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What To Look For When Buying A Used Caravan

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 28 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
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Today’s caravans are vastly different than they were ten years ago and, these days, they come with so many additional features and creature comforts that buying new can be very expensive. Therefore, many people will firstly opt to look at used caravans as a cheaper and more realistic alternative.

There are two ways to buy used caravans – either privately or through a caravan dealership.

Buying Privately

Buying a used caravan privately can often work out cheaper than buying through a dealership but on the downside, you won’t have the same levels of protection. For example, when buying from a dealership you can be sure that the caravan has been put through its paces and that it has been passed as safe for towing and also tests will have already been carried out on the electrics and gas systems. When buying privately, you should ask the seller to provide you with proof of servicing alongside a log of any repairs which may have been carried out. These days, caravan theft has become big business so you should definitely ask for proof of ownership and if the manufacturer’s warranty remains valid, you should check that it’s transferable.

In determining the caravan’s age, you can verify that through the CRiS scheme. CRiS stands for the Caravan Registration and Identification Scheme. A 17-digit code number should be etched into the caravan’s windows and this number should correspond with the Touring Caravan Registration Document that is sent to the registered owner. Within this code, certain letters of the alphabet correspond to the year of manufacture.

Buying From A Dealership

As well as carrying out all of the necessary safety checks outlined above, you’ll have more buyer’s rights and support if you buy from a dealership. You’re also more likely to be able to negotiate on price. And, if you do spot any faults before the sale, it’s far easier to get the dealership to lower the price.

Examining The Caravan

There are a few things you should be on the lookout for when buying a caravan whether you’re buying privately or from a dealership. Looking face on to the caravan, its exterior may appear to be in pristine condition yet one way to check for dents and scrapes is to stand with your cheeks next to the panels and look along the sides. Check for small bubbles or holes in the aluminium as any tiny pinpricks will reveal that glue has been used in a repair job and the reaction this causes can rot the aluminium from the inside. Check all the seals and both the tyres and stabilizer friction pads and look for signs of damp. When buying a caravan, people can tend to focus so much on the interior that they forget to check one of the most important aspects – the roof. So look at that too and all the seals around rooflights.

As for the interior, décor is always a matter of personal taste and can always be changed as can the caravan layout so you need to try to see past that and to work out whether or not the existing layout is going to be suitable for you and your family’s needs. If it’s not but you like the caravan overall, then you should find out the costs of any interior redesign in order to establish whether or not the price overall is worth it. Look for signs of de lamination too. If areas of the caravan feel spongy underneath when you walk on them, it’s a sure sign that water is getting in somewhere. Water marks on carpets, around windows and doors and under rooflights is also another clear indication.

Finally, make sure that the size and weight of the caravan is suitable for the vehicle that is going to pulling it as there are strict laws governing this.

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You also need to check the water and electrics to ensure they’re working well – getting those fixed can cost a pretty penny. All the seals need to be good (around windows, doors, etc.) although looking for any water damage in the area will let you know. Determine where the caravan has been stored when not in use.
Caravanner - 26-Sep-12 @ 9:04 AM
You might also want to have an independent professional assess the caravan. They'll charge you for the service, but it's worth the money unless you know quite a bit already and you're very handy. It saved me from buying something that looked good but wasn't once, so every time since - well, that's twice - I've used their services. Highly recommended to anyone who's in the market.
Walter - 31-May-12 @ 1:52 PM
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