To help you on your way when buying a used caravan, I have made a list of ten things that you should always do when you are considering buying a used caravan. If you prefer to buy a new caravan I find that you will pay over the top prices for it.
1) Caravan or camper van?
Your first decision will be which type of vehicle is right for you, do u want to travel to lots of different places, or do u want to travel lots of different camp site? If you are wanting to do as much travelling as possible then a campervan is probably the better option for you, but if you just want to visit lots of different camp sites then a caravan is the option for you, but it all generally comes down to the type of holiday you are looking for.
If you are looking to spend your holidays travelling between several different camp sites, and wanting to cover as much distance as possible, then a camper is the better choice. Once you arrive it your new location is just a matter of parking up and enjoying the scenery, instead of tackling the hated or loved job of setting up your own campsite. Whereas if you are planning to spend a week or two of your trip in the one spot, then a caravan is definitely the better option for you. You still have the flexibility of travelling around the area by leaving your caravan behind and away you go, but you have a bigger and more permanent living space.
2) Size matters
Does size matter? Obviously the bigger the caravan/campervan you by the more luxurious and spacious it will be. If you purchase a bigger vehicle then obviously the facilities will be more spacious, the cabin will be much larger as well as the bedrooms, which means you can comfortably have room to accommodate more people. So basically work out how many people you are likely to be accommodating on most of your trips and plan around that. Another thing to think about when purchasing a caravan is the size of caravan to car ratio, the rule of thumb when towing caravans is that your caravan should be no more than 85% of the kerb weight of your vehicle but if you are a first time tower you should probably aim quite a bit lower than this. The best thing to do is to look up your vehicles manual on towing weights and instructions.
3) Always, always do your research
When thinking about buying a new or used caravan always do as much research as possible. Check out what the models you are looking at purchasing cost to buy new to give you an idea of what you should be paying for a second hand version. Also ring around and get a few different quotes for insurance on the selected models they you are interested in to give you a rough idea of how much you are going to spending, this way you can take this away from your budget and know how much you actually have to spend on the caravan its self. If you have the internet check forums and guides for common problems with the selected models you are thinking about purchasing, and then whenever it comes time to view the caravans you know exactly where to look.
TIP: I can’t stress this enough always do your research don’t go for a viewing blind, as you could end up buying a nightmare rather than a dream.
4) Check the seller
Once you have found a caravan that you are interested in purchasing there are a few steps to follow to insure you are dealing with a legitimate dealer, and always be aware that there are lots of scammers around, and also that caravans are one of the easiest stolen items to pass off as being legit. Whenever you buy from a legit dealer you may pay more for your caravan but in the long run this can be more worthwhile as legitimate dealers have legal obligations to follow, and also if anything goes working with your caravan at least you know where to find them. When calling a private seller, say “hello I’m ringing up about your caravan you advertised”. If they then ask you “which caravan” then you are, obviously dealing with a dealer who is trying to pretend otherwise, to avoiding having any legal obligations, so my advice is to be wary.
TIP: Make sure you arrange to visit the caravan at the sellers home or business, this should match the address shown on the caravan’s registration document, if not i would be very wary.
5) Always check the caravan over thoroughly
Always inspect the van thoroughly in daylight. If you are not mechanically minded, bring along someone that is. I have drawn up a checklist for you to follow, my advice is to print it out and take it with you on your viewing. Remember Planning, Planning, Planning.
Check for damp –
First of all give the exterior I good once over checking for holes in the shell, also check the seals around the windows and insure they are in good nick finally give all the joins and seals on the caravan a good thorough inspection. Next check inside the caravan thoroughly as this is where the dam issues (if any) will be easily detected. You can purchase a dam detector from any of your local D.I.Y stores which cost on average about £20 and in my eyes are worth it if it saves you from buying a dud caravan and wasting thousands. Be sure to check in all the corners of the caravan itself, under seats, beds and all the cupboards as this is where the dam will arise from.
Check the doors and windows –
This something you want to put up high on your list of priorities when viewing a second hand caravan for the first time. Security is one of the weakest points of a caravan so you want to make the security you do have is working. So make sure and check that all windows and doors, especially the main door close and lock properly. Again check the seals of all of these as they are likely to be very expensive to replace on all caravans old or new, and if it is an older model the replacement parts may be harder to find.
Check the chassis and running gear –
This is the point you need to be very cautious! Make sure and I cannot stress this enough that you always check over the chassis’s and axles. Don’t be afraid to slide under the van and have a look with a torch, a legit seller with nothing to hide won’t mind you hocking and poking around. Things to watch out for are, signs of corrosion, new paint and underseal, these could all be hiding some deep dark secrets so be wary. Things to check
o Chassis and axles for rust or attempts to hide anything.
o Hitching mechanism moves freely.
o Jockey wheel slides up and down freely.
o Grease nipples to insure they’re OK.
o Finally insure the handbrake is in full working order and moves freely.
Check the gas and electrics –
This is where dodgy sellers like to do a spot of DIY to insure that everything works for the viewings, they can try anything to cover up flaws just to get a vehicle sold so be very careful as any faults in these systems can be lethal. If you are unsure get a professional to look over the vehicle for you, any legit seller wont mind.
6) All the little things
We all know that when you start adding extras to a vehicle the price just keeps going up and up and up, so keep an eye out for any added extras that come with the vehicle. Don’t be afraid to ask the owner as I’m sure they will gladly show you what you are getting for your money.
TIP: Don’t forget to remember all the extras when considering the sellers price.
Common extras include-
o Battery chargers.
o Electricity hockups.
o Gas canisters.
o Hitch hockups.
o TV aerials.
7) Check the history
This is where a lot of people get caught out and blatantly scammed, always find out as much history about the caravan as possible, I loving caring owner usually keeps a manual with a full service history, all receipts, mot’s insurance docs etc. (But don’t expect this of everyone, it’s just a bonus really).
TIP: Always ask when the last time the van was used and always be wary of a van that stood lay about for a long period of time.
8) Check the age
It can sometimes be difficult to get an accurate estimate of the age of your caravan. If it is a newer van you should be able to get the age from an HPi check. However, if it’s an old van, there is still a good chance.
9) Get an HPI check
Any caravan manufactured after 1992 will have its VIN registered on the Caravan Registration Identification Scheme (CRiS). This 17 digit VIN number (usually starting with an SG) is stamped on to the chassis and on later models it will be etched into the windows. Just be very careful as these do not mean the caravan is 100% authentic as crooks have figured out was to fake these and sell the caravan on.
TIP: I strongly recommend you carry out an HPI check before parting with your money. This will confirm the true identity of the van as well as reported to have outstanding finance, if it’s been reported stolen, or has previously been recorded as an insurance write off.
10) Be a good buyer
For a fast and efficient sale most buyers mostly prefer cash there and then so you can both part your own ways and the deal is done. But unfortunately this is not always the case and it slows the sale process down. Arrange with the seller a payment plan that suits both of you and you both walk away feeling happy. At these factors add up to you being able to buy there and then, and this will allow you to lower the asking price slightly, because of this.