Andy Jenkinson

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Looking at family-friendly used caravans for sale under £7k? Check these out! Either could be your perfect first tourer to make your holiday dreams real

Family caravans with four berths and upwards have been selling well, according to dealers, with first-time caravanning families tending to focus on the £8000 mark as an upper limit for their first van.

With that in mind we headed off to long-established dealer Robsons of Wolsingham in Co Durham. The company has a super tourer display area and sells a wide range of models, as well as a selection of motorhomes.

It didn’t take us long to find a couple of used caravans for sale that met our requirements with price-tags of well under £7k.

Our first was a 2011 Caravelair Ambience – a brand that’s been around in the UK on and off since 1964 – with an asking price of £6995.

The other was a Swift-based dealer special – the Archway from 2003 – with a higher weight than the Caravelair.

The Ambience is more modern inside and comes with a fixed bed and a decent shower room plus an on-board water tank. But it sleeps four while the Swift has five berths and a better-equipped kitchen. So which is best?

First contender: 2011 Caravelair Ambience Style 465

This Caravelair is much newer than the Swift – and feels it. It has an Al-Ko chassis and old-style Al-Ko hitch stabiliser, but there are no alloy wheels.

The door is on the wrong side for the UK (but that shouldn’t be a problem) and there are ‘fish scale’ aluminium side panels as opposed to the Swift’s smooth sides – though it also comes with heavy-duty corner steadies, a spare wheel and some very sturdy grabhandles.

Inside, the layout offers a front fixed bed, side double dinette with wardrobe and dresser opposite, with the kitchen at the rear along with a corner washroom.

The interior looks modern, with a light wood finish and an up-to-date locker design. Robsons’ example was excellent and it appeared that the Ambience hadn’t been used much during its five-year life.

Second contender: 2003 Swift Archway Maidwell

This Swift is 14 years old, hence the lower price, but is still very much in its prime.

The exterior looks more dated than the Caravelair’s, but considering its age there’s little to fault. Sure, the decals have begun to fade, but the alloys look good and the GRP panels are otherwise in excellent condition.

This used Swift caravan comes with a spare wheel and a gas barbecue point, plus a wet locker and an exterior mains socket. A TV aerial is also part of the kit.

The layout offers sleeping for up to five people. The floorplan is the double-dinette family favourite, featuring a large front lounge area, side kitchen with wardrobe and washroom opposite, plus a double rear dinette with a fold-out bunk.

The interior finish is up to Swift standards, with quality overhead lockers and furniture fittings. There’s no fixed double bed, but that can be rectified by leaving the rear double made up.

Pitch and set-up

  • Caravelair Ambience Style 465 – 4 stars
  • Swift Archway Maidwell – 4 stars
      

Both are built on Al-Ko chassis with hitch stabilisers. The Caravelair adds heavy-duty corner steadies and an on-board water tank, while the Swift has a barbecue point and wet locker.

Neither of these used caravans for sale has a mover fitted, but the 1050kg MiRO should make the Caravelair easier to shift. Then again, the Swift isn’t much heavier at 1062kg.

Both get a spare wheel but the Swift has smart alloys compared to the Ambience’s hubcaps. The Swift has a moulded rear road light unit but it’s not as smart as the Ambience’s.

Both also have front gas lockers that are easy to access and operate. Sturdy grabhandles are fitted to both (the Swift’s are stainless steel at the front) but the Ambience doesn’t have an A-frame shroud.

The Swift is the only one to come with a glazed stable door, although both have awning lights. The Swift also comes with triple front windows while the Ambience has a one-piece unit.

Overall, both tourers are on an equal footing here, with similar pitching-up attributes.

Lounge

  • Caravelair Ambience Style 465 – 3.5 stars
  • Swift Archway Maidwell – 4 stars
      

The Archway’s lounge beats the Ambience’s hands down on size, and that’s hardly surprising because the Swift is slightly larger inside.

The Ambience has to make do with a side double dinette area as its lounge – it’s perfectly comfortable but it’s nowhere near as roomy.

The Caravelair’s seats are supportive but again the Archway’s are slightly better, thanks to thicker bases and corner bolsters.

The Swift has mains corner lights plus 12V corner spots, a radio/CD player and a Heki roof vent. The Ambience also gets a large rooflight and two roof locker-integrated lights.

The Swift has a central chest of drawers, a blown-air outlet and seat access flaps. There’s also a mains socket in the Archway (a feature missing from the Ambience) and an alarm sensor.

The Swift’s more appealing lounge area gives it the win here, but by only half a star.

Kitchen

  • Caravelair Ambience Style 465 – 4.5 stars
  • Swift Archway Maidwell – 4 stars
      

Your choice here largely depends on your priorities. If you’re after good spec the Swift nudges past the post first, but if you’re more interested in size, worktop space and storage the Ambience is the one for you.

