Top 10 Tips For Buying a Used Caravan

To help you on your way when buying a used caravan, I have made a list of ten things that you should always do when you are considering buying a used caravan. If you prefer to buy a new caravan I find that you will pay over the top prices for it.

1) Caravan or camper van?

Your first decision will be which type of vehicle is right for you, do u want to travel to lots of different places, or do u want to travel lots of different camp site? If you are wanting to do as much travelling as possible then a campervan is probably the better option for you, but if you just want to visit lots of different camp sites then a caravan is the option for you, but it all generally comes down to the type of holiday you are looking for.

If you are looking to spend your holidays travelling between several different camp sites, and wanting to cover as much distance as possible, then a camper is the better choice. Once you arrive it your new location is just a matter of parking up and enjoying the scenery, instead of tackling the hated or loved job of setting up your own campsite. Whereas if you are planning to spend a week or two of your trip in the one spot, then a caravan is definitely the better option for you. You still have the flexibility of travelling around the area by leaving your caravan behind and away you go, but you have a bigger and more permanent living space.

2) Size matters

Does size matter? Obviously the bigger the caravan/campervan you by the more luxurious and spacious it will be. If you purchase a bigger vehicle then obviously the facilities will be more spacious, the cabin will be much larger as well as the bedrooms, which means you can comfortably have room to accommodate more people. So basically work out how many people you are likely to be accommodating on most of your trips and plan around that. Another thing to think about when purchasing a caravan is the size of caravan to car ratio, the rule of thumb when towing caravans is that your caravan should be no more than 85% of the kerb weight of your vehicle but if you are a first time tower you should probably aim quite a bit lower than this. The best thing to do is to look up your vehicles manual on towing weights and instructions.

TIP: If you caravans width is more than 2.3 M wide then you are probably going to have to hire or buy a commercial vehicle to tow it. TIP: An easier way to increase the living space in your caravan without having to purchase a larger caravan is to add an awning.

3) Always, always do your research

When thinking about buying a new or used caravan always do as much research as possible. Check out what the models you are looking at purchasing cost to buy new to give you an idea of what you should be paying for a second hand version. Also ring around and get a few different quotes for insurance on the selected models they you are interested in to give you a rough idea of how much you are going to spending, this way you can take this away from your budget and know how much you actually have to spend on the caravan its self. If you have the internet check forums and guides for common problems with the selected models you are thinking about purchasing, and then whenever it comes time to view the caravans you know exactly where to look.

TIP: I can’t stress this enough always do your research don’t go for a viewing blind, as you could end up buying a nightmare rather than a dream.

4) Check the seller

Once you have found a caravan that you are interested in purchasing there are a few steps to follow to insure you are dealing with a legitimate dealer, and always be aware that there are lots of scammers around, and also that caravans are one of the easiest stolen items to pass off as being legit. Whenever you buy from a legit dealer you may pay more for your caravan but in the long run this can be more worthwhile as legitimate dealers have legal obligations to follow, and also if anything goes working with your caravan at least you know where to find them. When calling a private seller, say “hello I’m ringing up about your caravan you advertised”. If they then ask you “which caravan” then you are, obviously dealing with a dealer who is trying to pretend otherwise, to avoiding having any legal obligations, so my advice is to be wary.

TIP: Make sure you arrange to visit the caravan at the sellers home or business, this should match the address shown on the caravan’s registration document, if not i would be very wary.

5) Always check the caravan over thoroughly

Always inspect the van thoroughly in daylight. If you are not mechanically minded, bring along someone that is. I have drawn up a checklist for you to follow, my advice is to print it out and take it with you on your viewing. Remember Planning, Planning, Planning.

Check for damp –

First of all give the exterior I good once over checking for holes in the shell, also check the seals around the windows and insure they are in good nick finally give all the joins and seals on the caravan a good thorough inspection. Next check inside the caravan thoroughly as this is where the dam issues (if any) will be easily detected. You can purchase a dam detector from any of your local D.I.Y stores which cost on average about £20 and in my eyes are worth it if it saves you from buying a dud caravan and wasting thousands. Be sure to check in all the corners of the caravan itself, under seats, beds and all the cupboards as this is where the dam will arise from.

