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I'm thinking of buying a caravan - any advice very welcome.

(55 Posts)
VivaLeBeaver Sun 12-Jan-14 16:24:36

Thinking of getting a 2 berth caravan for me and dd. We used to enjoy camping but I can't be arsed with the faff of tents and sleeping on the ground any longer. Used to have a campervan which I miss.

I know next to nothing about caravans. Have been looking at some on the Glossop caravan website and they seem to have a good selection.

Is there anything I need or must avoid?

I'd be looking at second hand so how long do they last for? I read to expect a ten year lifetime but Glossops are selling some which are already 10 years old which look to be in great condition.

I've towed a water jetter before so although not as big as a caravan I've got some idea what to do. I don't know if I'd ever be able to reverse with one though. Would think about doing a towing course to improve my confidence.

VivaLeBeaver Sun 12-Jan-14 16:28:22

Oh and looking at towing weights what does

MTPLM: 1304 kg

Unladen Weight: 1116 kg mean??

Which weight do I take into account? I need a new car as only have a 1.4ltr Fusion at the minute and am thinking of getting a 1.6ltr diesel Focus instead. Which I know won't tow a massive caravan but should be ok for smaller ones.

QOD Sun 12-Jan-14 16:34:03

If you're only going for a 2 berth consider a fixed bed one, the hassle of up and down beds is grrrrr. You'd have to share, I don't thin there's many with 2 single

VivaLeBeaver Sun 12-Jan-14 17:02:36

I think any fixed bed ones are 4 berth, so they have a fixed double bed and then the seating turns into another bed.

I've never seen a 2 berth with a fixed bed.....unless they're just very uncommon.

I guess I could get a 4 berth one as I know it would be less hassle......but it would be longer and more expensive. So harder to tow and possibly wouldn't fit on the drive. I'm planning to keep it at a caravan storage facility 99% of the time but did think if we have guests or dd has a sleepover we could put it on the drive as an extra bedroom. Drive is the length of a Mondeo so a 4 berth van might not fit.

serin Sun 12-Jan-14 17:21:21

If you look at the caravan club website there is a tool that you can use to work out which car is a good match to tow your van. Would you consider getting a slightly heavier car?

I am imagining a Focus has quite a low kerb weight whereas a Mondeo (esp the zetec ones) make great tow cars. I would never again buy a petrol car as a tow car as they just gulp down the fuel, diesels are much more economical in the long run.

I personally don't mind making up the bed at night, we used to camp in tents a lot so caravanning will always feel a bit less of a hassle compared to that.

Have you considered a small camper van that you could use as a vehicle as well? Bongo? smile

serin Sun 12-Jan-14 17:22:42


VivaLeBeaver Sun 12-Jan-14 17:31:00

Thanks Serin. We used to have a vw t25, don't want to go back to having another vehical to tax, insure, mot, etc. Was a pain packing it all up every morning to drive somewhere.

I'd prefer not to have to have a car as big as a Mondeo. So I am hoping to find a small, lieghtweight caravan which a diesel Focus can tow. Looking at an estate Focus as I like estates and I think they're a bit heavier than the hatchbacks.

Will look at the link, thanks.

VivaLeBeaver Sun 12-Jan-14 17:44:25

Ok, the first 2 berth I looked at was too heavy for the car but then the next one (Bailey Cabriolet) got 84% on the TowCar website.

Ford Focus III - 1.6 TDCi (70 kW/94 bhp)
Date of manufacture: march 2011 - up to now. Towball limit: 75 kg (Advise: 65 kg)
Important for safe towing is the weight ratio between Car and Caravan. The weight ratio (loaded caravan / kerbweight tow car) for the Ford and is 84%. This means that the match between car and caravan is perfect. The stability and safety index is good for this outfit.

The towing performances of this Ford with your are good (performance index = 57).
You may expect more than adequate performances from this outfit. On flat roads you can come along provided you've selected the right gear, top gear is applicable in most cases.

On motorway inclines you will be able to come along quite nicely. On steep roads you have more than sufficient power to keep going. On hill starts there will be sufficient power to get going, provided the wheels have traction.

So that looks good.

