First timers needing advice

Jul 21, 2018
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Hi there, the wife and me are currently looking at purchasing a caravan, and we have no experience with caravans at all.

I am after some advice of what is the best caravan to get for beginners. We have started looking but it a bit of a mindfeild. We are looking for a 4/5 berth, we do not want a fixed double bed but would consider fixed bunks and needs to feel roomy and not closed in. Current car is a VW Golf 1.9tdi on a 08 plate. Combined weight has to be no more than 3500.

Thanks in advance
 
Sep 29, 2016
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Welcome Dave192 :)

Lots of friendly and good advice on here, for sure.

Are you thinking buying a used caravan ( can be a very good option for various reasons) ?

I'm sure that most advice given re the caravan, is to make sure that it is fault free, if second hand then I would suggest the money spent on an independent check by a caravan specialist (bit like an AA or RAC check for a car) is money well spent if you are not sure of how to check it yourself.

Private sales usually mean no warranty, dealer sales and you can expect some warranty and recourse to (perhaps somewhat limited) buyer protection under law.

Whatever, take your time, there are plenty out there, happy caravan times to you, let us know what you decide upon.

I bought a used caravan, delighted with it (hope it stays that way) :)
 
Nov 11, 2009
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The best way to decide what caravan you would like is to visit a number of dealers and just browse around those within your budget. Sit in them, do they look well looked after, think how you might use it. Look outside for knocks and scrapes. Above all take your time. A good time to buy is Autumn Winter when the dealers have taken their part exchanges into stock.
Read up on caravan technical and legal issues using the Caravan and Motor Home Club, and Camping and Caravan Club websites. Absolute mines of information.
Matching your car and caravan is essential for safe towing. Details you will need for anyone to give advice are:
Kerbweight of Car
Cars maximum towed load
As you load the car is this deducted from your maximum towed load. Not common but does happen.
Caravan MTPLM is the maximum weight of the caravan.
Caravan MRO is the basic weight including some items.
Payload is MTPLM-MRO

There’s some guidance that recommends that the caravan MTPLM should be around 85% of the cars kerbweight. This may give you a figure quite a bit lower than the makers max towing load. But that load relates to the cars ability to do a number of restarts on a specified incline. It doesn’t really relate to the cars ability towing something nearly 3 metres high and 6-7 metres long on a windy road in the vicinity of HGVs and faster traffic.

Good luck searching around and don’t hesitate to ask as your ideas mature.
 
Aug 9, 2010
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I give the same advice every time I'm asked this question.
Don't buy new, but look out for a used van, for sale by an elderly couple who are giving up due to age or infirmity.
That way, you generally get all the (very) expensive accessories/necessities that you will need to buy separately for a new van, or a dealer-supplied used one.
You might not get a warranty, but you could get all the kit that could cost you another couple of grand on top of the van price, and you might get the van cheaper as well. And as Clive has said, there's no rush; take your time.Good luck
 
Nov 11, 2009
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emmerson said:
I give the same advice every time I'm asked this question.
Don't buy new, but look out for a used van, for sale by an elderly couple who are giving up due to age or infirmity.
That way, you generally get all the (very) expensive accessories/necessities that you will need to buy separately for a new van, or a dealer-supplied used one.
You might not get a warranty, but you could get all the kit that could cost you another couple of grand on top of the van price, and you might get the van cheaper as well. And as Clive has said, there's no rush; take your time.Good luck

Good points by Emerson but if you buy private look for a recent service record and take time to look at the damp report. Any doubts you could pay fir a mobile technician to carry out a damp test for you. Damp in some areas of a caravan can be expensive and would wipe out any savings by buying private and obtaining equipment.
 
Oct 12, 2013
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Welcome dave ,
I to agree with all of the others , have you any friends that are caravanners that could assist you in going looking for what you possibly want with you ?

Good luck .
 

Mel

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Mar 17, 2007
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Hi Dave. Welcome to the forum. You say you want a Caravan for beginners. TBH most caravans are much of a muchness in terms of complexity. The beginners bit is getting the weight right. This can appear baffling to the newbie. Start with finding out what your car can tow. The simplest number to start with is 85% of its kerbweight. ( This is not a magic rule that guarantees stability but a good place to start). Then check that this number is not more than the maximum towing weight in the cars handbook. The make sure you stay within the 3500 outfit weight, as it sounds like you have a post 1997 driving licence.
Once you work out your weights the rest is about preference and condition of van. Going to some dealers as already suggested is well worth it. Also look on Caravanfinder where you can advanced search by weight and by layout. If you find some preferred models, then there are lots of videos on you tube to get a better look. Good luck.
Mel
 
