Caravans are a great way of escaping the stresses of everyday life whilst still having the comforts of home around you. Whether you are off on a long summer holiday in the sun or just taking a short break locally, caravans offer you the chance to get away and relax, stay in style at weekend events or festivals, treat the kids or grandchildren to a few days in the countryside or at the coast and still have your privacy, TV (for those not to be missed programs!) and most importantly, your own bed.
With Air Travel prices going up (along with everything else), caravans are becoming increasingly more popular and as well as giving you a sense of freedom, they can also be stylish and cool!
But before you rush out and buy your first caravan take a while to check out a few details first so that when you do buy, you’ll be happy with your caravan and be able to enjoy it.
Tip one: Weight
The first thing to decide is “What weight “ can I tow? Establish the maximum weight your car can tow. Check the manuals as this is a very important point both for your safety and from the viewpoint of the law. As a guide – by law no car is allowed to tow a caravan that weighs more than 85% of its own weight. This way you will discard all caravans above this weight, thus search narrowed already.
Tip two: Berth
“How many people?” will the caravan be used for. Determine how many people will be needing a bed on a regular basis? Children? Guests? Or just the two of you escaping the rat race?, you now have narrowed your search by berth.
Tip three: Size
Does size matter? Firstly, how large a caravan do you feel comfortable towing? There are several companies offering courses for those who want to “try towing before buying”. What do you need within the caravan? How many people will be with you? What will you be taking with you and have you enough space for all that? Is it easy to park? Is there enough space in your driveway? All questions to ask yourself when deciding on the size of caravan to choose.
Tip four: Parking
Before buying any caravan it is important to determine where you will be keeping it. Can you park it at home? This is the best option if it is possible, as it is the cheapest option. Keeping the caravan at home will also give you an extra bedroom for any overnight guests, very handy. There are a number of companies who manufacture covers for caravans which will keep your pride and joy shiny and clean. Do measure your driveway before looking. If keeping your caravan at home is not an option then check out local caravan storage yards for prices and call round in person to make sure that they are security conscious.
Tip five: Do your research
There are a number of Caravan Shows held every year, this is a good place to start as you have several dealers on hand to compare information. Collect brochures which you can study at leisure at home, these brochures will give you various layouts as well as technical information. But do choose a dealer near to where you live as this way you can easily drop in for any reason.
Tip six: Budget
Have a budget in mind before you start looking and try to stick to this as you don’t want to be talked into paying more than you can comfortably afford to spend. Do leave a little extra in your mind for any accessories you will need or want at the beginning, you can always add more pieces later as you find out what you really do need. Bear in mind that dealer’s brochures will not show prices, for these you will have to visit the showroom or a Caravan Show. Don’t be afraid to haggle for their best price.
Tip seven: New or Pre-loved?
This is a matter of personal choice and budget but there are a number of things to weigh up. If you want to try out caravanning for the first time then a used caravan may be the better option as the amount of money you will lay out will be considerably smaller and if you decide it is not for you then you should find it easier to get your money back. You will also be able to take the caravan away with you after agreeing a deal rather than waiting for delivery dates from a dealer. You may also find that there are a number of accessories included in the price of the caravan and you do not have to buy all kinds of extras for your first trip out. A downside could be that the older caravans tend to be more ‘box-like’ unlike the more modern streamlined caravans and therefore will increase the amount of fuel you will use. If you are sure that caravans are for you then maybe a new caravan is better value as you will have the full guarantee from the manufacturer, you will also have a brand new caravan which you will be able to cherish and look after from the start of its life and the caravan will be the latest in what is on offer in the market today.
Tip seven: Layout
Caravans come with a few different layouts for you to choose which is the best suited to your needs. Two bed layouts either with a fixed bed which obvious advantage is that it does not have to be made up each night and tend to be in the larger caravans, or a lounge which converts into either a double or two single beds. These are ideal for couples. For the needs of a family there are four, five and six berth options. The five/six berth family layouts often use the dinette area to make up either a single or a set of bunk beds. These bunk beds are normally smaller and are deigned to accommodate children and will not take the weight of an adult. Caravans will also have a compact washroom complete with toilet and shower which are situated either at the side or across the back of the van. The kitchen area comes in various sizes and here you will need to think how much room you will need for food preparation and washing up. The kitchen area usually comes complete with hob, oven, fridge and sink. If you are only using your caravan during the summer then you may find that you will spend more time eating outdoors. Think about how you will be using your caravan and then choose the layout which best suits your needs.
Tip eight: Used Caravans
Compare the prices at local dealerships and private advertisements. Check out the caravan carefully, both inside and out, looking at the condition and make sure that there is no damp. Always go and look at them in the daylight NEVER in the dark. Ask to see all the documents. After 1992 caravans manufactured by NCC members are part of the Caravan Registration and Identification Scheme (CRiS) and have a unique 17 digit vehicle identity number. Caravan details are sent to CRis when sold. Through CRis you can also check for any outstanding finance, the caravan history or if it has been in an accident or written off. (for further information contact www.cris.co.uk)
Tip nine: Accessories
The list for accessories could go on and on as there is always something new on the market to tempt you. The best thing to do is sit down and decide how you will be using your new caravan and what you want to do whilst away in it. If you are going to be spending a lot of time sitting outside, or have a large family or large group of friends who will be dropping past, then look at getting an awning. An awning can double the size of the caravan and can come either with just a top or with sides giving further uses such as extra sleeping space, for the dogs, or sitting inside when the weather is not being kind. How many chairs will you need? Look for chairs that can fold away small, storage space is very important. A table, again it needs to find a home when travelling. Keep dishes, pans and crockery to a minimum but do have enough and make them lightweight. Maybe a flat screen TV, DVD player or even folding satellite dish. But do remember that these may restrict the weight of personal effects you can place in your caravan when under tow. Bedding or sleeping bags? Again personal choice but think of storage and washing when you get back home. With accessories buy the minimum you need to begin with and add them as you need them that way you could end up saving money on unnecessary purchases.
Tip ten: Use your Caravan!
You have done the hard work now. You have done your research. You have haggled with dealers. You have taken possession of this beautiful caravan, now go out and enjoy it, don’t just leave it in the driveway and admire it through the window. Take short journeys to begin with and go away for the weekend to try it out before setting off on a five thousand mile round trip. If you want inspiration why not join a club, or even several, and join in with rallies where you will be able to get a wealth of information from seasoned “Caravaners”. Visit some of the club sites and build up confidence to venture further afield to explore more out of the way sites. Most of all enjoy your caravan and all the benefits and freedom it brings to you and all your family.
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