It might be the start of all the fun and excitement of your next caravan holiday – or it could prove a disaster. Choosing the right caravan site for you and your family is likely to make all the difference between success and failure, heaven and hell.
The perfect campsite is likely to be an extremely elusive find. Caravan owners tend to be a pretty special group of individuals, so choosing a campsite for your caravan is likely to reflect that huge range of personal tastes, holiday locations and the kind of atmosphere that different sites may have.
There are nevertheless a few tips which may help it easier for you to make the choice from the huge range of sites in this country and abroad. We’ll even suggest a few of the caravan sites in this country that are open all the year round.
Choosing the right campsite is likely to be a question of choosing the campsite that best suits you – and your family’s – particular wishes.
Home or away
Probably one of the biggest attractions of towing a caravan is having your own home on the move. With a fully-equipped caravan and a suitable towing vehicle, it really is the open road, leading to wherever you may choose.
But that open road may still keep you reasonably close to home – if you are new to the whole adventure of caravanning or simply choosing not to travel too far, for instance. On the other hand, a short hop across the channel may open the doorway to more different and more distant fields anew.
A small collection of islands they may be, but the British Isles hold plenty of contrasts and variety to attract seasoned caravanners year in and year out. The Caravan Club has a large searchable database, organised by the various regions throughout the UK, of approved campsites.
If you are more adventurous at heart and want to see more far flung places, you might want to take your caravan abroad with you. Thanks to it being an island, Britain is a gateway for a surprising number of offshore destinations – as the Camping and Caravanning Club points out, for example, ferries from the UK serve Orkney and Shetland, and the Channel Islands and further afield to Ireland, Belgium, Denmark, Holland, France, and Spain.
To tour or not to tour
You may be towing a touring caravan, but that does not mean that you need to stay on the road every day if you choose not to.
It all comes back to that carefree freedom that caravanning offers – decide to stay more or less in one place and you have with you all the comforts of your own second home; decide to spend more of your time touring and you still have that home to retire to at the end of each and every day.
Deciding whether you want more of the one than other may be one of the key tips to choosing a campsite for your caravan – or, indeed, a whole sequence of campsites.
Activities and events
If you like to combine holidays in your caravan with a variety of activities and events it clearly makes sense to base your choice of campsite on one that offers easy access to your chosen activities and pastimes.
Walking and cycling may be among the most popular activities for those visiting the countryside or coast in this country and in Europe.
Some guides, for example, make particular point of selecting campsites that offer the ideal springboard for exploring the countryside in the UK from bases in some of the most beautiful locations the country has to offer.
One such guide is published by the National Trust, which highlights a whole range of activities from walking and cycling, to running and climbing, canoeing and surfing – and even something called geocaching (a type of GPS-driven treasure hunt).
Caravanning has a way of bringing together a host of elements that make it ideal for a family holiday. Some sites make it their business to be especially family-friendly and it is these that you may want to look at in the first instance.
Choosing a campsite, therefore, may be oriented towards exactly the kind of holiday your family may be looking for:
- choose a traditional bucket and spade adventure for the tinier tots; or
- a sports and adventure activity fest for slightly older children;
- organise your holiday to take in a few historical and educationally rewarding visits; or
- simply kick back and enjoy a few days away with the children whatever their age.
The website Pitchup.com lists nearly 2,500 family-friendly campsites throughout the UK and Ireland that have been particularly recommended by other families and the searchable database allows you to choose between sites according to the ages of your children or the activities in which they may be interested. Netmums.com offers a similar listing, together with some helpful tips for those new to camping and caravanning with children.
Getting away from it all
Does all the talk of activities, adventure, and excited children tend to put you off the whole idea of caravanning?
If so, your choice of a campsite for a caravan is likely to be dictated by your ability to escape the madding crowd for a little piece of the bucolic English countryside you might almost call your own.
There are, indeed, a number of such campsites – making the focus of their attraction the fact that they are small (many with room for no more than five touring caravans) and tucked away in the quieter corners of the countryside.
Small campsites such as those recommended by the appropriately named website Small Campsites or the small, handpicked Certified Locations reserved for members of the Caravan Club are specifically intended to provide peace, quiet and a relaxed atmosphere in a rural setting.
