A Guide to Buying a Caravan

To provide you with a home away from home for any travels you undertake, a caravan is a great choice for those who like to get away, but still want to experience their home comforts. So, before you buy a caravan, read on for our expert guide of what you need to know about caravans before you buy.

What Are The Different Types Of Caravan?

If you are new to the world of caravans, then you might be surprised by just how many different types there are out there. Here are just a few of the most common.

Conventional Caravan – Most caravans have just one axle. They range in size from 3m – 6.5m. They sleep between 2 – 6 people. Most have some sort of washroom, with a toilet and basin as a minimum, most also have showers. Most caravans will have a kitchen area with a hob and work surfaces.

Twin Axle Caravans – These are bigger caravans that have a second axle for stability. This makes them easier to tow, but harder to manoeuvre.

Folding Caravans – These are full-size caravans that fold down into small trailers for towing. They are more effort as you have to put them up each time you set up camp, but they are much easier to tow and store.

Teardrop Caravans – These are super tiny caravans, they can be towed by small sports cars and even some motorbikes. Typically they have only space for a double bed, and perhaps some cooking facilities.

Tip: Get inside and try out as many different caravans as you can before you make a decision. There are so many options out there that you might miss out on your perfect caravan if you just stick with the first one you try.

What Are The Most Important Considerations To Keep In Mind When Choosing A Caravan?

The most important thing to bear in mind when picking out your caravan is weight. You need to select a caravan that your car can tow. This is a matter of weight. To know if you can tow a caravan, you first need to know the ‘kerb weight’ of your car. This is how much it weighs when empty.

Ideally, the caravan you pick should weigh less than 85% of the kerb weight of your car. This would make it easy to tow. If it weighs between 85% – 100% of the kerb weight of your vehicle then you can tow it, but it can be more difficult, meaning only experienced caravanners should attempt it. You should never try to tow a caravan that weighs more than the kerb weight of the car.

The other thing to consider is the total length of your car and the caravan when hitched together. This length must be less than 7 metres.

These are all key aspects to think about whether you plan to buy a new car or use your existing vehicle.

Tip: Most caravans have a plate near the door frame that tells you the fully ladened wight of the caravan – the MTPLM.

Does The Time Of Year Affect The Price?

The time of year has a significant impact on the price of caravans. You are likely to get the best deal at the end of the camping season. This is true for both new and secondhand models. For a new caravan, the prices tend to drop because the dealers need to clear space for the new models which tend to arrive in autumn. Once the prices have dropped, then you may find that you can haggle for a much better deal.

Tip: The best deals are usually found at the end of summer.

What Extras Should You Budget For?

There are a few things that you can buy that will really make you caravan experience more enjoyable. Just remember to consider the price of these when thinking about your budget, especially if you’re taking out caravan finance.

  • Adding an awning can double the space you have to live in.
  • TV, some caravans have built-in TVs if yours does not then you might want to get one.
  • A caravan step can make getting in and out of your van a lot easier.
  • A leisure battery is a must-have for any caravaner.

Tip: Many dealers will have second-hand awnings for sale. They may even be willing to throw them in with you caravan as an extra.

Should You Buy A New Or Used Caravan?

It’s really a matter of personal preference. The newer caravans will have more features. But you will be able to get a better price on an older caravan. Like cars, caravans depreciate the moment you drive them off the lot. For your first caravan, it can be a good idea to get the cheapest one that you feel happy with, that way you can find out if it really is for you before you spend too much money.

Tip: Older caravans can be an excellent buy. Look out for how they have been stored; if the owner stored the caravan well, it is likely to be in good condition.

Should You Buy A Used Caravan From A Private Owner Or A Dealership?

Buying from a private dealer has a lot of advantages. Perhaps the biggest is that you can get a warranty for the caravan. You will also know that it will have to have undergone its safety checks and it should have had the gas systems checked before you take ownership. Buying from a dealer means that if you get stuck or have problems, then it is easy to go back to them for advice and guidance.

Buying from a private seller mostly offers you the chance to save money. Privately sold caravans are generally around 20% cheaper. It also gives you the opportunity to see first hand how the caravan has been stored. This will provide you with some great insight into whether the caravan is in good nick or not.

Tip: If you do buy from a private seller, you don’t have the same legal protection. If the caravan is not quite as advertised, you have no legal recourse.

What Should You Check For In A Used Caravan?

The biggest killer of caravans is damp. So if you are looking at a used caravan you should make a point to look and smell for any signs of damp. Staining, mould and softening wall panels are all signs that there might be a damp problem.

When buying a used caravan, you should make sure that all the documents are available with the van. You should expect to see manuals for the electrical, water and gas systems, the owners manual, and a full service history.

Tip: If you can, plan to try out the caravan at a site near the seller. That way if there is a problem, you can find it early and get it dealt with.


James Boswell

James Boswell loves traveling around different parts of Wales and Scotland with his wife in family. They have a larger 6 berth caravan and enjoy life in the outdoors. James Boswell also is an avoid author and writes guides on the Slainte caravan finance pages.

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