There are two basic differences in touring caravan design – a motorhome which offers all-inclusive transportation and temporary living quarters and a separate caravan which you have to tow. A motorhome tends to be more expensive than a towable caravan but the biggest advantage is having no need for a second vehicle for towing.
The first and most important step in choosing a tourer is to consider your personal interests, needs and your budget. Who will use it? Consider the size if you’re travelling with family or friends. Look at the types of places you want to visit. If you’re going to be travelling over rough terrain, you’ll need a tougher, more durable caravan. If you’re going to smaller out of the way places, then a smaller caravan will be easier to manoeuvre. If you’re towing the caravan, ensure that your vehicle can easily tolerate the additional weight load. You’ll also need to ensure that it fits onto your driveway.
Consider the ‘liveability’ of your caravan or motorhome. Look at each section of it. Is there enough storage space? Can you comfortably use the bedroom(s)? How about the bathroom? Is the cooking and dining area large enough to accommodate your party?
When buying a touring caravan, it is advisable to contact a specialist dealer.
You will need to look at similar issues if you’re considering buying a static caravan. It will be, after all, a ‘home from home’ and you’ll want to consider the layout, practicalities and comfort factor in much the same way as described above.
The main advantages that a static caravan has over a tourer is that you don’t need to pull it behind your car. Therefore, it can also be bigger and feature many more creature comforts. For example, it may come with a full sized cooker and central heating. You’re really only limited to your budget. As important as the van itself, you need to decide on location. After all, it’s going to be situated on a permanent site so you’ll need to consider things like if you want your van near the seaside or in a remote woodland area. There will also be annual site fees – many sites aren’t open year round but most of them will still expect you to pay site fees for the months they’re closed. You’ll also probably be liable for gas and electric bills, water rates, sewerage and insurance. These added costs can vary from park to park but can cost anything between £2000 and £5000.
A few parks are open almost year round so you’ll need to consider more expensive and more durable vans if you’re planning on spending time there in the winter.
Most site owners will only house caravans that have been bought from them so you need to be absolutely certain that you’re happy with the site and location you choose as it’s unlikely you’ll be able to move your van to another site.
Buying a caravan, whether a tourer or static, is a large investment and probably the second largest investment you’ll make after your house. If you can afford it and you’re new to caravanning, it’s always wise to buy brand new and from a reputable dealer or site. Ask others who have used the dealership their opinions and if you’re buying from a site for a static van, speak to other owners on the site.
It’s important to remember that although caravans have improved greatly over the years, because it’s a house on wheels, there is a lot more that can go wrong than with a car. If you are buying a brand new van, it’s crucial that you’re committed to using it for at least 10 years in order to get the value out of it as caravans depreciate in value far more quickly than cars do. If you can’t afford to buy new, or are simply unsure about your long term commitment to caravanning, buying second hand might be for you, although just as with a second hand car, you need to be very careful.
Buying a Second Hand Caravan
Below is a list of things you should check before deciding to buy a second hand caravan.
- Check for rust, especially around the chassis and underneath. If there is fresh paint, it could be the sign of a cover-up job. Rust is a big problem with caravans and very expensive to fix.
- Check everything else, from the cooker, the fridge, the beds and windows. Even if you don’t discover any major flaw, any minor ones may help you bargain down the price.
- Check for signs of water leakage. A leaking caravan is a very miserable place to be.
- Check the tow hitch (if a tourer), make sure it moves easily and that the handbrake holds the van when on.
- Make sure that the van is the right size for you. A seemingly good ‘bargain’ won’t seem as good at all if it’s not going to accommodate all that use it adequately.
- Make sure that the van is not too big to be pulled by your car.
- Like all second hand items, don’t just choose the first van that comes along. Visit a few so you can make comparisons. You’ll more than likely find that the first one you saw wasn’t such a bargain after all.
- Haggle over price. Much as in the same way as you’d put in an offer for a house, start well below the price you’d be willing to pay and bargain up.
Buying a caravan is an expensive decision. Don’t get one if it’s going to be sat on the driveway for the next 5 years. That’s money going down the drain. If you’re not sure about whether a caravan is for you, try renting one for a few weeks first to see if the lifestyle suits you.
But, if you remain committed, caravanning can provide you and your family with years of pleasure, will give you cheaper holidays in the long run and will provide a peaceful sanctuary from day to day life.