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How to buy a caravan

13 January 2015

If you plan on buying a caravan read our useful tips to find out what to look for and how to avoid the pitfalls, whether it's new or secondhand.

Caravan being towed over a bridge
Make sure to check your caravan thoroughly before committing to buy

You’ve decided to buy a caravan and have your finance in place. You've found a local caravan dealer, or perhaps seen a secondhand caravan you like in Auto Trader or similar.

So how do you go about buying a caravan? And how do you know what you should be looking for when you go to view one?

Before looking at the caravan you want to buy

  • First off, be sure that your car can legally tow a touring caravan. The bodyweight of the caravan should not exceed 85% of your car. The VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) will tell you the weight. Check Gov.UK's page on towing with a car if you are unsure.

  • If you’re buying a brand new caravan then it should be a simple process, though make sure that the dealer (and any used caravan dealer, too) is an accredited member of a professional body, such as the National Caravan Council Approved Dealership scheme.

  • If buying a secondhand caravan, either through a dealer or privately, try to take an experienced caravan hand along with you, and bring a 12v battery and a gas canister to test appliances. If the seller thinks you’re no mug, he won’t treat you like one.

What to look for when viewing a caravan

  • Take a damp meter with you to check the caravan for moisture. Dampness in a caravan can literally be a killer if it gets into the walls and body and weakens the structure.

  • Look at the carpet under heating appliances to see if they’ve been stained by leakage, and for signs of leakage under the sink and in the shower room. Check the caravan flooring for any gaps or soft areas that may signal potential rot.

  • Check the bodywork beneath the caravan, too. Not just from the inside. If you detect new underseal ask why it was necessary. It could be just a minor repair or masking some horror.

  • If there are scuff marks or dents on the external sides, ask where they’ve come from and why they’ve not been repaired. They could be a sign of lack of interest in maintaining the caravan by the previous owner.

  • Check window and door seals are not showing signs of perishing, and test door hinges and locks for signs of damage that might suggest a previous burglary attempt.

  • Check that gas and electric connections have been tested in the past year. If you’re buying the caravan through a dealer this should be a given. If you’re buying privately ask for service documentation.

  • Turn any bench/seat cushions over to see if they’ve been flipped because of stains.

  • Examine the towing apparatus. Is there rust around it? Is there, or has there been, a hitchlook fitted?

  • Before you part with a single penny, check the caravan’s history if it’s secondhand. The National Caravan Council’s CRiS registration scheme or a simple check with Experion will tell you if there’s outstanding finance on the caravan, if it’s previously been stolen or even written off in an accident and rebuilt.

  • Insist on a service history. Remember, one or two minor, easily reparable faults are fair enough, particularly if the owner points them out to you. But if you pick up three or four points without his prompting, it might not bode well.

If you have any serious doubts, walk away, even if you are offered what seems like a ‘dream deal’. There are plenty on the market so don’t always jump at the first one you see.

If you find the caravan that is right for you, read our tips for getting started with caravaning to make sure you have everything you need.

Once you're ready - check out the excellent cover offered by Saga Caravan Insurance.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.