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Tips to beat your current renewal quote

Caravans

What do you do when your caravan insurance policy comes up for renewal? Do you simply let it automatically renew? Or, do you check to see whether you are still getting the most appropriate policy cover and deal?

The natural inertia we all seem to share might encourage the simple expedient of giving the renewal little more thought than rolling over the existing insurance cover from one year to the next. But with a little thought and care, it is possible to ensure that you are still getting the most suitable and cost-effective touring caravan insurance cover for you. Following are a few tips on how you might do just that:

Shop around

  • shopping around seems such a simple tip it barely justifies the mention, but you do it for practically anything else you are buying, so why not your caravan insurance;
  • one of the reasons might be the relative difficulty in deciding just what level and scope of insurance cover you need and ensuring that you have everything covered whilst still paying a competitive rate – for example, do you need new for old cover? Or have your needs changed? Do you need to increase the sum insured, perhaps, due to having carried out improvements inside your ‘van?
  • if you have managed to define exactly what levels of cover you require and how much for, then you still need to find the closest match to your requirements offered by the many insurance options available in the market;
  • at Cover4Caravans, we are able to save you both these headaches by using our extensive insurance services experience in helping customers owning a wide range of different makes and model of touring caravan;
  • combined with our knowledge of this particular niche sector of the insurance market, we may be in a better position to identify those products most likely to meet your specific needs;
  • with us doing this on your behalf – either by you giving us a call on 01702 606301 or by getting an online touring caravan insurance quote – we can do all the legwork for you, saving you time as well as, hopefully, money!

Recognise the part you can play

  • a caravan insurance provider may also offer you a more attractive deal if you go above and beyond what is required by your touring caravan insurance policy relating to security and storage – as you are mitigating the risk of loss or damage;
  • one of the most effective ways of enhancing the security of your caravan the next time it is laid up for winter is to store it at an especially well-protected site;
  • these types of storage sites might be identified by referring to the Caravan Storage Site Owners’ Association (CaSSOA). They grade storage sites according to the level of security offered through features such as inspection patrols, perimeter fencing, CCTV and, controls at entry and exit points;
  • with 500 or so members around the country, there are good chances of your finding a site conveniently situated close to home;
  • at the time of writing (February 2020), we offer up to a 15% discount off the price of your caravan insurance if your ‘van is stored at a CaSSOA-approved site;
  • there are also opportunities to receive a discount on the cost of your insurance cover if you are a member of a recognised caravan club too;
  • it is during those months in storage that you may also help to mitigate loss or damage by draining down the water and heating systems of your caravan, removing items of value and ensuring that gas cylinders and the electricity supply are disconnected;
  • when the new season starts and you can start getting out and about with your caravan, there are further steps you may take to improve its overall security;
  • some of these may relate to those times when you leave your caravan unattended – specifically, that you use wheel clamps and a hitchlock whilst it is still hitched to the towing vehicle and wheel clamps alone when it is unhitched;
  • general security – such as good quality locks on windows and doors – remains your responsibility and a condition of any insurance renewal you arrange. Watch our video on Caravan Security and Insurance.

Rather than letting a sense of inertia rule the day that you simply accept your insurance renewal quote, why not seize the opportunity for thoroughly reviewing the insurance cover you have, the cover you need and the potential for beating the quote you have just been given.

Touring in France – things you will need

The medieval village of Segur-le-Chateau with half-timbered houses and a castle at the border of Auvezere river in the Dordogne area, Correze department in France.

France is a fantastic destination for a touring caravan holiday. Open roads, the relative absence of heavy traffic, wide-open spaces, history and cuisine, it’s all there! In this blog, we look at the need-to-know information when driving in France, plus suggest some travel ideas where to visit on your next France trip!

Just how foreign is it?

Listen to the language, taste the food and experience some of the local customs and it is likely to hit you pretty early on that France is, indeed, a foreign country – that is all part of the adventure and excitement, after all.

It might come as something of a relief, therefore, to discover that the rules of the road and the law relating to driving whilst towing a caravan are broadly the same as at home in the UK – though of course, you are driving on the other side of the road. But it is imperative that you stick to any local laws and regulations when you travel – on pain of invalidating both your motor insurance and the tourer insurance that safeguards your caravan.

What kit will you need?

When travelling in France, there are certain things you need to carry on board to be legally compliant. These include:

  • Warning triangles

These must be erected in the road behind your vehicle if it has broken down and is on the hard shoulder.

