Maybe getting a caravan - advice and tips please!

Jul 8, 2018
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Hi folks

I am looking into getting a teeny tiny 'van I can tow behind my Peugeot 207SW. I haven't caravanned before, although I have stayed in a parked largish touring caravan for a few weeks and then an off-grid (no services) static caravan for a few months in the summer, and have had a holiday in a motorhome and a couple of nights away in a friend's VW T6 campervan.

The idea is to be able to up and away locally for just a night or two, or set off for a bit of a touring holiday to see friends and family, attend events and so on. Just me, my small collie dog, and my spinning wheel :)

I'm a semi-retired farmer, so pulling and manoeuvring a trailer is no problem.

However I'm very naive about the practicalities of touring, although I know some things that I want and don't want.

I don't think I will like to have to take down and put up a bed every night, and I haven't found any layouts that give a fixed single bed and another seating area. So I think I will need to either reconfigure a 2-berth or get a 3-berth in order to have this setup?

I also will not want to have to carry things in the car and transfer them when I park because I don't have the payload allowance to carry everything in the 'van.

I definitely want to be able to camp without hookup for a few days, as well as be able to use sites with hook up. I remember that it wasn't really practical to stay without hookup in the motorhome we hired, but can't recall exactly why. (I do have notes somewhere but haven't located them as yet.). Memory says it was something to do with the water pump. It would do a bit on the leisure battery but not really enough for an overnight, and certainly not for a couple of nights. (It was October in Shetland, so we did need the heating for a short while in the evening.)

I've lived for 13 months quite recently with a bucket for a loo where I was staying and using a proper loo in another house, so am not phased by the idea of using either a folding bucket or a porta potti for middle of the night calls of nature, and getting to a proper loo for other things at other times ;).

I'm not tall - about 5/5", so won't need a great deal of headroom.

'Vans I'm looking at at present are:

- T@B 320 (Will I need Offroad to get the extra payload allowance? 100kg for everything sounds not much.)
- Freedom Microlite Bijoux or similar
- Eriba Puck and other very lightweight options
- Go-Pod

I'd love everything, of course, but am sure I would manage with a single hob, a teeny sink and a teeny fridge. Some form of heating would extend the months in which I could use the 'van, of course. Although I was amazed at how much warming the whole 'van got when I boiled a kettle in my friend's camper van, so maybe heating isn't quite so crucial for autumnal nights!

Because I am not 100% certain I will find that I use this and enjoy it as much as I hope to, I would prefer really to get a decent secondhand 'van at this point, and not have to invest very many £000s. If I was certain I would use it, I wouldn't object to buying nearly new or even new to get the layout and facilities I want.

I thought I'd found somewhere I could hire a T@B for a few days to get a feel for it, but I was mistaken, sadly.

I'm also very uncertain about how it will all work with the dog. She's not a dog that can be trusted with small children, and can be a bit nervy and reactive with people she doesn't know (but is very obedient and has a totally 100% recall, thankfully.). I'm thinking I would need to have an awning and a tie-out cable, so she could get under the 'van for shade? Would it be feasible to leave her in a large cage inside the awning if I needed to get a few provisions, and it was too hot for her to be left in the car - even in shade for 20 minutes? Or does it get too hot in awnings too? I've read a lot about how people manage dogs in caravans and camper vans, but everything I've read has been couples, so there's always the option of one looking after the dog and the other doing the shopping. (Maybe I just have to do the shopping at 24 hour supermarkets before sun-up or after sundown!)

Anyway, being a singleton with a dog is one of the things makes me unsure it will really work for me. I could tour the country and be unable to see anything that isn't welcoming to dogs! lol. So I could still have some great times, but I could be quite limited - or would have to have some breaks where I don't take the dog. And I'd miss her and not stay away as long :/

Also, I have found the multiplicity of models of Eriba quite bewildering and am not sure whether a Familia (or some of them) or a Triton might be okay, as well as a Puck. (Or maybe you'll all tell me that the figures on paper are one thing, and for an Eriba I'd be wanting more than my 1.6 tdi.)