Check the doors and windows –

This something you want to put up high on your list of priorities when viewing a second hand caravan for the first time. Security is one of the weakest points of a caravan so you want to make the security you do have is working. So make sure and check that all windows and doors, especially the main door close and lock properly. Again check the seals of all of these as they are likely to be very expensive to replace on all caravans old or new, and if it is an older model the replacement parts may be harder to find.

Check the chassis and running gear –

This is the point you need to be very cautious! Make sure and I cannot stress this enough that you always check over the chassis’s and axles. Don’t be afraid to slide under the van and have a look with a torch, a legit seller with nothing to hide won’t mind you hocking and poking around. Things to watch out for are, signs of corrosion, new paint and underseal, these could all be hiding some deep dark secrets so be wary. Things to check

o Chassis and axles for rust or attempts to hide anything.
o Hitching mechanism moves freely.
o Jockey wheel slides up and down freely.
o Grease nipples to insure they’re OK.
o Finally insure the handbrake is in full working order and moves freely.

Check the gas and electrics –

This is where dodgy sellers like to do a spot of DIY to insure that everything works for the viewings, they can try anything to cover up flaws just to get a vehicle sold so be very careful as any faults in these systems can be lethal. If you are unsure get a professional to look over the vehicle for you, any legit seller wont mind.

6) All the little things

We all know that when you start adding extras to a vehicle the price just keeps going up and up and up, so keep an eye out for any added extras that come with the vehicle. Don’t be afraid to ask the owner as I’m sure they will gladly show you what you are getting for your money.

TIP: Don’t forget to remember all the extras when considering the sellers price.

Common extras include-

o Batteries.
o Battery chargers.
o Electricity hockups.
o Gas canisters.
o Awning.
o Hitch hockups.
o TV aerials.

7) Check the history

This is where a lot of people get caught out and blatantly scammed, always find out as much history about the caravan as possible, I loving caring owner usually keeps a manual with a full service history, all receipts, mot’s insurance docs etc. (But don’t expect this of everyone, it’s just a bonus really).

TIP: Always ask when the last time the van was used and always be wary of a van that stood lay about for a long period of time.

8) Check the age

It can sometimes be difficult to get an accurate estimate of the age of your caravan. If it is a newer van you should be able to get the age from an HPi check. However, if it’s an old van, there is still a good chance.

9) Get an HPI check

Any caravan manufactured after 1992 will have its VIN registered on the Caravan Registration Identification Scheme (CRiS). This 17 digit VIN number (usually starting with an SG) is stamped on to the chassis and on later models it will be etched into the windows. Just be very careful as these do not mean the caravan is 100% authentic as crooks have figured out was to fake these and sell the caravan on.

TIP: I strongly recommend you carry out an HPI check before parting with your money. This will confirm the true identity of the van as well as reported to have outstanding finance, if it’s been reported stolen, or has previously been recorded as an insurance write off.

10) Be a good buyer

For a fast and efficient sale most buyers mostly prefer cash there and then so you can both part your own ways and the deal is done. But unfortunately this is not always the case and it slows the sale process down. Arrange with the seller a payment plan that suits both of you and you both walk away feeling happy. At these factors add up to you being able to buy there and then, and this will allow you to lower the asking price slightly, because of this.

TIP: always have your loan sorted before you go viewing the vehicles to insure a quick and easy sale. Remember all of these 10 tips whenever going to view a caravan and my advice to you is to print them out and take them with you and then you won’t forget anything.

Caravan Accessories – 6 Tips to Making Your Trip Stress Free

Caravan accessories can compliment your purchase of your caravan or motorhome, and there are some basic accessories that will really help your journey to be as stress-free and enjoyable as possible.

