Picking out and buying the best caravan for your travels may seem a tough prospect, but with John Sootheran’s top tips, it’s sure to become a lot easier…
1 At certain times of the year, there are some great deals on caravans, because many dealerships will be aiming to sell off their remaining stock, ahead of the next season’s new arrivals on the forecourts.
2 If you are prepared to buy a 2020-model caravan in 2022, you could save huge sums. However, having said that, do bear in mind that the pandemic’s dramatic effect on caravan production, and increased sales, means this might not be the case for now.
3 Dealer special caravans are new models with specifications created by a dealership, exclusively for them to sell. Often, they come with a host of extras, to a value far in excess of the higher price you’ll pay. Choose your model carefully and you can grab a bargain. Just make sure those extras do add to the caravan’s value.
4 Dual-fuel hobs (which usually provide three gas burners and an electric hotplate) are a great option, because they offer you the ability to carry on cooking if you run out of gas or trip the electric hook-up.
5 As with all financial transactions, if a deal looks too good to be true, it almost certainly is. There are dozens of scam ads online, where a caravan with a value of, say, £20,000+ is available for £6000.
6 The ‘vendor’ often weaves a convoluted but plausible tale about the caravan being abroad, and you can generally only contact them via email. Avoid!
7 If you are buying privately, ideally you should buy from the seller’s home. Carry out a CRiS check (the national register for UK-manufactured tourers, which can be found at cris.co.uk) to vet the caravan’s background, and get an approved technician to give it a once-over (especially if you are spending a significant sum).
8 Negotiate hard when buying your caravan. You might be able to reduce the price of your purchase, get more money for your trade-in, or even bag a few useful caravanning freebies.
9 Buying at one of the NEC caravan shows can often achieve the best deal, with valuable items such as motor movers being offered as show-time sweeteners.
10 When buying a new caravan, consider spending the first night at a site close to the dealership, while you check that everything works as it should. This way, any minor glitches that crop up can be easily rectified.
11 Many dealers have special arrangements with local sites, while some – Lowdhams for instance – operate a small campsite at the dealership itself.
12 Some caravanners like lots of gadgets and accessories, but think about the weight of those extras. For example, a motor mover can weigh 30kg, an air-con unit 25kg, auto-levelling 20kg, and a roof-mounted satellite dish 15kg. Add them up and that could be a huge chunk out of your payload (which is often around 150kg). And that’s before you think about packing your clothing and food supplies.
13 If you make heavy use of the gas supply, for example by regularly going off-grid, you might consider a self-fill gas system, such as Safefill (safefill.co.uk) – its refills can cost around 60p per litre, compared with up to £2 per litre from some of the gas bottle rental firms.
14 Caravans with the washroom located in the middle, creating an en-suite feel to the rear of the van, often feature a longitudinal bed sandwiched between the back wall and the washroom bulkhead wall. This popular layout looks great, but owing to the resulting space restrictions, most of the rear beds are only going to be a maximum of 5ft 10in long – bear this in mind if you’re on the tall side.
Head to our Back to Basics: Buying a van category to find more top advice to help you choose the caravan for you.
Future Publishing Limited, the publisher of practicalcaravan.com, provides the information in this article in good faith and makes no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Individuals carrying out the instructions do so at their own risk and must exercise their independent judgement in determining the appropriateness of the advice to their circumstances. Individuals should take appropriate safety precautions and be aware of the risk of electrocution when dealing with electrical products. To the fullest extent permitted by law, neither Future nor its employees or agents shall have any liability in connection with the use of this information. You should check that any van warranty will not be affected before proceeding with DIY projects.
You can also take a look at our guide to the best caravan manufacturers too, where we fill you in on all you need to know about the different brands out there.
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