When choosing a campsite for your caravan, therefore, it may be helpful to return to very first principles by recognising that the campsite of choice is just that – your choice. That personal choice is likely to depend on a host of factors, such as whether you are looking for a holiday in this country or in Europe, whether you want a touring holiday or one that involves rather less travelling, whether you want access to activities and adventure, or a holiday for the family – or simply the chance to get away from it all and enjoy a little peace and quiet.
Our Caravanning for Adults guide details some of the quieter places you may wish to visit.
Open all year-round sites for caravanners
It seems that the caravanning season if often over before it even got started. As the seasons blend into Autumn’s mists and mellow fruitfulness, that doesn’t stop us hardy caravanners who enjoy a trip the whole year-round, however.
And the growing number of campsites that remain open 12 months of the year make Autumn and Winter caravanning every bit a delight as it is in the balmier days of Spring and Summer.
So, here is our brief round-up of just some of those all-year-round sites you might want to visit.
South of England
The more temperate climate of the South of England makes touring with your caravan a perfectly reasonable prospect at any time of the year – even in mid-January.
The Caravan and Motorhome Club’s site at Brighton is just two miles from the bustling town itself and nestled in a quiet fold of the beautiful South Downs. It’s likely to prove the perfect spot for touring the whole of the southeast of the country.
With a total of 212 pitches (129 of which are on hard standing) to choose from, the winter months are, of course, likely to be the quietest.
If you want to enjoy the truly rugged landscapes of North Wales during the Autumn and Winter, you’ll find Plas Farm Caravan Park open all the year-round.
All touring caravan pitches are on hard standing and have electric hook-up, allowing you to choose between standard, premier, and super standards of luxury.
For exploring, try the inviting North Wales coastline or head west into the majesty of Snowdonia National Park.
The Peak District is beautiful at any time of year, so take advantage of the all-seasons opening times at Lickpenny Caravan Park, in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales, overlooking the village of Tansley, with both Matlock and Bakewell nearby.
The 16-acre site has hard standing pitches for all its visiting touring caravans – and the washroom blocks are fully heated to keep you warm and snug even in the height of winter.
North of England
There are so many scenic spots to visit in the North of England – with the Northumberland coast to the east and the Lake District to the west probably the most travelled.
So, why not make a change and head towards the historic city of Chester? Just 12 miles away, you’ll find Elm Cottage Touring Park is open all year round and a handy base for exploring the whole of this part of England. Oulton Park Motor Racing Circuit is just a mile along the road.
All 35 touring pitches are on hard standing and supplied with a 10amp electric hook-up.
Take a trip north of the border to visit Scotland’s magnificent capital. Edinburgh is much more than its famous festival in the summertime. For a special Yuletide, why not visit its many Christmas markets – and stay on for probably one of the nest New Year’s Eve parties you’re likely to encounter.
Linwater Caravan Park is perfectly situated for those wanting to explore the city at their leisure. It is just 4 miles away from the Ingliston Park & Ride scheme, where you can hop on one of the regular trams into the heart of Edinburgh.
We hope these tips and destination ideas have proved useful in your search for the right camping and caravanning site for you. Happy caravanning!
The site is situated about 1 mile, (almost completely flat walk), outside the historical Cotswold village of Broadway, Worcestershire and is known as one of the Gateways to the Cotswold. It is currently the northern terminus of the famous Gloucestershire and Worcestershire Steam Railway. The site itself is situated on the old railway Goods Yard and the Club’s oldest caravan, the 130 year old Wanderer is stored in the Goods Shed and can be viewed there, there is also a little indoor play area in the building. The site is easily accessible however care should be taken if approaching down off the Cotswold plateau not to tow through the village itself. Please see the Site Arrival Video.
The site is part of the Caravan and Motorhome Club portfolio, it is open all year and is for members only. You can join the club at the site. It has 117 pitches, ranging from grass, through hardstanding to fully serviced super pitches and is spread across two levels.
There are the usual service points including motorhome service point. There are two facility blocks which encompasses, laundry, dishwashing, toilet, and shower facilities. The one situated in the old goods shed, (upper level), is not accessible to people with disabilities. The Reception and information room is at the entrance to the site and there is a security barrier and key fob system in operation.
