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Guide to buying a touring caravan

So, you have decided to buy a touring caravan. That is a great start, but things are about to get a lot more exciting!

The decision to buy is just the first step. You’ll soon want to move on to specifics about the many shapes and sizes of different tourers, the maximum number of people you may be hoping to accommodate, the permutations and combinations of layout, whether your car is going to be powerful enough to tow it, whether you want an awning or canopy to erect alongside it – a hundred and one choices to make.

Plus, the question of insurance touring caravan alone is likely to provide a whole chapter in itself.

So, it might be helpful to break down the likely process into manageable steps. 

Your caravan

As you begin casting around for ideas about the type of caravan that might suit you and your family’s needs, you may do worse for inspiration than simply taking a look at what your friends and neighbours are using.

Since they are likely to be nearby and more or less available, this gives you the opportunity of a close-up inspection, getting a feel for the caravan and, of course, for asking them about their own experiences with this particular make and model.

If they are especially good friends or neighbours, you might be able to go one better and ask them to let you give it a go – a short weekend for you to try it out for yourself.

On the other hand, there might be a shortage of caravan-owning friends and neighbours so, the alternative is to rent a touring caravan for a while.

There are rental companies throughout the UK with caravans of many different sizes and layouts – from 15ft to 18ft in length (so 4.5m to 5.5m), for example, sleeping from 2 to 6 people, and delivery to anywhere in the country (or you may collect it yourself from the company).

The research may also give you a guide to how much you need to spend – not only on the purchase, but also running costs such as general maintenance, storage, and caravan insurance.

Inspired by the experience, you are probably ready to move on to thinking about a touring caravan of your own. 

Size isn’t everything when buying a touring caravan

You want to be comfortable in your caravan, of course, with room to swing a cat. But it is not only its overall size that is likely to be important but its layout too.

Caravan designers seem to have become ever more ingenious when it comes to maximising every last centimetre of space, so it pays to shop around for the layout that fits your particular bill.

Don’t forget that you can also temporarily extend the size of your tourer by using an awning. Please click here for our Guide to awnings.

Towing power

A critical aspect of choosing your touring caravan is the car that you have to tow it.

An initial browse through internet sites might give the impression that this is a very complicated issue – what with Mass in Running Order (MIRO), Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM), and Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass (MTPLM), to name just a few of the acronyms for measures of weight. To the untrained eye, it is likely to appear extremely technical.

Although a guide published by the Camping and Caravan Club explains the meaning of every one of the relevant terms, a useful and widely accepted rule of thumb is offered on the Out and About Live website. This says that the Maximum Permissible Laden Mass (MTPLM) of your caravan needs to be no more than 85% of your car’s kerb weight (or up to 100% if you are especially experienced in towing caravans).

On the other hand, you might want someone else to make the calculation for you and turn to What Tow Car’s automatic “outfit matcher” into which you simply enter the make and model of your caravan and the car you want to be capable of towing it.


Thanks to your research, viewings, and trial runs, you might now be ready to buy the make and model of your ideal touring caravan – or its approximate equivalent. But just where do you shop for caravans?

  • word of mouth – those very friends and neighbours who first showed off to you their pride and joy of caravanning might also be a useful source of fellow caravanners interested in selling their pre-loved ‘vans;
  • classified ads – the classified ads in your local newspaper might also be a place to look, although this is likely to depend on the part of the country in which you live and, more particularly, the size of the area covered by the paper’s circulation;
  • online listings – as with practically anything else you are interested in buying, the internet offers a fertile source for listings by online magazines and website (the ever-popular Autotrader, for instance, has a specialist site listing caravans for sale); or
  • dealers – if you prefer to buy a brand new caravan or a second-hand tourer, you may, of course, visit a local supplier.

Whichever route you choose, a little time and patience are likely to come up with the caravan for you and your family.

Touring caravans insurance

Now that you’ve spent a great deal of time and effort finding just the caravan that suits you – not to mention the potential hefty financial investment you have made – don’t forget to arrange the protection offered by suitable touring caravans insurance.

Although any insurance needs to be tailored to your individual circumstances and requirements, an overview of the principles of this type of cover is given in our series of frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the subject.

What does tourer insurance cover?

  • at the heart of any touring caravan cover, of course, is the protection of the ‘van itself against such potentially serious risks as fire, flooding, impacts, storm damage, vandalism and theft;
  • the sum insured needs to reflect the current replacement value of your caravan (which is likely to be different to the price you paid for it or its current market price) – although some insurers may offer a new for old replacement if your caravan is less than a certain age and is stolen or damaged beyond economic repair;

The contents

  • cover may also extend to the contents of your touring caravan and protection against similar risks and perils;

Safety and security

  • most touring caravans insurance policies include provisions for mitigating the risk of loss or damage by insisting that you apply a hitchlock and use wheel clamps if the ‘van is left unattended but still hitched to the towing vehicle and wheel clamps alone if it is unhitched;
  • cover against loss or damage to your caravan and its contents typically extends to periods when you are using it on holiday, while it is temporarily on your driveway at home, and when it is in longer-term storage (when laid up for the winter, for example);
  • it is when your caravan is not in use for a significant length of time that it might be at its most vulnerable – we, therefore, offer a discount on insurance premiums you pay if you take the precaution of using the especially secure storage sites registered by the Caravan Storage Site Owners’ Association (CaSSOA);

European travel

  • you may have even greater freedom of the open road – not to mention the sense of adventure involved – if you are towing your caravan for a holiday in Europe;
  • in that case, suggests an article in Caravan Talk, you need to take special care that your caravan insurance (as well as your motor insurance) covers travel in Europe;
  • although your motor insurance normally meets the minimum requirements of local laws, this might only offer third party cover for your caravan (if the ‘van causes injury or damage to a third party in a road traffic accident), making separate, specialist insurance for the ‘van a more than prudent option;

Use by friends and family

  • some tourer insurance policies extend cover during the ‘van’s use in the UK by your family or friends;
  • if you propose such generosity, therefore, it is important to check that your caravan insurance permits such use;

Public liability

  • even when your touring caravan is pitched or being stored on your driveway, you may face claims of negligence if a campsite neighbour, passer-by, or member of the public suffers an injury or has their property damaged;
  • with such claims potentially reaching a substantial figure, public liability indemnity insurance typically offers at least £1 million of cover.

In short, therefore, touring caravan insurance may cover a wide range of risks and perils, depending on your proposed use of it. When arranging cover, it is important that the insurance you buy is tailored to your specific needs and requirements.

We hope this quick overview as to what you need to consider when choosing, buying and insuring touring caravans will help you make an informed decision as to the next steps. For further reading, please visit our Guide to buying a tourer.