There are crucial choices and interior checks to make when you’re looking at buying pre-owned tourer – in this guide, we’ll talk you through the key points to consider to help you find the best used caravan for you.
Before viewing, and even if you’re not intending to, ask the vendor if you can have the van checked by an AWS-approved technician. If it turns out that they have anything to hide, they probably won’t get back to you to arrange your viewing. When you are there too, be sure to make notes while you assess the van and use any repairs that are required to haggle on price.
The crucial interiors checks to carry out when buying a used caravan are…
Ensure foam cushions in the upholstery haven’t sagged or slumped from repeated use. Upholstery should retain its bounce and springiness, returning quickly to its original shape.
If the sofas will become beds for kids or guests, are they long enough? Take a tape measure and check.
Caravan upholstery is generally very durable but bad batches can creep through. I once saw a luxury brand with stylish PVC piping on its sofas. The van was newish but well used, and the PVC had started to crack and peel; it looked a mess. Replacement upholstery could run into thousands of pounds.
On the carpet
Investigate the condition of the carpets. Anyone can spend a day tarting up their van for sale but dirty and damaged carpets are harder to hide and are a sign that the caravan hasn’t perhaps been cared for as well as the vendor is suggesting.
Trust your nose
How does the caravan smell when you first step inside? If it smells damp or musty, walk away or take the extra time with your damp checks. Be wary of over-fragranced caravans, or ones with the door and windows all open when you arrive. If they’re baking bread, just run!
Do all of the blinds pull out and retract properly?
In good trim
It might be superficial, but check that all decorative trims are properly fixed. Modern caravans have lots of colour-coordinated panels and styling touches to enhance their elegance, but these can come loose.
Set up the freestanding dining table. Can the family sit around it comfortably? Does the console top extend properly?
Dinner for two
Can you all get around the dining table when it’s set up in the lounge? Can two of you dine / snack easily at the extended console table? Is the dinette big enough for you all? A slightly-too-small dinette is a big waste of essential space.
It might be chic but does the layout suit your caravanning lifestyle? Will you be making up the bed each evening And is it easy to do? Check the bed base slides out easily. Do the sofa bases need to be turned, and can you do it?
On the radio
Check that the radio / MP3 player is functioning as it should
Mind the gap
Panel fit is crucial as it indicates the rigidity and structural integrity of the van. Look for (uneven) gaps between cupboards and wall panels. A millimetre or so is generally acceptable, but if it’s bigger than that, it might be wise to walk away, or at least have the van checked over professionally.
Are there sufficient plug points and USB charging points in the van?
Look for leaks under the sink and basin, and around the base and edges of the shower unit.
Make sure the fridge is working by asking for it to be turned on ready for your arrival. Do all the hob rings work, plus the grill, oven and microwave?
Heat and light
Check the heating and facility control panels all work by asking the vendor to turn on the water heater before you arrive, and the Alde heating, if it is fitted. Blown-air heating can be checked easily for heat and circulation.
Renew the loo
You might want to consider a toilet renewal kit from Thetford. These include a new seat and lid, plus a fresh cassette. They cost around £100 to £150.
In the corner
Check for damp in all of the key places around windows and in corners, including under the beds/sofas and inside the overhead lockers.
Future-proof your purchase by considering how fast your kids are likely to grow in the next two or three years. Will the bunks / beds be big enough if your early-teen becomes a six-footer in 18 months? Should you go for a twin-lounge layout now? You might as well be ignored from the far end of the van!
Check that all of the interior lights are in good working order.
On the mattress
What condition is the mattress in? Has it had a protective cover on? Replacement caravan mattresses typically cost anywhere from £150 to £400. You might want to factor that in.
Back to base
Do the hydraulic dampers on the bed bases work properly? Can you lift them easily?
Are you looking for some more buying advice to help you choose the van for you? Then be sure to head to our Back to Basics: Buying a van category!
If you’d like to find out more about the top tourers currently on the market, our best caravan round-up is the perfect place to start!
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