Current COVID-19 precautions are comprehensive and clearly explained upon arrival. We noted that most people were using their own facilities.
WiFi is available, at a charge, throughout the site from an external provider. Signal strength is good throughout the site.
There are two dog walks, one at the top of the site, next to the old Good Shed is alongside the heritage railway and is often used as a close-up trainspotter viewpoint. The second one is in the lower part of the site. Both are secure enough to let your dogs off lead if you so choose. There is also a small nature reserve next to the site where you can walk your dogs if you wish.
A small playground, on the lower tier, completes the facilities available and It is nice to see a couple of picnic benches to allow accompanying adults relax whilst children play.
A bonus is that an authentic pizza van visits the site, at least once a week and offers a range of freshly made pizzas and at a reasonable price. On previous visits we have had fish and chip vans visit as well, although due to COVID-19, it was not there this time. Their offering has always been to a very high standard and the van usually visits other Club sites in the vicinity.
Review of site pitch
The pitches are, in the main, very level, and spacious. They are well spaced out and are up to Club site standards, many have benefitted from a recent upgrade. The super pitches have electric hook-ups, water, and grey waste drainage. TV strength can be patchy, so aerial booster points are provided on pitches, long co-ax cable required which are usually sold in Reception if required.
A note to Heritage Railway fans, if you want a ring side view of the railway, then you should try and choose a pitch in the top field of the site, if they are available.
Around and About
There is so much to do in both the immediate and further afield vicinities, that you are almost spoilt for choice, depending upon your interests and level of activity. I have picked a small number of places to visit/see and do. I would strongly advise you spend some time with either a guidebook or online, web addresses below and see what is on offer. At the time of writing, many of the venues require online booking in advance.
This first webpage is a general one for the whole of the Cotswold area and will give you information on places further afield, such as Moreton in Marsh, Stow in the Wold etc.
The second webpage is particular to Broadway itself. The village has a lovely wide high street, with a range of independent and more familiar shops providing almost everything you would want. Diners will be spoilt for choice with a comprehensive range of pubs, hotel dining, restaurants, and cafes. You should note that if you select somewhere off the main high street, prices can be considerably cheaper. The village is very dog friendly, and many establishments will welcome your dogs without problem. Children are also welcomed in most places.
The recently extended, to Broadway, Heritage Railway now runs from Cheltenham Racecourse up to Broadway and return. The newly built, but faithful to the original design, station buildings are now open. There is also a café on site which is open to non-train users as well. It is a mere 5-minute walk out of the site and across the road. Main car park is under the bridge on the opposite side of the road and there are disabled parking facilities on site. Please visit the website for all the range of events which are usually run throughout the year.
This is a famous local landmark which overlooks the village at the top of the high street. It is possible to walk either uphill, (steep in places) or downhill from the village. There is plenty of parking available at the landmark, café, shops, and toilets. A bus does drop you off at the end of the lane to the attraction and is about a ¼ mile walk from the bus stop.
I have included this webpage as it is an area which can often be overlooked as people focus on the Cotswolds. The Vale of Evesham is a huge fruit growing area and, in the summer,, there are Plum Festivals held in the villages and you can buy as much fruit and veg as you could wish to eat. The town of Evesham is the nearest to the site and has the usual out of centre retail park, featuring the usual mix of offerings. Fuel can also be obtained here at supermarket prices.
Broadway is a very well kept and extremely popular site, ever more so since the re-opening of the railway. It is now possible to stay and travel to Cheltenham Racecourse and in between without using the car. Horse racing season is particularly busy.
It is in a good location, close to all the amenities which the Cotswold offers and beyond. A site which I will return to again.
This review is for the Troutbeck Head Caravan & Motorhome Club site and is based on a visit during Easter 2019, the site and amenity blocks were extensively refurbished in 2019. As with any review of sites in the Lake District its nearby attractions and amenities, there is an almost limitless choice. I have chosen a few options which are relatively close to this site.
The site is based close to both Ullswater, Keswick and Derwentwater. It is easily accessed from the M6 and A66. Please see the Site Arrival video
The site is split into two areas, one to the right of Reception is for non-serviced pitches, the area to the left is exclusively serviced pitches on two tiers.
