Guide to buying a used touring caravan
Used tourers can offer a great introduction into the world of caravanning. Choose carefully and you will have one of the best investment holidays that money can buy!
If you’re able to afford a new tourer as a first-time buyer and you definitely know that you will like the caravanning lifestyle, then go for it. But if you’re still not 100% sold on the lifestyle or if you cannot use the caravan to its full advantage, then go for a good, recent used model. New is great, but for the same money a used caravan may have several retro-fitted extras that will save you hundreds on fitting them to your new choice.
Buying used also usually means that teething problems will have been sorted out to. Caravans now come with longer warranties, so in many cases these will be current (it also should show that the caravan has been serviced annually over its few years). So apart from saving money, a good used model may offer better value.
Touring caravans can last for years. You will find that caravans in good order of 15 years vintage can still command a price of £3,500+ (depending on layout and make). Buying a tourer of greater years reduces the cost, but also heightens the risk of models needing work such as re-sealing, new trim, broken windows etc. If you are competent at DIY then you can no doubt turn a weary looking caravan into a great first time unit. Caravans can have problems such as damp, delaminating sides, floors and also broken trim. In most cases if these problems are ironed out to begin with, then repaired well, you will have a sound tourer.
So if you’re in the bargain basement area, look for the following: damp-smell; soft to touch interior wall board; soft floor areas and black stains under window seals inside.
For the outside, check for: blisters on side panels (aluminium bulging out in places); damaged trim; cracked windows; broken damper on hitch and brake adjustment.
What caravan layout is best?
It depends what works well for you as a couple or family. There are some great layouts, but it’s down to personal choice. Fixed bed layouts have been very much in vogue since 2002. For those who look upon making a bed as a chore and like the idea of flopping into bed of an evening as you do at home, then the fixed bed layout works well. But most of these layouts work better with couples than families, plus the fixed bed does take up much of the floor area and this can limit the general feeling of space.
Two berths with end washrooms are still a popular choice and the end kitchen two berths also command a look, especially if you are restricted to the size of caravan you can tow or store.
With a general good array of layouts available, you will soon get the feel as to what suits you best. Don’t be afraid to try the beds, ask the seller to demonstrate how they are made up and try them for size and comfort. Is the washroom large enough? Some caravanners still like a large end washroom especially if they are touring off the beaten track, where small sites offer limited facilities.
In the late 90’s manufacturers offered their dealers a standard range caravan that could be fitted with extras and given its own name. Manufacturers secured a firm order commitment from the dealer and set production accordingly. Which now means that virtually every dealership has, at some time, used caravan dealer specials on their forecourt. These models usually came with better quality upholstery and added extras such as microwave, alarm, heavy duty corner steadies, extra lockers, sockets and BBQ points. They cost more, but not as much as these bits being added to a standard model. Ask the seller which dealer had them built and for how long? To first time buyers, dealer specials can be a confusing area, so do find out what extra kit they came with.
If you’re not a very experienced caravanner, then it may be best to head to the nearest dealership. The dealer has certain obligations: to make sure the caravan is serviced, safe to use and hasn’t been stolen. Also any faults must be presented to the seller and agreement made in the price for these to be put right.
Buying private can be a way of saving cash initially, but can be also the road to spending hundreds later on! It’s amazing how many caravans are still sold with the wrong year on them. On later models this is less of as a problem, but you do need the correct details for insuring your caravan.
A good dealership will go through the caravan’s features and the equipment fitted. If private, then check for the seller’s ownership, receipts etc. Also make sure the caravan is damp free as once you have bought it, it’s down to you unless the seller feels a hint of guilt and stumps up the repair bill.
Once you have bought your tourer – the great thing is that you don’t have to travel far for a weekend away. Some caravanners travel less than 20 miles but come back feeling as though they have been miles away from home!