Buying a caravan, whether new or used, can be a daunting process, but having just done exactly that, Glammavanner Vicky is here with some handy top tips

You may've first encountered us Glammavanners last October, when we introduced ourselves to you, the Practical Caravan reader. We being me, Vicky Green, and my friend Sarah Terry. Back then, my husband, my children and I were relative newbies to caravanning, but how things have changed.

In fact, I've just traded my beloved first caravan in for a new model! If you're thinking of doing the same, here's some advice and tips for others who are also browsing caravans for sale, wondering which will become their new home from home.

My family and I fell in love with caravanning and, subsequently, glammavanning, and my adventures started with my first van, an Elddis Broadway which we purchased from Salop Leisure in February 2014. We named her Iris. She was a very petite and extremely light five-berth and, despite being built in 2002, she offered lots of little luxuries like a ceiling fan and an external barbecue point. She was also warm and cosy, a fantastic first caravan.  

We had a wonderful first year with her, but quickly realised that with two sprouting teenagers we were outgrowing her fast! So we decided that if we were serious about caravanning (and we are) then we needed to go bigger. And so the search began. I was not surprised when Salop Leisure won the UK top dealer award at the Practical Caravan Owner Satisfaction Awards in January 2015 – we had received great service in the previous year! So, we decided to go back to them and look at our options.

Before we did, we had to make some decisions about what we were looking for, to make sure we got what we wanted, instead of being seduced by a good-looking deal on the day and possibly regretting it later. After all, buying a new caravan is a not insignificant commitment. So I made a list of must-have features:

  1. It would need to be a six-berth and with fixed bunks – we had grown tired of putting up the bunk beds in our little Elddis!
  2. We wanted to be able to lie down on any sofas.
  3. The Elddis had an end bathroom and we liked that, but the shower formed the floor of the toilet area which I really didn’t like at all.
  4. We definitely wanted a motor mover! We had suffered from motor mover envy for long enough.
  5. Storage was a priority. We had limited cupboard space in the Elddis and that was becoming a problem.
  6. We were in favour of a newer caravan.
  7. Weight wasn’t a problem, as my husband had just changed his car to a Nissan Navara – that beast will tow anything!
  8. Length wasn’t a problem, but we would need to make some changes to our driveway if it was too large.
  9. Budget – always a tricky subject in our household! We settled on around £13,000, depending on the trade-in value for our little Elddis.

With our checklist in hand we drove to Salop Leisure for a quick scout around the company's Shrewsbury showroom.  

We really focused on used caravans thinking this was our best option, but nothing really stood out for us. But then our heads were turned by the brand new 2015 Sprite Major 6. Wow! And she looked enormous.

One look inside and my heart had been stolen. We looked at both the Major 6 and the Major 6 TD. Both were very similar and offered slightly different layouts, so we went back to our handy checklist and started comparing them.

Both had bunk beds and long sofas, but the layout of the Major 6 offered an extra wardrobe and an end bathroom. The second wardrobe really swung it for me – no more squabbling for space! That made it our winner. The caravan we viewed had the optional ‘diamond’ pack, which included cushions, alloy wheels, a stabiliser, a fly screen, a microwave and a radio/CD/MP3 player.

We found that used caravans just couldn’t meet the requirements set out in our checklist, nor the value of the Sprite. It was the van for us! We also opted for the panoramic sunroof, a motor mover (of course!), an external barbecue point and an additional electric point.    

We dealt with Stuart at Salop – funnily enough, we had been served by his wife the year before! He was great and made sure everything was in place, ready for the big purchase. What did surprise us, however, was the limited availability of the Sprite. We purchased the last one available in January, and it was agreed we would collect at the beginning of March.

So, it was time to break the news to Iris the Elddis. There were a few tears. She was my first love and we had learnt so much about caravanning and what our family needed to ensure we could keep on glammavanning in the future. She's gone but never forgotten – she has inspired our future. And very soon it was time for a taste of it, with the arrival of our brand new caravan. 

I think one of the great things about buying your caravan from Salop is that it has a small campsite adjacent to the dealership, and anyone who buys from them has the option of staying there for one night, free of charge. As it is one of The Camping and Caravanning Club's Certificated Sites, it is basic, but you have the use of a shower block and electric hook-up. And if you're not sure of anything you can pop into the showroom. It's a super idea and very reassuring for new owners, giving them confidence before their first tour.

As you might've guessed, we decided to do this. And with my husband abandoning me for cricket practice, it was left to Stuart to tow me up to the site, once their handover expert Malcolm had talked us through all the gadgets and, most importantly, the heating system. Salop even offers to film it for you as a point of reference, which is a really nice touch.

After one night in our new Sprite, we realised this was next level glammavanning! And what of that longed-for motor mover? Now, I don't know how we ever survived without one!

We are delighted with our purchase, despite having to remove a wall to fit her on the drive. Our Sprite is everything we wanted and needed. We soon hitched up and head off on our first tour, staying at The Plassey Leisure Park in Wrexham, and the Sprite was just perfect: spacious, luxurious and warm.

So, having taken the plunge, what are my top tips for anyone planning an upgrade?

  1. Remember what you like about your existing caravan – it’s as important as what you would like to be different next time!
  2. Make a list of your ‘must-have’ features and decide if there is any room for compromise.
  3. Think how long you want your next caravan for – will it still be the right fit for your family?
  4. Make sure you have the right space for it at home (or wherever you store it).
  5. Check that your tow car can tow your caravan, and that you have the right size battery for the additional power needed by motor movers.
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