Enough of my ramblings; it would be great to hear about some pros and cons of the various options from folks who've done it; any options I haven't thought about, and so on.

Oh, and I live in North Cornwall, near the sea, on a most beautiful farm, so most of the time it's just heaven where I live! So trips are likely to be as much about seeing friends and family and going to events (especially spinning and other woolly events) as about 'getting away from it all'.
 
Nov 11, 2009
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A key aspect is you need to find out what your cars legal towing limit is. Also find out your cars kerbweight. Then that will give you an idea of what Wright caravan could be suitable. A guide often quoted is that the caravan max weight fully loaded should be 85% of the cars kerbweight. This may give a figure lower than the manufacturers specified towing limit but the cars limit is based on what weight of trailer the car can do a number of hill starts on a specified incline. It often doesn’t relate to the cars real world ability to tow a caravan. A diesel power for power will generally make a better tow car requiring less revs.
If you can give answers to some of the figures then we can help further on advice.

PS Caravanning is one of the most dog friendly pastimes and there are lots of sites to chose from. Especially if you join one of the Clubs which sponsor a lot of five van sites called Certified Locations or Certified Site depending on the club. There are single persons caravanning and camping groups within the clubs too.
 
Jul 8, 2018
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Thanks. I'm comfortable with the weights of the caravans I've listed as far as legalities go. Anything up to a tonne all up will be fine. (Here's the page for my car https://www.gocaravanning.com/towcars/Peugeot-207-SW-07-onwards-1-6-HDi-92bhp-Outdoor-5d-Tow-Weights.html. Kerbweight just under 1.4T, Braked Manufacturers towing capacity: 1150 kgs.).

It's the practicalities I need input on! For instance, I suspect it is not the same towing an Eriba - or other very square rig - that weighs 850kgs as towing the same weight of something much smaller and more aerodynamic such as a T@B. But all my towing has been livestock trailers, which are all square and not at all aerodynamic, so I'm not sure whether it makes a huge difference or only a small one.

Also I can't seem to get my head around which Eriba models and variants are 850kgs (fully laden) and under. (Apart from I think all Pucks are ok.). I keep thinking I've got it, then worry that I'm bonkers to think my car could tow a Familia, for instance!

However, your answer seems to suggest that it wouldn't be at all bonkers to go up to even the tonne with this vehicle, which is most reassuring.

From experience with this car and a small sheep trailer, it makes very light work of 750kgs, and you can feel that you're towing something with 120-150kgs of sheep inside. So I'd thought that a practical maximum is around 850kgs all up, and more like 750kgs would be less tiring. But perhaps an aerodynamic shape might make a heavier weight easier to handle.

Some of the places I will want to go include Dartmoor and Exmoor - lots of narrow, steep, windy lanes - and over Shap, which will certainly test the weight-hauling! And a square side-on would perhaps make the Cumbrian winds a bit of a trial?

Thanks for the reassurance re: the dog, and re: singletons. I shall certainly join one of the clubs when I take the plunge. Any tips on how to decide which club is right for me?
 
Nov 11, 2009
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WomanDognSpinningWheel said:
Thanks. I'm comfortable with the weights of the caravans I've listed as far as legalities go. Anything up to a tonne all up will be fine. (Here's the page for my car https://www.gocaravanning.com/towcars/Peugeot-207-SW-07-onwards-1-6-HDi-92bhp-Outdoor-5d-Tow-Weights.html. Kerbweight just under 1.4T, Braked Manufacturers towing capacity: 1150 kgs.).

It's the practicalities I need input on! For instance, I suspect it is not the same towing an Eriba - or other very square rig - that weighs 850kgs as towing the same weight of something much smaller and more aerodynamic such as a T@B. But all my towing has been livestock trailers, which are all square and not at all aerodynamic, so I'm not sure whether it makes a huge difference or only a small one.

Also I can't seem to get my head around which Eriba models and variants are 850kgs (fully laden) and under. (Apart from I think all Pucks are ok.). I keep thinking I've got it, then worry that I'm bonkers to think my car could tow a Familia, for instance!

