10 questions you should ask when buying a second hand caravan

25th April 2016

Buying a secondhand caravan can be a smart way of making your budget stretch further – and of taking less of a hit on depreciation. But as with any big purchase, it’s important to go into the buying process with eyes wide open.If you’re new to caravanning, it can be useful to have a seasoned caravan owner on hand to help identify any potential red flags. Equally, you need to know the right questions to ask. So whether you’re considering buying from a dealer or private seller, here are 10 of the questions to put forward as you look at each of the units on your shortlist.

1. Is a warranty available?

Purchase from a private seller and it’s a case of ‘buyer beware’: the caravan must be as described, which means that although the seller cannot make false claims about the caravan, it is up to you as the buyer to satisfy yourself that the unit is of the quality you require.

Purchasing from a dealer tends to give you a greater level of protection. Here, as well as being ‘as described’, the caravan must also be of ‘satisfactory quality’ and ‘fit for purpose’. Reputable dealers also tend to offer warranties on used models, of typically between 3 months and a year depending on age. A nearly-new caravan may also have part of its original manufacturer’s warranty still outstanding. If no warranty is available, it could be a sign that problems are anticipated with that particular unit.

2. Do you have the service records?

If it’s a private sale and there has been no recent service from a recognised dealership or member of The Caravan Engineers Association, you should arrange one before completing the sale. This will ensure the caravan is roadworthy and can flag up any potential hidden problems.

3. Do you have I.D. and proof of ownership?

Back this up with a CRiS (Central Registration and Identification Scheme) check. By giving the VIN over the phone, you can verify the name of the registered keeper, whether it has been reported as stolen, if it has outstanding finance and if it has previously been written off by insurers.

4. Can I use a damp meter?

Moisture is a common problem in older caravans – and it’s not always possible to see and smell damp. When checking out privately-owned caravans, running a test with a basic handheld moisture meter can alert you of serious damp problems. Dealerships should have more sophisticated damp measuring equipment on site. Ask them to run tests on the units you are interested in.

5. Can I check the internal fittings?

Here, you are aiming to eliminate any nasty surprises further down the line. Specific things to focus on include checking that the retractable beds function correctly, that the cupboard door catches work, that the seating is still springy and that the floor is in good condition.

At the very least, any ‘niggles’ identified could put you in a stronger bargaining position when it comes to agreeing the final price.

6. Can I see the water system and gas appliances in action?

It’s important to be satisfied that the taps and pumping system work correctly so you are not left with bills for unforeseen work further down the line.

7. Can I check the exterior?

Check carefully for cracks in the end panels and across the bodywork. White powder and pin-prick holes in an aluminium shell is a sign of corrosion. The underside should also be examined for corrosion. Other specific items to check on the exterior include tyres, seals, gas gauge, security devices, power sockets, waste outlet and leisure battery.

8. Can I take it for a test drive tow?

This helps you ensure that know how to prepare this particular unit for a journey, including how to secure the interior, how to take the utilities down, how the hook-up works, how the handbrake operates and how the van is hitched.

This ‘test tow’ is useful for highlighting potential problems in any of these areas.

9. Do you have the handbook and other instruction manuals?

This is useful if and when you need to do any troubleshooting with the caravan or appliances post-purchase. If the owner has kept this paperwork, it can also be a reassuring sign that the caravan has been in the hands of someone who takes maintenance seriously.

10. Can I get an insurance quote?

If you’ve honed in on a specific unit, it’s time to make sure you’ve got the right protection from day one. It’s important to make sure that the “basis of cover” is appropriate to your caravanning needs. “New for old” cover is often the best option for new or nearly new caravans, while “market value” is a good option on older caravans as used values are currently holding up. “Agreed value” is a good option if you want to ensure you receive the same as you paid for your caravan e.g. if it is a vintage or classic caravan, or perhaps a caravan “dealer special” with added extras beyond the standard specification for that make and model of caravan.

Our UK-based team of dedicated customer service professionals make it quick and easy to get a touring caravan insurance quote, and are on hand to offer any support and advice you may need. Call 0800 393 966 today to discuss your requirements, get a quote today or request a callback at a time that’s convenient for you.

For a fifth consecutive year, our touring caravan insurance has been awarded a 5 Star Rating by independent financial research company Defaqto, indicating it provides one of the highest quality policies in the market today – click here to find out what this means for our customers.

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