Choosing the right caravan can be a daunting task, even if it’s not your first time. To help you make sure you get the right caravan for your needs, we’ve put together some handy tips.
Caravans come in different types and sizes, and it’s important to choose the most appropriate for your needs.
How many axles - single or twin?
Caravans can be fitted with either a single or a twin axle (one or two pairs of wheels). Having a single axle will help when manoeuvring on the caravan site – perfect if you’re a beginner. If you have a smaller car this may be the choice for you. Although, if you're still concerned about manoeuvring your new caravan, it may be worth taking a look out our caravan courses, to help you learn in a controlled environment.
Larger caravans need four wheels to bear their fully laden weight and having two tyres on either side of the caravan will give better grip and bring better stability. However, twin axle caravans are heavier so may only be suitable for larger towing cars.
How many people will it sleep (berths)?
Deciding how many berths you need is pretty straightforward; just think about how many people you normally take touring. Remember that you can sleep adults and children in an awning, so you may not need a larger caravan. We recommend you use a tape measure to be certain each berth is long enough for your requirements as some berths will not be long enough for adults.
Don’t be afraid to test any bed for length or comfort. Lots of caravans offer fixed beds as well as fold away beds - the bonus of fixed beds is that they don’t have to be made up every night. The drawback is the amount of space they take up, although they do offer huge storage underneath.
Folding caravans and trailer tents
You might want to consider folding caravans or a trailer tent, these offer enhanced fuel consumption, a lower tow weight – making for safer handling, they’re easier to manoeuvre and small enough to store in your garage. You’ll find they can be quickly erected on arrival at a site, with the cooker etc being hinged up into position. However, expect less storage.
Is your car suitable to tow?
The weight of your caravan should never exceed the weight of your car – your car manufacturer handbook should give you the maximum weight your car can tow. Basically, the heavier your car and the lighter your caravan the safer your outfit should be.
We recommend that the weight of your caravan with its contents should not exceed 85% of the car’s kerb, or unladen, weight. Use our outfit matching tool to find out if your car matches your caravan. Use our outfit matching tool to see what caravans your car can tow.
What's the best caravan to buy?
Depending on your touring needs, the best caravan to buy could be different for everyone. Our Caravan Design Awards takes place at the Motorhome and Caravan NEC Show in October each year, and our panel of judges pick the best caravans based on a range of factors, including shower rooms, kitchen areas, beds and storage spaces. There are also a number of dealer specials included in the awards - take a look at our Caravan Design Award winners for inspiration.
Buying a second-hand caravan
There is a vast range of used caravans on the market – from affordable second-hand lightweight family caravans costing just a few thousand pounds to nearly new luxury tourers with all mod cons fitted as standard. Buying a second-hand caravan should be a pleasant experience when you have a clear idea of what you want and have all the facts and figures at your fingertips.
You can buy second hand caravans from caravan dealers, private sellers, Club Classifieds or at auction. Club Classifieds is a great place to find a bargain from the thousands of caravans on sale. Caravan and Motorhome Club members can advertise here for free and the Club takes no commission on these sales.
When dealing with a private individual, the rights under the Sale of Goods Act in relation to the quality of the product do not apply. Although the caravan must be as described by the seller, it is for buyers to satisfy themselves they are buying what they think they are buying.
How to check if a caravan is stolen
There are a few checks you can make which might indicate the caravan is stolen. Keep your eye out for any signs of damage around the hitch or on the wheel rims or tyres. This may indicate a security device has been forcibly removed.
Ask the seller to show you any receipts or documents relating to ownership or servicing, including caravan registration and identification. You should be especially cautious of large, twin-axled caravans sold cheaply – these are favourites with the caravan thieves.
In general, you’d be right to be suspicious if you have to view the caravan away from the seller's house or premises, particularly if it is not in an authorised storage compound. If the seller is reluctant to arrange a suitable time for you to view the caravan it could indicate that it’s stolen too.
A CRiS number check at www.cris.co.uk can not only identify a caravan reported as having been stolen, but can identify the age of the newer models of caravan and also whether there are any outstanding finance payments.
Check that the details of the CRiS registration document tally with those of the caravan and be very skeptical of any UK caravan built after 1992 without an obvious CRiS identification number. Be aware that without adequate identification, the Caravan and Motorhome Club will not insure a caravan.
The Caravan and Motorhome Club also has a database of caravans known to have been stolen. Contact the Theftcheck Service on 01342 336885 with the caravan make, model, year and serial number. Even if your caravan is not on the list, this doesn’t guarantee that it has not been stolen; the owner may simply not have reported the theft to us.
Check our handy download for more information on buying a second hand caravan.