So you’ve made the first decision – to buy a caravan – but where do you go from here? The choice is bewildering. Prices vary from £500 to £50,000 and you could base your decision on anything, from the colour of the furnishing to the country of manufacture. Where should you start? And will you get a better ’van if you pay more?
This Data Sheet offers a few pointers by helping you ask the right questions and consider your requirements before making an investment.
Your towing vehicle
Realistically, unless you want to upgrade your car, your choice of caravan will be limited by the towing capacity of your current vehicle. As a rule of thumb, find the car’s kerbweight from the handbook, divide by 100 and multiply by 85. This ‘85 per cent recommendation’ will give you a reasonable maximum weight of caravan you can tow comfortably. You’ll also need to check your car’s Towing Limit (again, see the handbook) and stay within it.
You’ll also need to check the limits of your driving licence before you take to the road with a caravan or other trailer in tow.
Data Sheet 40 – driving licences (pictured right) has detailed information about the limitations of a licence.
Is bigger always better?
A caravan towed by a car can be up to 7m long (not including the drawbar) and 2.55m wide in the UK, but a large caravan can seem daunting when you first start towing. Apart from taking up more space on the road, it will be more affected by buffeting from side winds or passing lorries, especially on faster roads. You may want to start with a smaller caravan and upgrade as you gain confidence.
Smaller caravans have other advantages too. They can be cheaper on ferries and easier to manoeuvre on narrow roads. If you really need more space, consider an awning – a tent-like structure that fits on the side of the caravan.
You will find more floor space in a 4m-long caravan with a full awning than a 7m van without. The combination could work out cheaper, easier to tow and may use less fuel to reach your destination. The awning is also a good space to put wet clothes and boots when the weather’s inclement.