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Where to buy a caravan

Where is the best place to buy a second hand, touring caravan? Buy privately or go via a caravan dealership? In the following, we compare the relative benefits and pitfalls of each.

Buying a caravan privately

PROS

  • Better info and history of the caravan
  • Bargain to be had
  • Plenty of well looked after examples

CONS

  • More research needed
  • Possible servicing costs
  • Less buying security
  • Little comeback

Private caravan purchases are the source of some of the best deals you can find. Not only that, but it can be much easier to haggle with one owner than with a professional caravan dealership. However, it’s not without its dangers.

Some caravan tips to help avoid being one of the victims

A private seller must not knowingly wrongly describe their caravan’s condition. If they say something along the lines of “the caravan is as dry as a bone,” they must be able to prove this.

Try to view the caravan at the owners’ home and be sure to check that everything works. Once you have paid for and accepted the caravan, you have little to no comeback.

A private seller may not sell stolen goods and the only way they can guarantee that a caravan hasn’t been stolen is by having a Central Registration and Identification Scheme (CRiS) check done. The CRiS check can identify almost any caravan that’s been reported as stolen, written off by a caravan insurance company or is subject to an ongoing finance deal.

Ask to see all the caravan’s paperwork such as service history and receipts. Has it been serviced recently? Has it had a damp check? How did it fare? If it hasn’t been serviced then see if the seller will pay for one.

On the plus side, do your research, keep an eye out and use your own common sense. There are plenty of great private caravan deals out there to be taken advantage of.

Buying a caravan from a caravan dealer

PROS

  • Better buyer’s rights
  • Can haggle for a deal
  • Vastly increased choice

CONS

  • Often more expensive
  • Some dodgy “dealers” out there
  • Less of a rapport than private sale

This is arguably as close to a risk-free way of buying as you can get, providing the seller really is a caravan dealer - not a car dealer who sells the occasional caravan. The legit dealer must point out any issues and in some instances may not be allowed to sell a caravan with certain types of fault.

Things start to get fuzzy in terms of legal issues and how the dealer is responsible for any faults that develop after purchase. The law states that as long as the caravan is trouble free for a “reasonable” period, the dealer is covered. This means that a light bulb failing minutes after you collect your caravan is probably not a dealer responsibility, but water pouring down the inside of an internal wall three months after purchase probably is. It’s worth discussing this with your caravan dealer before purchase, just so you’re both reasonably clear. Most will be willing to help out and offer advice at the very least.

Make sure the deal involves a full caravan service before despatch, including a damp test. This is important. It will minimise later complications, as the dealer should pay for any parts needed before the sale is completed.

There is still debate about a dealer’s responsibility to advise you against buying a caravan that’s too heavy for your car to tow. Current opinion is that the dealer only has to caution the buyer if the weight of the caravan exceeds the car’s maximum towing limit. Unfortunately that may also be a dangerous weight to tow, especially for first-time caravan buyers.

The guiding principal, especially when buying privately, is “caveat emptor” (meaning “buyer beware”). Dealer prices are usually slightly higher than with private sales, but you’re paying for the increased safety in the sale.

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