Guide to buying an imported caravan

28th June 2016

In terms of caravan design, things tend to be a little different on the continent – especially when it comes to width. So should you take a closer look at European brands for your next purchase? Here are some points to consider…

European caravan brands and the UK

According to The National Caravan Council, the UK has the largest tourer manufacturing base in Europe, and 98% of all new tourers sold in the UK are homegrown. Look around a typical camp site in this country and you’ll find that British names still dominate. But increasingly, alongside the likes of Bailey and Elddis, you’ll probably spot other, less familiar brands too, such as Adria, Knaus, Eriba and Hobby.

Standardisation of towing laws help to explain this: until April 2010, the maximum trailer or caravan width allowable in this country was 2.3m compared to 2.55m across the channel. This meant that the bigger and wider tourers that had evolved in Europe were legally out of bounds to UK caravanners. Since the UK width restriction was brought into line with Europe, this distinction no longer exists.

Alongside this, European manufacturers have actively attempted to step up their presence in this country. This means that it’s never been easier to pick up a European caravan from a British dealership.

What do imported caravans have to offer?

Width. Not all European models go right up to the Europe-wide width limit, but many do, such as the top-end Knaus Eurostar (2500 mm) and the Adria Astella (2480 mm). By contrast, the largest Bailey tourer is 2230mm. This extra width is almost always accompanied by extra length. In short, if you want a bigger caravan, check out what Europe has to offer.

Variety. From the kitchen and lounge layout, through to the quality and usability of in-built appliances and the addition of tech features, it can be illuminating to widen your search to lesser known manufacturers to see what’s out there in terms of innovation.

Suitability for your particular needs. If you tend to venture to the continent with your tourer as a matter of course, there’s a lot to be said for choosing a unit that’s built with those particular conditions in mind. Knaus, for instance, prides itself on a range that’s well-suited to winter skiing breaks.

What should I be wary of?

Size: is it too much? You have your heart set on a super-sized European tourer. Before you commit, refer to your car’s handbook or VIN plate for the gross train weight to ensure the fully laden caravan will not exceed the maximum weight your car is legally able to tow.

Are your favourite sites geared up for European tourers? Some sites are better able to accommodate longer and wider caravans than others. You may, for instance, be asked to pitch nose-end first to allow sufficient space between you and your neighbour (so your front window is no longer facing the view).

Door positioning. On some exported European caravans, the coachwork is altered for the UK market to position the door on the left. Otherwise, it’s standard in Europe for it to be positioned on the right. It could take a some getting used to, and could mean that your choice of awnings from stockists in this country is limited.

The little differences. From choice of upholstery through to cabinet finish, British caravans are familiar. With a European design, there’s often a different look and feel.

Buying from a UK dealer

‘Going European’ but actually purchasing your caravan from a UK dealer offers the best of both worlds. It means that you have someone close to home to call on if an issue arises in the warranty period. It also generally makes it easier to get hold of parts if replacements are needed.

An NCC dealer will ensure that your caravan is registered with the Caravan Registration and Identification Scheme. If you import direct and not through a dealer, you will be responsible for arranging this. Registration is necessary to get an insurance quote.

For tailored protection for your European tourer, make sure your investment is in safe hands with caravan insurancefrom Shield.  Our touring caravan policies start at £50 and include flexible cover options to suit your caravanning needs. To see how much you could save, get a quote today or request a callback from one of our experts.

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