With more than 200 models of new touring caravans available in the UK, it can be a daunting prospect deciding which is the best caravan for you and your family, especially if you’re a first-time buyer. So, too, if you’re an experienced caravanner looking to upgrade or downsize to something new. Where do you start?
Camping and caravanning is all about a love for the outdoors, the freedom that touring offers and to pitch up in wonderful locations. Purchase a caravan that’s inappropriate for your needs and that enjoyment can turn sour, and be a costly mistake if you need to trade in and change a caravan all too soon.
So, we’ve done the hard work for you. Regular readers of Practical Caravan will know that we run our annual Tourer of the Year Awards, picking out great vans for the new season that have caught our eye. Couple this with our Owner Satisfaction Survey, where you, our readers, help the decisions of those looking to buy a caravan and we’ve a good basis from which to start selecting a caravan that’s just right for your needs.
Now, we’ve gone one step further. From all our sources, including our many tests and reviews, we’ve selected the best caravans for sale so we can help you find a caravan that’s right for you. And, once you’ve identified what you need, we can put you in contact with the best caravan manufacturers, who will help you through the process of buying a caravan.
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Buying a caravan: what you need to know
How do I decide what the best caravan is for me?
Think about how frequently you plan to use your caravan; where you plan to venture in it; how many people will use it – often, and occasionally; whether it’s a family tourer with toddlers or teenagers soon to leave home, a young couple or empty nesters looking for a child-free zone (or enjoying the occasional company of grandchildren), or for adventurous solo travel. Then write your list of must-haves and would-likes – they’re very different. If you’ve owned a caravan before, what didn’t you like about your previous van that you’d like to get right this time?
It’s just a caravan I need to buy, right?
Well, possibly not. You may also need or like (which comes back to our first question) a host of extras such as an awning for additional space on rainy days or to accommodate occasional sleepers, a motor mover to assist with manoeuvring the van at a campsite, solar panels and extra batteries if you like touring off-grid, an outdoor shower to hose down the dog and so on. Some of these may come as part of the caravan package you buy, but you’ll need to deduct the cost of these from the overall price of your caravan if they don’t.
How do I match a suitable caravan to a towcar?
While it’s not a legal requirement, experience has shown that the weight of a laden caravan is best not to exceed 85% of its tow car’s kerbweight (unladen weight). This provides a stable combination and good towing performance. Legally, the caravan must not exceed the weight of the tow car or its maximum towing limit (determined by the manufacturer). Therefore, you’ll need to take the weight of the caravan you intend on purchasing into consideration in relation to your tow car.
What caravan can I tow with my driving licence?
If you passed your driving test on or after 1 January 1997, your tow car and caravan must have a combined Maximum Authorised Mass of less than 3500kg unless you pass an additional Category E driving test to attain a B+E licence. This allows you to tow heavier combinations of tow car and caravan. Drivers that passed their test prior to this date may drive a car/caravan outfit with a combined weight up to 8250kg.
Can I keep a caravan in my driveway?
You should check any local byelaws in the area that you live to see whether you are prohibited from storing your caravan on a private driveway. In any case, it may be preferable, if only to maintain good neighbourly relations, to store your caravan in a secure storage compound when it is not in use; it could also help to reduce your insurance premium.
What does a new caravan cost?
Manufacturers design caravans aimed at specific markets, and purchasers with a particular budget in mind. Within our regularly updated Buyer’s Guide, which highlights the many models of caravans for sale, we categorise these markets as entry-level, mid-market, upmarket and luxury.
Entry-level, mid-market, upmarket and luxury
Entry-level caravans are great for first-time buyers and those with the most limited budget. Ranging anywhere between £15,000 and £20,000, these new caravans can be purchased for less than the price of a pre-owned van. Examples include the Xplore 304, a four-berth caravan that, at £14,794, is one of the lowest priced new caravans for sale.