However, your answer seems to suggest that it wouldn't be at all bonkers to go up to even the tonne with this vehicle, which is most reassuring.

From experience with this car and a small sheep trailer, it makes very light work of 750kgs, and you can feel that you're towing something with 120-150kgs of sheep inside. So I'd thought that a practical maximum is around 850kgs all up, and more like 750kgs would be less tiring. But perhaps an aerodynamic shape might make a heavier weight easier to handle.

Some of the places I will want to go include Dartmoor and Exmoor - lots of narrow, steep, windy lanes - and over Shap, which will certainly test the weight-hauling! And a square side-on would perhaps make the Cumbrian winds a bit of a trial?

Thanks for the reassurance re: the dog, and re: singletons. I shall certainly join one of the clubs when I take the plunge. Any tips on how to decide which club is right for me?

You need to be careful with some lightweight Continental vans as unlike U.K. they don’t always show Mass in Running Order or for older caravans ex works weight. They will have the max weight stamped on the A frame plus noseweight. So if the importer or previous owner had installed modifications you cannot find out its payload unless you have weighed on a weighbridge. Eriba hold their value like nothing else but I’d buy from a specialist supplier as they should be sable to tell you it’s unladen ex works weight, max weight and what it weighs as it stands in front of you. I had a Trigano Silver 420DD which was ex works 750kg and max weight 1000 kg so a good payload. There are so many variants like if the U.K. importer fits a hot water heater and sytem this will come out of your payload as it adds to the ex works weight. So given your tightish margins you need to be careful on what you are looking at before purchase. I think if you search fir Eriba you will find the independent specialist. Down in the south Portsmouth or Southampton Poole area. I will see if I can find them. If you didn’t buy from them they are a fount if knowldege.

Here is the largest independent
https://www.automotiveleisure.co.uk/

Another one is Eriba Shop in north Norfolk.

Eye watering prices but as they get to classic status their price starts going up again.
 
Jan 19, 2002
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For a start you need to know the exact model of your car, then the maximum tow is between 1049 and 1160kg for a braked trailer. Then you need to know the specific kerbweight of the car. Eg the 1.6D weighs in at 1396 so the 85% rule of thumb would be about 1160 , which exceeds the maximum allowable of 1150. (if you google 'what can ???? tow then you will find several listing websites which is where I got the example for you).
There are vans within the limitation, but maybe you should think of a parallel lounge 2 berth, you could then leave one side made up as a single bed and use the other side as your lounge seat. Then you can have an end washroom or side washroom and end kitchen or variations on this theme! EG there is the lightweight Caravelair imported by Marquis who have 12 branches UK. If you fancy a GoPod then have a look in detail at the website and they may be able to arrange a local viewing.if Preston is not handy! The max of the former is about 1000kg and the pod around 750kg depending on the spec chosen.
One advantage of such a lightweight van is that it is easy to roll by hand onto pitch or into storage.
Depending on your timescale you may be able to visit one of the shows where you can sit in many and see what suits for example at the NEC in October.
Hope this helps and good luck!
 
Nov 11, 2009
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The figure of 85% is a guide but is not hard and fast. But it’s good sense to keep the caravan as light as possible. One figure you must not exceed is the cars specified towing limit. You could buy a caravan whose maximum weight is above the cars towing limit and don’t load it to its maximum weight MTPLM but the onus as ever is on the driver to ensure that the cars towing limit isn’t exceeded. So your weight calculations and control would have to be good and taking it to a public weighbridge would be recommended. But that’s the same discipline with any caravan. Fortunately for you as said above there are a number of good quality lightweight caravans that should be within your weight and towing ranges and which have payloads that would shame many larger more expensive caravans.
 
Jul 8, 2018
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Thanks guys, this is all really helpful.

Looking at the links, and the Eribas on sale, I'm definitely drawn to the lighter, smaller end of the scale. The point about being able to manoeuvre it by hand is a good one - that's definitely appealing. As is not needing to strap on wing mirror extensions. And I certainly don't want to be cutting it so fine I have to go to the weighbridge every time I set off on a trip! (Once to get to know my new 'van is fine, and maybe if I am off on a big trip and taking more than usual.)

