Caravanning is a fantastic lifestyle or hobby choice and can be a wonderful way to spend your leisure time. And over the last ten years Caravans have made significant strides but what do first time buyers need to consider when they choose their first model. Swift shares their top tips...
TOWING A CARAVAN
If you have never towed a vehicle before then it is certainly worth considering a manoeuvring courses at the show, which are offered by the likes of The Caravan and Motorhome Club and The Camping and Caravanning Club. There are also inexpensive courses for both caravan towing and driving motor caravans.
WEIGHT OF CARAVAN
When choosing a caravan, it is very important to consider the weight, particularly if you passed your test after 1st January 1997. If you passed your driving test before 1st January 1997 there is no legal weight ratio requirement but the law does require that caravans, their towing vehicles and the loads they carry must not cause danger or nuisance to other road users.
- The laden weight of the caravan should never exceed the kerbside weight of the towing vehicle.
- The nearer the caravan laden weight approaches the one-to-one ratio, the more careful the driver must be!
- If you passed your driving test after 1st January 1997 and have an ordinary category B licence, you can:
- Drive a vehicle up to 3.5 tonnes or 3,500kg MAM towing a trailer of up to 750kg MAM
- Tow a trailer over 750kg MAM as long as it is no more than the unladen weight of the towing vehicle (with a combined weight of up to 3,500kg in total)
- Note: If you want to tow a trailer weighing more than 750kg, when the combined weight of the towing vehicle and trailer is more than 3,500kg, you will need to pass a further test to obtain a B+E category licence.
TYPES OF CARAVAN
There are in essence two types of caravan; single axle and twin axle. Most caravans are very adequately supported with one axle with only the biggest caravans requiring four wheels to bear their fully laden weight.
Depending on your requirement, the advantage of a single axle Caravan is that it is easier to manoeuvre onsite whereas the twin axle has an on-road benefit of extra grip.
Note: It may be worth considering a motor mover for ease of handling when unhitched
Choosing the correct interior layout for your needs is crucial. Key considerations are as follows:
- How many berths (sleeping accommodation) will be required?
- What are the number of adults and children staying in the Caravan?
- Will you be having occasional guests staying over?
- Do you need a double bed or two single beds?
- Do you need the bed to be fixed or pull-out?
- Do you require bunk beds for children?
- Use a tape measure to be sure each berth is long enough for your requirements as some berths are only suitable for children.
- Check the cushion depth in seating, when used as a mattress is important if you want a good night’s sleep!
- Fixed beds in modern Caravans often come with luxury mattresses so this is another consideration for the first time buyer when choosing between a fixed bed or a pull-out bed.
The kitchen in a modern Caravan or Motorhome is well-engineered to make the best possible use of space available. First time buyers will be very impressed with the amount of cupboard space available. Some Caravans come with a built in microwave, cooker with hob and oven and fridge.
There are different types of kitchens in a Caravan:
- End Kitchen – These allow more room to move around in the main living area but the doorway can be constructed when the kitchen is in use.
- Corner Kitchen – Generally offer lots of work surface
- Side Kitchen – A popular choice but can create congestion from people trying to get past the cook or when they’re getting to the washroom if it’s opposite the kitchen
- Check to ensure there is enough storage space for your needs
- Check all lockers and drawer catches hold shut when travelling
Modern washrooms contain quality sanitaryware and a powerful shower which is very refreshing and saves having to pop over the Caravan site’s shower block – if they have one!
Some layouts only provide access to the washing facilities through the main bedroom. This may not be ideal for some, though for a couple it may suit them perfectly. However you’ll certainly get more privacy.
WHAT ELSE DO I NEED?
Essentials for a caravan owner are as follows:
- Towbar for the car
- One or two electrical connection sockets attached to, or adjacent to, the tow ball
- You will need to attach extensions to the overtaking mirrors on your tow vehicle
- Consider purchasing an aquaroll so that you can easily collect water supplies on site
- Always insist on having an owners handbook whether you buy a used or new caravan
- Check out your insurance policy – most comprehensive car insurance policies will cover third party risks when towing a caravan buy you may wish to cover your caravan comprehensively as well. Note that the insurance company may well require you to fit wheel-clamps and hitch locks
- Some caravan dealers have an accessory shop or you could check out one of the many specialist suppliers online. You can also find all the essentials at the show's Towsure Accessory Superstore.
BUYING A CARAVAN
There are hundreds of Caravan dealers across the UK, some will just sell used caravans and others will sell new and used Caravans. It is well worth visiting several to see for yourself the different layouts and type of caravan, to narrow down to the caravan that suits your needs best. The dealer should also give you advice and guidance about the right choice of caravan and help you find your perfect caravan and get on the road! Alternatively, find all your premiere regional dealerships in one place at EventCity this January at the Caravan & Motorohome Show.