Buying a New Caravan: 5 Top Tips
In this blog I’m going to talk about buying a brand new caravan. It might be that you’ve never owned a caravan, or you currently have one and you’re looking to change it for a new one.
I’m talking about new caravans in this blog as it makes a comparison across all manufacturers easier.
By the end of this blog you will have a good understanding of how to make a successful caravan purchase.
Our Own Caravan Buying Experience
I am going to talk about our buying experience and how that can help you. We started looking for our new caravan back in 2017, we spent a lot of time researching caravans online as we knew nothing about them. We then visited numerous dealerships to look at layouts and models. We had our heart set on an Elddis 840 dealer special caravan. We went to the dealership where we got a price for that caravan and we wanted to order it. They said to us we should place our order at the Caravan and Motorhome Show at the NEC. The show was in October and only a few weeks away. They wouldn’t take our deposit and we decided to go and order at the show to get a “show deal”.
In the meantime, Andrew Ditton put out a vlog of the Adria Adora Isonzo that he had on loan. We had never even heard of Adria and we watched Andrew’s vlog and I saw this silver caravan and I said “we need to go and have a look at one of those”. We went and we had a viewing of an Isonzo and that was it, my mind was completely changed at that point. We went to the October NEC in 2017 and we ordered our Adria caravan and it arrived the following April. The rest, as they say, is history! It is interesting how you can start your journey thinking you want one thing yet you end up with something else altogether.
Research, research and research a bit more. Looking for your perfect new caravan can be a minefield. I would suggest you go online to start you research. There is so much advice that is available for free, from YouTube to forums to digital magazines. The Camping and Caravanning Club offer plenty of advice pages too.
You can research the various layouts, caravans within your budget, the manufacturers and the dealerships around you.
I would advise starting with the number of berths you need your caravan to sleep. Then consider your layout, do you want a fixed island or side bed, single beds or bunk beds? Do you even want a fixed bed, maybe a two berth caravan will meet your needs perfectly.
Next, do you want a large caravan, in which case you might be considering a twin axle or something 8 feet wide. Do you want something small, lightweight and compact? A good place to find out more about layouts and caravans is by watching YouTube. It is packed with caravan reviews of all shapes and sizes to give you some inspiration.
It is important to check your driving licence categories to see what you can legally tow. If you passed your driving test before the 1st January 1997 you will have what’s called BE category. Your entitlements will be shown on the front and rear of your driving licence. If you have be category you can tow a total combined weight over 3.5 tonnes. If you passed your driving test after that date you will not automatically have the BE entitlement. You will be limited to a combination of a caravan and a car under 3.5 tonnes and that’s going to limit the choice you have of caravan and car combination. It might be that you decide to take the additional BE test which is going to cost you between £500-800. It is worth investing in so you don’t have to worry about these weight limits.
This, unfortunately, is the bit that we all have to think about. When buying a new caravan the prices are fixed in the windscreen, whilst you might negotiate a discount you have a good idea of the price. All manufacturers across the UK, including Bailey, Elddis, Swift, Coachman and Adria are going to have fixed prices. You can see these prices online or at the dealerships. It might be that you’re starting with an entry-level caravan such as a Bailey Discovery or Phoenix, an Adria Altea, an Elddis Avante or the Swift Basecamp. An entry-level caravan is going to start at about £18,000, you will get some that are a little bit below, that but that’s going to be a basic price. The reality is most four berth caravans are going to start between £20000-22000.
A mid range caravan takes you to the Adria Adora, Bailey Pegasus Grande, Elddis Affinity, Swift Challenger and Coachman Arcadia. Caravans like these are going to be from £25000.
At the top end you’re going to be looking at the Adria Alpina, Coachman VIP and Laser, Swift Elegance, Elddis Buccaneer and the Bailey Alicanto. The premium caravans are going to cost you between £30000-36500. There are a few caravans that will cost you more than this including the Coachman Lusso and the INOS.
To finance a caravan you can make a cash purchase, take out finance or a personal loan.
You need to think about a tow vehicle. When we bought our Isonzo we had to buy a new tow car because our car would not be able to match the weight of our Isonzo. That might be something you need to think about will your car to safely tow your caravan. Do you need a tow bar fitting to your car? Think about these additional costs.
