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JNH

Hi all, am I mad?

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Hello everyone. 

 

I have arrived here looking for some solid, hopefully unbiased, honest advice in regards to something you will all be undoubtedly more experienced with than myself - caravans. I will start off by pre-emptively explaining that what I know about towing, caravans and site life in general you can probably fit on one hand.  The internet is a vast, knowledgeable hub that I turn to on these occasions and my path has lead me here. I will also add that this is a serious post and serious answers will be appreciated. 

 

Having spent the best part of the last 12 months living a rather nomadic life around Australia / Indonesia we will be returning back home to our green and pleasant land while my partner does a year long post graduate degree. Having sold our home and pretty much all our worldly belonging prior to departure we are in a good neutral standing with minimal financial commitments, outgoings or tethers to the otherwise fairly materialistic normality.  We are no strangers to living in small spaces nor the unpredictability associated with having a moving home having done the majority of East & Western Australia in a Mitsubishi Express.

 

While we could rent temporarily we are far more intrigued by the idea of living for a year in a touring caravan. The ability to drop anchor anywhere we need to (due to rather open ended university selection) would be ideal, as otherwise we would be limiting ourselves due to living cost restraints and subsequently probably having to settle for a lesser choice. 

 

I know it isn't as simple as turning up and staying in one spot for 12 months, I am aware of the limitations of maximum stay policies and the nuances they may bring. But I am aware there are full timers among you and I know it is feasible - challenges aside.  We have a good grounding in that we have a base UK address with family if need be, we have a healthy budget and we can work remotely if need be. I like to think if we were to do it, we'd probably never be in a better position. 

 

My biggest questions are probably thus:

 

A. Are we absolutely mad? Is this completely not feasible in today's climate due to restraints and restrictions surrounding site time policies / other red tape we are unaware of?

 

B. As a first time buyer with no caravan purchasing experience, what would be your process in selecting the right one? (If you did it from scratch)

 

C. What will I most definitely need to be aware of that I won't know about  - insurance limitations? additional costs? the realities of ownership? site fees year round? 

 

Any input is gold at this stage, even if you want to be entirely condescending and throw me under the bus, I can deal with it. After-all, it's all theory work at this stage. ;) 

 

JNH.

 

 

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You may be curious, brave, uninformed, apprehensive even, but certainly not mad ;)

The initial things that come to mind, apart from the obvious because of site restrictions of having to move from time to time if living in a caravan, there will be implications if you do not have a permanent address of some sort where you can both be contacted (a parent's address maybe?) and of course you will need to finance your life somehow.

 

Oh . . . . and welcome to Caravan Talk :D

 

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Something to consider, camp sites may be a bit distant from the university and you may miss out on some of the benefits/fun of student life.

 

You should compare costs of caravanning vs renting a house and may find there might not be that much difference but a big factor will be the location,  such as

- renting, rent depends on the town but £500 to £1000 a month, council tax £200 a month, gas/electric £100 a month, water £50 a month. internet £30 a month, insurance £20 a month, TV licence £155 a year (a caravan may not need one). There may be other things but this lot gives about £900 to £1400 a month.

- caravanning, you will need a car and caravan but used ones for both could be £10k to £20k to get something decent, site fees approx £20 to £30 a night average over the year depending on the facilities. Caravan insurance approx £200 to £300 a year, car insurance is probably similar whether renting or caravanning. The caravan can be sold at the end of the year but you could guess about £2000 less than paid.

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20 hours ago, Gordon said:

You may be curious, brave, uninformed, apprehensive even, but certainly not mad ;)

The initial things that come to mind, apart from the obvious because of site restrictions of having to move from time to time if living in a caravan, there will be implications if you do not have a permanent address of some sort where you can both be contacted (a parent's address maybe?) and of course you will need to finance your life somehow.

 

Oh . . . . and welcome to Caravan Talk :D

 

Thank you. As mentioned, we have a UK address already connected to our bank accounts, electoral roll, etc. It is my parents address. So all mail will go here. 

 

In terms of finance, we have a small savings pot we are happy to use. It isn't massive, but would see us able to purchase an older caravan and offset any initial costs with no issue. It will certainly be at the more budget friendly end of the market, but we are prepared for that. (£4k - £7k) 

 

20 hours ago, Paul1957 said:

Something to consider, camp sites may be a bit distant from the university and you may miss out on some of the benefits/fun of student life.

 

You should compare costs of caravanning vs renting a house and may find there might not be that much difference but a big factor will be the location,  such as

- renting, rent depends on the town but £500 to £1000 a month, council tax £200 a month, gas/electric £100 a month, water £50 a month. internet £30 a month, insurance £20 a month, TV licence £155 a year (a caravan may not need one). There may be other things but this lot gives about £900 to £1400 a month.

- caravanning, you will need a car and caravan but used ones for both could be £10k to £20k to get something decent, site fees approx £20 to £30 a night average over the year depending on the facilities. Caravan insurance approx £200 to £300 a year, car insurance is probably similar whether renting or caravanning. The caravan can be sold at the end of the year but you could guess about £2000 less than paid.

