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!