I did start out by looking at campervans, but my goodness they're expensive! And then there's the "do I run two vehicles, or only have the 'van...", plus the not being as comfortable pottering off exploring narrow lanes and so on, amongst others. So I think I'm thinking of this as being like a campervan but I can leave the living area behind when I've arrived and want to go exploring. And don't need to own two vehicles, or be running a much thirstier vehicle the rest of the time.

So that's all helped enormously - it's Eriba Puck, T@B 320, Go-Pod or Freedom. I might need to adapt a T@B for the fixed bed scenario I'd prefer, but I could live with the daily make-it-and-break-it for a few trips, while I decide if this really is for me.

Thanks!
 
May 7, 2012
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Welcome to the forum. My suggestion rather than the very tiny lightweight caravans you suggest which might be a compromise too far is the Lunar Ariva. This is a conventional caravan but with far smaller overall dimensions and should meet all your stated needs. The model has been in production for many years so decent secondhand ones should be easy to source.
To see the current model just look up Lunar Caravans.
 
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Thanks for the welcome. And thanks for noticing I'd missed the Lunar Ariva. My car would indeed tow that one just fine. I think it would be heavier to move around by hand, though, so I'd need to have the mover thingy?

I should probably try to see one in the flesh, not least because there do seem to be cheaper, older ones for sale than for any of the other options I've identified.

Thanks again!
 
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I think I've now identified that older Eriba Famila 310s would be ideal - three berth but very lightweight. Confusingly (at least to me it is), the current Famila 310 is a 2-berth :?
 

Mel

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Sorry to chuck in another alternative when you are heading toward a decision, but have you looked at an Elddis 302. MPTLM of 950kg, so a tad higher than you are looking at but maybe still possible.

P.s. Welcome to the forum
Mel
 
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WomanDognSpinningWheel said:
Thanks for the welcome. And thanks for noticing I'd missed the Lunar Ariva. My car would indeed tow that one just fine. I think it would be heavier to move around by hand, though, so I'd need to have the mover thingy?

I should probably try to see one in the flesh, not least because there do seem to be cheaper, older ones for sale than for any of the other options I've identified.

Thanks again!

I think there are more second hand Arivas than the others on your list as all except the Eriba are made in far smaller numbers. The Eriba is imported in low numbers but tends to go to enthusiasts who hang on to them. You would have to check it for yourself but I think the Ariva should be easy to move. We have had a small caravan heavier than that and it was no problem.
 
Mar 14, 2005
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Hi,

What a comprehensive posting, so well done for that. I would have answered sooner but it requires quite a lot of thought, but I have been having a few computer issues, which made longer comments requiring some research more difficult.

Not having been in your situation, I could not offer any advice concerning the choice of the layout of the caravan, except to say that such things are a very personal thing, and whilst other experiences may help with certain aspects, ultimately it is your choice.

Considering secondhand makes a lot of sense.

Where I can offer some insight is into the mechanical and legalities of the choice of caravan.

You have a Peugeot 207SW. Realistically its not a big car and that will limit your choice of caravan, a fact you have already identified. You later point to the Gocamping matching site, and whilst I am certain all matching sites have the best of intentions, please take note of their disclaimer at the bottom of their page! check the figures they use exactly match your vehicle in all respects.

Based on your farming experience, I have no concerns about your licence, and I have no significant doubts about your skills when it towing a caravan or reversing, but I would point out that whilst tractors are specifically designed to tow, and the coupling point is very close the rear axle, cars are not specifically designed for towing, and their coupling point is some distance from rear axle, which means they become far more sensitive to the mass, inertia's and dynamic forces of the trailer attached to it.

I would also suspect that your reversing skills will make it unnecessary for you to need a mover.

The other aspect which deserves to be mentioned is that cars can tow at higher speeds than tractors, and the dynamic forces that are produced increase by the square of the speed increase, that is why instability can be such an important consideration. Sensible loading is therefore essential, and in general why it is better to keep the tow car heavier than the trailer. The UK caravan industry has recognised this aspect of towing, and recommend novice caravanners aim for a towing ratio of no more than 85%, and for experienced towers not to exceed 100%. This guidance has no legal authority and towing ratio is calculated on the trailers MTPLM divided by the tow vehicles kerbweight.