Note that even if it is off the road and on the hard shoulder, you must still erect your warning triangle behind it to indicate to other approaching drivers that a potential hazard is ahead.

If visibility approaching your stopped vehicle is good, the triangle must be approximately 30 metres behind it and visible to approaching vehicles though not blocking the carriageway. If visibility is obstructed by a bend, you must place your warning triangle on the other side of the bend so that drivers know there may be an obstacle as they go around the corner.

  • Fluorescent jackets

At the time of writing, you must carry a fluorescent jacket for the driver.

If your vehicle breaks down and is partly or fully off the road, passengers must exit the vehicle and stand a safe distance away from it whilst keeping well back from the road. The driver must wear a fluorescent yellow jacket once they leave the vehicle and it might be highly advisable for the passengers to do likewise.

  • Evidence of insurance

You may need some evidence on you of appropriate insurance and/or tourer insurance.

The police in France are typically charming but also often far less tolerant of “attitude” from people, French or foreign, than their UK counterparts. So, avoid arguing about what is the norm in the UK or whether or not what they’re asking for makes sense.

If they ask to see evidence of your insurance, make sure you have it/show it.

You’ll also typically need a Green Card from your insurance company – a motor insurance green card is a document produced by car insurers to prove that a driver has adequate insurance cover for driving abroad. At the time of writing (February 2020) we are still transitioning through Brexit until the end of the year, so some of the insurance document requirements may change).

You may also need an International Driving Permit (IDP).

  • Breathalyser kits

After what even French people will admit was an absolutely chaotic introduction, with the law apparently contradicting itself, the current position is at best unclear.

At the time of writing, it is a requirement that you carry one of these in your vehicle. Given that should you use that one, you will immediately technically be breaking the law, that means in effect you need two.

In practice, the French authorities are not enforcing the law but even so, given that these kits are a trivial price, it might be prudent to make sure you have two with you.

  • Spare bulbs

You must carry a full set of replacement bulbs for your vehicle while travelling in France. Although once widely ignored, the French police are now much more inclined to pull vehicles up in situations where they appear to have defective lighting.

  • Your driving documents

By law in France, all drivers must carry their driving licence and what is effectively their registration document, with them at all times.

By contrast, in the UK, the general advice remains not to carry your registration document with you in the car.

Random stops and checks of vehicles and paperwork are perhaps rather more commonplace in France than in the United Kingdom.

If you want to avoid in-depth discussions with and apologies to the Gendarmes, make sure that your paperwork is all readily available in one place and includes:

  • your registration document;
  • the certificate of insurance (remember, it needs to be valid for France and if you are in any doubt, get some touring caravan insurance quotes before you leave);
  • your Green Card;
  • your driving licence;
  • your IDP;
  • if the vehicle or caravan is not yours, a letter from the owner authorising you to take it abroad within specified dates.

Plus, you’ll need your passport (which should have at least six months left on it).

  • GB plates

There must be some indication on your vehicle as to its country of origin. For the United Kingdom, that is a GB sticker.

Note that however fashionable and politically correct it may be at home, in stressful situations when they’re making a list of faults, the Gendarmes may be intolerant of localised plates such as “Ecosse”, “Cymru” or “Yorkshire” (etc.). They will typically mean nothing to them and your loved origin plate might become another tick in a “not conforming” box – something you could do without.

This is only a subset of the requirements for driving and towing a caravan in France. It will be advisable to research the full details, as they relate to your situation, on a reputable site.

Rules of the roads

Speed restrictions

One of the local idiosyncrasies most likely to catch out the British driver in France, for example, is the application of speed restrictions.

Not only may these vary from one stretch of road to another, depending on conditions, but different speed restrictions apply even on motorways in France according to the weight of your caravan. If it weighs less than 3.5 tonnes, for example, your speed limit maybe 130 kph (81 mph), but this falls to 90 kph (56 mph) if your trailer weighs more than 3.5 tonnes.

Drinking and driving

The most sensible advice, of course, is to avoid driving if you have had anything alcoholic to drink.

The AA points out that you must be especially careful if you have held your driving licence for less than three years. Under new restrictions, the blood alcohol level has been reduced from 0.05% to 0.02% for such drivers.

As we touched on previously, legislation in France also requires that you carry a breathalyser in your car at all times – although no penalties are currently imposed if you break that particular law. The device must bear the quality standard mark “NF”, be unused and not past its expiry date. Single-use breathalysers are typically valid for 12 months only, so if you bought one for your last trip to France, its period of validity might have expired by now, and you need to buy a new one.

