How to Buy a Caravan
Buying a touring caravan is a big investment, so is it worth it?
While the initial purchase can be expensive, a touring caravan gives you the freedom to take off as you please and enjoy an adventure away from home. It also means that when you visit new places, you can spend more on enjoying activities instead of pricey accommodation.
What's more, touring caravans come in all shapes and sizes, meaning that you can find something suitable even if you have a larger family. And, unlike static caravans, you don't need to pay any site fees.
If you're buying a touring caravan for the first time, a second-hand purchase may be a more affordable option, especially if you're not too fussed about the latest tech and gadgets.
Before you start looking for your new touring home, there are a few things you should consider.
Can my car tow a caravan?
Before you spend your money buying a touring caravan, you need to check the maximum weight your car can legally tow and get up to speed with the rules.
The weight of your caravan should never exceed the weight of your towing vehicle. At most, the mass of your caravan shouldn't exceed 85% of your car's weight. If you passed your driving test on or after 1st January 1997, you can't exceed a combined car and caravan weight of 3500kg.
One way to check how much your car can safely tow is to look at the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number), which will tell you the weight of your car. To find out more about towing rules and regulations, read our guide.
Alternatively, if you're still unsure about what type of caravan your vehicle is capable of towing, look for a third party outfit matching service or online tool such as Towsafe.
How much is it to buy a caravan?
The cost of purchasing a touring caravan can vary depending on the make, model, size and year of manufacture. The caravan's features will also influence the price tag. Brand new, a touring caravan costs an average of £24,000, while a pre-owned touring caravan costs an average of £12,000. When setting a budget, take into account the additional costs that you'll also need to cover, such as a towbar, electrical charging sockets and stabilisers.
When to buy a caravan
If you're going to buy a second-hand caravan, be aware that you're likely to pay more if you purchase in March, April or May- just as the summer season approaches.
In the winter months, you will find that dealers are more willing to compromise over the price of second-hand models as there are fewer buyers. They're also keen to shift their stock before the next summer season arrives, making it an ideal time to buy.
Where to buy a caravan
Most people buy a caravan through a caravan dealer or private seller.
If you're a first-time buyer, a reputable caravan dealer may be the better option. You can find reputable caravan dealers in your local area who will then be responsible for carrying out a maintenance check and full service.
Buying from a private seller is fine too- as long as you do your homework as there is much more to consider. When you buy from a private individual, you are not protected by the rights under the Sale of Goods Act when it comes to quality. While the caravan must be as described by the seller, it is for buyers to satisfy themselves they are buying what they think they are buying for the right price.
If you're buying from a private seller watch out for signs that the caravan may be stolen. This could include:
- Lack of any receipts or documents relating to ownership or servicing
- Viewing the caravan away from the seller's house or property
- Reluctance to arrange a viewing at a suitable time for you
You can perform a background check on a second-hand touring caravan through CRiS. This will give you peace of mind that the caravan in question is not stolen, doesn't have outstanding finance and hasn't been written off by an insurance company.
Remember, buying a caravan without ownership and servicing documentation will make it difficult for you to get caravan insurance.
Top tips on buying a caravan
1. Don't rush in
Take a step back and think about the practicalities, for example, the weight your car can tow, the size of caravan you're comfortable transporting and who will be using it.
2. Familiarise yourself with caravan layouts
The number of berths you need will depend on the size of your family and whether you'll need to accommodate other family members or friends on your adventures. Caravans generally range from 2 berths up to 6 berths. Be realistic about how much space you'll need. A caravan will be your home away from home, so you'll want to be comfortable.
3. Set a budget
Set yourself a budget, including any additional things you need for inside your caravan.
While it may be tempting to push your budget and purchase a top of the range model, this will likely limit the number of trips you can take. If you're looking at a caravan that has lots of gadgets and features, think carefully about how much you're going to benefit from them; is it worth the extra money?
5. Be practical
Treat a caravan viewing like you would a house viewing. Think about the little things such as where the plug sockets are located and what fixtures are included. Consider if there's anything that will become an issue for you, such as a shower that's too small. Be mindful of safety features too, like does the caravan come with a fire extinguisher or a tracker?
6. Dealer or private seller?
While you can pick up a great buy from a private seller, there are more benefits buying from a reputable dealer. For example, there is someone you can go back to if you have any problems and they should do standard maintenance checks before handing over the keys.
7. Check the caravan on the inside
You're making a big purchase, so don't be afraid to look with your hands, eyes and nose; it's not rude, it's necessary. Make a checklist of things to look for such as signs of damp and broken electrical and gas appliances.
If you can, it's worth getting an engineer to take a look at the caravan you're thinking about buying as they can provide a full report, highlighting any issues that they can find.
8. Check the caravan on the outside
Double-check all the trims and seams on the outside of the caravan to see if there's any damage or if it's been poorly resealed. Don't forget to check all of the windows and the door and make sure that they lock properly. Have a look at the quality of the tyres, checking the tread and looking for any splits or cracks in the valves. Pay attention to the hitch and breakaway cable and check that they have been well maintained.
9. Check the documentation
If possible, ask for the service history. You should also see if there are manuals for the gas, electric and water systems along with the original owner's manual. This will make it much easier to find good caravan insurance.
Once you've found the touring caravan that's right for you, find out what type of towbar you'll need by using our handy tool.