Some of the main caravan accessories required are:

  1. A 240 volt 15 amps lead that is run through an earth leakage circuit breaker mounted inside the caravan or motorhome. A great addition because most of your appliances run through the one supply lead.
  2. Caravan or motorhome levellers are especially important if you are running 3 way fridges (gas, 12volt, 240volt ). Unlike domestic style fridges, some caravan fridges do not have a compressor. To ensure that the fridge works to peak performance the caravan or motorhome needs to be within 4 degrees of being level. However the Engel fridges, Waeco fridge and Vitrfrigo fridges to name a few do have compressors.
  3. Another small accessory that is sometimes forgotten but is important is the spirit level. This is used so that the caravan or motorhome is level, again making sure that your caravan fridges work at peak performance. These come in many different shapes and places for mounting, but the easiest place for it is near the jockey wheel. This enables quick adjustments with the jockey wheel or the wind down stands which are a standard item fitted to caravans.
  4. A large percentage of caravans come with a caravan shower and a toilet as well as full kitchen facilities. Normally two water tanks are installed, but often this is not enough to have more than two quick showers let alone water to drink. This is why you need to have the fresh drinking water hose that has been specifically designed for caravans. The benefit of this hose is if left in the sun for long periods of time it does not taint the water leaving that bitter taste nor leach toxins from garden type hoses which are often a cheap alternative. Along with the fresh water hose, a waste water hose which is flexible enough to fold and roll up is essential. The smooth bore (internal), allows the waste water to drain out and can be packed away without any water remaining in the pipe to start smelling or wetting other items in the boot.
  5. The couple mate is a great invention and is aptly named the marriage saver! This caravan accessory helps people reverse back onto the caravan without getting the wrong directions. This is fantastic also for people that travel alone when attempting to hitch up their caravan.
  6. Caravan towing mirrors are one of the most valuable caravan accessories available today. They are normally dependent on the vehicle towing the caravan, existing mirrors on the tow vehicle and personal preference. With the newer model tow vehicles that have spring loaded mirrors on the doors there was a tendency to cause problems in the early days as they would snap back on the car when a semi trailer went past in the opposite direction. They have since designed support arms which have just about stopped this. The new ratchet style caravan mirrors seems to be the most successful towing mirror to suit a wide variety of vehicles.

Having the right caravan accessories will make your touring life easier, it will reduce your stress and give you the opportunity to enjoy a lifestyle on the road that allows you to enjoy your journey even more without the difficulties many encounter.

Guide to Greener Caravanning

Your choice of caravan insurance may seem an unusual factor in becoming more green in your caravanning pursuits. But it is one of a number of ways in which you can help reduce your carbon footprint. This article aims to show you a number of ways in which you can improve your relationship with the environment. I hope you are pleasantly surprised about just how easily this can be achieved.

In these days of increasing environmental awareness it is interesting to note that a survey has shown that caravanners have greener credentials than the average motorist. In a poll of 1,000 motorists it was discovered that caravanners are:

  • more likely to use energy saving light bulbs
  • more likely to use their own shopping bags
  • more than twice as likely to offset the carbon footprint of flights they take
  • regarded by more than 75% of people as more environmentally friendly that people who fly to their holidays
  • carrying out basic maintenance on their vehicles far more often than non-caravanning motorists, which helps reduce CO2 emissions
  • 7% more likely to think about their environmental impact on a daily basis

Buying Caravan Insurance

So, how does a caravan enthusiast go about helping to save the planet? Firstly, and perhaps a little surprisingly comes your choice of caravan insurance. Online caravan insurance providers Towergate Bakers have developed a policy that promises to deliver the carbon neutral caravan holiday. The policy is provided as a web-only product, and as a result the savings made in postage and processing time are to be used to offset the policy holders caravan related carbon emissions at no extra cost to the the customer.