Satnav speed camera alerts

If you have a satnav that alerts you to the presence of speed cameras, it is illegal to use it in France, and you must disable the function if you are using one. The penalties are severe – you face a fine of up to €1,500 or may even have your car impounded. Most newer satnavs have the ability to have the radar facility disabled but do check with your manufacturer.

Bonus travel tips for your tour de France!

Toilet paper

On French motorways, stopping-off picnic and rest stops (called Aires) are far more commonplace and typically more picturesque than their UK equivalents.

Those that are formal service stations with food and other facilities will have excellent and well-maintained toilet facilities.

Those that are simply picnic spots will have reasonable toilets and water facilities but might be unlikely to have toilet paper!

A Europe-valid bank or credit card

Some exits from motorways in France may be entirely unmanned and automatic.

Before being able to leave the motorway, you will need to pay your fees and if you don’t have a card in automatic situations, then this going to cause difficulties and embarrassment.

Check with your card provider, prior to departure, that you have adequate credit and that your card is valid for Europe.

Check for access with overnight stops

It’s not unusual to see some caravan owners trying to get their vehicle and caravan into totally inadequate hotel car parks when treating themselves to an overnight stay en-route in France.

Remember, if you are using a hotel and not your tourer for en-route accommodation, check with your hotel in advance to make sure that it has caravan access. Even some hotels specifically designed for motorway travellers may well be unsuitable. Also, let your tourer caravan insurer know that you won’t be staying in your caravan overnight, to ensure that full cover remains in place.

Tour de France – destination ideas

The French Riviera, the Loire Valley, Mont Blanc, Paris … there are so many places to choose from when you take a trip to France – so where will you go? Here are just a few ideas to whet your appetite as to tours in France!

Unknown France

France is a vast and beautiful country but some parts of it are rather better known than others.

If you are going on holiday to France at peak times, you may be interested in a caravan tourer route where you may be less likely to find other British caravanners.

Avranches to Ducey

If you land at one of the northwestern French ports, why not take a drive towards the town of Avranches?

This is very close to Mont St Michel and occupies a hilltop. It has a great ruined castle to explore, some nice old buildings, a pleasant public garden and something called The Scriptorial – an incredible museum housing ancient Normandy documents going back over 1000 years.

Head from there to the small village of Ducey – a nice place for lunch and you can also explore the small but charming Chateau.

Ducey to Mayenne

A relatively short drive will take you to the very pretty town of Mayenne.

This has a lovely chateau and museum on cliffs overlooking the river and you can hire a boat to explore stretches of the river through the town and into the countryside.

Mayenne to Laval

Laval is the departmental capital of La Mayenne in France. It is a very pleasant town which offers an old town to explore with winding streets and ancient buildings. It too has a Chateau overlooking the river, some nice eating places and if you need some retail therapy, some reasonably good and chic shopping.

Laval to Angers

Angers is a very impressive town on the side of another major river and has some truly lovely streets, buildings and a very impressive castle.

In the medieval period, this town was once arguably as important if not more so than Paris and this shows today in some of its layout.

Angers to Chinon

This can be a very pleasant drive through parts of the Loire Valley and the town of Chinon and surrounding villages are all very pleasant.

Don’t be to put off by the sight of the large nuclear power station not far from Chinon – you pass it fairly quickly though it may cause you to think about whether you have appropriate caravan insurance!

Northern France

If you are touring northwestern France in your caravan, you may be interested in thinking about some of the following less well-known places:

