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A guide to buying your first caravan

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June 18, 2020
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With staycations becoming a popular choice for summer 2020 plans in the UK, buying a caravan is a great way of touring the country without having to use public transport. But what should you look out for when you’re buying a caravan? And which types of caravans are best for first-time buyers? We’ll answer all this and more here.

Do I need a high powered car to tow a caravan?

Not necessarily, though this will depend on the size of the caravan you’d like to purchase. If you’ve passed a category B test for cars and small vehicles after 1st January 1997, you can tow:

  • Small caravans weighing no more than 750kg with a car or van that has a maximum authorised mass (MAM) of 3,500kg
  • Caravans over 750kg if the combined MAM of your vehicle and caravan does not exceed 3,500kg

For those who passed before 1st January 1997, if you have a category B driving licence you can tow:

  1. Caravans weighing up to 750kg MAM with a vehicle of up to 3,500kg MAM
  2. Caravans over 750kg if the combined MAM does not exceed 3,500kg MAM

Please note that the MAM should be measured when both vehicles are loaded. If you’d like to tow a caravan with a higher MAM, you’ll need to pass a car and trailer driving test.

Static or touring caravan?

If you’re thinking about buying a caravan you can tow and set up anywhere, a touring caravan is what you’ll need. A static caravan should only be considered if you want to holiday in the same place each year as it cannot be towed by your car.

Second hand or new?

Most new caravanners tend to start off with a second-hand caravan as towing a caravan takes a little getting used to! A used caravan will also hold its value for longer than if you were to buy a new caravan – just like cars, a new caravan’s value will depreciate as soon as you take it off the forecourt.

If you have children or pets you’d like to take on your journey, a used caravan is also a great option. This is because you probably won’t be so fussed about any small nicks or wear and tear that might occur.

There are plenty of classic caravans you might want to invest in, but do know that you might need to put in quite a bit of TLC to get the caravan in full working order. It’s worth noting that classic caravan insurance can be very reasonably priced, especially if you’ve insured your tow vehicle through us too.

Dealer or independent seller?

Buying a caravan through a dealer will often give you more protection than a private sale. You might be able to get a warranty from a dealer, which is more unlikely if you opt for an independent sale.

Of course, some private sale deals can be very tempting, but do note that if it seems too good to be true, it might just be too good to be true! If you do decide to take the private sale route, be sure to bring a checklist on areas of the caravan to inspect, and double-check the documents you’re shown to ensure they’re legitimate. Pay special attention to the areas listed below.

What to check when buying a used caravan

There are a number of common issues found in used caravans that you should look out for.


Caravans are prone to damp, mostly because they’re usually laid-up for most of the winter. As a result, it’s important that you give the caravan a thorough check for damp before you buy. You can do this by either purchasing a damp meter or getting the caravan serviced. Make sure to take readings around windows, doors and roof lights as these areas are most prone to damp.

Registration number and signs of damage: is it stolen?

Sadly, caravan thefts are on the rise in the UK so it’s important to make sure everything about your caravan is above board.

Make sure there are no signs of damage around the hitch, door locks or windows. You should also check the Caravan Registration & Identifications Scheme (CRIS) number, which is usually displayed on the caravan windows and stamped on the chassis. In most cases, if the caravan has been stolen, thieves will try to remove the CRIS as this number identifies the caravan.

You can get a CRIS check to ensure everything is legitimate.

Service history

You should also check the caravan’s full service history. This will have information on any issues the caravan has previously had with damp, electrics, wheels, brakes and more.

Best types of caravans to buy

If this is the first time you’re buying and driving a caravan, you probably have a lot of questions about which type of caravan is best. The fact of the matter is that this will vary a great deal depending on your situation, family size, and the amenities you need.

Single-axle caravans

For the most part, single-axle caravans are often the cheapest to buy, but these are smaller and therefore are usually only suitable for single people, couples or small families. Single-axle caravans are also unlikely to have as much storage space and might not have as many amenities.

It should be noted, though, that as single-axle caravans are usually smaller and lighter, they’re often easier to manoeuvre. As a result, they can be a great option for those who are new to caravanning.

Imported caravans

These are generally more expensive, but we know how it feels when you fall in love with an American or European caravan and you can’t get it out of your head, no matter how many British caravans you look at!

These are generally more expensive both to buy and insure, so it might not be the best option for first-time buyers. Import tax is also another big expense, though the cost varies from country to country. You also won’t be able to check the vehicle for faults until it’s already imported, so this is important to bear in mind.

If you’re looking to travel this summer, you might want to look at other options this time around as importing a caravan usually takes longer than if you were to buy one in the UK.

Small two-berth caravans

In general, these are the easiest to manage and are often the cheapest to insure. Of course, two-berths won’t work if you have a large family, but they’re great for a couple.

Folding caravans

These compact caravans are also quite cheap to insure – we offer very affordable caravan insurance for most of these different caravan types.

Folding caravans work in much the same way as a normal touring caravan, except they can be “folded” when you’re travelling or when you store your caravan in the garage. Once on-site and expanded, they’re often fairly sizeable, although they don’t always come with toilet facilities. One thing to note is that they do usually take a little while to set up, meaning you might not be able to access your kitchen facilities while on the road.

How much is a used caravan to buy?

Caravans don’t have to be ridiculously expensive, but their price will vary depending on a number of factors. This includes the year it was manufactured, its size, and its berth (i.e. the number of people that can sleep in it). Prices will also vary depending on the caravan’s features.

Common caravan features

The most common features include:

  • Shower facilities
  • Toilet
  • Stovetop
  • Sink
  • Kitchen work surfaces
  • Fridge
  • Microwave
  • Storage space
  • Between two and six beds

Is buying a caravan worth it?

It’s definitely worth it if you want to go on a staycation! With the current situation, a caravan is a great way of seeing parts of the UK without using public transport. With international travel a distant dream, a caravan can help you take a break from your four walls and enjoy beautiful landscapes on your doorstep!

Are caravan sites open in light of the coronavirus?

Campsite clubs and companies across the country are still waiting on government advice for this. However, in general, they are working under the assumption that they will be able to implement a phased reopening of campsites across the UK from the beginning of July. Be sure to check club websites regularly to ensure you keep up with the latest updates.

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