Buying and collecting a caravan is an exciting moment. All of that time spent researching the type of tourer that is the right one for you has finally paid off, as you head off with your van in tow, ready to embark on many memorable tours. So what actually happens when you’re purchasing and picking up your tourer? I headed to Downtide Caravans to find out.

In this guide, I’m talking you through what you can expect to happen, as well as what you need to do to make the transfer as convenient as possible.

Paying for the caravan

How will you be financing a caravan? If any of your new purchase is paid for with dealer credit, you’ll be required to complete the paperwork before taking your tourer. In most cases, this will have been sorted out, or at least agreed in principle, beforehand, but you may well be required to take along some photo ID (a passport or photo driving licence) and all of your bank details.

If you are paying from your savings or a personal loan, you might need to make the final transfer of funds. In this case, ensure you have all the correct bank details with you.

Electronic bank transfer is easy and fast these days. Most accounts transfer instantly, but some may be delayed, especially for a large amount of money.

Signing paperwork
There’s lots of documents to sign… with dog as my witness!

In these days of fears around digital banking fraud, I would check with my bank that the funds will transfer quickly. Or I’d make the transfer the day before, especially if I was collecting at the weekend.

If you pay by banker’s draft, the funds should be accepted instantly, but any cheque payments may take the best part of a week to clear.

Dealership paperwork

These days, the best caravans are crammed with all the latest gizmos and gadgets, bringing domestic luxury to any touring pitch. This of course means there’s a great deal of paperwork to fill out, in the form of registration papers and guarantees.

In Andrew and Sally’s case at Downtide Caravans, these included CRiS Registration paperwork, the Pre-Delivery Inspection check sign-off, gas leakage test sign-off, the Powrtouch motor mover warranty registration, the NCC-Approved Manufacturer Certificate and Adria warranty document, and registration of their Diamondbrite ceramic coating. They also received their Certificate of Purchase from Adria.

Caravan warranty documents

These are perhaps the most important forms to fill out and take note of, because your warranty may be affected, or could even be invalidated, if you miss the designated annual service period.

While Sally and Andrew’s new Adria has a three-month window in which to get the caravan serviced following the first anniversary of its purchase, other manufacturers might be less generous. Make sure you understand the terms of this agreement or you could risk invalidating your warranty.

Likewise, ensure you have the service carried out at an official dealership for that brand, or by an AWS-Approved Service Centre, validated by the NCC. Again, attention is required here, as failure to do so could invalidate your warranty.

Don’t forget a documents folder

Good-quality dealers should provide you with a folder to keep all caravan documentation together. This should be kept at home, not in the van.

All the paperwork in one place

In addition, I’d recommend photographing each document on your phone, so that you have a digital (emailable) copy.


Ring around to find the best quote before you head off to collect your caravan.

Don’t leave this until the last minute, because the algorithms created by some insurers might recognise that you need insurance urgently, and that could affect the premium you will be charged.

I’d advise searching for your insurance quote at least two to four weeks before the collection date, giving yourself plenty of time to hunt around for the best deals, and to negotiate.

You’ll need your locks, alarm and tracker details in mind when you get your quote (see: our guides to the best caravan wheel lock and the best caravan hitchlock if you need some security devices).

Breakdown cover

Never underestimate the ability of life to bowl you a googly!

Of course, a brand-new van should never break down, especially on its first trip out – but it only takes one loose nut to cause a problem.

This is why you should ensure that you have your caravan breakdown cover in place before you collect your tourer.

Last-minute accessories

Your dealership will be more than happy to sell you the various essentials you’ll need, such as caravan steps, water and waste carriers, chemicals, covers and even a motor mover, but you might be able to make substantial savings (or at least have some grounds to negotiate the price) if you shop around online for these essentials beforehand.

Caravan steps
Don’t forget any last-minute purchases

Your tow car

Speak to any dealership and they’ll recall the numerous times a new owner has turned up to collect their caravan in a car that is incapable of towing it safely. This happens with first-time caravan buyers and those who are upsizing, too, which is why matching a car to a caravan is so important.

Always check your new van’s MTPLM against your tow car’s kerbweight. The caravan figure shouldn’t be higher than the tow car’s kerbweight, and for novice tow car drivers, it should not exceed 85% of the vehicle’s kerbweight.

When you’re choosing the perfect tow car, bear in mind the van’s payload limit (subtract its MiRO from its MTPLM). This is usually 100-200kg, which is a lot of weight allowance for some foodstuffs and your pants and socks. However, if you’ve added a motor mover (about 30kg), a satellite dish (some 25kg), air conditioning (about 25kg) and auto-levelling (about 30kg), or you carry your awning (around 30kg) in the caravan, you will already have consumed much of your available payload allowance. Always take care not to tow overweight.

Pre-delivery tour

Any good dealership will give customers a comprehensive introductory tour of their new van, explaining where everything is and how it works. This will include all the basic functions and appliances in the caravan, such as the lighting, heating and water systems, the gas and battery lockers and the fridge and cooker.

Newbie caravanners can also expect to be shown how the hitch system, caravan handbrake and corner steadies operate, as well as the removable toilet cassette and the security locks.

Dealer explaining how the tourer works
Pre-delivery tours should be in-depth and comprehensive

In addition, all of the extra features on the tourer should be explained. For example, this might include the alarm and tracker, external gas barbecue points, air conditioning, TVs and radios, motor mover and auto-levelling, if fitted.

There’s a huge amount of information to absorb with these introductions, which can take over an hour.

Andrew very wisely chose to video some of the presentation using his phone, particularly the detailed instructions for the sophisticated heating, lighting and caravan water systems in the luxurious Adria.

Videoing the explanation of the control panel systems
Videoing the explanation of the control panel systems

You should never be afraid to ask questions, however basic they might seem at the time.

The final thing that Downtide did before the caravan was driven away was to recheck the torque on all of the wheel nuts in the presence of the buyer. That’s nice attention to detail.

Final bodywork check

If you discover a scratch or a dent in your new caravan’s bodywork during the first few weeks of ownership, it will be impossible to prove that you didn’t cause it, so you will be left with any repair bill.

This means it’s essential to give your new tourer a final once-over before you tow it away from the dealership.

Take your time in checking each external panel, looking for scratching or dings. Looking down each panel at a narrow angle might make imperfections a little easier to spot.

If you do discover anything, register its existence with the dealer and take photographs on your phone as evidence.

These can then be repaired later. Pernickety buyers (like me) might also ask to borrow a stepladder to check the roof panel, and have a quick peek underneath to ensure all is well.

Stay nearby for a night or two

Modern caravans are hugely complicated beasts, with lots of moving parts, so there’s always the chance that some part or appliance might need a bit of a tweak when you first start to use it.

That means it makes sense to spend a night – or better still, two – on a campsite close to the dealership. In this way, you can run the caravan back in to get that small maintenance job done, or they can pop in to see you and sort it out.

Some of the larger dealers, such as Lowdhams, even operate their own small campsites at the showroom, but most well-run dealerships should be able to recommend a good-quality local campsite for you to stay at.

Tourer pitched up
Camp nearby for the first night or two to iron out any glitches

While you are doing this, it makes good sense to try to use all of the caravan facilities, from heating and hot water to all of the lights and the drains.

Then if necessary, you can simply note down anything that you think needs a tweak.

Likewise, if you forget how to use something, the dealer is close at hand for advice.

After buying a caravan, you’ll want to do what you can to keep it in tip-top condition. Follow our guide to how to clean a caravan to keep it looking as good as new.

Future Publishing Limited, the publisher of Practical Caravan, 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 and skill level. 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.

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