Buying a 2nd hand van

Feb 15, 2021
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I've never owned a caravan but later this year (probably in the Autumn) I'm looking to buy a 2nd hand 4-berth single axle one about 5-7 years old, ideally with an island bed. Already have a suitable towcar. I've read lots of opinions about various makes (with one person saying a certain make is good, then another saying its rubbish etc) so need some authoritative advice from a reliable source. Could someone point me in the right direction please?
 
Nov 11, 2009
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What car do you have as that information is key. What is its kerbweight and towing specification. Do you have a full BE licence or B.
 
Nov 11, 2009
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Licence ok - BE
Do you know it’s kerbweight or Mass in Service as that will help in advising on an outfit. Many cars have quite high towing specifications as does yours, but that doesn’t mean that they would be hood towing a caravan. The ally box is subject to cross winds, turbulence from hgvs or fast moving vehicles, loading distribution etc. A rule of thumb guide is for new tuggers to have the caravan MTPLM 85% if the cars kerbweight. It’s not a legal requirement and it’s not absolute but a guide. Where would that put your intended caravans MTPLM?
 
Jan 19, 2002
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Clicking on your link it shows the kerbweight 1615kg, so you should aim for about 85% for the weight of your caravan - and look at the maximum weight MTPLM not the lower ex-works weight MIRO that is also quoted for caravans.
 
Nov 11, 2009
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I find the technical terms used in this area confusing but gleaned this from https://www.parkers.co.uk/bmw/x1/suv-2015/xdrive-20d-xline-5d-step-auto/specs/
Luggage Capacity505 litres
Unbraked Towing Weight750kg
Braked Towing Weight2000kg

With the above in mind, what corresponding data on caravan weights should I look out for?
Have a look on the Caravan and Motorhome Club or Camping and Caravan Club websites. They have lots of technical information sheets that explain and cover most things caravanning. Including the terms.
 

Parksy

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Nov 12, 2009
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Alongside this forum is the website which contains a wealth of advice and information, lots of it aimed at newbies.
Click on Home from the three horizontal lines top left and browse the advice and blogs from Practical Caravan editorial staff.
The advice on choosing a caravan might help.
 
May 7, 2012
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Welcome to the forum. Caravan prices are at an all time high at the moment because of a lot of newcomers to this and the builders having to close for part of the lockdown so putting off the purchase until later might be a good idea. Hopefully these will drop towards the end of the year but you cannot be sure.
If you are a caravan novice then I would avoid private sales as the shortage has meant a lot of problem models are being sold and it is easy to be caught out. A good dealer will normally help you choose the appropriate model for you and give you a guarantee. All second hand caravans need a recent clear damp test as that is the major potential problem with them.
All makes turn out the odd problem model so one person having problems does not mean the others from that maker ae all rubbish. The magazine does hold annual consumer surveys and basically Adria and Coachman normally top the list, with Eldiss and Lunar at the bottom, and Bailey and Swift in the middle. However all makes turn out some good models and I would not rule any make out but be more wary of some than others.
Please do not use the towing limit as the maximum weight you can tow. This is normally the cars ability to restart that load five times on a 12% incline and is more a test of the driveline. Caravans by their nature are not ideal trailers with large flat sides that are susceptible to cross winds and the bow wave of heavy vehicles and this means basing the weight of the caravan on the weight of the car. You take the kerb weight and if the figure you are given does not include the driver you add 75 kg. The clubs and most others suggest the caravan should have an MTPLM of no more than 85% of this although this is based on old research and personally I would use 90% as the maximum. You have a well regarded tow car which should manage that.
If you passed your test after 1997 you will have a B licence if you have not taken the additional B+E test and will be limited to a combined authorised weight of the car and caravan of 3,500 kg. If you are likely to exceed that check your licence to see what you are able to tow.
Hope this helps.
 
Feb 15, 2021
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Thank you so much for that - so useful. Looks like I should wait for a downturn in the prices before buying - maybe in the Autumn however I'll just wait and see.
 
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Jun 28, 2021
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Don't forget for the sake of a few quid you can buy a damp test meter which will give you a good idea rather than paying for a test to be done by a caravan shop there are some good caravans out there with honest sellers but as in this world you will get one or two not so my 1st caravan was bought from a dealer altho cheap did not come with any sold as seen papers did I have problems with it of course I did.Next one I bought private no problems with it as I remember it was a ABI Supreme.
 

