Andy Jenkinson

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Get expert advice on buying used caravans for sale, as we check out these Sterling and Bailey caravans, offering different takes on the end-washroom layout

If you're scouring the used caravans for sale pages, looking for great value and a layout you'll love, maybe this is all the inspiration you'll need.

Single-axle end-washroom tourers quickly found favour with British caravanners, particularly among those who preferred using low-facility campsites. Manufacturers were quick to respond to this new star on the market, including it in all their ranges. Subsequently, there are plenty of examples to be found on used forecourts.

The fixed bed was also high on many caravanners’ ‘must-have’ list and in many cases came as part of the end-washroom package. However, there was an alternative.

Some models were equipped instead with a second dinette that could be made up into a double bed. This layout, which offered more living space, was extremely versatile, giving users the option to leave one end of the van made up as a bed or to keep it as a social area.

On a recent visit to United British Caravans (UBC) in Newcastle, we found an example of each on its used forecourt. The fixed-bed model was a first-generation (2011) Bailey Olympus 534 with a kitchen amidships and a wraparound front lounge.

Replacing the fixed bed with a U-shaped double dinette was a 2010 Sterling Europa 545. Its lounge comprised parallel sofas and a centre chest.

There’s a year’s age difference but both these used caravans for sale have been priced by UBC at £11,984.

Let the battle commence.

First contender: Sterling Europa 545

Sterling’s Europa range was designed to appeal to those who wanted all the comforts of a British-built van but with Continental styling.

The Europa rides on an Al-Ko chassis and is quite a well-specified tourer: alloy wheels, an AKS hitch stabiliser and Al-Ko Secure receiver and a spare wheel are standard fare, but it misses out on the ATC trailer control system. However, our example came with a bonus mover, retro-fitted by the previous owner.

The body comprises one-piece sidewalls of high-impact aluminium, a full-height moulded back panel and, at the front, a large gas locker.

The Sterling Europa 545 was a new layout for 2010. In essence it was the same as the 550, but in place of the 550’s nearside fixed bed it had a double dinette replicating the bed shape.

Its lounge has the usual parallel sofas and a centre chest, plus an offside kitchen, with a dresser opposite, and an end washroom taking up the van’s entire width.

A dual-fuel hob, separate oven and grill, microwave and fridge make up the kitchen kit. Plus there’s a Status 530 TV aerial and blown-air heating.

It was clear that this six-year-old van had been well looked after.

Second contender: Bailey Olympus 534

In 2010, the Pegasus was the first range to be built using Bailey’s Alu-Tech construction method, which comprised an extruded aluminium perimeter frame with sandwich panels bonded to it. The Olympus followed.

The build method produced quite a boxy-looking van, but one that gave great headroom inside.

Bailey did away with the large gas locker, replacing it with a small locker at the front – just big enough to take two bottles – and a small locker on either side, accessed from the sidewalls.

Based on an Al-Ko chassis, the Olympus came with alloy wheels, an AKS hitch stabiliser, the ATC trailer control system, a spare wheel, a Status TV aerial, an exterior mains socket and LED-lit grab-handles.

Inside, the lounge does away with the centre chest in favour of wraparound seating. In the middle there is an offside kitchen with a dresser opposite and towards the rear a fixed double bed and wardrobe. At the back is a full-width washroom.

The interior is made comfortable with loose-fit carpets and Truma heating. The kitchen is kitted out with a four-burner gas hob, a separate oven and grill, a microwave and a fridge. It was all in great order.

Pitch and set-up

  • Sterling Europa 545 – 4.5 stars
  • Bailey Olympus 534 – 4 stars
      

The majority of British caravans are based on Al-Ko chassis, so the pitching routine for both tourers on test will be familiar to many caravanners.

Neither of these used caravans for sale are particularly light, though, so the Europa gains the advantage with the mover being fitted. If you are hauling a van into place it’s important that the grab-handles are comfortable to use, and in both cases they are.

In addition, accessing the corner steadies and gas lockers on both vans was not a problem.

The Sterling’s large gas locker has room for other touring paraphernalia, but you would be hard pushed to get a waste container, for example, in the Bailey’s equivalent side lockers, although there is another exterior locker at the rear of the van.

The mover makes the difference here and even the ATC doesn’t sway it for the Bailey – the Europa takes the lead.

Lounge

  • Sterling Europa 545 – 4.5 stars
  • Bailey Olympus 534 – 4 stars
      

In Britain you can’t rely on enjoying a warm evening outside your van, so a comfortable lounge is important. Both tourers we're featuring here have great living space, it’s just that one has rather more than the other.

The Sterling has the familiar parallel sofas, with bolsters at the front end, and a useful centre chest with pull-out occasional table and two drawers.

The Bailey caravan has wraparound seating with large, plump bolsters at each end, but if you are relaxing, rather than dining, there’s nowhere to put a cuppa.