As well as buying the caravan you might need a motor mover, try and negotiate that in your deal if you can. You may well need accessories such as an awning, a good awning could set you back anywhere from £600-£2000, again try and negotiate a bit of a discount if you can. You’re going to have to think about other accessories such as an aqua roll, waste master, security devices, crockery and bedding. We worked out we spent about £2000 on accessories, including our awning. Make sure you add that to the budget when you’re thinking about your caravan.
You need to purchase security devices for your caravan, these can include an alarm, tracker, wheel, chassis and hitch locks. There are other devices available on the market too. Using security devices may reduce your caravan insurance premium and reduce the chance of it being stolen. Caravan insurance is a separate cost that can vary from around £100-£400. You can visit the Caravan Guard website and obtain a quote for your own caravan. Using a CaSSOA silver or gold storage yard will reduce your insurance premium too.
Having done the first three points, it is time to hit the dealerships and this is the exciting bit. What you should do is get a list of the manufacturers and models you want to look at. Then check to find the dealerships around where you live that have a selection of those for you to view. Go and visit the dealerships, when you get there my advice is go into all the caravans you are interested in. Go in, sit down and see how they feel. The feeling you get in a caravan will tell you a lot about if it is for you. If you get the feeling you will want to sit down in the lounge and it will already feel like your new holiday home on wheels.
Stick with the caravans that meet your budget, don’t get carried away and go and sit in the luxury one when you can’t afford it. I’ve done that and then you get your hopes up, so look at what they’ve got within your budget.
No dealership should have an issue with you spending time in a caravan. You should look around the lounge area, sit down in it, feel the cushions, lay on the bed to check the length. One of the best ways to tell if you like a caravan is whether you even want to sit down. There’ll be some that you step in and you just want to climb back out straight away, you know that’s not for you. Look at your kitchen space, is the kitchen space enough, does it have an oven, does it have a grill, has it got the storage. Make sure it is going to suit your needs, that’s the most important thing. Personally, I like a good sized fridge and freezer because I like to stock up on food, for you it might not be a requirement.
Choosing a dealership is important, most will be very happy to secure a sale and take your money. It is important to consider the after sales service you will receive if you have to return for warranty work. It is worth checking online reviews and Facebook groups to read other buyers experiences. Most buyers do purchase close to home, within 75 miles, due to the warranty. Your caravan warranty will be the responsibility of the dealer and any associated repair work. Dealers are not keen to take on warranty work if they did not sell you the caravan. It is likely you may return to the dealer for servicing, so it is important to have a good relationship with them.
That said, we have ordered a motorhome from a dealer 175 miles from home. This was based on the dealers customer service reputation, product knowledge, the deal they offered and their extended warranty.
You have found the ideal caravan for you and it’s time to negotiate on that deal. It is worth calling around a number of dealerships by telephone and asking them for their best price on that caravan. Once you’ve got the best price research the dealership, look at reviews and see what other buyers have said.
Although demand right now is incredibly high deals can still be done. It might be that you can secure a deal on accessories, such as the motor mover, an awning or a starter pack. Think warranty, how much warranty does your new caravan come with because that could be important. If you’re going to be using the dealership for servicing could you maybe negotiate something around the cost of your first service. One thing I would say is when you go to the dealership, don’t let them tell you that the deal is only for today. Don’t be pressured to put down a deposit, be prepared to walk away. It’s a bit like when you go to the show and they tell you it’s the show deal, generally you could negotiate that deal at other times. Come away and think about it, only put a deposit down when you’re absolutely sure that is the caravan you want to purchase. Once you make a decision then place your order and put down a deposit. You can look forward to your new caravan arriving, timescales for this depend on the manufacturer. If your caravan is built to order it is realistic to to wait from six to twelve weeks. If you are ordering from a European manufacturer you may have a wait of six months. If you want a new caravan sooner then some dealers may have stock, or you could buy a model from the display vehicles.
The day that you collect your caravan the handover is really important, especially if you’ve never owned a caravan before. When we picked up our first we were all ears. Listen to what the dealership tells you in the handover and film it if needs be, so you can play it back later. When you get on site you will have totally forgotten most of it. Youtube is an excellent place to go to look through videos that offer advice about setting up, levelling, filling up the water and emptying the toilet cassette.
I hope these tips have been helpful in assisting you in the purchase of a new caravan.