What to look for when buying your first caravan
If you are looking to buy a caravan for the first time, there a number of things you should be aware of to ensure you get a good quality van that is value for money. Here’s six useful tips to help the process go smoothly:
Private seller or dealer?
Purchasing a caravan through a dealer is generally more expensive than buying via a private sale but you will benefit from a degree of legal protection if you later find there are problems with your van. When dealing with a private seller you will have to make all the checks yourself - caveat emptor is the watchword here.
It is wise to visit the caravan at the seller’s home and this should match the address shown on the caravan's registration document.
Check the history
A general rule of thumb is that an owner who has kept detailed records of a caravan’s service history and has all its documentation in good order is likely to have looked after the caravan he is selling.
Documentation such as CRiS details, ownership and warranty documents, service history and log book all help to build up a picture of a van’s history.
Ask the seller how often he has used the caravan and over what kind of distances he has taken it. If the caravan has been standing for a long time there might be issues with its road worthiness or problems with damp might have built up.
Draw up a checklist
There are a lot of things you will need to check over when inspecting a caravan for purchase, so a wise move is to make yourself a checklist to work off.
Damp is a particular issue with second-hand caravans – it can cause surfaces and equipment to rot and can also be a health issue. You can usually tell by the smell if there is a problem with damp but a damp meter can also be purchased relatively inexpensively.
Other areas to look at closely are doors and windows – do they lock, are they watertight, are the hinges secure? Gas and electrics must be working correctly because faulty systems can be dangerous. Also check the condition of the chassis, the hitch and the suspension as repairs can be costly.
Does the caravan come with accessories?
Equipping your caravan with all the additional accessories can be quite expensive, so if a number of these are included in the sale it might be worth paying a little extra. Equipment that is particularly useful includes: awnings, gas bottles, battery chargers and electricity hook-ups.
Is it the right size?
It is important that you take time to consider whether the caravan you are considering buying is the right size and weight for the car you intend to tow it with.
As a rule of thumb, the total weight of your caravan including contents should add up to no more than 85% of the car’s kerb weight. Car manufacturers publish towing capacities of cars, so make sure you check this before you buy.
Making sure the caravan is not stolen
The Caravan Club has some good advice on buying a second-hand caravan and some useful tips on how to ensure you don’t buy a stolen one.
Damage around the hitch or on the wheel rims or tyres may indicate a security device has been forcibly removed. Similarly, if there is no documentation to go with the caravan, warning alarms show go off.
If the seller insists you view the caravan away from their home or business yard, this may also be a sign that it is stolen.