The Olympus’s squarer shape means that the overhead lockers are deeper, but the Europa trumps that with better night lighting in the form of corner mains lights, plus corner spotlights compared to just LED strips in the Bailey.

Both have a radio/CD player, but the Europa’s is neatly hidden away in a roof locker. The Olympus fights back with two heating outlets to the Europa’s one.

But it’s a lost cause, because, of course, the Europa has a second and substantial seating area with supportive upholstery, as well as a dining table at which four could sit comfortably and five at a squeeze.

The Europa’s main dining table is stored under the seat base in the rear lounge. You lift the seat and the table rises with it.

Kitchen

  • Sterling Europa 545 – 3.5 stars
  • Bailey Olympus 534 – 3.5 stars
      

Neither kitchen disappoints, each is well equipped, as already discussed. But let’s look at how they differ.

First, the Sterling Europa 545 has great worktop space and reasonable storage, with a dresser opposite providing a little extra on both fronts.

The Bailey Olympus 534 has more storage, including wire racking for cans and bottles in the lower cupboard and, like the Europa, benefits from a dresser opposite.

Both vans have four-burner hobs, but the Europa’s has the advantage of being dual-fuel. The sink in the Bailey is larger, being square in design.

The microwave in the Sterling, though, is better quality. It also has a good surround finish, while that in its Olympus rival looks more of an afterthought.

The Bailey would have taken this round, but the Sterling draws level with that dual-fuel hob.

Beds

  • Sterling Europa 545 – 3.5 stars
  • Bailey Olympus 534 – 4 stars
      

The Bailey caravan clearly has the advantage with its nearside fixed bed, but let’s start at the front of the vans where both beds are made up using slats. Both seating cushions are supportive, so both front beds should be comfortable.

The Bailey’s wraparound seating makes up into a large double bed unimpeded by a centre chest. In comparison, the Europa’s is clearly compromised by the presence of one.

The fixed bed in the Bailey is a good size and the mattress was like new. The Sterling has a lounge here, and although no hard task, the double bed still has to be made up, and would be less comfortable than a mattress.

The Bailey Olympus scores much-needed points in this category and is first past the winning post.

Washroom

  • Sterling Europa 545 – 4 stars
  • Bailey Olympus 534 – 3.5 stars
      

The washrooms are very similar in design and, being affordable caravans, they are relatively simple affairs.

They both have an electric-flush toilet, a wash basin and a fully lined shower, with only the Bailey’s having a roof vent. Above the basin in the Europa is a good-sized mirror, plus some shelving to the side.

The window in the Olympus isn’t as large as that in the Europa. Both offer good floor space for changing.

The Sterling caravan wins this round for its better storage.

Storage

  • Sterling Europa 545 – 3.5 stars
  • Bailey Olympus 534 – 4 stars
      

The storage in both these tourers is good. The two front roof lockers are deeper in the Bailey.

Both have good seat storage, but the Sterling benefits from the centre chest of drawers.

The Bailey counters this with much better storage under the fixed bed than that below the Sterling’s second dinette.

The Bailey’s kitchen has more cupboard storage. Both wardrobes do the job. And, although the washroom storage is better in the Europa than in the Olympus, the Bailey caravan wins this round.

VERDICT

  • Sterling Europa 545 – 4 stars
  • Bailey Olympus 534 – 4 stars
      

The Sterling Europa 545 may not be obvious as a family caravan, but the second dinette provides a separate space for children to play and youngsters can easily share the bed.

It also works well for a couple who love having more living space – it’s a very versatile layout.

The Bailey Olympus 534, on the other hand, has the advantage of a fixed bed and the wraparound lounge offers plenty of space for relaxing.

Both these used caravans for sale make good buys, but for sheer versatility we’re going for the Europa.

Vital statistics: 2010 Sterling Europa 545

  • Price: £11,984
  • Internal length: 5.60m
  • Overall length: 7.29m
  • Overall width: 2.29m
  • MiRO: 1280kg
  • Payload: 212kg
  • MTPLM: 1492kg
     

Kit list:

  • Al-Ko galvanised chassis
  • AKS hitch stabiliser
  • Alloy wheels
  • Mains socket
  • Spare wheel
  • Two-piece entrance door
  • Shock absorbers
  • Status TV aerial
  • Separate oven and grill
  • Dual-fuel hob
  • Microwave
  • Blown-air heating
  • Fridge
     

Vital statistics: 2011 Bailey Olympus 534

  • Price: £11,984
  • Internal length: 5.68m
  • Overall length: 7.24m
  • Overall width: 2.18m
  • MiRO: 1242kg
  • Payload: 216kg
  • MTPLM: 1458kg
      

Kit list:

  • Al-Ko galvanised chassis
  • Alloy wheels
  • AKS hitch stabiliser
  • ATC trailer control system
  • Status TV aerial
  • Exterior mains socket
  • Spare wheel
  • Two-piece entrance door
  • Four-burner gas hob
  • Separate oven and grill
  • Fridge
  • Microwave
       

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

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