The Caravelair’s kitchen is really well designed. The cook is also nicely out of the way of mainstream foot traffic, while the Swift’s kitchen area is smaller and has less storage and a smaller worktop.

Night-time illumination is also better in the Ambience, with two lights to the Swift’s one. Both are fitted with a mains socket and glass tops for the sinks and hobs.

Sadly, the Ambience is a slouch when it comes to spec. Don’t get us wrong, it has all you need in a caravan of this ilk.

However, the Swift comes with a full oven and a dual-fuel hob – a new feature for Swift back in 2003.

The Archway’s sink and drainer is combined and enamelled in cream – and looks very smart – while a roof-mounted Omnivent expels cooking smells.

Both tourers have a decent fridge, but the Caravelair’s kitchen is better than the Swift’s.

Beds

  • Caravelair Ambience Style 465 – 4 stars
  • Swift Archway Maidwell – 3.5 stars
      

The large front lounge of the Swift can be made into a super-large double bed or twin singles. The double is made using pull-out slats, while the rear of the Swift makes into another double, plus there’s the bunk.

So game over for the Caravelair? No. The Ambience scores higher thanks to its fixed front double bed. It’s comfy and, of course, means you don’t have to worry about making up a bed every night. The other bed is a small double that uses the side dinette, with the table used as a base.

So the Ambience’s fixed bed makes it a great tourer for two.

Washroom

  • Caravelair Ambience Style 465 – 4 stars
  • Swift Archway Maidwell – 3.5 stars
      

Both washrooms are practical and easy to use, but look at the details and one is slightly better than the other.

The Caravelair’s sits in the rear offside corner, which works well with its fixed, electric-flush cassette loo. It has more floor space than the Swift’s while both have large opaque side windows.

The Swift also has a fixed cassette loo but it’s manual-flush only. The handbasins fitted to both are made from ABS plastic – they’re identical in size, the Swift’s being part of the vanity unit with cupboards fitted below.

Large mirrors feature in both washrooms, and showers are also part of the spec, which use curtains to keep water splashing to a minimum. However, the Swift washroom doesn’t have a loo-roll holder.

Factor in this final point and the floor space, and the Caravelair wins here.

Storage

  • Caravelair Ambience Style 465 – 4.5 stars
  • Swift Archway Maidwell – 4 stars
      

The Caravelair has some impressive storage options. The kitchen area has good cupboards and shelving plus drawers, which are an ample size for bulky pots.

Overhead lockers also have a small shelf beneath and that front double bed means that you have added storage underneath. The Ambience has an impressive side dresser unit, too, with more worktop and a large cupboard with a shelf above.

The wardrobe is a good size with plenty of hanging space and the Truma gas heater in its base.

The Swift does a good job here, but is behind on kitchen storage, and with no fixed-bed storage you’re restricted to under-seat lockers.

The Archway’s washroom has slightly more storage and its wardrobe should be sufficient for most, but the Ambience wins because of the Swift’s poorer kitchen area.

VERDICT

  • Caravelair Ambience Style 465 – 4 stars
  • Swift Archway Maidwell – 3.5 stars
      

So, after scrutinising both these used caravans for sale, which comes out on top?Well, here’s the proof, if you needed it, that more berths aren’t necessarily better, with the Caravelair taking the win!

Yes, it sleeps fewer than the Swift, but it’s also quite spacious and we can see this layout appealing to a couple as well as a family.

Don’t dismiss the Archway, though. Its front lounge area is very impressive indeed, while the Ambience can’t hold a candle to its spec.

However, the Caravelair still has enough kit for most people, and its more modern interior – and of course the ever-popular fixed bed – wins it points.

The Swift caravan is a great option for the money, but the Caravelair dares to be different. The fact that it’s newer and a whisker lighter is the icing on the cake.

Vital statistics: 2011 Caravelair Ambience Style 465

  • Price: £6995
  • Internal length: 5.00m
  • Overall length: 6.74m
  • Overall width: 2.12m
  • MiRO: 1062kg
  • Payload: 232kg
  • MTPLM: 1230kg
     

Kit list:

  • Al-Ko galvanised chassis
  • Heavy-duty corner steadies
  • AKS hitch
  • Spare wheel
  • Fridge
  • Three-burner hob
  • Blown-air heating
  • Awning light
  • On-board water tank
      

Vital statistics: 2003 Swift Archway Maidwell

  • Price: £5495
  • Internal length: 5.03m
  • Overall length: 6.62m
  • Overall width: 2.16m
  • MiRO: 1062kg
  • Payload: 250kg
  • MTPLM: 1312kg
     

Kit list

  • Galvanised chassis
  • Alloy wheels
  • Dual-fuel hob
  • Oven
  • Fridge
  • Awning light
  • Glazed stable door
  • Alarm
  • TV aerial
  • Microwave
  • Blown-air heating
  • Barbecue point
      

Always check a used caravan and its papers yourself before buying.

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