We had finally admitted to ourselves that we’d outgrown our old VW campervan.

You don’t mind sleeping in a wonky 4ft bed, skipping across a field for a wee in the middle of the night and dressing while bent over when you are limber enough to do it.

Now, the truth was that the prospect of a weekend in the camper was becoming a chore. We didn’t want fewer holidays – we wanted better holidays. We had reached the point where a pretty campervan photo on Instagram mattered less than a proper bed, our own toilet and some heating.

Decision made, we sold the camper, paid for some boring but necessary house repairs, and then found that what was left in the purse was a skinny budget to start thinking about buying a caravan.

That budget meant we were browsing at the murkier end of the market. We couldn’t afford to look at the best used caravans on dealer forecourts.

We were looking around Gumtree, eBay and Facebook Marketplace, with around £2500 to spend, and had to be aware of the pitfalls of buying a used caravan.

Looking for a caravan on Facebook Marketplace

It’s a competitive market, too. People like us, searching for something to use for touring, are up against folks looking for building site offices, temporary accommodation while building a new house, and enterprising DIYers who want to strip out a caravan interior to transform their Transit into some bougie mobile bunkhouse. Caravans are often sold before you’ve responded to the advert. You need to be quick and lucky.

After a few weeks of combing the classified ads, something promising popped into view.

On Facebook Marketplace, someone was selling a ‘Baily Delamere 5 berth’. The name not being spelled correctly helped, because it meant that it wouldn’t show up for those searching for a ‘Bailey’. If it had been easier to find, others might have got there first.

Lounge of the Delamere
Floral upholstery and pink pelmets – very 90s!

In addition, there weren’t many photos – just three exterior shots and a close-up of a damaged water inlet. Classified ads are all about the pictures, and a caravan without interior photos could mean it doesn’t have one.

With so few caravans at the price, however, we decided to take that risk. It was local, too: only 10 minutes away. If it was rubbish, at least we hadn’t wasted much time and could pick up a bottle of wine on the way home.

The owner responded, which is the first hurdle to overcome. Many enquiries go unanswered. He promised to get in touch when he was ready, as he was still preparing it. A couple of days later, as good as his word, he messaged to ask if we were still interested. So as we were local and had been patient, we could be the first. Fingers crossed!

Visiting the caravan from the Facebook Marketplace ad

When we arrived, the van looked exactly as per the photos. She was tucked into a communal parking area, with some good caravan security, including wheel-clamp and hitchlock (see: the best caravan hitchlock if you’re after one).

All of the windows were intact, and there was no obvious body damage and no sign of disfiguring improvements or homemade paint jobs, even if she was going to need one of the best caravan cleaners.

The owner arrived and after a brief introduction, flung open the door of the dowdy Delamere. It was a pleasant surprise. Yes, it was every inch a late-90s caravan inside, complete with floral upholstery, fitted carpets and pink pelmets. It was also, however, lovely and clean inside. The owners had clearly spent a few hours with a bottle of cleaning stuff and the anti-bac wipes, so the van smelled fresh, not musty.

Kitchen area in the Bailey
The microwave was fitted below fridge

Close inspection of lower corners, window frames and other high-risk damp areas revealed no softened wood, mould or signs of water ingress. Aside from a slightly springy floor, structurally, the old girl was pretty solid.

Elsewhere, there were signs of age, but no evidence of any abuse. One of the window blinds had seen its last retraction, the kitchen rooflight had broken stays and the factory-fit Electrolux fridge had presumably failed. It had been replaced with a small Hotpoint mains fridge and now had a microwave fitted underneath. Unsightly perhaps, but no reason to walk away.

Striking a deal

At the price listed, this was a seriously cheap family tourer, and a deal was quickly struck for the £1200 asking price.

The Delamere is based on the Bailey Ranger 500/5 and a brief thumb through eBay shows a usable one of these, even in its third decade, could cost more than double. We felt we had been really lucky to find her. We christened her ‘Lucky Penny’ to reflect our good fortune at finding the caravan on Facebook Marketplace and the fact it was a budget project.

Picking up our van

We collected Penny a couple of days later. After a customary check-over, we hooked up the van, checked the tyre pressures, ensured the road lights were working and waved goodbye to the seller. We were glad we didn’t have far to travel. Plainly, the Old Bailey hadn’t moved for a while, and didn’t feel great behind the car. Our Volvo V70 is a solid old bus, but there wasn’t a great deal of braking assistance from the van.

A heavy shunt when the car stopped for the third or fourth time en route indicated things were freeing themselves up.

A chassis service moved to the top of the to-do list.

We took it steady on the way home and then celebrated our successful purchase with a glass of wine while drawing up our initial task list, which I’ll be reporting on soon.

We had tickets for the Red Rooster festival in three weeks, so we needed to start if we were to make it to the moshpit on time. The clock was ticking.

If you’ve recently bought a used tourer or just want to spruce yours up, check out our guide to cleaning a caravan for our top tips to bringing some sparkle back to your van.

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