Planning first caravan - advice

Jul 30, 2020
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We're a family of 4 (2 boys, 5 + 3) and we're just back from a week of camping in a tent - whilst I was walking round the site and looking at caravans, it reminded me of the thoroughly enjoyable upbringing I had with my family caravanning - we owned a Coachman Mirage 1990 or thereabouts and spent time either in the New Forest or France. To date my wife and I have mainly just done beach resort holidays but I'm thinking for the lifestyle we want and keeping 2 boys occupied and interested on holiday - caravanning might well be a good choice but I need to analyse the costs & also convince the wife :) However when a beach resort holiday for 4 in the summer holidays can easily cost £5K or more, the cost of the caravan is quickly won back.

Anyway.. advice on a few issues

(Before anyone comments - planned tow car would be Kia Sorento and yes, I got my licence after 1997 so will likely need to do the B+E licence with that + a 1600KG MTPLM - see my other post in the tow car category if you'd like)

1. I'm open to buying either new or used. Is there a particular year / couple of years that you would recommend not buying previous to - e.g. a year when all the manufacturers started to switch to a new construction method, introduction of all LED lighting / energy efficiency etc?

2. Looking at new caravans - I'm partial to Coachman for sentimental reasons, but for all manufacturers - is the differentiation between lines mostly about interior finishing rather than different construction methods / fundamentally better put together van? (For example on the Acadia v VIP comparison on external spec on the Coachman website, the main differences seem to be the Acadia only has heavy duty steadies on rear and not on front as well (does that matter?), an off side services light and that's about it. I can fully understand if you're retired and spending a lot more days / year in the caravan the internals matter a lot more, but hopefully our aim as a young family is to only spend time sleeping in the thing - even living time I expect us to just have a big table in the awning. So my thinking is I should just go with as basic spec as possible if there's no fundamental construction difference

3. Ordering new caravan - I'm a little confused on this - it seems dealers get specific models into their showrooms. Are these the only new caravans you can buy or you can actually order whichever model / spec you like from the factory?

4. Layout - I think I'd like what our Coachman Mirage had which was 2 dinettes but I see that is out of vogue now so I'm thinking 4 berth, two fixed single beds at the back for the kids and just make up the double at the front for us. I don't see the value in bunks because although our children are small now, as they grow they'll be too big for bunks. As they get older the plan will be to put them in the awning anyway but a comfortable sleeping experience on the beds for when not using awning would be nice for them.

Does anyone have experience of 2 fixed beds with kids.. does it still give them a space as a 'den'? Put a TV / iPad / Wifi in there and some kind of small foldaway table and the beds should still work as day beds / sofas for them?

My other thought with this layout is it would allow us to have friends / family along for the ride - other couples could sleep in the 2 singles (or us) and all the kids in the awning which I'm sure they'd love! Have people found this layout / setup to work well with other friends / family coming along?

5. Touring abroad - I'd like to tour in France / Switzerland / Italy - is there anything to bear in mind with regards to caravan choice to make it more suitable for overseas touring? Right now not considering twin axle or 8ft wide van. The plan with kids in the awning - does that work overseas - do sites mind if you pitch with an awning and additional sleeping annexes?

6. Dealers - do dealers prefer cash or finance?

I've enjoyed reading this forum the past couple of weeks and hopefully will be a caravan owner before too long!

If you got this far, thanks for taking the time to read and any replies appreciated
 
Jun 16, 2020
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Choice is very personal so I will not make suggestions there. But the issue with all manufacturers is quality. And it is often pot luck to get a good specimen. They all have minor niggles, but it’s damp and or badly fitting panels etc which are the big worry. So my advice is to choose your dealer carefully, whether buying new or second hand. And even then, get all assurances in writing and pay your deposit with a credit card.

John
 
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Nov 11, 2009
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For any given maker the construction techniques will be common to the whole model range. The difference then becomes one of equipment fittings.
All U.K. caravans are suitable for touring Europe. I’ve never known a French campsite to object to people sleeping in the awning/annex

If buying new you can specify to the dealer what model you want and any extras. Watch fir payload a lot off vans have quite small payloads and battery, extra gas bottle and mover quickly take up usable payload. Surprisingly some budget vans like Sprite have a bigger payload than the models further up the range. You can specify some vans with an upgraded payload. This can vary between +25kg (approx) to + 300 kg with some Germany vans such as Knaus.
 
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Mar 14, 2005
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Hello BucksDad.
Good to read you know your licence position.

1. As you are considering secondhand caravans, you should realise all caravans will have a greater chance of damp issues as the age, so once you have decided on your preferred layout its probably best to aim for the most recent one you can find, but with the proviso that you should get the caravan checked by an independent engineer before you agree to purchase.

2. In most cases most small upmarket manufacture are now owned by one of the big manufacturers and often they are made on the same production lines, using many common parts. Consequently you are likely to get any of the issues associated with that general design. The main differentiation between basic and luxury models is more bells and whistles, rather than any fundamental structural difference.

2a. The steadies should only be used to steady not jack. so in the case of the front, the main load with be taken by the jockey wheel.

2b, Only you can judge whether the extra cost of an upmarket model is worth it, What other think has no bearing on your own circumstances.

3. Dealers do not normally carry every new model on offer. Just like car dealers, they tend to just have examples that will show the type/colour of fittings. Normally a customer will order the model they want and it will be delivered when they next manufacture a batch. But if the dealer has the exact model in stock then its up to them if they want to sell it of display.

4. The same as 2b above, By all means other peoples opinions may highlight certain good or bad points , but ultimately its you and your families choice, not someone else's dream.

