Tips for Buying a Second Hand Caravan
Why buy second hand?
If your budget won’t stretch to a new caravan, then a used caravan could be right for you. Just like cars, second hand caravans will depreciate in value less and therefore lose less money than brand new ones, and are obviously cheaper to buy in the first place. A few extra knocks and scrapes from over-enthusiastic children and pets will also matter less on a used vehicle.
There are a wide range of styles and specifications available on the second hand market so you will probably find what you want at your local dealer. You will also not have the delay associated with ordering a new vehicle, and you won’t have to travel to a special franchised dealership in order to get the caravan of your choice.
Buying from a dealer
The main benefit of buying through a dealer is peace of mind. You may well be offered a warranty with the caravan, and if not, do ask if one is available. If there is no warranty available; beware, as it may mean there is a problem with the caravan.
When buying from a commercial trader, consumers are offered better protection than they are from private sellers. The law states that the caravan must be as described, be fit for purpose and be of a satisfactory quality, which means of the standard a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory for the price, age and so on. This does not, however, cover defects that have already been pointed out. These consumer laws give good protection to buyers but do be aware that any kind of dispute resolution with a seller could be a lengthy process so try to check the caravan thoroughly before you buy.
All caravans should have a full check for roadworthiness before sale to ensure brakes, lights and appliances are working safely and correctly as once the purchase is made, these become your responsibility.
Buying from a private individual is generally cheaper than a dealer and so bargains can be had, but it is up to the buyer to ensure that the caravan is as it should be. Consumer law does not cover private sales as much as it does trade sales, which means you must be extra careful and do your homework. Is the caravan at the same address as the one on the logbook? The caravan must be as described (keep hold of the advert) but the buyer should satisfy himself that he is buying what he thinks he is. Compare price/condition with similar advertised caravans. Check all receipts that the seller may have regarding servicing and repair history. Write a list of questions you wish to ask the seller and write the answers down, or it might help to take a friend with you who can act as a witness if needs be.
Some top end manufacturers offer refurbished caravans for sale on occasion, so do check these out, particularly if you have a particular brand in mind.
Car auction houses often offer a small range of caravans for sale. Great bargains may be available but ensure you know exactly what you are looking for beforehand, and remember that many auctions are ‘sold as seen’ so do check the brochure and any details thoroughly before making you decision.
It is also possible to import second hand caravans from abroad. If you wish to go down this route make sure that the caravan adheres to U.K. caravan regulations. If it is a non-British make then research the ease and cost of servicing, spares and insurance before you commit yourself.
Caravan sales can be quite seasonal, so when buying from a dealer, remember that sales of new caravans peak in March, April and May so you may get a second hand bargain either before when consumers are selling their caravans to buy a new one, or, just after, when the dealers will want to clear their forecourts of part-exchanges and old stock.
What to Look For
There are a variety of things to watch out for on a second hand caravan, just like any other vehicle or car purchase.
One of the first points is evidence of damp or water damage. These can be lethal in a caravan or motorhome, and getting damp issues repaired can actually outweigh any savings made by going secondhand. Sniff - does the air smell damp? Look at seals, any external damage, watermarks or spots. Does the floor feel fully solid with no spongy or soft areas?
Any gas and electrics should also be fully checked out, as faulty systems can be very dangerous as well as expensive to rectify.
Look carefully for any rust, and don't forget to check over the hitch and suspension - it is worth asking for service history and any glitches the previous owner or dealer may have spotted.
Caravan clubs can advise you and The Caravan Club, in particular, have a fantastic website with a comprehensive guide to buying a used caravan and all the pitfalls to avoid. Visit www.outdoorholiday.co.uk and www.caravan-dealers-supplies.co.uk.
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