The site has 156 pitches, 148 of which are hardstanding and is open from March to early January each year. Arrival is from 12 noon and non-members are welcome but there are no tent pitches.
The site has two toilet blocks, one with family room and laundry, the other has a disabled access room.
There is an information room which also has some pool tables and children’s games. There is also a children’s play area adjacent.
Please note that there is no official Club Wi-Fi currently available on site and 4G services are very limited.
TV reception is good and is via a bollard signal booster. You need to bring your cable with you.
There is a small, unfenced, dedicated dog walking area alongside the entrance to the site and there is also a walk from the top of the site which exits out on to Matterdale Forest road and can be part of a longer circular walk. Dogs must be kept on leads at all times due to the presence of livestock.
A fish and chip van, which is very popular, calls twice a week in an evening.
The usual CAMHC services are available and a small shop selling essential provisions and gas refills is in Reception. There is also a late-night arrivals area. Entrance to the site is via barrier key fob.
There is a bus stop, on the A66, about 1.5-mile walk, (where you turn left to drive towards the site).
Rookin House Activity Centre is next door offering a whole range of outdoor experiences including quad bikes, clay pigeon shooting etc.
Next nearest is Aria Force, car park (charge to non NT members), information room and café. The walk takes about half an hour on clearly marked paths. Please note that on weekends and bank holidays the car park can get very busy. A relatively new steamer stop has opened here and there is a signposted walk from there into Pooley Bridge, about 7 miles. There is also a car park at the top of the falls, which is on the A5091 and which you pass driving from the site.
Pooley Bridge, with its shops, pubs, post office and stopping off point for Ullswater Steamers is about 20 minutes’ drive from the site.
At the other end of Ullswater is Glenridding, base of Ullswater Steamers and home to two huge hotels, Inn on the Lake and the Best Western. The latter accepts dogs, at the time of writing, in its bar/restaurant area and has excellent Wi-Fi service. A local grocer and Catsycam shop are also located there.
Slightly further afield is Keswick which has a wide range of outdoor and mountaineering shops, plus the usual range of market town shops and banks. Booths Supermarket is probably the biggest in the area. The Theatre on the Lake also produces a wide range of shows and productions throughout the season. Boat rides are available from by the lakeside. Car parking is available but at a cost. Keswick is probably one of the most dog friendly places you could ever wish to visit. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keswick,_Cumbria
Some views of the town’s main street and the well known Old Keswickman fish and chip shop.
Rheged Centre, which you pass when leaving the M6 is a Discovery Centre. There are a regular range of activities aimed at families and young children and is a good wet day spot to visit.
Penrith is the nearest large town and has the full range of services, including the mainline rail service from London to Scotland.
For a slightly longer day trip, you might want to consider a visit to Gretna Green, the world famous place where you have been able to get married over the anvil for hundreds of years. The site is split over two main areas, plus several hotels in the area. The first area you will encounter after leaving the M6/M74 will be the Outlet Village, free parking, you can easily spend a couple of hours there, cafes and a good variety of shops.
Dogs are allowed in the open air mall and seating is provided.
A couple of miles further on is the main Gretna Green visitor attraction area. Here is where the anvil room is located, we were unable to visit this on the day as there were weddings taking place. There is a café/restaurant/specialist food shop plus a historical room and a tourist shop selling whiskey, keepsakes and even your very own kilt, sporran and jacket!
Easter 2019 was blessed with uncharacteristic excellent weather, the site is just as good a place to kick back, relax and enjoy some peace, quiet and fresh air.
Since the middle of this summer, into the autumn, and well beyond that, caravanning is riding the crest of an unprecedented wave of popularity.
It’s a popularity which sees its fair share of news stories, of course, so here are several that caught our eye.
New static caravan age limits planned at Lincolnshire site
Caravan parks in Lincolnshire are introducing specific new rules about the maximum age of any static holiday home granted a pitch on their sites, according to a story in the Express newspaper on the 16th of September.
Noting that caravan holidays throughout the UK are enjoying something of a boom at the moment, the story revealed that Fantasy Island family amusement park, on the Lincolnshire coast, plans to limit the maximum age of its onsite static caravans to 22 years.
Existing caravan owners are being given advance notice that the new rules come into effect at the beginning of 2022 – so that any holiday home after that date will need to have been manufactured no earlier than this year, 2000.
