Do you want to buy a used caravan? It’s a big decision and one that could have a big impact on your caravanning adventures (and your bank account!). Buying used will give you more flexibility and affordability to find something with more mod-cons for a better price. You may be able to bag yourself a bargain with a used caravan, which may potentially containing more features you’re looking for at a lower price. The tradeoff is that over time you will have to pay more for its repair, maintenance and upkeep to keep it a safe and viable option for travel and comfort. Remember, used caravans generally do not come with a warranty and may have hidden issues that you are not aware of. Knowing what to look for when you buy used is essential to avoid problems that may arise after you purchase. These tips might help you navigate the world of used caravans.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN BUYING A USED CARAVAN
Check the seller and maintenance history
It pays to only buy from a licensed dealer, so you can feel secure in your purchase. Dealers will provide you peace of mind as they do all the background checks on used caravans, ensuring they’re not stolen and are roadworthy. Also remember to check the caravan’s maintenance history (If you’re not sure what you’re looking at run it by your local caravan repairer).
Set your budget
As a rule of thumb, expect to spend upwards of $10,000. Anything below this price range is unlikely to offer up-to-date registration, a full maintenance history or essential features. Caravans will generally not depreciate so don’t worry about losing money on your investment.
Questions to ask
Before you get into the nitty gritty of inspecting the caravan, are some key questions you should ask:
- How old is the van?
- Where has the van been stored? Undercover? On the street?
- What trips has it done in the past?
Sometimes a caravan can look brand new, but remember looks can be deceiving so it’s up to you to really understand the history of the vehicle your considering purchasing.
Inspect the caravan
There are some key things to check when you inspect a second-hand caravan. By knowing what to look for this will also help you quickly identify any issues with your routine maintenance. These include:
- Compliance plate: ensure it’s fitted with VIN number that corresponds to the registration papers
- Body condition: are there any scrapes, dents, bumps or other things such as rust affecting the caravans body. If there are issues, how much would sections take to replace?
- Chassis condition: check for cracks or rust
- Rooftop condition: check for hail damage, creases in front and rear roof section, tears in canvas pop-tops, leaky roofs, deteriorated or non-standard joint sealant
- Wheel bearings: check for looseness. This can indicate a damaged wheel bearing
- Wheel size: check they are the correct size for the caravan model
- Tyre condition: check there is still tread on the tyres and they have correct inflation
- Interior condition: check for surface damage on benchtops and wet areas, wear on fabrics & finishes
- Safety features: choose models with IRS axle system, stabiliser coupling sets for towing safety, electronic stability control, roller-rocker suspension
- Electric & gas fittings: check they work, also check for leaks and see if gas cylinders have been inspected in the past and have a certificate of compliance
- Doors & windows: check they are water-tight and fully sealed
- Cupboards and hinges: check they are sturdy, no wobbles
- Plumbing: ensure it is sound, taps work and the toilet flushes. Make sure there are no leaks
- Keys: ensure the keys match the locks
- Spare wheel: ensure it is the same size as the included wheel, is inflated to the right level and there are no leaks
- Load rating: check the rating on the ball coupling is correct for tow vehicle and the caravan
- Weight: check the caravan is the legal road weight
Remember, you’re likely using a big chunk of your savings to purchase your caravan. You have to be realistic and understand that a used caravan will not have the pristine mod cons of a new model. However, using the above guide you should be able to identify the red flags vs the minor issues that might be expected when dealing with any used vehicle. Soon you'll be on the trip of a lifetime - happy travels!
Photo credit: Matthew Morrison