From a practical point of view, it may not be possible to keep the caravan and car loads segregated when towing, but there could be ways to minimise the crossover, for example if you have an awning, then if that is carried in the car, it will only be in the car whilst towing, as I presume you would want to erect it at each stop.

As for your Collie, Different sites may have their own rules on dogs, but in general as the owner you do have to ensure the safety of other sites users, so if a dog is likely snap or bite it must be kept under proper control at all times. How you do that may be a cage, or a running lead is up to you. If you do keep the dog in the awning, it will provide shade and shelter, but you should ensure its well ventilated when the dogs in it.

Most modern caravans already have heating installed, so that should not be an issue for you. As for electrical power, your experiences in the motor home are not typical, A well charged caravan battery should last several days if you are off grid, and of course with an EHU there will be mo problem at all.
 
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Thank you ProfJohnL! I am most appreciative of your consideration and advice :)

However I seem to have missed out one very salient fact, namely that at least half of all the towing I do and have done has been with a car as the vehicle :). And otherwise mostly a quad bike rather than a tractor. (You are quite right to say it's generally much easier to reverse with a tractor and trailer; the most difficult is the quad bike!)

And yes, my reversing skills are awesome :D. I am often complimented on them :D. (I'm not usually a braggart but I've worked hard to develop and hone these skills, and - after the regulation humiliation many years ago, at the livestock mart when a neighbouring male farmer took my steering wheel off me - I am proud of being competent at it now!)

I hadn't twigged that people would choose a mover because it means you don't need to have good reversing skills. I'd just assumed it was all about the weight. So that was a very helpful insight, thank you.

Also very helpful to know that the leisure battery should keep me going for several days. I had been getting a little bothered about that, but you have reassured me. Thanks again.
 
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It has been phenomenally useful to have this conversation, thank you all so much for your contributions.

I am also beginning to get a feel for the camaraderie amongst caravan users, which makes me feel I shall enjoy not only the more out-of-the-way sites but also the larger ones - and that I will probably find people very helpful if I am struggling with anything. (Putting up or folding the awning, getting all the connections right, etc.).

I've also had a long chat with the very helpful salesman at the Bournemouth Eriba dealership.

The weights, footprint and height of the four smaller options I've been considering are in fact much of a muchness and I think I don't want to go bigger or heavier, at least at this stage.

So now I am looking hard at the less pricey - older - Eribas which are currently available. And also older Freedom Microlites. But I'm a bit nervous of buying an older caravan, because I don't know what things I should be checking or worrying about on older 'vans. Any tips on that, please?
 
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Don't be shy to ask if you're on site and can't manage something, someone will always give you a helping hand , I'll admit I'm one :p but I've needed a hand now and again also .

Enjoy .
 

Parksy

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Hello and welcome to the forum.
I'm sorry that I can't offer any advice on Eriba caravans, but if you did consider buying a used caravan This Guide will help you to avoid the more obvious pitfalls. Some older caravans tend to be lighter, you may not get the fixed bed in two berth models but many new two berth models meet your weight criteria and they have all of the modern up to date appliances.
 
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Two reasons I decided to have a mover fitted were that on some sites it can be quite difficult to reverse a caravan in if there are outfits pitched opposite or light stanchions in the vicinity. Your car cannot get the swing it requires. Also some continental sites can be quite tight too. But shouldn’t be such a problem with a shorter outfit that your looking for. The second reason which really affected my choice for this outfit is that the double synchro gearboxes have friction clutches much like a manual gearbox and whilst you can replace a manual clutch for a few hundred pounds the DSG/Powershift clutch replacements are times more expensive. So having the mover had removed that concern. Although on some site pitches I will reverse in just for practice but I need to be confident it will work in order to deny the voyeurs their early afternoon pleasure shot. :)
 
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I personally knew John Carver of Carver & Co (Engineers) Ltd, the inventor of the first caravan mover, and his motivation for designing it was his increasing age and the understanding there are many people who give up caravanning becasue of mobility issues, and in fact it was a mobility scooter that that gave him the idea to use wheelchair motors and gear boxes for the first prototype.