Kingfisher Caravan Park, in East Lindsey, Lincolnshire, last year also introduced a 20-year age limit on static caravans using pitches on the site
Leisure park owners, Park Leisure, on the 28th of August 2020, noted that while many static caravans are these days built to last 30 years or more – and could be used for quite literally a lifetime – it is usual for operators of static caravan parks to exercise age limits of between 10 and 20 years.
Old caravan turned in to a teenager’s garden retreat
Unsurprisingly, many families this summer have yearned for some kind of summerhouse in which to relax in their garden.
For one family of five – featured in a story in the Sun newspaper last month – the cost of a new summerhouse was simply beyond their means.
Instead, they picked up an old touring caravan from the 1990s for £1,100, spent a further £900 or so on renovating and sprucing it up, to make it the perfect getaway space for their teenage son.
Caravan site, petting zoo and activity centre planned in Preston
Pitches for up to 27 touring caravans are included in plans to develop a family activity centre at Whitestake, near Preston.
The centre will be built on the site of the existing Turbary House Nursery and will feature pursuits such as laser tag, bazooka ball, and archery, together with a range of additional activities including airsoft, laser clay shooting, zorb games, mini-jeeps and mini-tanks.
A shower block, laundry, and small play area will also serve the 27 touring caravans that may be accommodated within the proposed development.
New holiday park with 420 caravans could bring millions into East Yorkshire village
Plans have been approved for the development of a major new caravan park at Skipsea in the East Riding of Yorkshire, according to reports in the Yorkshire Post earlier this month.
The holiday park will provide pitches for 420 static caravans and include a clubhouse, bar, restaurant, swimming pool, and a lake offering water sports and other activities.
The developers argued the case for the park’s contribution to local tourism – to the tune of an estimated £4.3 million – and the creation of 71 new jobs directly tied to the resort and a further 41 jobs indirectly related to it through the provision of local services.
A local farmer was among those raising objections to the plans on the grounds that the development of a new holiday park would increase traffic on surrounding roads, generate an unacceptable level of noise, and put pressure on local services. These would outweigh the claimed economic benefits, he argued.
The whirlwind of events in 2020 and the determined shift towards holidays at home in this country has fuelled rocketing caravan sales. In a report on the 15th of September 2020, ITV News revealed that sales of caravans had shot up by 71% in July.
Caravanning is not only attracting more individuals and families but younger ownership, too. 37% of current sales are to people who have never owned a caravan before and 34% are to buyers under the age of 44.
As demand is growing, so the price of caravans is also increasing – as Car Dealer magazine remarked on the 9th of June 2020. When you are paying that much more for your caravan, arranging suitable insurance becomes a priority, as does the choice of car you use to tow your new caravan. We’ll take a look at these two points a little further on in this article.
It is not too difficult to interpret the driving forces behind this growth. The coronavirus pandemic, of course, has made practically all foreign travel out of the question for many folks.
But there were already signs that European holidays may have been losing their immediate appeal. The fall in the value of the pound sterling versus the Euro is significant. The downward spiral had started before the Brexit referendum, and as the country has edged ever closer to final departure from the EU, the decline has gathered more pace.
One result of that for the typical UK holidaymaker is that their holiday spending money in the Eurozone is now just not buying anything like what it would have 18 months ago. So, financially speaking, the UK is now looking increasingly attractive for holidays.
Another big influence, albeit perhaps one that’s a little hard to quantify, is the massively revised perception of UK based holidays.
For some decades, the UK holiday was seen by many as being second-best to a continental or longer-haul destination. In fact, it was often said, not always jokingly, that large numbers of British holidaymakers knew France and Spain rather better than they knew their own country.
In recent years – and especially in recent months – that has all changed. Holidaymakers are starting to appreciate just how beautiful and diverse the UK is and they’re choosing staycations in increasing numbers to prove it.
What this means for caravan owners
While the above facts and figures are fantastic news for everyone who loves caravanning, it’s worth keeping in mind that the increased volume of people enjoying caravan holidays leads to the need to think a little about your forthcoming trip. That’s particularly true if you’re contemplating a peak season caravanning break.