  1. Bagnoles sur l’Orne. This is a small spa and lakeside town in amongst some very pretty cliffs and hills in the Orne department of Normandy. It has a very genteel feeling to it, some great walking and climbing opportunities, the casino where you can try your luck and you can even hire a pedalo on the local lake;
  2. Chateau-Gontier. Sitting in another southern part of the La Mayenne department, this is a very pretty town with some impressive buildings overlooking the river. The surrounding countryside is also very attractive in a gentle way and while you are in the area you can visit the very large animal sanctuary and the local abandoned Roman town of Jublains;
  3. Redon. This is a very appealing town in eastern Brittany with some lovely old ecclesiastical architecture in the centre. Even more attractive is the fact that it is at the junction point of a large canal and river system meaning that it is a popular stopping off point for river cruisers and longboats etc;
  4. Jallouville and south to Avranches. Some of the beaches on the western Cotentin peninsular (Normandy) are stunningly beautiful and often completely isolated. If you like quiet beaches and small towns, this area may be for you though it is worth noting that the tide can go out a very long way here and the sea, at such times, may be almost invisible! Some care must be taken before walking across the sands when the tide is out due to quicksand and should be avoided by pedestrians and vehicles alike – unless accompanied by a local professional expert (in passing, don’t forget to check your touring caravan insurance will cover you in France);
  5. Nantes. This is one of the largest cities in France and may not perhaps immediately have occurred you as being a natural holiday touring spot but it is a fascinating city with a wealth of attractions and an incredibly important chateau at the centre. Of course, roads in the centre may not be ideal for the caravan but if you are parked up somewhere in the area, the city centre is well worth seeing;
  6. Villedieu-Les-Poêles. This is a small town nestling in the Normandy countryside in France but it is famous as a centre of copper kitchen utensil production. It is a very pretty town in its own right but the multitude of shops selling copper items makes it even more so. While you are there, remember to visit the bell foundry in the centre of town, where they continue to make bells for churches around the world and all the bells for the ships of the French Navy.

We hope you find this blog both full of useful information and good for travel ideas in France. Bon voyage!

Further reading: Guide to caravanning in France.

12 top tips on taking your caravan overseas

You might be looking forward to your first ever overseas caravan trip and if so, looking through the following points and tips might be useful by way of preparation. That way you can fully enjoy your holiday and be ready for the unexpected!

Please read on and enjoy our 12 tips for taking your caravan on the continent!

Be prepared!

  • thoroughly prepare your towing caravan mechanically and electrically. It is a complete myth that European police forces care less about the speed limits you are going or the condition of vehicles than their UK colleagues. Bald tyres and faulty light panels (etc) are likely to get you pulled-up quickly and possibly fined on the spot – and they may also be dangerous. Also, you don’t want to start having trouble with aspects of your caravan shortly after arrival, unless you enjoy the thought of spending days in the local garage trying out your linguistic skills;
  • check that you have the relevant “kit” needed in your vehicle for when driving overseas on holiday. This may include things such as a warning triangle, reflective jackets, a breathalyser kit etc. Both The RAC and The AA have more information;

Know the route

  • know where you are going. Clearly that doesn’t mean in terms of getting lost but rather that you understand the rules of the road, especially any speed limits when towing, and the appropriate laws in the country you are visiting and any that you will be transiting through en-route etc;
  • avoid following signs for city centres when towing a caravan. Traffic systems in continental cities may be significantly different to those you are familiar within the UK and they may also be both busy and narrow. They are well worth avoiding with a caravan unless you have absolutely no alternative;
  • set yourself modest itineraries. Europe is a big place and being too aggressive with your plans for how many kilometres you need to cover each day, is likely to result in you and everyone else becoming exhausted, Driving from the north of France to the south in a day may sound exciting and do-able, but will be very tiring;

Insurance and other documentation

  • check that you have continental/overseas caravans cover. This sounds obvious but is sometimes overlooked. Make sure it is valid for countries you will be travelling through and for the durations and mileages you are considering. It might be worth trying to compare touring caravan insurance options if you are looking for particularly cost-effective solutions;
  • make sure you have an insurance Green card for when you travel overseas. The Government site advises that outside the EU, a ‘green card’ proves that your insurance covers the minimum cover in the country you’re driving in. At the time of writing (before Brexit) UK motorists who are planning to drive to other European countries will need to get a Green card in the event of a no-deal Brexit, say insurers – and you’ll need to apply for one at least a month ahead. Ask your insurance company if they can issue you with one;
  • ensure you carry your driving licence and any other relevant document, such as caravan breakdown insurance, with you;
  • don’t forget your (and your passengers’) passport! At the time of writing (pre-Brexit) requirements regarding passports, pet passports and ID documents that the country you are travelling to are not yet known – so make sure you have the relevant documentation before you travel;
  • check at your local Post Office whether you will need an International Driving Permit;

Money matters

  • tell your credit card or banking providers that you are going overseas and make sure they have that registered on the system. Some may spot what they see as an out-of-character profile transaction if your card suddenly pops up and starts being used abroad. Having your card rejected at a petrol station or motorway toll booth while you argue with your card provider on the phone, is not a good way to start your holiday;
  • factor in motorway tolls. Many if not most motorways in continental Europe are payable and those fees can mount up seriously on a longer journey. Having insufficient money available to get through the gate on a motorway after a long journey, is an experience well worth missing. Do take note that some motorway exits across Europe are entirely automatic or are so at unusual hours. Some machines in such cases may not even accept cash automatically and will presume that you have a valid plastic card of some sort. This is another reason to make sure your providers understand where you are going and that you have sufficient available credit!