Nov 16, 2015
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The others have said most things, so welcome to the forum, and wander around lots of dealers until you find a style you like, . Stretch out on the front benches to see if they are long enough for you, no point in being uncomfortable.
Hope you find something suitable.
If buying from a dealer they tend to sell to first time buyers, the "Starter kit" aqua roll waste water carrier , and a full size awning. The awning in my opinion, is worth maybe £500 to 800, but depending on how you want to use your caravan, after 3 months you might decide on a smaller Porch awning, so negotiate and get the cost of the awning removed from the dealer. You can buy them on Ebay very cheaply.
Enjoy your new but costly hobby.
Hutch.
 
Oct 12, 2013
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Hi again , you picked a good forum to get info !
Did I read right that you want bunks to sleep on? or is that for the kids not knowing your situation but we have bunks in ours and they take only 11 stone supposingly , I've slept on the bairns btm bunk before and I'm just a little bit over 12 stone :blush: but.. so think about what you want to sleep on , fixed single beds may be better if you don't want to make a bed up .We to (were) pushed for our weight when we first started 5 years ago to 35oo kg like you. Our car was limited to a low towing weight so we had a Bailey's Orion which was a 5 Berth 3 bunks , with our car and caravan it came in at about 32oo kg , The caravan was a light weight entry level 1250 kg , it was a great starter van for us . If you look at the club website you will see that they do towing courses as well if you have not done anything like this before .
Whatever you decide enjoy , take your time and happy future caravanning.

Craig . :)
 
Feb 23, 2018
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Dave192 said:
Hi there, the wife and me are currently looking at purchasing a caravan, and we have no experience with caravans at all.

I am after some advice of what is the best caravan to get for beginners. We have started looking but it a bit of a mindfeild. We are looking for a 4/5 berth, we do not want a fixed double bed but would consider fixed bunks and needs to feel roomy and not closed in. Current car is a VW Golf 1.9tdi on a 08 plate. Combined weight has to be no more than 3500.

Thanks in advance

Hi, the earlier posts from Anseo, otherclive & emmerson give great advice. I am fairly new to caravanning (6 years), and took the lightweight used route as an introduction/stepup from camping.

I guess you have a B (3500kg max outfit) licence obtained after 1997 and the bunks for kids? If so, i had a quick look on Caravan Finder with a guestimated max MTPLM of 1200kg (please confirm the kerb weight of your car and it's max towing capacity; caravans should not exceed 100% of your kerb weight) and came back with this: http://www.caravanfinder.co.uk/touring-caravans-for-sale/search-caravans/elddis-typhoon-xl-used-caravan-1998-merseyside-pk022c172

This is a great site for getting a feel for whats out there and the prices. You can seach by layout and MTPLM which seem to be your priority.

Good luck!
 
Jul 21, 2018
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Thank you for the tips and advice plenty to be thinking about.. We are looking at secondhand and more than likely from a dealer mainly because of the warranty if there is any issues. As for the bunk bed option they will be for the kids.
 
Mar 14, 2005
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Hello Dave,

I started to reply using a tablet, this reply has been edited:

Welcome to the forum.

I'd like to amplify some of the points already made:

As you already have the tow car, it's important to understand its limitations. The limits are particular for each model of the car, so you do need to be precise about the make, model, body , trim pack and engine. VW will often use the same size of engine, but offer it with different power outputs,and that tends to alter the maximum towed weight figure for the car.

By all means use one of the tow matching websites, but do check they are referring to your exact car and caravan and the figures are the same, near equivalents are not necessarily the same.

As others have picked up on is you stated 3500kg limit, I presume this means the driver does not have the BE or B +E on their licence. You need to understand that the wording for the B entitlement which uses the phrase "must not exceed a combined MAM of 3500kg" what this means is you must add the cars MAM (Same as it's Gross Vehicle Weight) and the caravans MAM (Same as it's MTPLM) together and the sum of these must not be greater than 3500kg. This is a paper exercise, so the result cannot be changed by reducing what you actually carry. The law is black and white about this with no latitude.

The car does have legal limits, and they are stamped on the cars weight plate, You must not exceed the cars Gross Vehicle Weight or the Gross Train Weight.

The towing ratio is also a paper exercise which takes 100 X (MTPLM/Kerbweight,). It's a worst possible case scenario.