Mid-market tourers, ranging from £20 to £25k, is where the fiercest competition is among manufacturers, offering the most choice to customers looking to buy a caravan. All the largest UK manufacturers produce two- to six-berth caravans within this price range.
Upwards of this, you’ll find that caravans within the £25k to £29k price bracket reflect ever-more luxurious interiors, manufactured to a higher specification and, potentially, have a greater amount of gadgetry inside and out.
At the very top of the market are the most luxurious caravans, which retail between £30k and £35k for units from, for example, the Coachman Laser range or Buccaneer (from Erwin Hymer UK), and continental manufactured vans such as the Knaus Starclass or Eriba Nova. For an exclusive spec, you’ll be looking at British manufacturer Vanmaster, whose caravans range from £55k to £63k while the very pinnacle is the iconic American-inspired aluminium-riveted Airstream, now available in UK-tailored versions, which retail between £78k and £92k.
Our picks for the best caravans
How we review caravans
We are constantly testing and evaluating touring caravans of all sizes and budgets; since Practical Caravan magazine launched in 1967 we have reviewed thousands of caravans to build up an unrivalled knowledge of caravans for sale; more than 400 of these reviews are here on our website. Our reviews are unbiased and we’re not afraid to point out little niggles we think could be improved.
Initially, we take a ‘first look’ at new models and layouts that we believe warrant closer review and how they fare in relation to other caravans of similar size and price. Then we’ll run a full live-in test where we’ll head off for a weekend or an extended trip around the UK or overseas, just as you would. We’ll retain some vans for long-term tests over a period of six months.
We have an extensive team of testers who review all aspects of the caravan, from how it tows behind a tow car – including differing road conditions – to how practical and comfortable it is to stay in. We look at its build quality, its internal and external design, its layout and how well it functions.
Our team of testers are generally very experienced caravanners – and know what to look for in a good caravan, including from the perspective of a newcomer to camping and caravanning.
Caravan specifications comparison table
|Elddis Avanté 454||2020||Mid-market||£20,194||2||6.90m||2.26m||128/1310kg|
|Adria Altea 622DK Avon||2020||Entry-level||£19,995||6||8.28m||2.29m||179/1650kg|
|Bailey Discovery D4-2||2020||Entry-level||£16,199||2||5.61m||2.23m||111/995kg|
|Sprite Super Quattro EB||2020||Entry-level/mid-market||£22,440||4||7.98m||2.46m||205/1705kg|
|Coachman Acadia 675||2020||Mid-upmarket||£25,400||4||7.90m||2.26m||160/1715kg|
The top five best caravans: Mini reviews
Best for couples: Elddis Avanté 454
Year: 2020 Class: Mid-market Price: £20,194 Berths: 2 Length: 6.90m Width: 2.26m Payload: 128kg MTPLM: 1310kg
While many two-berth tourers rely upon a couple of parallel sofas to make up a double bed at night – every night – the mid-market Avanté 454 is different, which is why we like it. In this van, Elddis has created a layout that includes a fixed transverse island bed (with the option of a luxurious Hypnos mattress) in its own boudoir-style bedroom at the rear, so there’s no twice-daily routine of making up and taking down a bed.
There is still a living area, however, and it incorporates an L-shaped lounge that’s especially cosy and more informal than parallel sofas. It means you can kick back and watch the TV attached to the side wall, which creates more of a home-from-home environment than the conventional windows-on-all-sides design.
This L-shaped layout also gives a greater sense of floor space and, with a separate bedroom at the rear leaving the lounge free of bedding, is a great space for entertaining friends. Plus, visiting family could sleep on these sofas occasionally, which is why this van’s versatility makes it so great for couples. A central washroom and kitchen completes the picture.
