POLICE ARE WARNING caravan buyers looking at imported tourers to be vigilant due to a surge in stolen vans flooding the UK.

The warning comes from the Association of Chief Police Officers Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (AVCIS). A law change in 2009 means tourers up to 2.5m (8ft 2in) can be legally towed on UK roads by normal cars.


Changing UK market

The alignment with European road law has created a market for ‘overwidth’ tourers. Legitimate dealers are planning to begin official imports of some wide models shortly, but ruthless thieves are stealing caravans abroad and sneaking them into the UK to feed the growing demand. Gangs throughout Europe steal desirable caravans, destroying the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and importing them into the UK to sell on to unsuspecting holidaymakers. Many are likely to end up on long-term seasonal pitches and could go undetected for months.

“Caravanning is an enormously popular pursuit in the UK, with some 25,000 caravans sold in the UK each year.* Criminals are taking advantage of the UK’s new demand for European vehicles and often thefts overseas are taking place outside of trading hours so that no early notification is received by the police. This is then allowing the stolen units to enter the UK without suspicion,” says AVCIS’ Leisure Vehicle Officer, Tim Booth.

AVCIS is currently working with organisations such as the National Caravan Council (NCC) as well as European manufacturers in order to provide caravans with more vigilant documentation, such as identification marks in the caravan’s structure and identity tags of a type fitted to UK tourers for several years.

Incidentally, if the tourer is a standard width continental caravan which was originally supplied through a UK dealer, it should have been registered using the CRiS Scheme. If so, it will etched on the windows and chassis and you can check the caravan’s provenience by contacting CRiS via the website or by calling 01722 411430. A CRiS check costs £15.


Euro-caravan buying advice

Buying a European tourer is not a bad idea, but you do need to be especially vigilant when shopping. AVCIS’s Tim Booth recommends taking these sensible precautions if you are shopping for a European tourer.


Price is right?

Don’t be tempted to buy a bargain that seems too good to be true: it probably is!


Find the VIN number

Find the chassis stamp to see if it has been removed or altered. On most European tourers it will be stamped onto the chassis rail. Evidence of tampering is a reason to walk away.


Paper trail

Ensure that the original registration document is provided. Unlike UK caravans, European caravans are registered as trailers so must have an official log book


Who are you?

Ask the seller to identify themselves and ask to see proof of their address. It won’t be a problem unless they have something to hide.


Snap happy

Ask to see photographic evidence of the seller using the caravan. Few caravan users wouldn’t have photographic records of their travels



Other precautions


Practical Caravan advises that you should also be careful where you are buying from. Typically these tourers are sold through non-specialist classified and internet auction websites. Ask who the original supplying dealer was, what they towed it with and where they have been. A real caravanner will be able to answer all these questions from memory.

Buying imported tourers from established dealers is always a safer bet than buying privately and if a problem arises later on, you have recourse through the courts.