There is no doubt the idea has worked very well, and it has been picked up by people who are unsure about reversing as well.

There used to be a perception they were were for older folk, but now its one of the most desirable accessories regardless of age. I take the view its one of those things that can make caravanning easier and certainly more accessible, and there's nothing macho about being able to move a caravan by hand. I know that to my peril having hurt my self trying to move a twin axle on my own. ( before the mover had been invented)

But relating it to your situation, You are looking at a smaller than average caravan, which will almost certainly be a single axle design, If you do encounter a situation where you can't position it with the car, being relatively light it will be reasonable maneuverable by hand especially on flat surfaces.

The disadvantage of caravan movers is their weight, they will use up typically 35kg of payload capacity, Thats quite a lot for a small caravan, and given you desire to keep as much of the caravan stuff out of the car , you'll need every Kg of payload capacity possible.
 
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ProfJohnL said:
I personally knew John Carver of Carver & Co (Engineers) Ltd, the inventor of the first caravan mover, and his motivation for designing it was his increasing age and the understanding there are many people who give up caravanning becasue of mobility issues, and in fact it was a mobility scooter that that gave him the idea to use wheelchair motors and gear boxes for the first prototype.

There is no doubt the idea has worked very well, and it has been picked up by people who are unsure about reversing as well.

There used to be a perception they were were for older folk, but now its one of the most desirable accessories regardless of age. I take the view its one of those things that can make caravanning easier and certainly more accessible, and there's nothing macho about being able to move a caravan by hand. I know that to my peril having hurt my self trying to move a twin axle on my own. ( before the mover had been invented)

But relating it to your situation, You are looking at a smaller than average caravan, which will almost certainly be a single axle design, If you do encounter a situation where you can't position it with the car, being relatively light it will be reasonable maneuverable by hand especially on flat surfaces.

The disadvantage of caravan movers is their weight, they will use up typically 35kg of payload capacity, Thats quite a lot for a small caravan, and given you desire to keep as much of the caravan stuff out of the car , you'll need every Kg of payload capacity possible.

Prof
Whilst it all depends on the type of caravan the OP chooses some smaller vans have payloads that would shame a large twin axle! My Trigano Silver 420 DD had a 250 kg payload over its ex works weight and all within a 1000kg MTPLM. Eribas too can have high payloads with low MTPLM.
 

Mel

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Hi again. You mention a Freedom microlight in an earlier post. Nice little van, but if you intend to do some winter caravanning ( which truly is great to do) then check out the insulation. The Freedom caravans are made of a single skin of fibreglass, so they cannot be rated for insulation in the way that conventional caravans can. I assume that this is why Freedoms have padded fabric ceilings. A modern caravan is typically Grade 3 insulation. This may not be an issue for you, but thought I should mention it.
Mel
 

Parksy

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I tow a relatively large twin axle caravan and like yourself WomanDognSpinning Wheel (WDSW) I'm competent at reversing.
I haven't got a motor mover fitted, it's an expensive heavy item that I can live without.
Many users of motor movers use their mover to bring the caravan hitch to the vehicle towball.
A much cheaper, lighter and simpler solution for me was to fit a reversing camera to my Kia Sorento towing car.
I reverse straight under the hitch and it's a point of honour to achieve a 'hole in one' with the hitch winding directly onto the towball with no need for pushing or pulling about with the caravan.
Not all interested observers on neighbouring pitches are aware that I use a reversing camera because it's built into the number plate back plate, so they're suitably impressed with my manoeuvring skills (I hope!) :lol:
TOP TIP:
When you buy a caravan and hitch up with the hitch handle seeming to click down, wind the jockey wheel back down until it begins to raise the back end of your car before fully winding it back up to stow it.
You'll always be certain that your hitch is properly locked onto the towball if you adopt this habit ;)
 

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