For: separate rear bedroom; versatility of the layout
Against: limited kitchen storage and prep space; shower cubicle not self-contained within the washroom
Best for families: Adria Altea 622DK Avon
Year: 2020 Class: Entry-level Price: £19,995 Berths: 6 Length: 8.28m Width: 2.29m Payload: 179kg MTPLM: 1650kg
If there’s one thing that keeps family caravan holidays running smoothly, it’s ensuring that kids have a place to call their own. They’re happy, while such a space allows parents to have a little ‘me time’ elsewhere in the van, too.
Adria’s Altea 622DK Avon has just that. At the rear of the van is a proper kids’ den, with two fixed bunks and a dinette area that’s perfect for playing games, catching up on homework of having a lunchtime snack. This dinette turns into a further two bunk beds at night. The lower elevating bunk has external access, too, so if you don’t require the extra berth, it’s a useful storage space.
This leaves the lounge area potentially a toy-free zone. The contemporary design and vibrancy of the U-shaped lounge – offering more seating than parallel sofas – will appeal to young families. The area is also flooded with light during the day, thanks to the huge up-and-over panoramic sunroof.
Any family caravan needs a decent-sized kitchen, too, and the Avon delivers. It would benefit from a separate oven and grill rather than a combination unit, but you do also get a microwave, and the fridge/freezer has a 140-litre capacity, plus there’s plenty of storage for dry foodstuffs.
Slovenian manufacturer Adria has the largest market share of all Continental vans imported to the UK, the fact that their tourers are UK-specific adds to their appeal.
For: front lounge area can convert to a double or two single beds; good amount of storage
Against: separate oven and grill preferable; long length may not appeal to all for towing
Best for first-timers/adventurers: Bailey Discovery D4-2
Year: 2020 Class: Entry-level Price: £16,199 Berths: 2 Length: 5.61m Width: 2.23m Payload: 111kg MTPLM: 995kg
If you’ve never been caravanning before – and you’re not even sure whether the lifestyle is for you (we think you’ll love it!) – spending oodles of cash on a new van isn’t necessarily a wise move; Bailey’s Discovery D4-2 is one of the best value and most inexpensive new caravans for sale.
Launched for the 2020 season, the Discovery is aimed firmly at newcomers to caravanning and has a distinct external look designed to appeal to a new audience, with modish grey sidewalls and a curvy wraparound rear wall panel. And, at 5.61m in length, it’s not so long if you’re anxious about towing for the first time.
The D4-2 is a two-berth (Bailey also produces a 3- and 4-berth Discovery) with a double bed made up from the chic grey/mustard yellow sofas at the front of the van; it’s very comfortable. But the beauty is a large, bespoke, wraparound awning that offers additional sleeping space, so whether you’re purchasing as a couple or family, your first ever caravan doesn’t need to cost a packet.
There’s also space in the awning to store outdoor gear, while the A-frame provides space to carry bikes, so this van is deal for outdoor adventurers, too.
For: flexibility of number of berths with sleeping pods in the awning; super lightweight with possibility to tow without B+E licence
Against: washroom space limited; small payload – go easy on the packing when towing
Best for seasonal pitches: Sprite Super Quattro EB
Year: 2020 Class: Entry-level/mid-market Price: £22,440 Berths: 4 Length: 7.98m Width: 2.46m (8ft) Payload: 205kg MTPLM: 1705kg
This twin-axle Sprite is part of Swift Group’s ‘Super’ range, one of three models that follow the current trend for 8ft-wide vans, which makes it ideal for seasonal touring pitches without the need to tow after every visit.
You’ll appreciate the extra space around the rear transverse island bed, while the front lounge is great for entertaining friends and family. The parallel sofas here, at 1.62m (5ft 4in) long as single beds, would suit occasional grandchild sleepovers, but if you’re planning on staying put as a family, opt for the 6-berth Super Quattro DB, which was a close contender on our ‘best for families’ list.
