Buying at a show
Shows are great places to see a wide range of new caravans. As well as big indoor exhibitions there are open-air shows all through the year and across the country. You’ll see all the latest layouts and styles and as the various dealers’ sales people battle it out for orders you can get some great offers and discounts.
You may find the best price quoted by a dealer based many miles from your home. It may seem a good deal at the time, but will it seem the best value if there are any problems and you need to tow your caravan half way across the country to get it fixed under warranty? And would you need to trek back every time your unit needs a service? It’s worth considering all the costs involved (including your time) before committing to a purchase from a distant dealer.
Buying from a dealer
Buying from a dealer should be one of the best ways to get a good caravan and good service. But how do you find a reputable dealer? The best way is, without doubt, by personal recommendation.
Most dealers sell both new and second-hand caravans. A local dealer close to your home is a great idea so it won’t be far to drive back to sort out any problems or for regular servicing.
Online auction sites such as eBay have caravans for sale and some of them are undoubtedly good value. But you need to be careful. Always make sure the person selling the caravan really owns it and be wary of parting with a significant amount of money until you actually have possession of it.
You are probably familiar with the checking services available to those buying used cars, allowing you to check whether there’s any outstanding credit due on the vehicle, whether it’s been classed as an insurance write-off and the like.
The National Caravan Council (representing the UK caravan industry) and HPI (a leading provider of vehicle checks for more than 70 years) teamed up in 1992 to provide a similar service for caravans. CRiS, the Caravan Registration and Identification Scheme, aims to help prevent and detect caravan crime.
Every caravan built by an NCC member (or registered by its owner individually) since 1992 should have a Touring Caravan Registration Document, which is kept by the caravan’s registered keeper. The Document includes the caravan’s unique 17-digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and the caravan description. All the information is also held on the central CRiS database. If you’re looking to buy a caravan you can carry out a CRiS check on it by calling 0203 282 1000.
Another way of buying online
There are a number of websites that allow you to search through a selection of used caravans. Some allow you to specify make, model, number of berths and price before checking the stocks of dealers throughout the country.
Practical Caravan magazine has one as does the Out and About live website (supported by Caravan, Motorhome and Camping Mart and Go Caravan magazines) and caravanfinder.
All of these sites simply list caravans for sale from dealers or private individuals, so it’s still important to make sure the person selling the unit really owns it. HPI’s CRiS Check service is useful here (see above). And don’t part with a significant amount of money until you have possession of the caravan.
Buying privately from a classified advert
The Camping and Caravanning Club magazine regularly has a selection of caravans advertised for sale in its classified advert section, as do the specialist caravan magazines for sale in the shops. There are also a number of websites that carry classified adverts. Legally, any such advert must indicate if it's a genuine private sale or a trader offering their stock in this way.
These private adverts can sometimes prove to be excellent bargains but it bears repeating: always make sure the person selling the vehicle really owns it and never part with a significant amount of money until you actually have possession of the caravan.
You can check on the ownership of a caravan with HPI’s CRiS Check service (see above).
From a bloke in a pub car-park
Don’t laugh, people do buy caravans in shady deals from men in pub car parks. The caravans are often stolen. When the police track them down (and if it’s your caravan that’s stolen you certainly hope they will), at best, you lose both your new unit and your hard-earned money.
At worst you’ll end up with a criminal record. If the bargain seems too good to be true that’s probably because it is.
On the next page we'll talk about towing and the law