Every UK-manufactured caravan since 1992 has been recorded on the CRiS (Central Registration and Identification Scheme) database by its unique 17-character Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Unlike with cars, registration is not compulsory so after being sold new it is possible that subsequent owners have not re-registered the caravan in their names. However, CRiS works closely with the police and any caravan reported stolen or involved in a major accident is recorded by CRiS.
The CRiS number is etched on to the caravan windows and on the caravan chassis. The 10th character (counting from left) indicates the caravan model year, with a model year running from the previous September.
A 2010 model year, therefore, runs from 1st September 2009 to 31st August 2010. For 1992 model year the tenth character is N, P= 1993 and so on (O, Q & U excluded) up to Y= 2000. Model years 2001 to 2009 are represented by a 1 to 9 respectively and model year. 2010 and 2011 are represented by A and B and so on.
To find out more about CRiS visit: www.cris.co.uk or call 0203 282 1000.
Warranties will vary from perhaps three months for older units up to a year for younger caravans, but do check the small print to find out what a specific warranty covers. Some warranties are offered through an insurance company warranty scheme so there may be a lot of small print. Nevertheless, you should expect a dealer to give the caravan a full safety check before it leaves the premises and ask for a full service if it is due.
A late model caravan may have some of the original manufacturer’s warranty outstanding, but seek proof that this warranty is still valid (which normally means its servicing schedule should be up-to-date) and if it is transferable to a new owner. Sometimes a transferable manufacturer’s warranty requires notification to the manufacturer and payment of a fee to authorise the transfer.
Documents and proof of ownership
The physical condition and price of the caravan may be right, but how do you know if the person selling it is the rightful owner? In a private sale you should never buy a caravan that is presented to you other than at the seller’s home or bona fide storage place. Ask for ID from the seller and proof of ownership.
Your best protection against buying a stolen caravan, an insurance write off or one with an outstanding finance agreement is to check with CRiS – the Central Registration and Identification Scheme (see panel, left). For a small fee you can ring up CRiS and give it the caravan’s CRiS number to carry out a search for you.
Finally, check if a handbook is available, it may not be essential for experienced caravanners but for the beginner it is rather bewildering to start caravanning without one.
Test it sooner than later
Once purchased, try out your caravan as soon as possible at a local campsite as it’s best to find any faults sooner rather than spoil your holiday later and definitely try it before any dealer warranty runs out. It’s claimed some unscrupulous dealers have been known to sell damp and faulty caravans with very short warranty periods on the basis that a good number of their customers will not find the problems before the warranty expires.
Concluding the deal
Caravan salesmen may encourage you to use a particular organisation to finance your purchase, but proceed cautiously as while it may be the best deal for the salesman, better terms may be available from your bank or another credit provider. Using some form of credit can be beneficial and provide extra protection if problems and disputes later arise concerning the caravan.
Be cautious before committing yourself with a deposit, make sure a written contract is available with any extras or offers clearly stated. If you sign a contract and provide a deposit you are likely to lose the deposit if you subsequently change your mind about the purchase.
Before collecting and taking away your caravan, ask for a handover from the dealer or previous owner to explain the workings of the various items of equipment. And don’t forget to arrange insurance and a suitable storage site.
The Club can offer insurance through Club Care and some Club sites have storage facilities. Alternatively contact the Caravan Storage Site Association (CaSSOA). Its members offer a range of sites graded in terms of the level of security they offer.
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