From the outset it may be conceded that there are so many different types of caravan, so many makes and models and caravans suited to a whole range of uses that any caravan guide is likely to fall short of comprehensive.
That said, beginners need to start somewhere – so here are just some of the considerations you may wish to give thought to when embarking on your first experiences with a caravan.
Buy or borrow
Whilst there are innumerable pleasures to enjoy in a caravan – whether the freedom of a touring caravan to go wherever you choose or the home from home comfort of a static model – it has to be said that caravanning might not be to everyone’s taste.
Before splashing out on a purchase, therefore, you might want to rent or borrow a caravan to experience whether or not it might be the right choice for you:
- with a static caravan, this might be a simple question of renting a mobile home for a weekend or week on one of the many holiday resorts dotted around the country – if you have a member of the family or a friend who has already invested in such a second home, you may be able to borrow it for a while;
- if you are borrowing a touring caravan, however, you might need to find especially understanding and trusting relations or friends, since the chances of a mishap are higher – you are likely to be a novice in driving a car with a caravan in tow and although this is not especially demanding, it does take a little practice.
New or old
When your weekend away in a borrowed or rented caravan has whetted your appetite, you need to decide whether to buy a new model or a pre-loved one.
Buying a used caravan may cost less than a new one of comparable size and standard, so you may feel freer to change your mind again if caravanning seems not for you. It is worth bearing in mind, however, that caravans – both touring and static – tend to hold their price pretty well and may therefore be considered a prudent investment.
Research carried out by caravan insurance specialists Cover4Caravans reveals that the average insured value of a caravan in 2013 was £13,031 for a static home and £8,860 for a tourer.
Choosing your caravan
This is where matters might start to get rather more difficult – there are quite literally so many makes and models from which to choose. Choosing the right size might be the first of your dilemmas: less of a problem with a static caravan perhaps, but when choosing a tourer you need to remember that you are going to need to tow it. A large caravan may appear more spacious and comfortable, but less of a sensible option if you have to invest in a new, more powerful car to tow it.
This may bring you back to the question of how you intend to use your caravan. If it is a static model on a chosen caravan park, for example, you may be looking at all those features that make it the kind of holiday home to which you wish to return year after year. If you want the freedom of the open road, have a family with children, intend to travel mainly straight from your home to a different camp site each outing or whether you want to keep on the move throughout your holiday, your choice of touring caravan is likely to be influenced accordingly.
In addition to the actual floor area, the layout of a caravan is perhaps even more important. In the relative confines of a caravan it is not just a question of how much space there is, but how it is used.
This in turn may influence the way the caravan is kitted out:
- are the beds an acceptable size?
- how big a washroom and toilet is provided?
- what kitchen equipment – such as the hob and oven – is fitted?
- is there adequate storage and stowage space to meet my particular needs?
These are the sort of questions suggested by the Caravan Club in their helpful guide entitled “Getting Started”.
Preparing for touring
If you have decided that a touring caravan best suits your holiday needs, you may want to bear in mind that rather more preparation goes into getting ready for every outing – though familiarity and experience may streamline and shorten the process as you get to be an old hand at the game.
If you are new to the pastime, you may need to practice towing a caravan. Indeed, rather than putting the pride and joy of your new caravan at risk, you might want to practice and develop your towing skills with a cheaper, more expendable kind of trailer.
When you are ready to set off, there is a checklist of safety precautions that you are likely to commit to memory as time goes on and which are summarised on the website Caravan Tourer:
- make sure that you hold the correct category of driving licence for the car and caravan combination you have chosen;
- check that the insurance is up to date and, if relevant, valid for the countries you intend to visit;
- take care in the way that you load the caravan, with heavy items on the floor, just above the axle;
- make sure that the load does not exceed its Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass (MTPLM) – using your local weighbridge until you have a good feel for the weight of the load – and ensuring that it is less than the towing limit of the car;
- check that the noseweight of the caravan on the tow bar is within the towing capabilities of the car;
- ensure that the caravan’s tyres are correctly inflated to the correct pressure;
- ensure that any stability fixtures are present and work properly; and
- remember to keep within the UK’s speed limits of 50 mph on single carriageways and 60 mph on dual carriageways and motorways or the relevant speed restrictions in any countries you may be visiting abroad.
Provided everything checks out, it is more than likely that you are prepared to set out on the first of what may become many, regular adventures in your caravan.