5. Subject to any new provisions that Brexit might throw up, there should be no problem with any standard caravan abroad.

6. Dealers will often prefer finance, as they usually have some commission for encouraging a punter to use the product they offer. There is a good case for using finance or a credit card as the finance house has s joint liability with the seller for the performance of the goods.
 
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Jan 3, 2012
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Kia Sorento a brilliant choice

Coachman VIP 565 Touring Caravan are you thinking this layout with a end washroom ..
Welcome to the forum
 

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Jul 30, 2020
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Kia Sorento a brilliant choice

Coachman VIP 565 Touring Caravan are you thinking this layout with a end washroom ..
Welcome to the forum
Hi beachball - yes that was the layout I was considering - although probably Acadia equivalent. However - how quickly opinions can change - I've now seen the Bailey Phoenix 650 which I think is, upon reflection, a better choice.

My kids are still young, so the bunks will be fine for a fair few years. The side dinette will give them their own little space for table top toys, card games, iPad, homework (!) and when family / friends are staying, I think the bottom bunk would be fine for the odd night for my wife or myself and obviously the dinette made up into another bed should be fine with kids in the awning.

The other advantage is the light MLTPM - even with upgrade it is 1450KG with user payload of 221KG. Equivalent Coachman Acadia 580 is MLTPM 1600KG with a payload of 165KG. The Bailey means I will be under the 3500KG limit so won't need B+E, and 55KG more payload.

There's some good dealer specials on the Phoenix as well and a fair few K cheaper than the Coachman. Bargain IMO!

Money saved on B+E licensing can instead go towards an awning and do the caravan club course instead which will no doubt be more helpful. Wins all round!
 

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Jan 3, 2012
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Hi beachball - yes that was the layout I was considering - although probably Acadia equivalent. However - how quickly opinions can change - I've now seen the Bailey Phoenix 650 which I think is, upon reflection, a better choice.

My kids are still young, so the bunks will be fine for a fair few years. The side dinette will give them their own little space for table top toys, card games, iPad, homework (!) and when family / friends are staying, I think the bottom bunk would be fine for the odd night for my wife or myself and obviously the dinette made up into another bed should be fine with kids in the awning.

The other advantage is the light MLTPM - even with upgrade it is 1450KG with user payload of 221KG. Equivalent Coachman Acadia 580 is MLTPM 1600KG with a payload of 165KG. The Bailey means I will be under the 3500KG limit so won't need B+E, and 55KG more payload.

There's some good dealer specials on the Phoenix as well and a fair few K cheaper than the Coachman. Bargain IMO!

Money saved on B+E licensing can instead go towards an awning and do the caravan club course instead which will no doubt be more helpful. Wins all round!
A few years ago i use to have Bailey we brought new one from a dealer we kept it well service and roughly five years later we sold it . so i think you have made a wise choice .
 
Jul 30, 2020
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One thing I've just realised is that the B+E restriction is not based on kerb weight of car but MAM which for the Sorento is 2600KG so regardless of choice of caravan, B+E test will need to be taken.. a reminder to not rush in and check everything carefully!
 
Jan 3, 2012
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One thing I've just realised is that the B+E restriction is not based on kerb weight of car but MAM which for the Sorento is 2600KG so regardless of choice of caravan, B+E test will need to be taken.. a reminder to not rush in and check everything carefully!
i thought you were just checking the details before you decided what outfit you were going for (B+ E test will be the first thing on your list)
 
Mar 14, 2005
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One thing I've just realised is that the B+E restriction is not based on kerb weight of car but MAM which for the Sorento is 2600KG so regardless of choice of caravan, B+E test will need to be taken.. a reminder to not rush in and check everything carefully!
o_Oo_Oo_O

So much for :-
(Before anyone comments - planned tow car would be Kia Sorento and yes, I got my licence after 1997 so will likely need to do the B+E licence with that + a 1600KG MTPLM - see my other post in the tow car category if you'd like)
I'm sorry Buck's Dad, but this is exactly why one of the reasons for raising the Cat B conundrum is becoming increasingly important. There will be a growing number of driver's who like you passed their tests after the crucial Jan 1997 date, who are now moving into larger cars and considering caravanning, but do not realise their licence is based on Maximum Authorised Mass's not actual weights

I'm glad you have realised the impact of the restriction in time, and have a plan to remedy it.

Good luck
 
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May 7, 2012
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Welcome to the forum. We had the Mirage in the 1990's. It was the best caravan we ever had and kept it some 10 years without any serious problems. The current models have got a lot heavier so if you are looking at them do check this out although the Sorrento should mange.
The new construction systems have been brought in gradually over the years, currently Bailey, Swift and Coachman have eliminated most of the wood whereas Eldiss/Compass are still on a wooden frame but are glued using a specific glue and Lunar are still traditional. You would have to check with the dealer what construction any individual model has but anything under two years should have the makers latest construction.
generally the models on dealer forecourts are samples of the range and they will order the specific one you want but given we are almost on the next model year then they will be selling off these usually at a discount.
If you want the double lounge model I am afraid none have been made in the UK now for several years. There are still a couple of models available from continental builders if you are interested.
Our children did love using tents rather than an awning although you need small ones as they have to fit on the pitch. This is a far cheaper solution as the tents are cheap if it appeals.
In France some sites will not take twin axles and can have quite short length limits, partly to keep out travellers and also because many have very small pitches. In some you need to book them in specifically. You will get in most but you might not have as big a choice as the rest.
Dealers may give you what on the face of it looks a better deal but their finance may cost you more long term so do check out what your bank will offer. Dealers do get commission on finance so they usually are keen to sell with that, but will do a deal for cash. It is up to you to see what works best for you.
 

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