So, a few reminders:
- book your site and pitch as far in advance as possible. More holidaymakers staying at home and selecting caravan holidays means more competition for the best sites and locations;
- try to avoid travelling on Friday nights, Saturday mornings or Sunday afternoons/evenings. The roads can get remarkably busy if the weather’s nice or during school holiday breaks; and
- increased demand might lead to some caravan owners thinking about lending their caravan to others or letting it out. It’s a good thought but please do remember that it may affect the status of your touring caravan insurance and the type of cover you’ll need. Check the insurance issues in advance before lending or letting your caravan to someone else – even if they’re a close family member.
Considerations when choosing your touring caravan insurance cover
There are many products to choose from when you look for tourer caravan insurance, and there is no right option because it simply depends upon your own circumstances.
But what should you be looking for? It might help to think along the lines of at least some of the following:
- make sure you have an appropriate amount of cover – this is called the sum insured. Don’t under or over-insure yourself because otherwise you could end up out of pocket – in the case of underinsurance when you make a claim. Or in the case of over-insurance when you pay for your cover;
- you may want to look for a policy that includes discounts. Some companies may provide you with a discount for using security devices or for being a member of a caravan club. Others, such as ourselves, may provide a discount if you store your caravan at a CaSSOA-approved site;
- the way you buy your insurance is also a consideration. Rather than going directly to an insurer, where you may have a limited amount of choice, you may want to use the services of a broker such as us here at Cover4Caravans, in order to look at a greater range of options, as well as get access to specialist advice;
- always look for restrictions when it comes to awnings. Some policies may only cover storm damage to awnings if you are present at the time, and this is important to know to avoid any problems that you were not aware of. Typically, awnings will be shown separately on your insurance schedule. You can read more in our Guide to awnings;
- you may want to find out about new-for-old replacement when you make a claim. Some providers may be able to provide this for tourer caravans that are three years old or less as long as you have been the sole owner. At Cover4Caravans, we will provide new-for-old cover for caravans up to five years’ of age and regardless of the number of previous owners;
- where you use your tourer is also an important consideration. Some providers may include continental cover as standard for a certain amount of days. For example, at Cover4Caravans we provide this on our policies for between 240 – 280 days a year. If you are planning to go abroad, this may be useful. Even if you have no current plans, it can always be worthwhile having;
- the price of the policy may affect your decision but remember to look for value for money rather than just the least expensive insurance you can find. Always ensure that you find a policy that has the level of cover you need rather than cutting corners;
- some policies may have various security measures that you need to take to protect your caravan from theft if you are to make a successful claim. This can include fitting a tracking device or a wheel clamp when you leave it unattended when attached to the towing vehicle, or a hitch lock and wheel clamps when it is not attached to the vehicle. This will all be detailed in your policy documents – or ask your broker or insurer for clarification;
- find out if your policy provides costs for alternative accommodation if you have an accident. This could be particularly useful if you are on the road with nowhere to stay; and
- owner age limits are also important and can influence the policy you choose. Some do not have any age limits, whereas some do, so make sure you know before buying.
These are just some of the considerations when you buy insurance for your tourer. Choosing the most suitable policy is important, so keep a list of all the things you need to consider in order to make an educated decision. Or please feel free to give us a call – we will be only too happy to help!
How to match a car and caravan
If you are buying a caravan – and especially if it is the first time you have done so – you are also likely to have questions about matching a car to a caravan. What car will you need to tow the particular caravan you have in mind?
It might help to start by considering four categories that you’ll need to think about when trying to match a caravan and car:
- the law and what it has to say about the subject;
- what’s technically possible and legally permissible;
- what’s sensible and legally permissible; and
- what you can afford.
Two further fundamental issues naturally follow on:
- the fact that a caravan/car match is legal and that the car concerned can technically tow the caravan doesn’t necessarily make the vehicle or caravan a sensible choice for a match; and
- to choose a sensible match, you’ll need to think a little about how and where you plan to use your caravan.
Preparing the ground – practical considerations
In one sense, the answer to the question of matching is easy – buy a big and powerful car.
That, of course, assumes that you can afford such a thing and that you have neither a strong environmental conviction nor any restriction on what you have to spend on towing your caravan. Comparatively few caravan owners can say as much, of course, so if you’re looking for a sensible and cost-effective match, you’re going to need to engage in some planning and a little mathematics.
