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Buying a second hand caravan

Second 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:

What you want

  • 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;
  • it is likely to be a fairly major investment, so it is important to spend your money wisely by making sure that the caravan you choose meets as many as your needs as possible;
  • size and layout are likely to be everything, with your need to compromise any need for the comfort of a roomy interior with manoeuvrability and ease of towing when on the road touring;
  • especially if you are touring as a family and have children or young adults to accommodate, too, the actual layout of the interior is likely to be just as critical as the internal dimensions;
  • the technical considerations relating to the car you have and the caravan it can tow are also crucial – at the very least, ensure that the caravan you are interested in buying is within the maximum weight your car is able to tow;
  • 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;

Use

Your guiding principle when choosing a family caravan is likely to be the use to which you want to put your it. With your own needs as well as your children’s’ in mind you might want to give thought to the following:

  • accommodation: there is likely to be more to it, for example, than simply counting the number of berths the caravan has – the size, length and comfort of a berth may vary quite widely and may need to accommodate young people from toddler size to adolescent;
  • facilities: the older your children, the more likely importance is going to be placed on the roominess and effectiveness of showering and washing facilities – unless, of course, you plan to be staying on sites where 5-star facilities are always assured;
  • size matters: no caravanning holiday is likely to bring assured fine weather when the whole family is able to eat, play and relax outside – think of the worst case scenario when you and your brood are cooped up in the caravan for several continuous days of rain.

Layout

Although size matters, it may prove equally important the way in which the space is actually laid out and used.

It may make sense to study the wide range of layout options published by online caravan sales companies in order to home in on those designs most likely to meet your family’s needs.

Storage

When a family goes on holiday, there is invariably more than the usual amount of equipment and kit to be packed – adventure sports gear for older members of the party, perhaps, or diversionary toys and games for younger children.

To free the precious space and keep the inside of your caravan as uncluttered as possible, therefore, you might want to make sure that the layout and design you choose includes plenty of cupboards, lockers and general storage.

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;

Where to buy a second hand caravan

  • if you are serious about going ahead with the purchase of a used caravan then of course you need to decide where you are going to buy it;
  • you might be surprised to discover just how widely the price of practically identical caravans may vary;
  • a serious price comparison – with your net thrown as widely as possible – therefore, may be one way of ensuring that you save money on the purchase (whilst being aware, of course, that a suspiciously low price may be just that, suspicious);
  • as the idea of buying your next caravan begins to take off you might do worse than canvas your friends and fellow caravanners about makes and models that might be up for sale;
  • this might lead to the sales advertisements that might appear anywhere from your local newsagent’s window to the classified listings of your local newspaper;
  • casting your net wider, by going online, you are able to access many more listings, of course, and a number may specialise in the new or second hand models in which you are especially interested;
  • there is a site for caravans, for example, that echoes in every way its sister site for motor cars – Autotrader Caravans, with a constantly updated listing of sales;
  • a helpful suggestion from the Camping and Caravanning Club is that you make the most of the several caravan shows that are staged around the country at various time of the year – these provide an opportunity to see for yourself some of the latest layouts and designs in an atmosphere that is almost guaranteed to be competitive when it comes to pricing as salesmen vie for sales;
  • what you have seen and learned at such a show might point you in the direction of a particular dealer whom you might choose to visit later – an established dealer with a reputation to maintain might be a good place to secure a money saving deal on the right caravan and aftersales service, but you may need to exercise good judgement, and the advice of fellow caravanners, in order to find the most reputable dealers.

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;
  • 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.

Insurance

Finally, whatever size, shape or layout for your family caravan you choose, at an early stage you might want to think about the implications for insuring your caravan.

Given the time, effort and money you are likely to have invested in acquiring the vehicle, caravan insurance is probably a priority – and a specialist one at that. There are a number of specialist caravan insurance providers – such as us here at Cover4Caravans – so you might want to take the opportunity of an early discussion of your needs.

Next steps

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. Careful research and forethought is likely to make sure you secure just the caravan you have been looking for.