The central washroom, closed off by a domestic-style door, allows access by all without disturbing sleepers at either end of the caravan and takes full advantage of its width; it really is spacious. Forward of this, the kitchen offers a full oven, separate grill and three-burner hob, plus a microwave and 100-litre fridge/freezer. There’s ample preparation space, aided by a pop-up extension.
The Sprite’s budget price offers excellent value for money – little wonder, then, that it won the top gong in our Tourer of the Year Awards 2020.
For: central washroom allows access by all; good rear bedroom
Against: front single beds too short for most adults; no ATC trailer control system – even as an option
Best for long-distance touring: Coachman Acadia 675
Year: 2020 Class: Mid/upmarket Price: £25,400 Berths: 4 Length: 7.9m Width: 2.26m Payload: 160kg MTPLM: 1715kg
If your preference is for taking greater periods of time to tour Europe and you’re likely to be travelling long distances – such as spending winter in the Med – you’ll be looking to buy a caravan that offers excellent stability when towing alongside a higher degree of comfort. Enter the Coachman Acadia 675.
Coachman introduced the ten-strong Acadia range for the 2020 season, an amalgamation of – and theoretically improving – the tried and tested formula of its previous Vision and Pastiche ranges.
The van sits on an Al-Ko galvanised steel chassis and comes with Al-Ko’s AKS 3004 stabiliser for added stability, plus, the twin axle will help with road handling on those long journeys, too. However, while many upmarket twin-axle tourers can be hefty beasts, the Acadia 675 is not so hefty to assist with fuel economy when towing long distances.
On site, the layout offers excellent comfort and an element of luxury for long-term camping. At the rear is a full-width washroom together with a transverse island double bed in a separate bedroom. The front lounge, in stylish browns and greys with coordinated checks, is especially comfortable. Opt for Acadia’s cousin, the Laser 675, if you’d prefer the same layout with a higher level of specification (including Al-Ko’s ATC system for even greater towing stability) and greater degree of opulence.
For: daytime layout; levels of comfort
Against: limited floor space around double bed when not retracted
10 great benefits of buying a new caravan
1. Stay socially distanced
Right now, camping in a caravan provides one of the best ways to enjoy a holiday and remain socially distanced within private family bubbles.
2. Your own facilities
No need to share a campers’ kitchen, or traipse out to public amenities at night; you’ve your own on-board shower and toilet, and a kitchen you can call your own.
There’s no place like home, except your own brand new caravan, which also offers your own home comforts to come back to after a busy day of activities or sightseeing.
4. You know where it’s been
Or, better still, where it hasn’t. With a brand new caravan, you know that it hasn’t been dragged along – or through – inappropriate ‘road’ surfaces.
5. You know how it has been used
A brand new oven that has never been used to cook chips, soft furnishings you know haven’t had sticky marmalade dropped on them and a washroom that you know hasn’t been used to hose down the dog!
6. A place for a good night’s sleep
Everyone sleeps better in their own bed, at their preferred temperature. That includes the bed in your own caravan rather than the unknown, possibly lumpy, too hard or too soft mattress in an overly hot hotel room.
7. Take your holiday with you
Enjoy the freedom of touring; when you’ve been there and done that, move on – except you can take that comfortable accommodation with you to the next place.
8. Enjoy the view
All the new vans reviewed here include large panoramic windows and, often, sunroofs to enjoy your view of the sea, the lake, the mountains, the stars. It’s one of the best things about camping in a caravan.
9. Extra piece of mind
Construction technology has come a long way in recent years and caravans built today are less permeable than some of yesteryear. Most mainstream manufacturers now offer lengthy bodyshell or water ingress warranties.
10. Take a holiday all year
There was a time when camping in a caravan relied upon fair weather. Not so anymore. All the caravans reviewed here are tested to receive the highest level (Grade Three) for thermal insulation and heating, making them suitable for use all year.
Get more information on caravans
We've done the hard work for you. From all our sources, including our many tests and reviews, we've selected the best caravans for sale from the 2020 season so we can help you find a caravan that's right for you