Guide to buying a new touring caravan
Buying a new caravan is a big decision. It is not uncommon to see “nearly new” caravans on dealers’ forecourts (traded-in within a few months of purchase), simply because the buyer didn’t take the time to weigh up the pros and cons of the particular caravan model to ensure it best suited their needs and intended use.
How do you go about choosing your ideal caravan?
UK caravan manufacturers’ new vans do offer a good choice of layouts, specification - and importantly, caravan construction methods (that aim to reduce the caravan’s weight and minimise the possibility of any “water ingress”).
If you can, attend one of the two major Caravan Shows held each year at the NEC (in February and October), as these usually display just the majority of caravan available in the UK today. If your driven by a price and don’t mind taking the risk, then they can be a great place to do a deal.
As a rule of thumb, it’s best to choose a dealership near to where you live. Otherwise, any problems you have may involve driving miles out of your way. Don’t believe those that say their mobile service unit will travel 150 miles to look after you!
Look online at manufacturers’ websites and check dealers for availability. Your local dealer may have more time to spend with you, as you decide on the caravan of your dreams. They are there to help and offer advice, not just to push a certain model.
Take everyone who will be using the caravan with you. The kids will want a say and usually are keen to air their views on storage and where they will lounge. Try the bunks out for comfort to see if the beds make up easily. What sort of washroom do you need? If you use larger sites and their facilities, then this isn’t a priority. If you do intend to go more for rallying, a larger end washroom model may be just what you need.
Over the last 25 years the caravan dealer special has made an appearance. The idea is that certain dealerships take a base range, and then add to the spec - which may include e.g. better upholstery, alloys, spare wheel, alarm, etc. These models cost more than the standard caravan, but the added cost works out cheaper than adding items at a later date.
Buying an imported caravan may require a little more thought. Names such as Adria have been in the UK for over 40 years, but some brands have come and gone, then arrived back again! Do be aware that some are not made to UK spec (i.e. entrance door on opposite side) plus ovens and grills may not be fitted either. Also, find out where your nearest dealership is, because imported makes don’t have the same coverage of the UK brands. Parts can be more difficult to obtain and wait times longer – and depending on the strength of the Euro, may work out expensive compared to the UK caravan equivalents.
Some caravan users may opt for a folding caravan (e.g. from Gobur). These fold away on towing or storage, yet on site offer a perfectly practical tourer, with the facilities of a rigid, conventional built unit. Also “pop-top” / micro caravans such as the imported Going Cockpit, Eriba and Silver by Trigano, offers more choice in this niche, caravan market. (However, in most cases these brands dictate that you buy from a single outlet, so you may need to travel a long distance for repairs or services).
Once you have determined your caravan layout, don’t forget that caravans today can be used all-year around in excellent comfort, so it’s down to décor and comparing various model ranges to what suits your needs (and budget). If you aren’t paying cash, shop around for the best finance deal.
A key consideration will be your tow car. Depending on your experience, the recommended towing limit is no more than 85% of the car’s kerb weight. Without getting technical, the total weight of your car and caravan together mustn’t exceed the train weight limit of your car, or you’ll fall foul of the law.
Buying new also has the advantage of longer warranties. To keep these current you must have an annual caravan service, at an approved dealership / workshop (remember to make sure the service book is stamped!). As first owners, how you use the caravan will determines its condition when it comes to sell it again. It’s important to remember that dealers like a trade-in that’s been well cared for and having the caravan from new gives you the chance to keep it looking that way.
Whatever caravan you buy, it’s down to you and your family to enjoy its comforts. Make the right choice and you will find that owning a new caravan is a very enjoyable experience and a worthy investment in your leisure time.