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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 before moving on to consider 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!

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


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

If there is still work to do on forging those kind of relationships, however, the ready 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.

Size isn’t everything

You want to be comfortable in your caravan, with room to swing a cat, for example, 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.

Towing power

A critical aspect in choosing your 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, 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 on the Out and About Live website is that the Maximum Permissible Laden Mass (MTPLM) of your caravan needs to be no more than 85% of your car’s kerbweight (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 – 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 (see our Guide here to buying a second hand caravan);
  • 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, you may of course visit a local supply.

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

Further reading: Beginner’s Guide to Caravans