Buying A Caravan

If you are in the market for a caravan, there are a number of things you can think about to try to improve your eco credentials:

  • Aerodynamics and Weight: Both the weight and the aerodynamics of a caravan impact the amount of carbon produced when towing. The lighter and more aerodynamic the vehicle the smaller and more eco-friendly car can be used to tow it.
  • Make and Model: Caravan manufacturers such as Baileys (who’s caravans are 75% recycleable) have become increasingly eco-aware and have made efforts to improve their caravans. Increasingly recycling schemes and green manufacturing techniques are being introduced, so when looking for a new caravan include this in your research.
  • Insulation: Ensure the caravan is well insulated, as poor insulation can greatly affect the amount of CO2 produced to regulate the temperature of the caravan. Also bear in mind that the less corrosive the shell of the caravan is the longer it will last which will in turn defer the energy required in manufacture.
  • Power: Solar panels are a good option, reducing the reliance on generators and batteries. These also prove to be cheaper over the long term.

Towing Tips

There are a number of things you can do regarding towing the caravan to reduce the amount of carbon emissions you create:

  • Regular servicing: This will help ensure that your car is using fuel as efficiently as possible
  • Turn off your engine: Should you find yourself stuck in a traffic jam and you are obviously not going to be moving for a while, then make sure you turn off your engine. This is a good idea to cut your emissions even when you are not towing a caravan
  • Roof box: Choose a profiled roofbox for your car as this can help the overall dynamics of your rig. And be sure to remove any roofbars when not in use
  • The right tow car: It is important that your caravan and car are correctly matched to ensure the efficiency of your towing. You should check with the car and caravan manufacturers for recommendations and guidance
  • Carry less water: Some people carry gallons of the stuff many, many miles, which is unnecessary. Reducing the amount lowers the weight you are towing and will result in using less fuel. The best idea is to fill your tanks when you get to your destination
  • Drive sensibly: Avoid trying to pull off like Louis Hamilton from the lights, and be sure to increase your speed gradually as this is more fuel efficient
  • Avoid the rush hour: Try to plan your trips so you are not travelling during the rush hour if at all possible. Also try to plan your route to avoid stop/start traffic to enable you to travel at a steady speed
  • Check your tyre pressure: Having the wrong pressure in your tyres causes your car to use more fuel, and can result in creating an unnecessary extra 10 kilos of Carbon Dioxide for each 500 miles you travel
  • Slow down: Reducing your speed by 10mph will result in a substantial reduction in the amount of CO2 you produce per mile
  • Switch to LPG: This costs approximately £1700, but the fuel costs half the price of regular petrol. It is increasingly available at the pumps, and after conversion the vehicle will still be able to use standard fuel if necessary
  • Use BioDiesel: If you have a diesel car then fill it with BioDiesel instead of standard diesel. It is made from sustainable vegetable material, which is normally mixed in with ordinary diesel. Your car doesn’t need converting to be able to use it

Choice Of Site

The green bug has even bitten Caravan sites themselves, backed by the both the Caravan Club and the Camping And Caravanning Club. The latter have increased energy efficiency and recycling, introduced eco-friendly materials, and included more honeycomb grid hardstanding which enables the grass to grow. Indeed its Windermere site has been hailed by The Guardian newspaper as Britain’s “most environmentally friendly site”.

There is even an award scheme for environmentally friendly sites. The scheme, set up in 1996 in a joint venture between conservationist David Bellamy and the British Holiday and Home Parks Association saw 620 sites receiving an award this year. There are three levels of the award that a site can earn, these being Bronze, Silver, or Gold. You can hunt for one of these sites at bellamyparks.co.uk.