A key starting point is to think carefully about your likely usage. For example:
- are you planning to use your caravan and car regularly or perhaps only 2-3 times per year for your annual holidays;
- will you be primarily using it locally, point-to-point type trips at the start and end of a holiday or are you planning to take it on extended touring marathons around the UK and Europe;
- how many people on average will you likely have in the vehicle when towing;
- what sort of landscapes will you be using it in? Paved sites and flat roads are one thing, hauling a caravan up the Pyrenees or taking it off-road onto farm tracks is quite another.
These questions are important because they relate to the concept of “redundancy” in terms of your selected car for the match and its power delivery. We’ve all seen small and no doubt economic-to-run cars, struggling desperately to get a caravan up a steep hill. It might be perfectly legal but it’s inconsiderate to other road users and potentially dangerous too.
The message here is to select an appropriate vehicle for your probable usage. If you’re regularly planning especially long journeys, travelling to mountainous areas with long steep inclines, or taking the caravan off-road, don’t opt for a minimum legal compliance vehicle. Go for one that will offer you some significant surplus power and perhaps in some cases, a 4 x 4 capability.
The car’s documentation might state a maximum towing weight of any vehicle (including your caravan) being towed.
The Vehicle Identification Number or VIN plate that you find under the bonnet of your car (or, sometimes on the side of the driver’s door) also specifies what’s called the Gross Train Weight (GTW). The GTW specifies the maximum weight that your car, together with any trailer you are towing, must not under any circumstances exceed – or you will be breaking the law.
The government’s official advice states that if your vehicle’s plate does not contain a GTW, it must not be used for towing at all.
If you’re stopped by the police, it is the GTW and possibly the car’s maximum towing weight figures they’ll be interested in and will use to judge whether or not you’re in trouble. Excuses such as “I didn’t know” or “my caravan must weigh more than I thought” typically will count for nothing.
How heavy is heavy?
However experienced you are, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to look at a potential car/caravan combo and say immediately, with any accuracy, how much it’ll weigh.
There are just too many variables such as how much luggage you have, how many passengers, the weight of the caravan’s water and gas tanks and so on.
To be sure and to reduce your chances of ending up in a frank discussion with the police:
- use the documented un-laden weights of the car and caravan;
- add to this some estimates for variables such as those mentioned above. There are plenty of useful guides around – such as one provided by the Caravan and Motorhome Club, or you might even let the website Towsafe make the calculations for you;
- don’t forget your passengers (remember, 5 large people in a car can add over half a tonne to your laden weight).
What car is right? Power considerations
The above sections are relatively simple – but things get a little more complicated in terms of what’s possible and what’s sensible.
This is where we introduce two new terms – the Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass (MTPLM) of your caravan and your potential car’s “kerb weight” or Mass in Running Order (MIRO).
These are both usually specified in the caravan’s and car’s documentation. They essentially provide a stipulation of the maximum laden weight your caravan can be and still be safe and a figure for how much the car weighs without a significant load (one 75kilo driver is included).
Many of the main caravan associations recommend that the car should never try to tow a caravan if its MTPLM exceeds 85% of the car’s kerb weight or MIRO. That should be a powerful figure to use when thinking about what car to select.
Other legal considerations
A car’s tow bar (which must, in itself, be legally compliant) will have a maximum loading capacity figure. Your caravan will also have a “nose weight” figure which stipulates the maximum it can safely carry in terms of the weight passed onto the tow bar of the car.
This must not be exceeded but can sometimes be put at risk by poor caravan loading. Remember to keep heavy items stored in the caravan over the axles – not at the front of the vehicle.
Other legal issues will typically apply to any car you’re considering, including the lights, number plates, rear view mirrors and so on. These too are helpfully documented on the government’s site.
All signs point to a continued revival in popularity of the caravan and, with it, the opportunity to seize every advantage of the staycation.
The trends established during 2020 are likely to persist for the months and years ahead – with practical implications for those buying a caravan for the first time, owners looking to insure their tourer, and drivers asking what car is likely to be needed to tow their new caravan.
If we’ve helped to answer at least some of those questions, you might now be ready to hitch up and go!