The UK caravan industry recommend novice caravanners do not exceed a ratio of 85% and experienced caravanners should not exceed 100%. These recommendations have no legal power, but they are a starting point, and are based on the premise that caravans are not easy trailers to tow, their size and weight do impart some considerable additional forces and loads on the car, which the car has to be able to control. Ensuring the car is always heavier than the caravan is seen as an important factor to help with towing. Regardless of the industry guidance you should never exceed the maximum towed weight limit set by the car manufacturer.

If you have not fully decided that caravanning is right for you, it makes sense to look at second hand caravans. The bulk of the depreciation will have taken place and most of the new product* niggles should have been sorted. It also means that if you do decide its not for you you will not lose as much when you sell on. - Some people actually make money!

How to buy? Always work out what you want before you agree to purchase. Ask lots of questions, I’d also suggest you keep a written list or video the process. Ask open questions that makes the seller tell you the whole story, e.g. Don’t ask “Is the caravans dry?” Ask “Whats its water ingress history? “ If any answer seems anything less than cosha walk away.

Take a knowledgeable friend with you. Their experience may offset any shortfall in your own. If second hand, do use an independent engineer to check the caravan over before you agree to purchase.

Where to buy? If you need the confidence of having a formal warranty use a dealer. You will pay more ( the dealer has to make a profit) In law dealers are expected to use their specialist knowledge to help you, they are obliged to answer any questions you have honestly.

If you are looking at a private purchase, it will be cheaper, but it won’t include a warranty, and whilst the seller should answer honestly, there is always that possibility they may not be as open as they should be. If anything does go wrong, you technically have your rights under the CRA, but it is more difficult to bring the seller to book.

Others will tell you their likes and dislikes concerning layout and features but ultimately only you and your family can choose.

Good luck.
 
Feb 23, 2018
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ProfJohnL said:
...The UK caravan industry recommend novice caravanners do not exceed a ratio of 85% and experienced caravanners should not exceed 100%. These recommendations have no legal power, but they are a starting point, and are based on the premise that caravans are not easy trailers to tow, their size and weight do impart some considerable additional forces and loads on the car, which the car has to be able to control. Ensuring the car is always heavier than the caravan is seen as an important factor to help with towing. Regardless of the industry guidance you should never exceed the maximum towed weight limit set by the car manufacturer....

Hi Prof,

You make the point which I stumbled over regarding the recommended weight ratio, but i'm concerned that my own knowledge is flawed. I agree that there is nothing specific on GOV.uk which mandates a towing ratio only that the cars plated weights are not exceeded.

After passing the BE test. I can drive a 3500kg vehicle and tow a trailer up to 3500KG (I believe BE categories obtained between 1997 & 2013 had no limit on max trailer weight) but here's where my knowledge may be incorrect; I understood that the BE restriction was that any caravan could not exceed 100% of the cars kerb weight. For example a 2018 Discovery can tow 3500KG with a kerb weight from 2,115KG, which makes a Vanmaster V640 with a 2500KG MTPLM a 118% match, not recommended but is that still legal or insureable?

Thanks,
Paul.
 
Mar 14, 2005
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CustardAvenger said:
... Hi Prof, ....After passing the BE test. I can drive a 3500kg vehicle and tow a trailer up to 3500KG (I believe BE categories obtained between 1997 & 2013 had no limit on max trailer weight) but here's where my knowledge may be incorrect; I understood that the BE restriction was that any caravan could not exceed 100% of the cars kerb weight. For example a 2018 Discovery can tow 3500KG with a kerb weight from 2,115KG, which makes a Vanmaster V640 with a 2500KG MTPLM a 118% match, not recommended but is that still legal or insureable?

Thanks,
Paul.

Hello Paul
From what you have exactly written, the information you have gleaned is incorrect.

You BE entitlement allows you to use a tow vehicle of up to 3500kg MAM with a trailer of up to 3500kg. The limitation of the trailers MAM not exceeding the tow vehicles Unladen Weight (ULW not its kerbweight) used to apply to Cat B only, the "E" extension pass removed that limitation, because even with entitlement BE the MAM of the tow vehicle is still limited to 3500kg (the definition for a cat B vehicle). That means it's ULW (not its kerbweight) MUST be less than 3500kg. If the trailers MAM must be less than the tow vehicles ULW, then the combined MAM of the outfit could never reach the BE limit of 7000kg. So there would be no point in setting a BE limit of 7000kg.

However, the trailer MAM not exceeding the tow vehicle ULW WAS part of the 1997 criteria for entitlement B only with a combined MAM not exceeding 3500kg. This was actually contrary to the EU directive on which the UK legislation was based. Consequently I understand the UK government has issued an amendment to the legislation in Jan 2013 removing this particular restriction.

