What to check when buying a used caravan

What do you need to know when buying your first, used caravan?

Buying a used caravan - A-Plan Insurance

The UK has enjoyed a caravan and motorhome boom! With summer approaching, you may be considering joining the club! If you’re thinking about buying a used caravan, whether as a tourer or a hobby workshop, here are some useful points to consider before you buy. 

Buying a hitch-and-go used caravan

If you’re considering buy a hitch-and-go, there are some points worth sharing:

  • Set a budget before you begin your search – but be aware that prices are currently inflated due to the pandemic plus the start of the season.
  • Consider a dealership if you would prefer a point of contact and a warranty, particularly if you are new to caravanning.
  • Consider how many of you are likely to use it at one time – family tourers are the more costly option, however fixed-bed models can be popular for couples.
  • If you’re looking for a model that will retain its value, consider a twin axle, however these can be around the £10,000 mark.
  • Find out about service history and any repairs made by the previous owners.
  • View the caravan when it’s been cleaned – this can highlight any areas where repairs may need to be made.
  • If you are buying from a dealer, you will be covered by warranty for any faults, however it is worth checking the essentials, including the chassis, the coupling, lights, and electrics to ensure it is safe to tow from the outset.

If you can’t find what you want right now, wait until September when dealers are keen to do deals!

Refurbishing a used caravan

Many enjoy the hobby aspect of refurbishing a second-hand caravan and giving it another lease of life, whether that is on the road or as a garden workshop is up to you. Just be cautious about taking on more than you can manage.

Refurb projects are usually purchased via private sale, which can often mean they are cheap and (hopefully) cheerful. But you do have to take your chances as the caravan will be ‘sold as seen’, will come without a warranty, and may not have seen a service for some time.

  • Set a budget for the caravan, and a budget for the refurbishments.
  • Check the age of the caravan via the serial/CRIS number etched on the windows.
  • If the plates are missing, be suspicious.
  • Check the chassis for signs of any problems such as the damper on the coupling – check that it is hard to push back!
  • Check all grab handles are firm and not broken.
  • You may need to replace the tyres as part of the refurbishment but check whether they are in towing condition when you view it so that you can get to your DIY destination safely.
  • Check the electrics and appliances are in working order and that the charger is still charging!
  • Check the caravan for cracked or broken windows, and visible signs of replaced panels (you’ll spot new sealant).
  • Look out for a buckled effect on the side of the caravan – this can hint at major damp, which cannot be repaired.
  • When you’re inside, you may already be looking forward to refitting an interior, but do check for bigger repairs, for example, whether any beds are split, or if the floor feels spongey, and look for signs of damp.
  • Find out whether the plumbing – from any hot water system to the cassette toilet – is working, repairable or at least empty.

Caravan refurbishment ideas

If your caravan is in good condition and just requires some cosmetic repair, a few little changes can really transform the way it looks. Restoring your seating can have a big impact – but do use fire-retardant foam.

A primer and coat of paint may restore the cupboard units and refresh the living space. Many dealerships can also help you to source touch up paint, or you can personalise the exterior finish with a vinyl wrap, whether traditional white or cream, or something far more vibrant.

Interior mood lighting, OLED TV’s, mirrors, and chandeliers are all achievable, as long as they are securely fitted so that they stay put when towing.

If more structural repairs are needed, it is important to consult with a professional, particularly if you want to modify anything, which could invalidate your insurance.

Consider a trailer tent instead

With fuel bills at an all-time high, you may be interested to know that there are fuel savings to be had in towing a trailer tent. Towing a trailer tent uses half the amount of fuel as towing a caravan – which can quickly mount up if you’re planning on a longer distance break.

For those who aren’t too sure about towing a caravan, towing a lighter trailer tent could be good starting point, giving you far greater visibility and without the need to check height restrictions on your journey (and it is far easier to store this in your garage than a full-size caravan). Another advantage is that they extend beyond their footprint, making them roomier than a small caravan. The sleeping area can be separate from the main living area, a big plus if you’re travelling as a group or taking children. The initial costs for a trailer tent – or folding camper – is also less. While there are some high-end versions that cost as much as a caravan, generally the outlay is less for the same amount of accommodation.

Do I need caravan insurance?

Making changes to your caravan can impact your insurance, and certain modifications may even invalidate it so it’s important to do your research. You will need your caravan insurance in place to take it home, on holiday or on to storage so that it is protected should in the case of an accident, fire or theft.

Buying a used caravan – A-Plan Insurance

Some car insurance policies extend to third party cover for any trailer, including a caravan, but do check this with your broker before you tow.  

If you are looking to test the waters before committing to a ‘big buy’ or project, you may be interested to know that insurance cover for folding caravans is usually less than that of a caravan.

Whether you want to find out whether your car insurance includes tow cover, or you want to find out about insuring your used caravan under a standalone policy, our caravan insurance experts are always on hand to help you make sure that you have the right cover in place and to answer any questions you may have. Contact the team directly on 01527 879777.

The team also runs a community Facebook page for caravanners to connect and chat – you may even pick up a few extra hints and tips. Join the Facebook group ‘Caravanners Chat UK‘ and be part of our lively community.

If you found this article useful, take a look at our blog ‘Prepare your touring caravan for the holidays’ and ‘Top Ten Towing Cars’.