Buying a caravan is a pretty big deal. They can change your life for the better, but are also a big investment.
It’s not like buying a new TV – this is something that you will live, eat and sleep in. Multiple times a year, if you’re lucky.
So it’s important to make the right decision, especially if the caravan you’re thinking about buying is second-hand.
Whether you’re looking to buy your first ever caravan, or are a seasoned pro looking for an upgrade, here are the things to look out for when making your purchase.
Ask to See a Service History
Caravans should really be serviced once every year (something to bear in mind if you’re new to this world).
If the caravan you’re looking to buy is at least a few years old, then it will have a comprehensive service history.
You should ask the current owner to see it.
After each servicing, they will have been provided with the results of their inspection, and any maintenance work that needed to be done.
Not only does this give you an idea of the current condition of the caravan, but it will help you in the future.
When you get it serviced yourself, you can show the history to the person doing the service.
It might help them in some way. If any repairs have been done in the past, then it’s good for them to know if a problem is recurring.
Of course, you could just ask the current owner about repairs, but you might not get a 100% honest answer. It’s always good to have the facts down on paper.
You might also find out if a repair that has been done is still under warranty – so if an issue occurs again, you might not have to pay to get it fixed.
Check for Damages
Not all damages will have officially been repaired.
The owner might have tried to fix something themselves, and have merely papered over the cracks (possibly literally).
Before you decide to buy a caravan, ask if you can have a thorough look around (both inside and outside) yourself, to see if you can spot anything that might be cause for concern.
Some things to look out for:
Damp can be a serious problem in a caravan.
Especially if it hasn’t been sorted properly. It might come back worse than before if the previous owner hasn’t taken the necessary precautions.
What makes it worse is that damp can get expensive if not dealt with quickly and effectively.
You might be able to spot damp yourself – there could be patches on the walls or ceiling that make it obvious.
But if you really want to be certain, we’d recommend investing in a damp meter.
They can give you a reading of the current damp situation in a percentage format. Anything more than 15% will need further inspection (over 20% and there is probably some serious issues).
We’ve written a more comprehensive guide about dealing with damp, entitled ‘How to Prevent (And Remove) Damp from your Campervan.’
This is when the floor begins to fall apart a little (the glue holding different layers together gets weaker and they start to separate).
You will notice it if the floor is quite spongy when you step on it.
It can cost around £60 – £150 to fix, depending on how serious it is, or you can decide to grab your toolkit and sort it out yourself.
So if you’re willing to do this, then it won’t be a big problem. But you could maybe ask the owner to knock a little off the asking price, if this is the case.
Again, we’ve written a complete guide to delamination called ‘What is delamination and what can I do about it?’
Cracks and Holes
These are the easiest issues to spot – unless the owner has tried to cover them up.
Take note of any broken windows, cracks in the walls, or in the sink or shower. Even if they’re tiny, cracks can get bigger and cause serious issues further down the line.
It’s worth noting that sinks in particular can be quite weak, so if they get knocked by anything heavy, the damage could be bad. And they’re expensive to fix.
The same problem can occur with worktop surfaces. To help reduce the weight of the caravan, they are built to be hollow, and so are susceptible to damage.
In terms of the windows, another concern is what’s called ‘blown windows’.
This is when a window gets “swollen” – you will be able to see if a certain part of the window is larger than the rest. It is caused by cracks around the window.
Over time, this will pull the window away from the frame, creating gaps that water could get through.
If you see the caravan has this problem – then be aware it can cost hundreds of pounds to replace.
Finance on the Caravan
It’s really important to check that there is no existing finance on a caravan before you buy it.
That’s because the owner isn’t actually allowed to sell it if this is the case. And if the bank, or finance company, were to find out – they could reposes the caravan.
Then you’re left with no caravan, and have lost your money too.
This may be a lot to take in – there are many things to pay attention to – but if you’re making an investment into something as big as a caravan, it’s essential you know exactly what you’re buying.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!