We were recently pleased to see this article from Sky News, which hailed a “caravan comeback” in the UK. It claimed that more young families than ever before are shunning holidays abroad to make the most of the stunning sights on home soil. Now, we know full well that camping has always been - and always will be - an incredibly popular pastime for families, but it was great to see this type of news story hitting headlines and proving that caravan holidays are seeing a renaissance.
Thinking about this sudden increase in younger caravan enthusiasts made us cast our minds back to when we were buying our first caravan, and the advice we wish we'd have been given before making this life-changing purchase. So, as experts in our field, we thought it only right to produce a caravan buyers’ guide, featuring all the information you need to make a sensible decision.
First and foremost - research is essential
Ask yourself a few questions; would you purchase a second-hand car without performing vital checks first? Would you make an offer on a home before having it surveyed by a professional? We would guess not - and a caravan should be no different. Research is an essential aspect of any big purchase, so just because your caravan will be used for leisure does not mean you can skip the formal parts.
Here are some of the most important things to think about while doing your initial research:
- What is the maximum weight that your car can tow? By knowing this, you will simplify your search, as anything above this weight can be forgotten about. It is advised that no car should tow a caravan that weighs more than 85 per cent of its own weight.
- Do a price comparison within the market, looking at the prices within both the trade and private market. You’ll be surprised that prices across the two can vary by a significant amount. If you find a deal that seems too good to be true, it usually is.
- Already have a caravan in mind? You need to find out as much information about it as possible before making an offer. This means asking for ownership and warranty documents, as well as invoices, the log book, CRiS documentation and service receipts. All of this will help you figure out if the van has been well looked after.
- Have you considered which caravan layout would be best suited to your needs? Do some research to find out whether, say, a rear living room is better for your family than any other option. This will allow you to refine your search.
- Think you’ve found the perfect caravan? Make sure you check the details of the seller to find out who they are. You can even contact CRiS to get details of their address to check for any discrepancies.
Finding the perfect caravan is a great feeling, but be careful before getting carried away. This is a major purchase, and should be treated in the same way as other expensive items. We’ve come up with the following checks that you should always carry out when looking around for a caravan.
Check the history
As we mentioned earlier, first-time caravan buyers should always find out as much about the history of the vehicle before the purchase, especially on a pre-loved van. This involves checking receipts and invoices for a service history.
You should also look to find out how often the previous owners used the van, as well as how far it travelled and the conditions in which it was used. A HPI check will help you determine the answers to any questions you may have, as well as whether it has ever been stolen, written off, or if there is any outstanding finance.
Inspect the interior
It’s easy to get excited when you think you’ve found the perfect caravan, but remember to carry out some checks on the interior. Check for damp spots, as this can indicate a serious issue that could result in the floor and walls rotting. It’s not surprising that this can be a major problem, leading to a bad smell and potential health risks.
While issues such as rot can be fixed, it is vital that any repairs are carried out by a professional - something which can obviously be expensive and time consuming, but is essential. It is also worth noting that dampness tends to spread around the caravan, so even if you think it is localised to a single part, you must check everywhere.
If you have found a damp spot in your prospective caravan, it is likely due to the previous owner failing to drain the water out of the boiler during storage. On top of this, the changing temperature in winter can result in the expansion and contraction of pipes, which can cause them to weaken and burst.
Inspect the exterior
Take a look at the caravan’s exterior for damage, such as scratches, broken surfaces or dents. Also look for wear and tear on external features such as handles, wheels, windows, electronics and hitch lock.
Check fitted equipment
Those of you buying through a dealer will mostly find that all fitted equipment has been tested as part of the pre-delivery inspection. If you suspect this hasn’t been done, then it’s best to take action.
If you are buying privately, you may find these checks haven’t been carried out. So, it’s best to take a small gas cylinder along with you to check for yourself. In most cases, the fire, fridge and water heater tend to be reliable, and usually only give trouble when they are gas operated. Use a gas cylinder to check the hob, grill and oven are working properly, paying specific attention to any spark ignition systems there may be. Also, hire a qualified electrician to look at additional sockets and lights.
Check windows and doors
Carry out checks on the main door to make sure it is secure. Look at the hinges too, are they properly attached? It is also essential to ensure the door has a watertight fit all the way round, as this will help to avoid any damp.
Then, examine the fit of any roof and window vents, being aware of any internal condensation in double-glazed units. Replacing these parts can be expensive, and it is worth noting that some exact parts might not be available anymore.
Check the chassis and running gear
Before making your purchase, always check the condition of the chassis, suspension and the hitch. It is worth noting that repairs to these vital parts can be extremely costly, so ensure you have checked for corrosion on the chassis, specifically looking out for any signs of new paint that could be covering something suspicious underneath.
So, do you feel confident that you’ve completed all the steps necessary in order to make an informed purchase? Great! But remember, you’re not on your own. At Snooper Ventura, we are dedicated to helping all of our customers get the most of their vehicles and camping experiences. Take a look at some of our most popular products for caravanners here.