Andy Jenkinson

See other Advice articles filed in ‘Caravans for sale – buying guides’ written by Andy Jenkinson
   
Want luxury touring for less? Check out our 2004 Vanmaster buying guide as Andy Jenkinson shares his advice to help you buy used caravans with confidence

A five-star hotel on wheels – that’s the best way to describe a Vanmaster. For example, these luxurious, custom-built vans don’t have the kind of soft furnishings found in mass-produced makes. Their Al-Ko chassis are designed to take the extra weight of real wood veneers and high specifications. Vanmasters came with all the latest features, such as Alde wet central heating, microwave ovens, satellite systems and air conditioning, plus the best washrooms available in any tourer.

Rather than having a single gas locker in front, the Vanmasters had a separate one for each cylinder; between them was a small hatch for the towing electric connectors. Elbee supplied their premium windows and doors.

The Applause 560ET, for example, got a large end washroom, a generous nearside kitchen and an offside dinette. Parallel sofas flanked the front central chest and the extra width makes the lounge feel enormous. Though a three-berth, this will appeal to a couple, who will benefit from loads of storage space. However, you will need a hefty tow car.

Prices of used Vanmaster caravans for sale have come down over time; for instance, the 2004 model pictured cost £25,400 new – its current sub-£6000 price makes it a steal. Another advantage is the manufacturer’s refurbishment service – a popular choice for those buying pre-owned – and full servicing. Such is the level of service provided by this small Lancashire company.

Model history

Vanmaster was started in 1995 by former Vanroyce staff. The Applause 560ET, which is the model you’re most likely to come across, was introduced three years later. The layout proved a success and offered the option of adding a bunk to make it a family caravan.

In 2003, Vanmasters were widened to improve towing stability; the next year, end washrooms were revamped with redesigned shower cubicles. Six soft-furnishing fabrics were available, though customers often went for a bespoke design, which Vanmaster would fit. From just two layouts, eight were available in 2004. GRP was used for the roofs, and front and back panels. Its classic profile was tweaked over the ensuing years.

Buyer's checklist

  • Decals fade and peel over time
  • Both GRP panels may have faded
  • Trim strips may come away from the seams between the wallboards
  • Inspect the alloy wheels for scuffing
  • Edging may come away from the caravan's cabinetwork and furniture
  • Ask to see a service history
  • Test the Alde heating, the alarm and other equipment
  • Check for signs of hard use – some are used solidly year-round
        

What to pay

Pre-owned Vanmasters are more commonly offered by private owners rather than dealers, and they don’t often come onto the market. The 2004 Applause 560ET may be found for £5995-£7995. Prices for other models in the line-up range from £5395 for the two-berth 440EK to £10,495 for the four-berth 640SB-ET.

Alternatives

  • Lunar Clubman 530: this 2005 example cost a tad more at £6295, but its decent spec did not stretch to Alde heating.
  • Avondale Osprey: a 2006 caravan with the same layout as the Applause cost just £6850 – and you get a long list of kit in this 10-year-old tourer.
         

Verdict

These are heavy and very traditional caravans, but they stand out on site and are built to last. Years after they left the factory, Vanmasters still enjoy great service from the manufacturer. The range is a cut above your average tourer, with superb end washrooms and acres of storage.

For the cash these make great buys, so don't discount them when browsing the used caravans for sale pages – but be certain you have enough left to buy a larger tow car, too!

Factfile

Some details on the featured 2004 Vanmaster Applause 560ET:

  • Price: £5950
  • Berths: 4
  • MiRO: 1460kg
  • Payload: 360kg
  • MTPLM: 1800kg
  • Internal length: 5.64m
  • Width: 2.34m
  • Seen at: Motorhomes and Caravans Ltd, Stoneferry Road, Hull, HU7 0EG (call 01482 448 157 or go online)
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