Normally the rights you receive when you pass your test remain with you for life under the accepted practice of "Acquired Rights" or "Grandfather Rights. This would mean that 1997-2013 drivers would still have to adhere to the 100% restriction, but very unusually the Gov legislation on this matter was made retrospective, and rescinds this particular restriction. I have a letter from the DVLA confirming this is the case, but I have not actually seen the relevant legislation.

I suggest you you look at the topic below. It is by virtue of the nature of licencing a complex issue, but take your time and it should lead you to the correct outcome.

https://www.practicalcaravan.com/forum/towing-driving-and-safety/52393-driving-licence-entitlements-what-can-you-drive
 
Feb 23, 2018
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Prof,

Thank you for your detailed response. As you mention this is a complex issue; I only wish that the people who make & enforce the laws and those that sell insurance could provide such comprehensive information. I consider myself someone who tries fully researches something, such as caravanning, before blindly jumping in, but an awful lot of information is ambiguous or wrong either accidentally or maliciously. (A salesperson at the NEC Caravan Show stated I could not tow more than 750kg with a B licence so had to buy a Freedom Caravan).

ProfJohnL said:
However, the trailer MAM not exceeding the tow vehicle ULW WAS part of the 1997 criteria for entitlement B only with a combined MAM not exceeding 3500kg. This was actually contrary to the EU directive on which the UK legislation was based. Consequently I understand the UK government has issued an amendment to the legislation in Jan 2013 removing this particular restriction.

Normally the rights you receive when you pass your test remain with you for life under the accepted practice of "Acquired Rights" or "Grandfather Rights. This would mean that 1997-2013 drivers would still have to adhere to the 100% restriction, but very unusually the Gov legislation on this matter was made retrospective, and rescinds this particular restriction. I have a letter from the DVLA confirming this is the case, but I have not actually seen the relevant legislation...

The Website linked in your stickied post does put straight in my mind the entitlements held by the different licence categories, but it continues to maintain there is a difference between 1997-2013 and post 2013 licence holders, when you have evidence the contrary.

One further question which has occured to me when reading this part:
Drivers who passed their car test after 1 January 1997 will normally only have PROVISIONAL category B+E entitlement. To gain full B+E entitlement they will have to pass a Category B+E Practical Driving Test. Supervising drivers accompanying provisional B+E licence holders must have held a full B+E licence for at least 3 years.
My wife holds a post '97 (pre 2013) Full B licence, so therefore could not drive my car with our caravan hitched, as the combined MAM would be 4000KG. If I were to put L plates on the front of the car and rear of the caravan, would it be legal for my Wife to tow the caravan providing I was in the passenger seat? (this is currently "Illegal" as I have only the held the BE for 12 months.)

Regards,
Paul.
 
Mar 14, 2005
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Hello again Paul,

The devil is in the detail. and the issue of the 1997 cat B limit of trailers not exceeding tow vehicle ULW has not been handled well. From when I first became aware of the clause, it did seem unreasonably restrictive. It is not mirrored in other EU countries, so I concluded that something got changed when the English draft of the directive was produced, or a mistake was included in the Act of Parliament enacting it.

My comment only related to the matter of trailer MAM not exceeding ULW aspect of the Cat B 1997 legislation. Their may well be other differences between 1997 and 2013.

A couple of years ago I became aware of another contributor who claimed they had seen a letter that rescinded the 100% limit, and despite extensive searches I could not find a legislative document confirming it, so I wrote to the DVLA asking for clarification, particularly in the context of the Act that enabled the 2013 revisions that clearly stated that the 2013 legislation was not to be applied retrospectively.

The reply I got was very emphatic the clause had been rescinded, but I still have not been able to find the legislative document that confirms it. Its matter of academic interest to me as I passed my test well before 1997.
I suspect it would take a test case to establish the precedence. But I do realise it will affect some drivers, so i'm keeping an eye open for any further evidence.

I mentioned the government portal which has carried inaccurate information, in particular they fudged the difference between measured weights and weight limits, and failed to refer to the combined MAM in some versions of specifying the Cat B, some quite important matters for caravanners.

Your last question concerning the Cat B driver having a provisional licence for BE. It is my understanding that provided a Cat B driver is accompanied by a driver who has had the BE qualification for at least three years, they may drive a BE outfit provide L plates are displayed.

There is no time limit for a provisional driver to take the BE test, so in theory the driver can continue accompanied and displaying L plates until their 70th birthday.
 

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