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Tips on buying a caravan

It’s essential to get one thing crystal clear from the very start. There is a world of difference between a so-called static caravan and a touring caravan.

With these principal differences between the two types of caravan firmly in mind, here are our tips on buying either a static caravan or a touring caravan.

What is a static caravan?

A static caravan is so-called because it is rarely moved. Once you have leased a pitch on the park or caravan resort of your choice, it typically stays there for the duration.

Typically, pitches are fully serviced with electricity, water, drainage, and bottled gas supplies. There generally are restrictions on the continuous length of time you can live in a static caravan since most sites close for at least part of the year – for that reason, they might also be described as holiday homes.

Static caravans are typically manufactured to relatively high standards of insulation and equipment, which are further qualifications for their use as holiday homes or short breaks. When you are not using your static caravan, you may be able to let it to other short-term visitors for their holidays (subject to the caravan site allowing this and you informing your caravan insurance provider that your cover will need changing).

Buying a static caravan

Just as with any kind of caravan, you may buy your static holiday home brand new or second-hand.

Owners of static caravans tend to be mightily proud of their second home on wheels – as well they might. All the care and attention lavished on the trailer, however, generates an extra, perhaps less intentional quality for the preloved caravan – a monetary value that typically holds its own very well in the second-hand market.

Not only is the price of a second-hand caravan likely to reflect good value for money for something so well looked after, but it may also prove a very versatile second home.

If you are considering buying a static caravan – whether brand new or preloved – here are a few suggestions that might result in your getting just what you want:

Location

  • almost by definition, of course, location is likely to be everything – a holiday home is somewhere you want to visit time and again and if there is any prospect of letting it to other people, a location which others want to visit too;
  • so, check the location and area thoroughly before you view the caravan. If you look at the caravan first and fall in love with it, psychologically you may not be best positioned to spot glaring issues on the site or in the surrounding areas. Remember that the site and its environs may be critical factors in selling your caravan again should you need to in future;

Buying in-situ

  • although you are not limited to purchasing a caravan already pitched on the site of your choice, transportation costs of moving one bought elsewhere and the availability of the pitch you want on any new site might make it all the more important to buy a static caravan already in place;

A friendly second opinion

  • take someone dispassionate with you to view the caravan and area. Before signing any contracts and cheques, take someone with you who has absolutely no vested interest whatsoever to view the vehicle and site. They may well be able to objectively spot something that you haven’t;
  • use someone else’s knowledge. If you are a caravan novice, get someone to inspect your caravan with you who understands the points to look for;

The lease of your pitch

  • the next consideration is likely to be what you pay to keep your static caravan on your chosen pitch at your preferred park;
  • so, talk to other owners on the site. They may be unlikely to be entirely forthright in their views, but you may sense whether there are issues with the area that are not immediately visible;
  • check what security is in place on the site over the winter months. Sites that are entirely unsupervised and mostly empty in terms of occupiers might be prime targets for thieves and vandals. In some cases, that might cause you an issue with your insurance cover;
  • be clear that the site has all appropriate local council registrations and permissions in place. You won’t want to find yourself embroiled in a legal dispute shortly after purchasing;
  • completing a few basic investigations of this nature may take a little while.

Further reading: Guide to buying a static home.

Static caravan insurance

Included among the various cost-factors you need to add up is the all-important consideration of static caravan insurance – essential to ensuring you remain financially protected if anything goes wrong and the caravan itself is lost or damaged, or you face claims of liability as its owner.

The park owners may offer you their own arranged caravan cover. Remember that you are very rarely obliged to accept such an offer and in most cases may shop around for the insurance cover that suits you – provided you can demonstrate to the site owners that you have a minimum level of cover, against public liability claims, for example.

Here at Cover4Caravans, we will be happy to offer further advice on any aspect of your static caravan insurance.

Buying a touring caravan

If you are interested in buying a touring caravan, you might find that guidance and advice on the process – and what to look out for – is helpfully suggested by both the Caravan Club and by the Camping and Caravanning Club, since both have detailed guides on the subject.

As with static caravans, second-hand touring 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.

The Caravan Club also suggests that the average useful life of a touring caravan is roughly 14 years and this indicator might help you narrow down your search for a suitably preloved model.

Whether you are buying a second hand caravan or want to buy new, there are several aspects to which you might want to pay close attention. So, when looking at caravans for sale think about:

What you want

  • the make and model, of course, is very much a question of personal choice, based on your individual requirements concerning such matters as size, towing weight, and layout;
  • choosing the make and model which offers the space you need – the layout and design of a touring caravan is likely to be at least as important as its overall floor area, length, and number of berths;
  • it is also essential to ensure that the car you aim to use to tow your preloved caravan is also up to the job – a calculation which might initially appear overly technical to the uninitiated, but for which there are online reckoners;
  • it is likely to be a fairly major investment, so it is vital to spend your money wisely by making sure that the caravan you choose meets as many as your needs as possible;

Use

  • your guiding principle when choosing a family caravan is likely to be the use to which you want to put it;
  • with your own needs as well as your children’s in mind you might want to give thought to the accommodation offered – 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 will 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 assured;
  • size matters: no caravanning holiday is likely to have assured good weather where the whole family can 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, how the space is laid out and used may prove equally important;
  • it may make sense to study the wide range of layout options published by online caravan sales companies 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

  • if you are buying second-hand, 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 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;

Inspection

  • when you are buying second hand, the physical inspection is likely to prove 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 costly;
  • 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, while 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.

Price

  • 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 the further considerations by referring to our own quick guide on the subject here at Cover4Caravans.

Where to buy your caravan

If you are buying new, the pre- and after- caravans sales service provided by a reputable dealer ensure that you take delivery of a perfectly functional caravan, in which everything is in sparkling new order.

You have the further peace of mind of warranty back-up and somewhere to go for those niggling after-sales questions and enquiries – together with the opportunity for booking the next habitation service.

If you are thinking of buying a used caravan, then rather more care and caution may be required – but you are likely to discover a wide range of avenues and sources to explore:

  • initially, for example, 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 can 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 salespeople 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, to find the most reputable dealers.

Further reading: Cover4Caravans’ guide to buying a tourer.

Insurance

Finally, whatever the size, shape, or layout of the touring family caravan you choose, you need to address the question of insuring your caravan.

Given the time, effort, and money you are likely to have invested in acquiring the trailer, caravan insurance is probably a priority – and a specialist one at that. There are several 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.