Destination ideas

Finally, for some destination inspiration, check out our guides including our Guide to caravanning in France, Guide to caravanning in the Channel Islands, Guide to caravanning on the Isle of Wight and, our Guide to caravanning in Germany. Enjoy your holiday!

Please note that at the time of writing, January 2020, we are still pre-Brexit. We have suggested what you may need to carry in terms of documentation and insurances etc but would advise that you check before you go.

Important message to our customers regarding caravan storage

This is an important reminder to our customers that if you change storage location for your Touring Caravan, you MUST inform us immediately.

Failure to do so may invalidate your Insurance Policy.

Where can I store my van?

It is imperative that we have the correct information relating to where your Touring Caravan is stored to ensure that it is kept at a secure, insurer-approved location. We approve various locations including but not limited to: CaSSOA Storage Sites, Home Driveways, dedicated caravan storage sites etc.

Leaving your Touring Caravan in unsecure places such as communal parking areas, pub car parks, a friend’s field etc. leaves it vulnerable to theft and damage. In fact, because of the high risk of loss or damage, typically no caravan insurance provider will agree to insure a Touring Caravan that is stored at an unsecure and unofficial location such as these.

Don’t delay, contact us!

If you have recently moved your Touring Caravan to a new storage location and have not informed us, please call us today on 01702 606301.

As always, if you have any concerns or questions relating to any aspect of your cover, a simple ‘phone call is all it takes.

Further reading: Guide to Caravan Storage and Security.

Videos: Caravan Security and Insurance Video and Caravan Storage and Insurance.

Tips on packing your caravan

Preparing for your next holiday or a weekend break with your caravan? You might have done it a hundred times before but it’s probably a good idea to remind yourself about packing the trailer.

Here are our top tips on packing your caravan so that you remain street-legal while on the road and to make sure you pack all you need – but no more.

Keeping it legal

When towing a caravan, the latter is restricted to a legal maximum weight. The welter of different measures may give rise to some confusion but the main ones to keep in mind are:

Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM)

  • not only is this the legal maximum it also gives a guide to the type of vehicle needed to tow it – the MTPLM should not be more than 85% of your car’s kerb weight;

Mass in Running Order (MIRO)

  • yet another weight you need to be familiar with is that of the Mass In Running Order (MIRO) or the weight of your caravan (including its fixtures and fittings) as it left the factory – so that you can calculate the maximum permissible weight of everything you load into your caravan simply by subtracting the MIRO from the MAM; and

Nose weight

  • your caravan’s manufacturer will also specify the maximum nose weight – the maximum load exerted on the towing bar of your car.

Loading

With the legal niceties riding so heavily on the laden weight of your caravan, it clearly pays to keep your packing as light as possible, suggests a thread on Caravan Talk – it doesn’t necessarily mean leaving useful kit at home so much as choosing lightweight gear whenever possible.

Equally important – given that there is a critical nose weight – is the distribution of the load. Try to place heaviest items on the floor – so they do not have space to fall – in the middle of your caravan, more or less over the wheel axle.

And, of course, the lighter the load, typically the less fuel you’ll consume.

Water

Another weight-saving tip is to only partly fill your caravan’s water tank and cistern rather than weighing it down with unnecessary water on the journey – you can easily fill the reserves to capacity once you reach your campsite.

Gas

Similar considerations go for the gas cylinders stowed in your caravan. You are likely to have a shrewd idea how much gas you are likely to consume – depending on the length of your holiday and the time of year (whether you will be firing up the heating system, for example). So, if you are away for a relatively short time or touring in the height of a warm summer, think about leaving one of the cylinders at home or travelling with only a spare empty cylinder which you can refill if needs be.

Food

Your caravan might be your home away from home, but you can go easy on the provisions you need to take with you. Even if you’re headed somewhere off the beaten track, you’re still likely to pass shops nearby.

Stocking up once you get there saves you valuable space and weight for the journey – and promises extra fun when buying the produce from foreign parts in a language that’s probably not your own.