Before you start looking to buy a caravan, it is important that you know what you are looking for, what size your towing vehicle can accommodate, and what your budget is. It can help to visit caravan dealers or even hire a caravan for the weekend to see what works for you.
Where to buy
You can buy secondhand caravans from dealerships, some caravan parks, or direct from the owners. There are plenty of online platforms to choose from, including generic auction sites and designated vehicle or caravan sites. Shop around and compare prices to see if the caravan that has caught your eye is good value compared to other vans of similar age, condition and size.
When to buy
New caravans are usually released in the spring. Avid caravanners may well pre-order the latest model in the previous autumn. During January and February, owners may be looking to sell their van to make space for the new one. Likewise, dealers will be looking to shift older stock. So you’ll probably get the best deal if you buy somewhere between March and May.
What to check
You’ll want to ask some basic questions when buying a secondhand caravan. Some are similar to those you’d ask when buying a used car:
- Service history – will give an indication of the van’s condition as well as how well it has been looked after.
- Damp report – damp is the caravan’s nemesis. Ask if there has been a recent damp report. Check any places where damp could enter the van – windows, seams, joints.
- Tyres – even if tyres look in good condition, they need to be replaced regularly. Ask how old the tyres are – if they’re over 5 years old, factor in the cost of replacement in your budget.
- Chassis – check for rust, and take a good look at the hitch to see if it looks damaged or corroded at all. Try out the jockey wheel to see that you can raise and lower it easily.
- Steadies – check for rust.
- Gas – check the gas and electric to see that it is all working.
- Interior – look for stains and other signs of damp (broken latches, damp patches, damp smell).
- High points – find out exactly what is so great about the caravan – sound system, power shower, heating.
- Extras – what comes with the van? Motor movers, water barrels, bedding, awnings and furniture add up. If they are all included, you could save thousands on buying new accessories.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask for demos of how anything works! If you decide that it is the van for you, make sure that you have the handbook, service history, CRIS registration details, and information on any warranties and guarantees. If you have noticed any defects or weak points, use them to negotiate your price down. Once you have a price that you’re happy with, you are ready to buy; welcome to the wonderful world of caravanning!