VivaLeBeaver Sun 12-Jan-14 17:44:43

Are there any makes which are best avoided by the way?

thonah Mon 13-Jan-14 22:36:00

I would strongly recommend booking yourself on a camping and caravanning club caravan manoeuvring course. As well as the practical aspects they go through all the weights for this and that as well. Well worth it if you've got any doubts. I did one last year so I felt more confident taking our 'van away on my own.

With a 2 berth van you may find you don't need to make the beds up, as each of the bench seats will be long enough to be a single bed.

I think you should be able to find a 2 berth caravan you can tow with a focus, but I'd be concerned about the 1.6 l diesel being under powered. Can you look at a 2.0 l diesel?

If you are looking at an older van damp will be your main concern. Check it's got a full service history with a damp check every year.

We love our caravan and have had some fantastic holidays in it.

serin Sat 25-Jan-14 22:24:41

How's the search going Viva? have you found anything yet?
The NEC camping and caravanning show is coming up in Feb if you are still not sorted, you will get loads of advice there.

VivaLeBeaver Mon 27-Jan-14 07:56:40

I've seen a few I like the look of. Am picking the car up today, have stuck with the 1.6ltr one which I know restricts me on what caravan I can have. It needs to be under 1000kg unladen weight. I've been using the what tow car website to check.

I'm undecided about whether to go for a private sale or through a dealer. I've seen the Glossop caravan dealer has quite a few older, budget vans but then I'd be paying more for it and I've read some bad reviews.

I've bought myself a damp meter, ordered some towing mirrors and emailed requesting a tow bar fitting appt.

I will get myself on a towing course.

I've seen some Elddis vans I like the look of and a Senator.

putthehamsterbackinitscage Mon 27-Jan-14 08:08:19

The mtplm is the weight you need to consider not unladen ...

You must be under 100% of kerb weight of car and ideally 85% or lower for a good match....

Damp checks are key, a dealer will do these when they accept a van in for re-sale as well as in servicing reports...

both c&c and caravan club do towing courses... Usually this will get you an insurance discount too....

And club memberships (either or both) get you access to loads of big and small sites at preferential rates...

I'd say buy the newest if it's a straight choice.... Some brands seem to suit some people rather than others.... And if you are tall, look at headroom inside the van - some makes are taller grin eg swift/sterling/abbey are usually ok up to 6'5"

VivaLeBeaver Mon 27-Jan-14 08:15:34

The tow car website lets you put both weights in. Unladen and the mtlpm thingy.

I've seen one I like at Glossop caravan but my weight ratio was 88% and the website said the van was slightly too heavy for my car as it should be 85% or under. Then it said that the stability of the combination was good and my car would tow it really well even in 5th gear. I'm so confused.

VivaLeBeaver Mon 27-Jan-14 08:18:42

I think you're right about going for as new as possible. I'm short so headroom not a consideration.

What essentials do I need for caravanning? An aqua roll, some sort of waste water receptacle and some levelling blocks? Anything else?

I've found a good check list on the caravan club site of what to check for when buying a used van.

Service history reports
Everything works such as lights, fridge, oven, taps, loo, shower, cupboard doors, corner steadies, door locks.
External pull handles are secure.

Anything else?

putthehamsterbackinitscage Mon 27-Jan-14 09:56:33

Walk about and see if floor is level, even and doesn't squeak - you need to check floor hasn't delaminated

Ask if its had any blow outs or accident damage... We has blow outs on a previous van and had to have the floor repaired

Ask if wheels are fitted with Tyron bands (run flats!) which will help keep can stable if you get a blow out....

Equipment wise we have:
Leisure battery
Towing mirrors
Towbar on car with electrics (you'll need to check which sockets you need for the van as there has been a change in the disc over the past few years)
2 aqua rolls (you can swap over whilst the 2nd is refilled - we have teen DS to do that job)wink
1 waste water container
Propane gas cylinders - 6.5kg fit in lockers usually
Spirit level
Hitchlock or wheel clamp
Toilet chemicals
Outdoor chairs
Awning/pull out sunblind
Levelling ramps n chocks
Bricks are useful on sloping fields
Waste pipe to connect to van / container
Van is fully stocked with bedding, pots n pans, crockery, cutlery, glasses, food staples, electric snd gas kettles, other kitchen stuff, water filter jug (some places we go are a bit basic)
Longer trips- clothes airer, pegs
Outdoor lights
Breathable flooring in awning
Extra cool box for beer / wine
Coffee maker

We have a small water container in the car for emergencies whilst travelling and it's useful to fill the loo flush tank too...