General

Finally there are a number of general things you can do to become more environmentally aware, that are not necessarily caravan related, but which are relevant to caravan holidays:

  • The newer the caravan the better as caravans have become increasingly better insulated over the years
  • Save fuel on heating by wearing an extra layer rather than notching the heating up
  • Recycle your plastic bags, by using for multiple shopping trips, or as waste sacks
  • Increase the insulation in the caravan by using polystyrene wall linings in wardrobes and cupboards, and under seating
  • Make sure you use charcoal from sustainable sources when barbecuing. These will have the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) recommendation on them
  • Only boil as much water as you are going to use
  • If your site doesn’t have recycling facilities, make the effort to take your waste to municipal recycling points while on your way home. These can often be found in supermarket car parks.
  • Use low energy bulbs and turn off lights and electrical equipment when not in use
  • Do the washing up with the hot water you used to boil an egg
  • Ideally buy a compost toilet, but failing that buy toilet fluid products – such as Thetford’s Aqua Kem Green – which are formaldehyde free
  • On-site sinks are deeper and need more water to wash the dishes than doing them in the caravan
  • Buy yourself a solar powered or a wind up radio
  • For less than £10 you can buy a wind up mobile phone charger
  • Try to walk, cycle or use public transport more when on holiday. Leave the car behind at the site
  • You can become self sufficient in terms of 12 volt electricity it you install portable solar panels (this can cost over £400)
  • Use biodegradable cleaning products
  • Hold onto things that are compostable for the heap at home. Things like card food containers and Egg cartons
  • Separate you metal, glass and paper waste. Recycling all the aluminium cans in the UK would result in 12,000,000 fewer dustbins full of waste a year, and 17 trees can be saved for each ton of recycled paper
  • Buy locally produced food from local bakers, farm shops, and farmers’ markets. This reduces the number of lorries on our roads

So there you have it, a brief but I hope useful list of ways you can reduce your carbon footprint while making the most of your caravan holiday. Admittedly some of these require investment up-front, but even putting those aside, there are many cheap and even free ways of improving your green credentials.

I hope you are able to put at least some of these into action, as you will feel good about making an effort to protecting the planet for future generations (of caravanners hopefully).

Buying a Caravan

When buying a caravan you must take into consideration several things. In this article I hope to inform you of several checks you must make and things to consider when buying a caravan.

The first thing you need to consider is how much use will I get from a caravan? If you are only thinking of using your new caravan once or twice a year then may-be buying your own caravan is not the best option for you. There are many caravan sites which will let you rent a caravan for a week or two. This allows you save the initial investment and save you the inconvenience of hooking up and moving the caravan.

If your heart is set on buying a caravan then there are two types you can choose from. The first is a static caravan. This is normally a caravan which does not move from site to site. You pay a fee per year for the upkeep of the caravan site and rental of the caravan. This type of caravan ownership limits you to one spot.

The second type of caravan you could choose is the more traditional type of mobile caravan which you hook up to a car and move from site to site yourself. This allows you to pick and choose the caravan site you want to stay at on a regular basis.

When you have decided on which type of caravan you need to consider how many people at once will be using the caravan. As they come in all shapes and sizes you can get 2 to 8 berth (beds) caravans so if you have a larger family then more berths would be more suitable for your needs.

When buying a second hand caravan I recommend that you check everything especially check for rust around the chassis area, and underneath the van. If there is fresh paint there then it could be the sign of a quick paint job to cover it. Rust is a big problem with caravans and is very expensive to fix properly.

Check for water leaks and damp from any pipes also look around the windows, doors and the roof for signs of water damage like brown or black stains. If there is a smell of damp in the air then there could also be a problem. Check the carpets to see if they are damp or wet as this would indicate a hole in the undercarriage.

Check the tow hitch to make sure it moves easily and that the handbrake holds the van when on. Also check the entire joints around this area for cracks and rust. If this has been painted recently look at the joints underneath as they may have missed painting this and would indicate there is a problem. Also check for scrapes and scratches around the hitch as this may indicate a broken lock and hence a stolen caravan.

Check the tries for tread depth and ware as this would indicate a lot of miles have been done. Check the chassis and the springs as replacing these could be very costly.

Check the caravan vin number and check against the caravan documents. If this number is different than the vin number on the caravan then do not buy the caravan. I also recommend that you do not buy a caravan without any documentation.

I recommend that you only buy a second hand caravan from an accredited caravan dealer as your making a large investment and most reputable dealers will check all of the points above, but check them out for yourself then you can look forward to many happy years of caravanning ahead.