account when buying a second hand caravan:

Your choice

  • the make and model, of course, is very much a question of personal choice, based on your individual requirements with respect to such matters as size, towing weight and layout;
  • of course, your choice is also likely to be swayed by the cost of any caravan that catches your eye – but, as ever, the cheapest might not always represent the best value for money;

Where it’s been

  • you have the National Caravan Council (NCC) to thank for its foresight in 1992 in setting up the Caravan Registration and Identification Scheme (CRiS) which is the practical equivalent of a 17-digit VIN etched into the chassis of the caravan (and typically the windows, too) as a way of recording the history of ownership in much the same way as the logbook does for your own private motor car;
  • there is no need to stop there, of course, since you are probably also going to want to know more about previous owners, their record of maintaining the caravan and whether it is subject to any outstanding finance;

The condition it’s in

  • the condition of any second hand caravan you are looking over is clearly going to depend on the wear and tear it has suffered as a result of its age and the price you are prepared to pay for it;
  • this, in turn, might rest on your estimation of the overall useful life of the caravan – the Caravan Club, for example, puts the average practical life at some 14 years;

It’s value

  • the price someone is asking you to pay for a second hand caravan may not be the same as its true market value – prices for the same make, model and age may vary very widely, so a rigorous price comparison may be the order of the day;
  • the age and value of the caravan are also important factors when it comes to insuring your caravan and you might want to remind yourself of some of further considerations by referring to our own quick guide on the subject here at Cover4Caravans;

Your inspection

  • when you are buying second hand, your own physical inspection is likely to prove absolutely critical;
  • public enemy number one as far as touring caravans are concerned is likely to be the problem of damp and condensation – the symptoms of which not only leave unsightly, tell-tale signs but might also pose a threat to health;
  • check carefully for signs of damp or condensation, therefore, since even when remedies exist, they may prove very expensive;
  • your inspection of the outside of the caravan is likely not only to be restricted to spotting dents, scrapes and scratches, but also to the potentially more important check on the condition of seals around doors and windows – silicone based sealants, for instance, might be expected to last as long as 20 years, whilst acrylics may last only half that time, and oil based sealants only five years or so;
  • hitch gear, lighting and electrical connections, wheels and windows are also likely to be a focus of attention during your inspection of the exterior;
  • on the inside, you may get an immediate impression of how well the caravan has been looked after – or otherwise;
  • checks of fitted electrical and gas appliances – especially the latter – are essential safety precautions for which you might want to consider the expert oversight and testing by a qualified engineer;
  • finally, the security equipment installed and used to protect the caravan may offer a further clue to how well previous owners have looked after it – and, the greater the level of security, of course, the more likely you are to qualify for any available discounts on insuring your caravan.

Buying a second hand caravan may prove every bit as sensible investment as buying one new, especially if you take care in your choice of age, make, model and overall condition.