If using awning, mallet, tent pegs suitable for hard ground

If going on c&c meets, fire bucket if water outside your van, fire extinguisher/blanket....

it gets bigger everytime you go to the dealer/outdoors shop wink

putthehamsterbackinitscage Mon 27-Jan-14 09:59:32

Any weight under 100% is legal but not necessarily a good match and close to 100% you'll possibly struggle up hill and not be stable in windy weather

88% would probably be ok so long as you take it careful in bad weather and are careful not to overload with equipment....

putthehamsterbackinitscage Mon 27-Jan-14 10:08:18

One other thing... If reversing is really an issue, consider a motor mover.... You effectively have a remote control and can move van independent of the car.... Not cheap but you might find a van with one fitted already

We have one on our van ... Cost about £700 fitted but means I can move van wherever I need to without have to reverse it....

VivaLeBeaver Mon 27-Jan-14 10:16:20

Thanks for all that. Thankfully I've done a lot of camping plus used to have a campervan so quite a bit of stuff I've still got.

I'll do the towing course first and see how that goes. If I'm still dodgy with reversing and can't push it on my own then will get a mover.

putthehamsterbackinitscage Mon 27-Jan-14 20:55:18

Hope you find a good van... It's a lot easier on the joints than camping... So nice to have a bed that's not at floor level ....wink

VivaLeBeaver Mon 27-Jan-14 21:46:06

I think I've found a caravan already.

Went to the local dealers not expecting anything in my price range. Looked at three cheap ones first ranging from 2k to 3.5k. Cheapest two were grotty, third one looked ok but my damp meter picked up a little bit of damp in the loo and round the door, only up to 18% so not awful and its 15 years old so maybe to be expected.

Then I looked at an Elddis, bit newer from 2000. Its perfect. End bathroom which I've decided I like. Blinds, fly screens, oven, fridge, comfy seats/beds. They offered me a good price.

Only downside is the weight. I've done a free weight ratio thingy and that comes back at 93%. Which is over the recommended 85% but under the 100% legal limit and under the recommended tow weight for my car.

But I'm worried about snaking. A friend says it will be fine, the caravan dealer said it will be fine. I'm happy to stick to 55mph, happy to go on a tow course, happy to have a stabiliser hitch. But I'm still worried.

Any lighter caravans either don't have an end bathroom and aren't as nice a layout or are older and after I've seen the state of older ones today I know I need to go as new as possible.

VivaLeBeaver Mon 27-Jan-14 21:46:52

I want to ring the c&cc up and ask them to do a match but you have to be a member and I don't want to Join up until I have a van!

VivaLeBeaver Tue 28-Jan-14 12:57:11

I've bought it!

Tow bar gets fitted next week.

QOD Tue 28-Jan-14 16:03:02

Our caravan had a stabilizer built into the bit that hooks onto the tow bar. That's possibly not its technical name wink

VivaLeBeaver Tue 28-Jan-14 19:14:43

Been back and paid the deposit. I'm one happy bunny. Caravan already has an Alko stabiliser fitted so that's good.

Blokey also said it has a TV ariel/reception thingy as there is a socket in the wall for the tv lead to go in. I can't actually see anything on the roof though, like some caravans have little flying saucers. But I'm short and can't see the middle of the roof very well so maybe it's hiding.

I still haven't checked out anything as it's not connected to gas or elec in the yard but dealer (and its a big, reputable dealer who've been in business for over 30 years) will do a full service and tell me of any issues. They say they will check everything.

I've found a bloke on ebay giving up caravanning and have bought his aquaroll and mains pump, wastemaster and Alko security locking hitch thing for £75. Would have been nearly £250 new.

So now I have to buy some loo chemical, gas bottle and I have everything I need.

Not everything I want maybe! grin I was so happy looking at bits in the accessory shop!

Will book a towing course asap.

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