Damian

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Don't forget for the sake of a few quid you can buy a damp test meter which will give you a good idea rather than paying for a test to be done by a caravan shop

I have to disagree with the above posting in as much as a cheap damp meter is just that, cheap, and how accurate it is may be questionable.

Also if as a newcomer to caravans you dont know what readings you are supposed to get or where to test and how to , then it is worthless numbers.

Buying from a good dealer has a lot going for it as it will be covered by the CRA should anything problematic happen , and may well come with a guarantee as well.

If buying from a private seller it is essential that you get a mobile caravan engineer to give it a Pre Purchase Inspection, this will do several things:

1 it will prove that the van actually exists. If the seller refuses to let an inspection done just walk away and
forget it.

2 It will either prove or disprove that everything is actually working, which unfortunately means that some sellers are not as truthful as they should be, and actually not everything does work. I know just how often this scenario happens as a caravan engineer, and it is regularly.

3. It will pick up whether there is any damp which is a walk away situation, that's the last thing you want to be dealing with.

Paying for a PPI may cost a bit but may save you thousands in a bad van, and the frustration of dealing with it.
 
Jun 28, 2021
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That's your choice they do come with instructions on how to use and I would bet they are used by caravan dealer workshops also.It was just some advice that other methods exit on that matter that's all.
 
Mar 17, 2020
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Interestingly enough I've never had a damp reading on my current van - new 2019. (Swift).
According to my dealer it's not required as there's no wood in the walls.

I've not questioned this and presumed Swift have accepted, maybe recommended, the regime followed for a service. This if from a dealer who is exclusively Swift for new vans.
 
Nov 11, 2009
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Interestingly enough I've never had a damp reading on my current van - new 2019. (Swift).
According to my dealer it's not required as there's no wood in the walls.

I've not questioned this and presumed Swift have accepted, maybe recommended, the regime followed for a service. This if from a dealer who is exclusively Swift for new vans.
I’ve heard of this with some of the newer caravans and their impermeable materials. Dies the non damp test include the flooring as some Bailey Alutechs suffered condensation damage to the floor which at the time wasn’t impermeable. Probably changes have been introduced since then.
 
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Damian

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Interestingly enough I've never had a damp reading on my current van - new 2019. (Swift).
According to my dealer it's not required as there's no wood in the walls.


That is quite right.

When Alutec came into being they used a hard impermiable material for the inside walls and apart from the floor, no wood anywhere else in the body.
A pin damp meter could not be used on the walls as the material would shatter if tried, but the floor had to be tested, and I think we all know the problems that arose regarding the floor.

With many vans removing wood from the construction and using better sealing materials the requirement for a conventional damp test is not required and has been replaced with a touch test to identify cold spots which could indicate water ingress.
 
Mar 17, 2020
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I’ve heard of this with some of the newer caravans and their impermeable materials. Dies the non damp test include the flooring as some Bailey Alutechs suffered condensation damage to the floor which at the time wasn’t impermeable. Probably chanotes have been introduced since then.

I think mine has a ply top to the floor but that's all the wood in the van. So far as I know some vans don't have any wood at all.
Obviously that being the case I can understand why no readings are possible.

Another indicator is that the inside walls in my van are, as the outside, GRP. I would expect it to be impossible/useless to test GRP for damp by pricking it with a meter probe!
 
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Mar 17, 2020
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That is quite right.

When Alutec came into being they used a hard impermiable material for the inside walls and apart from the floor, no wood anywhere else in the body.
A pin damp meter could not be used on the walls as the material would shatter if tried, but the floor had to be tested, and I think we all know the problems that arose regarding the floor.

With many vans removing wood from the construction and using better sealing materials the requirement for a conventional damp test is not required and has been replaced with a touch test to identify cold spots which could indicate water ingress.

Read your explanation after posting my response. Seems like we are singing from the same hymn book.
 
Oct 21, 2020
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Thank you so much for that - so useful. Looks like I should wait for a downturn in the prices before buying - maybe in the Autumn however I'll just wait and see.

We have a lovely (bought new in 2017) Swift Corniche 2 berth.
We have decided to buy a larger fixed bed, hopefully a twin axle but probably going to wait until autumn time or even over the winter.
Hopefully prices and availability will improve even if it means ours is worth less.
Might even be some decent late models available used due to people being allowed to travel abroad (hopefully)
 

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