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​How to Buy a Caravan

​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.

  • What is a touring caravan?
  • Can my car tow a caravan?
  • How much is a caravan to buy?
  • When to buy a caravan
  • Where to buy a caravan
  • Caravan FAQs
  • Top tips on buying a caravan

What is a touring caravan?

A touring caravan is a lightweight mobile home on wheels that is designed to be towed from place to place behind larger vehicles like SUVs or 4x4s. Touring caravans do not have an engine so rely on a towing vehicle to be moved but they are easy to move from one place to another and don't rely on professional help to be moved.

Perfect for those who want to try camping but without sacrificing their home comforts, a touring caravan is the ideal compromise. Once on a pitch, touring caravan owners can connect to an electricity and water supply. Touring caravans usually have a bedroom, small bathroom and living space and can have an awning (tent) attached to the side to provide a larger living space. However, the size of these living spaces will vary depending on how large or small the touring caravan is.

What is the difference between a caravan and a touring caravan?

Just like the name suggests, a static caravan is fixed in one place and cannot be easily moved without a low-loader or flatbed truck. Static caravans are usually much larger than touring caravans and often have space for a living room, kitchen, bathroom, multiple bedrooms and sometimes even a balcony or terrace area. They are pitched on one caravan park where they remain all year round and can be accessed by their owners during caravan season which varies from 8-12 months of the year. Some people even live in residential static caravans all year round.

Touring caravans on the other hand are much smaller and can be moved easily by being towed behind a vehicle. They are more often used for shorter holidays rather than extended breaks or living purposes and are often much cheaper than a static caravan due to their smaller size.

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.

Can I tow a caravan with an electric car?

Despite what many people might think, it is possible to tow a caravan with an electric car. However, because electric vehicles generally have lower power outputs, they are sometimes less capable of towing the heavy loads that petrol and diesel vehicles can tow. This doesn't mean that towing a caravan is impossible with an electric vehicle, it just means you need to choose the right one to fulfil your needs.

Much like a petrol or diesel vehicle, electric cars also have a towing capacity, though this is generally lower. While many electric vehicles only have a towing capacity of 1,000kg, some do have the capacity to tow a small to medium-sized caravan. If you already have an electric vehicle, it is important to check your vehicle's towing capacity before purchasing a caravan. Equally, if you are a caravan owner looking to purchase an electric vehicle, you should make sure the vehicle meets your towing requirements before purchasing it.

While you can tow with an electric vehicle, there are a few things you should consider first. Depending on the towing capacity of your vehicle, you probably won't be able to tow a large caravan due to the battery capacity which can also impact acceleration. You will also need to make more frequent breaks to charge your vehicle as the additional weight will put more strain on the battery, causing it to drain quicker.

Learn more about towing a caravan with an electric vehicle here.

How much is a caravan to buy?

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.

Caravan FAQs

If you've never owned a caravan before, you've likely got a lot of questions. To help you out, we've answered some of the most popular caravan FAQs.

Do I need caravan insurance?

If you own, or are thinking about owning a caravan then you absolutely need caravan insurance. Just like you wouldn't drive a car without insurance, you certainly shouldn't own a caravan without taking out a comprehensive insurance policy either.

Caravan insurance can protect you in the case of theft, accidental damage, fire and loss of the caravan. It also covers any additional equipment you might use like an awning, satellite or towbar and you can add extra protection for personal accident and breakdown cover. By having this extra cover, you can be safe in the knowledge that if something does happen to your caravan, you won't be faced with a huge bill to cover the cost of repairs.

As well as needing caravan insurance to protect your caravan, you will also need to take out a specific car insurance policy that covers you for towing a caravan. Most basic car insurance policies won't cover you for towing a caravan but this can often be added to the policy as a premium so you are covered during transportation.

Basic third-party caravan insurance can start from around £50 per year with more comprehensive cover coming in at over £100 for the year.

Learn more about caravan insurance here.

Can I cook in a caravan?

There's absolutely nothing to be afraid of when it comes to cooking in your caravan. In fact, you'll probably have a small kitchen set up so it's not much different from cooking at home and you'll certainly have more appliances at your disposal than you would in a tent.

While a BBQ is a great idea, you should only ever cook this outside of your caravan and leave it outside to cool to avoid the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. This can also be a risk when using faulty appliances so be sure to check the safety of your caravan cooker, especially if you've purchased your caravan second-hand.

If you are apprehensive about cooking inside your caravan, you can cook outside on a gas cooker, on a raised surface, and there are lots of tasty meals you can whip up.

Get some meal inspiration from our Ultimate Caravanner's Cook Book here.

Do I need a caravan mover?

You don't need a caravan mover if you own a caravan but it can certainly make your life much easier.

A caravan mover can be bolted onto the chassis of your caravan and powers the wheels with 12V power so you can manoeuvre the caravan without any manual handling. With a caravan mover, you can move your caravan into place by using a remote control which is great if you have limited space on your driveway or caravan pitch. It also means you don't need to manually lift the caravan to move it into place.

Before purchasing a caravan mover, you need to consider whether your caravan has a single or twin axle and choose an appropriate caravan mover. Caravan movers from Witter are interchangeable between twin or single axle which makes things a bit easier.

If you do choose to have a caravan mover fitted, we'd always recommend having this done by a trained professional. Our caravan movers have the cost of fitting built into the price of the mover or you can choose mobile fitting for an additional £35.

Learn more about caravan movers and find yours here.

How long do touring caravans last?

Touring caravans can last an average of 15 years but this does depend on how well you look after them. If you use your caravan all the time and don't take very good care of it, it may only last around 5 years. Alternatively, if your caravan has infrequent use and is regularly serviced and properly maintained then it could last as long as 30 years. However, it really depends on the caravan and how well it has been looked after which is why regular servicing and proper maintenance is important.

Are touring caravans a good investment?

We understand that buying a touring caravan is far from an impulse buy so you're likely going to give it a lot of thought before going through with the purchase. If you love being outdoors, caravanning or even camping then a touring caravan is likely going to be a great investment for you. This is especially true if you plan on having a few holidays a year with multiple family members so you can really get your money's worth.

This will of course vary depending on the age of your caravan when you buy it, how much you use it, whether you go on caravanning holidays rather than holidays abroad and how much you spend on food, drink and activities while using the caravan. However, you cannot put a price on the memories made so if you think a touring caravan will be a good investment for your family then you really can't put a price on that.

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 you'll need by using our handy tool.

There are many factors to consider when you're thinking about buying a caravan but by doing your research and weighing up your options, you can make an informed decision about your purchase. 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.

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