When buying a caravan it is important that you know what to look for.

Before purchase, it is important to check that the caravan is in the condition you would expect, that everything is working correctly and that all the documentation is correct.

After all, if it turns out later that something is not quite right this could mean significant additional cost and hassle for you.

Our more experienced members have come up with the following caravan purchase and delivery checklist.

Download a copy of the Caravan Talk caravan delivery checklist.

Pre-delivery checks when viewing to buy

When viewing to buy, take with you the following

  • Pen and note book
  • Camera (ideally a digital one)
  • Your security devices, such as a hitch lock or wheel clamp.

Before you arrive, ask the seller or salesperson to set up the caravan as it would be in static operation. This means you see the ‘van sited with all utilities and power connected and working as it would be when on holiday.

Undertake the following checks

To begin with, ask to be shown the caravan inside and out and talked through the standard of repair, fittings and fixtures.

Take notes of everything you’re told.

At the conclusion of your ‘tour’ it may be the case that not all the points listed below have been covered.

If so, you now need to undertake your own inspection.

Take your time and use the below as a checklist.

It is also a good idea to take photographs, as required.

External

Start at the A frame and then walk around clockwise.

  • Carefully check the exterior bodywork for any dents, scratches, blisters, cracks or discolouring
  • Check the windows for scratches, cracks and also the opening and shutting mechanisms
  • Inspect the mastic seal at all points
  • Check the opening and shutting mechanism of all external flaps and doors
  • Check the door locks and any other locks and that the correct keys are available
  • Check the corner steadies work properly. They can get strained or knocked during transportation which can then make their operation stiff
  • Check that the corner winder tool is included
  • Check the nose weight (use a gauge from the accessory shop if you don't have your own)
  • Check the gas regulator/ front locker fittings and the courtesy light
  • Check that the gas gauge is operational
  • Check tyres for tread, cracks and wear (don’t forget the spare!)
  • Check wheel security devices (if available)
  • Check that your own security devices such as wheel lock, hitch lock, etc., all fit
  • Check the torque on wheel nuts/ studs and compare torque to the manufacturer’s recommendations
  • If the caravan has alloy wheels and the spare is steel, check that you have the correct studs for the spare. Also, with the spare wheel, check that there is a jack and a wrench
  • Check the waste outlet system
  • Check that all external sockets (power/ gas) work
  • Check the external door catch and grab handles
  • Check if there is a mover included. If there is, check that you will have the instructions and that it works
  • Check the awning rails, including the skirt rail
  • Connect the leisure battery and check that the power is being supplied correctly to the caravan
  • Ensure you understand how to remove the rear light cluster and replace the bulb
  • Check that the maker’s manual is included
  • Check that a spare set of keys are included

Internal

Inside check the following:

  • All the furniture for scratches, stains and marks
  • The windows for any inside scratches
  • All wallboard seams and all interior walls for marks and scratches
  • All the appliances including taps, plugs, water pumps, toilet (including how to set it up and empty it), hob, oven and microwave, fridge, water filter (if fitted), heater (including gas and electric settings)
  • The control panel for electrics and pump
  • The radio/ CD player
  • The TV aerial
  • The water heater (is fill up and drain done manually?)
  • Any security alarms and the smoke detector
  • That the doors close and there are no misalignments (including the use of the stable door and the flyscreen)
  • The window stays screws
  • The curtains, blinds and tie backs
  • The carpet and lino (and underneath of, if removable)
  • The bed box compartments and stays/ sliders, beds and bunk beds (test them by making them up)
  • The operation (and location) of fuses especially the heater fuse
  • The sunroof(s)
  • All drawers and any internal cupboard fittings
  • All light fittings
  • All three pin sockets (and the hook up to the mains)
  • The omnivent
  • All hinges/ handles
  • The shower and shower door (and is the shower mat included?)
  • The instrument panels
  • The hook up lead
  • The external pump
  • The step and door retainer
  • The fitted waste bin, cutlery drawer insert, wire basket kitchen unit and chopping board
  • The free standing table and fold-over coffee table
  • The clock (if fitted) and mirrors and any fittings for rails, cup holders, etc.
  • Ask for a written damp report or permission to use a protimeter. Readings above 20% will require investigation

It is quite possible, that if you are buying second hand, not all of the above will be in perfect working order or will have been maintained to the highest standard. This checklist (and your photographs) will be helpful when it comes to negotiating the purchase price (or simply in helping you decided that this is a purchase you should walk away from).

Hook up and test drive

Your inspection is however, not yet over. It’s time to go outside again to prepare (with the help of the seller) the ‘van for a test drive tow.

Your pre-tow checks need to include the following:

Ensure that you know how the unit is prepared for a journey including making the interior secure, the take down of utilities and hook up; through to driving off.

Check the operation of all the lights and electrical circuits with the 7N and S plugs that connect to your car (check them with and without the engine running).

If the ‘van’s fridge has an indicator, check if it works from the car 12V and make sure you know about the operation of the handbrake, jockey wheel and stabilizer hitch. Check also the breakaway cable fitment when the 'van is hitched and the handbrake is off.

Check the level of the caravan when it is hitched up and ready to go. If it is markedly hitched 'up' you may need a drop plate. If it is markedly hitched 'down', check the nose weight.

Undertake the normal hook up/ pre-drive checks including lights, lockers, stabiliser and breakaway.

Check there’s nothing left underneath the caravan and don't forget to put your registration plate on the back of the caravan and check the insurance details in case anything goes wrong on the test drive.

