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.
If it turns out later that something is not quite right this could mean significant additional cost and hassle for you.
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.
- 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
- 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.