Caravan vs van conversion & General caravan living

Aug 5, 2016
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The purpose of this topic is to get a few tips before making some decisions.

My parents live abroad in a small house and, as such, I have to use the living room for sleeping and working purposes when I visit, which causes a nuisance to everyone.

Given I have only a modest couple weeks a year usage, I see older caravans, go for an absolute bargain. I'm aware many do have water ingress problems, but other than that, are there any real issues I should be aware?I mostly visit on summer, so it would be covered for the rest of the year, as well as permanently hooked to an electrical supply (can run partial heating/dehumidifier).

How is living inside one, in regards to insulation and noise? Summers in Spain tend to be quite hot. Is it reasonable to assume open windows are enough, or should I look into a portable A/C unit?

Also is there any real advantage from 2 berth to 5-6 berth? They seem to have the same outdoor dimensions, so I'm not quite sure where the compromise is. Maybe less storage or a smaller toilet? I would ideally like to retrofit mine with a large desk and a standard under counter fridge, and the space where the 4 berth ones have the extra bed seems like a sensible option. Likewise I don't have any need for the toilet, can this space be easily reclaimed?

What do you guys think? What should I look for when buying a used caravan?
 

Parksy

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Nov 12, 2009
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Hi, if you have a place to permanently pitch your caravan outside your parents home a touring caravan would be ideal because it would be relatively easy to transport it to your destination and to remove it when it's no longer needed.
I don't know what your budget will be but have a browse through the Buyers Guide to find the main points to check before making a purchase.
What you buy will depend on how many people are to use the caravan, but if you have enough room to keep the caravan a fixed bed model would probably be best so you will have a separate dining / working area. Most tourers have fridges already fitted, and there is usually a large removable dining table for the front lounge area which could serve as a desk. Never buy a caravan from an online auction without checking it over first.
I've never caravanned in Spain so can't help with regard to the heat etc; but someone on here will be able to advise you.
 
Nov 11, 2009
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If you are in Spain during summer it will be much hotter than UK. If you are there for reasonable periods then you will become acclimatised but even the Spanish tend to stay indoors at their homes during peak temperature times. But of causer closing up a house to keep the heat out isn't feasible in a caravan where the insulation provided by stone wall etc does keep the temperature down. Some caravans on permanent pitches have a canopy rigged over the roof which stops direct sunlight. Others take advantage of the shade provide by trees. But given you situation a portable cooler unit may be a good idea.
 
Mar 14, 2005
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Caravans have fairly narrow doorways. You would have difficulty getting "a large desk and a standard under counter fridge" in there. Then also there's the extra weight of them to consider.
 
Mar 14, 2005
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Hello sipgodinho

Choosing the right caravan is a very personal thing, and only you can really weigh up the pros and cons, but you may well get some useful tips for the forum and other sources.

But looking at what you have so far told us, Older caravans are more likely to suffer from damp issues, and whilst the cause of teh damp can usually be sorted, its the damage it may have done over a longer period which is the bigger challenge. Most older caravans will have a soft wood frame inside the wall panels, and if this has been damp for more than a few weeks, it will have started to deteriorate and in the worst cases will have rotted away leaving the wall much much weaker than it should be. Ultimately any such damage could be repaired, but at what cost.

As for two berth over more, if the body has the same dimensions, then in general teh 2 berth is likely to have more stretching room, but you might want to consider a two berth with a dedicated bedroom, which means you don't have to put the bedding away each day.

For several decades now the bathroom in caravans has moulded panels and fittings including space for the toilet. Removal is possible, but I'm not sure how much useful additional space it would provide.

The thermal insulation of caravans has steadily improved over the years, so an older one may not be as good as current models. Insulation works both ways, and should keep heat in or out, but the effectiveness is easily compromised by the necessary ventilation. and the low thermal mass which means the temperature will change quite rapidly compared to brick or stone building. The thinner walls are also more sensitive to heat gain by strong sunlight, so in sunny climbs such as Spain you may need to consider some addition climate control.

Some people find that a opening windows and a simple fan to move the air around is enough, but others feel they need actual cooling. The simplest coolers are water evaporator which basically humidify the air. These work best when the ambient humidity is low, so in humid areas ( e.g. the UK or nearer the seaside) they are less effective.

That leaves proper Air Conditioning, which uses a compressor, These work best when there is little air exchange with the outside air, but that's when the heat can really build up, so they have to work hard. that means two possible compromises, firstly the Mains current available in a caravan is limited and that means the unit may not be powerful enough to cope with big heat gain from strong Spanish sun. And secondly these device tend to be quite noisy.

When in storage there is little point in trying to dehumidify the caravan, Just like using air conditioning it works best when there is no air exchange with the external air, but caravan have to have a certain amount of fixed ventilation, and that is enough to make dehumidification ineffective, (Never block the fixed ventilation holes) no sooner has the unit dried the air that's passed through it, its replaced with air from outside which brings more moisture with it. The best solution is simply to make sure the caravan is aired, by opening all cupboards and lockers, many people also remove the seat cushions and store them at home giving maximum access for fresh air to circulate all around the inside of the caravan.

In the UK we don't have to separately register caravans, but in some continental countries it may be necessary if its kept in the country for more than a few months.
 
Nov 16, 2015
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Two years ago we were in the south of France and the temps were in the very high 30's , we were in a shady campsite, and during the day all the windows were open and two 12 inch fans were blowing all the time, I would invest in a small air conditioner, even the type you fill with water , they are very effective.
 
May 7, 2012
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I tend to go along with the Prof's advice. To me if there is only you in the caravan there is no point going for five or more berths as they will only take up room. If you want more room and do not mind making the bed up at night a two berth should give you more room. If you want a bed ready made at night then a fixed bed model would be ideal or a four berth with what is called a double dinette, this is a second lounge are at the rear which doubles as a bed and can be left down as that.
I do not see getting a desk in would be a problem as long as it is a self assembly and can be built inside and there is room. A word of warning however as furniture can be used to maintain the structural integrity and therefore might not be safe to remove.
If you are simply leaving it at your parents house in Spain, then buying locally would make sense and with their weather damp should be less of an issue.
 

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