Now try a test drive, using of course, the vehicle you will most often use to tow.

When you are ready to buy

If you have decided this is the right caravan for you; before the all important price negotiation, check the VIN. This should always be etched either onto the windows or on the chassis and should concur with the CRIS documentation (which will confirm that the seller is the owner and has the right to sell and transfer ownership to you).

Check with the dealer also, that all documentation is in place to enable you to order a new number plate.

If you are happy with everything, it’s now time to talk money.

Good luck!
 

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9 comments

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  • DeeTee
    26 February 2013 16:06 DeeTee
    In the piece about tyres I would suggest that the age of the tyres is a very important check. The pre-owned 2006 caravan I purchased from a dealer in 2009 had immaculate tyres which were dated 2005, giving one year before the recommended replacement time. I was happy with the condition but on the first service in my ownership the dealer's service department replaced the tyres as NCC policy suggested that pre-owned caravans sold by dealers should be fitted with tyres that had a reasonable life expectancy.
  • scousegit
    29 January 2013 19:57 scousegit
    Hi Newtothegame go back to the dealer with the van and prove to him its 2007 not 2008 and ask for a refund if he says no ask him can you use his phone to call the local trading standards officer. I think you will find he becomes very co-operative if he offers you a £1000 back for age difference ask for £1500 He will either offer a full refund or come to some agreement As to the warranty if he told you it was fully serviced up to date the warranty should apply if ten year body shell. there should be a sticker on the van when last serviced before you go have a chat with local standards office.Check your bill of sale for date of van look in the front locker, on A frame near tow hitch you might have to remove cover to find or use mirror, or on van axle for plate which will give your year manufactured the date on that is the year of the van not a 2008 model built in 2007 this is a sales gimmick saying its a 2013 model built in 2012 ready for the 2013 season a load of horse manure PS same with statics if you look on the back end you,ll find plate or decal on lowest part of body work usually in center with date of manufacture sometimes a barcode but you can still work out date PPS check Chris number either 10/11/12th number gives you year some times 11/12/13th on foreign touring vans.On mine :- 50L06368 (06 week36 8th van) good luck scouser
  • Kerry9
    30 August 2012 16:25 Kerry9
    Crikey! I think a seller would have to have bags of patience - the lists above are certainly exhaustive. Thanks for this - will bear in mind when it comes to buying, and I draw from the above that bnot even dealers can be trusted?
  • newtothegame
    14 June 2012 20:49 newtothegame
    I only wish we had seen this before our purchase - we wouldn't have bothered! We are new to caravanning and as our little boy reached 6 we thought it was a great way for family time. We parted with our money to a well known dealer and they told us that the caravan was a 2008 - turns out it is a 2007 and worth a lot less than we paid. Also, there are issues with the warranty and they wont deal with our complaint. The van is now sat on our drive and we dont feel inclined to take it out until we know the position and our little boy is pretty fed up. Why do all these dealers boast great aftersales and then fail to deal with complaints. They cant even deal with matters in person and refer to anonymous directors! Winge over - let the Judge decide I suppose!
  • susieque
    14 May 2012 18:41 susieque
    when we purchased our caravan privately it was immaculate so we didn't think there could be any problem with it at all, although our receipt did state sold as seen i presumed this was what everyone did.we towed it home any didn't notice any problem as it was a straight run although a fair way.on arrival outside the house when we stopped there was a big clunk sound i thought the caravan had come adrift but it hadn't .it was suggested that it could be the damper but when we took it to the caravan shop the replacement was no different in it workings so not sure what is wrong any suggestions before we go to more expense and have it serviced,would sooner do it ourselves if possible
  • 34speedbird
    12 December 2011 07:50 34speedbird
    Sound advise, I would also suggest you check the draw from the battery on each specific electrical appliance, as some of the new vans today, like my swift charisma are not designed to sustain more than a weekends use being used frugally. You may also want to ask the sails person if you will require an independent power sauce for the van to be used over an extended period, ie, 240vlt hook up, 240vlt generator, solar panels, backup batteries. The van may not be suitable for rallying without these aids as is my new 2010 Swift Charisma.
  • 07 November 2011 12:49 TheTravellingRooster
    A suggestion that I would like to make and one bourne out of personal experience. Have a digital camera/camera-phone with you and photograph the caravan from both sides. With these two images stand back from the caravan and check the OS whilst looking at the NS and visa-versa. You may-well find that your intended purchase has two entirely different side panel from the perspective of decals & lettering.
    Ours has, and the dealer 'allegedly' didn't spot it either!!. It was only during washing & waxing several weeks later that it came to light.
    This was a one owner van from new damaged on a maiden trip and required a major repair,but no stripes & decals were available!!?.
  • siyron
    05 October 2011 16:45 siyron
    This is a very thorough checklist which I doubt many people would think of doing. As for the drive test I think it would depend on the price, if it is several thousands of pounds then this would seem reasonable, less than 3K then maybe a lot of hassle for the seller, maybe better taking an experienced caravan user to check with you.
  • The 2 Tops
    05 October 2011 10:42 The 2 Tops
    I am very doubtful that a seller (dealer or private) would agree to a test drive; even more so if a firm transaction has not been completed. I would certainly not go to this extreme if selling my own van. Imagine the hassle if there was an accident during the test drive.
    A certified full service should be sufficient; even dealer workshops do not road test afterwards.
    It is up to a buyer (prior to a purchase stage) to establish what vans are suitable for matching to his vehicle. Subject to correct maintenance, all vans carry a NCC certificate of meeting roadworthyness and habitation regulations.