Choosing your first caravan: a beginners guide to caravanning

Choosing your first caravan: a beginners guide to caravanning

So, you’ve decided between a touring caravan and a motorhome, and your heart’s set on a caravan… nice work – that’s your first decision made!

Buying your first caravan can be a daunting prospect, but that needn’t be the case!

Below are 6 things to consider when buying your first caravan. Take these into consideration, ask yourself all the necessary questions, and you’ll be well on your way to a lifetime of happy caravan ownership!

New or used
A new caravan is a nice luxury, but you need to be prepared to absorb the initial depreciation in value, much like you would with a new car. If you plan to keep the caravan for many years, it’ll be an easier pill to swallow… but if there’s a chance you’ll want—or need—to sell up in the short term, you need to consider taking a fairly significant financial hit.

On the flip side, this makes used caravans—especially “nearly new” ones—a very attractive option for caravan buyers. What’s more, a well-priced, well-looked-after, used caravan should hold its value nicely, which is always good news when it comes time sell up, or trade up!

Set a budget and stick to it
This might sound like common sense, but it’s important to set a budget, and stick to it! Setting a budget allows you to narrow down your search, and being strict with your budget—avoiding “budget creep”—means you won’t be upsold, or tempted to spend too much/more than you can really afford.

Don’t start your caravanning journey by stretching yourself too far, or putting yourself under unnecessary financial strain… caravan ownership should be relaxing and enjoyable, not a money worry!

Can you tow it?
If you passed your driving test before the end of 1996, you’re entitled to tow even the largest caravans by default. If, however, you passed in 1997 or later (automatically anyone younger than 36 years old), there are limitations on what you can town without passing a further extended driving test.

It all sounds very complicated, but in reality it’s fairly straightforward. In short, it’s all about the combined total weight of your caravan and car. This combined weight cannot be greater than 3500 kg. As an example, this 4 berth 2016 Swift Kudos 530 weighs 1145 kg (unladen weight), and even the heaviest variant of Volvo’s V60 estate car weighs under 2000 kg… so anyone with a full UK driving license would be entitled to tow this combination.

The weight of your luggage and belongings do not count towards the 3500 kg limitation, as long as the caravan remains under the maximum recommended laden weight.

Can your car tow it?
When sizing up caravans, further to the above, you also need to ensure that your car is capable of towing your preferred caravan.

In theory, most vehicles can tow up to their own weight, but as a rule it’s best to stick to less than 80-85% of the weight of your tow car.

If you’re considering buying a bigger vehicle in order to tow a heavier caravan, be mindful of the license restrictions outlined above.

Bigger isn’t always better
Buying the biggest caravan possible isn’t always the best option! For starters, a hefty caravan will limit your future car choices straight out of the gate (you need to be able to tow it!). What’s more, longer, heavier caravans are—as you’d expect—more difficult to tow. This is especially important to remember when buying your first ever caravan… you can always trade up, size-wise, in the future!

Don’t fall into the trap of buying a larger caravan on the off-chance that friends and family might join you on future caravan excursions. You should buy a caravan for YOU and those who regularly travel with you… not on the off-chance that the grandkids might want to come to Devon next summer…

Do you really need that 6 berth twin axle monster? Remember, bigger isn’t always better!

Private sale, or caravan dealer?
That cheap caravan for sale in the free ads might seem tempting, but is it too good to be true?

Plenty of legitimate caravan owners sell their caravans privately every week, but you should always be cautious when buying privately.

Caravan dealers are bound by rules and regulations, while private sellers are not. If you’re planning to buy privately, be sure to check—and double check!—everything. This includes an HPI check, and checking the caravan against the Caravan Registration Identification Scheme (CRiS). You’ll also want to check for service history, and make sure the caravan exhibits no signs of damp.

Buying from a reputable caravan dealer may be a better option, especially for a first time caravan buyer. You’ll have access to unlimited sound advice, both at the point of sale and going forward, as well as warranty and servicing options.

Always remember: buyer beware!

So, there you have it…

Consider all the above, take your time, and most importantly of all – enjoy yourself… buying your first caravan should be a pleasure, not a chore!

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