 

Hi Paul,

 

We are no stranger to the costs of UK home ownership, having owned houses before (we've never rented, actually) We were comfortably spending £1,500 - £2,000 a month before we left to travel Australia and will not have the luxury of two full time incomes this time around, hence the caravan idea. My partner has been to university before and has no desire to indulge in student life again, it is a post graduate course designed to compliment her existing degree. I realise sites may not be entirely too close, but she will have access to a car at all times, as I can work from home if I need to. 

 

I am ex motor trade and not too concerned about finding a solid, reliable tow vehicle. Infact, it is probably the stage I feel most comfortable and at home with..

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Posted (edited)

Hi JNH

 

Don't worry about problems as every single one has a solution. We rented out our home in 2011 and have lived in our caravan since. The two main clubs have very cost effective CL/CS's and in theory you have to move every few weeks but as you get to know your way around that becomes less of an issue.

 

With a caravan you can be ready at the end of each term (is that what Uni calls them?) to buzz of a see more of UK or mainland Europe.

 

Assuming you do, I would be staggered if you  regret choosing a caravan over a rented property.

 

Steve

Edited by BroGoat

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We lived in our twin axle caravan for about 2 1/2 years.  Your biggest issues are insurance as not many insurance companies will insure a caravan if living in it permanently  Secondly you need a permanent address for insuring the vehicle plus updating your driver's licence.  You would also need a permanent address for any mail.   If you stay on a commercial site for a month or longer, you can get some big discounts. 

We used to stay for 10 months on a site and then moved to another for the winter.  Moving sites in the winter is no fun.  You need to ensure that your water does not freeze and that the waste water does not freeze either.

We enjoyed living in our caravan and met many people as it was like living in a small friendly community, but sadly I developed an illness that meant we had to move back in under brick and tile.  Below is a picture of our set up.

Caravan set up.jpg

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Not a lot to add to the above other than, if it was me, I would go for the biggest caravan my tow car could pull (when it’s grotty in the winter you will need as much internal space as possible, make sure it has a fixed bed with a sprung mattress, and get the biggest, best quality awning you could afford. 

 

Another really useful purchase is an induction job, very efficient use of your (included) electric and minimises your (expensive) gas consumption. We take one away with us. Last year, over 8 weeks, we used just half of a single 6Kg gas cylinder. Nearly all meals were prepared either on the induction hob, microwave, or a combination of both. We even use it at home now (especially as we have solar panels!)

 

Andy

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In the cooler months we had a 47kg gas bottle and used a gas fire in the awning so we could sit outside in the awning and watch TV.

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With your budget an older German caravan may have better insulation than the Uk ones for the same money. They also tend to be 8Ft wide so a little more room as well. 

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Posted (edited)
21 hours ago, JNH said:

My biggest questions are probably thus:

 

A. Are we absolutely mad? Is this completely not feasible in today's climate due to restraints and restrictions surrounding site time policies / other red tape we are unaware of?

 

B. As a first time buyer with no caravan purchasing experience, what would be your process in selecting the right one? (If you did it from scratch)

 

C. What will I most definitely need to be aware of that I won't know about  - insurance limitations? additional costs? the realities of ownership? site fees year round? 

 

 

A) - Not mad, quite the opposite - we are in our 6th year, no regrets and quite comfortable through storms and snowmageddon, as said - once you’re on the circuit you’ll find out places where you can stay for over 28 days - we just moved every 28 days for the first 4 years and wintered over on a farm we got to know.

 

B)- As we were intending to full time, and mostly with 240v hook up available we made a short list of absolute must haves - 1. Fixed island double bed 2. Large fridge/freezer 3. Separate shower - not one of those combined wet room things. This led us to a Bailey Senator Louisiana series 5 - the series 6 isn’t the same- fixed island bed at the rear so you can have some peace and quiet if one person wants a lie in or a late film whilst the other goes to bed, 115L fridge/freezer, L-shaped settee (more comfortable we think), small but good bathroom with separate shower cubicle. It’s also a twin axle so more stable to tow.

 

C)- Payload - if you are full time you have a lot of junk to cart around - quite a few caravans have very little payload left for your personal effects, the Louisiana was also able to be upgraded weight wise via Bailey for £60 to give us a payload of 347kg which is fairly healthy.

 

Get yourself an electric fan heater for when you’re on mains - no need to use gas - just use that for cooking. 3 do a great home broadband deal £20 a month for unlimited data - (offer due to end later in May), we also have Sky TV, an iMac and TV on a twin ergotron arm so it’s easy to work from home, airport express to stream music to the wharfdales and Cambridge amp.

Edited by sleepyfolk

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On 07/05/2019 at 21:19, Durbanite said:

We lived in our twin axle caravan for about 2 1/2 years.  Your biggest issues are insurance as not many insurance companies will insure a caravan if living in it permanently  Secondly you need a permanent address for insuring the vehicle plus updating your driver's licence.  You would also need a permanent address for any mail.   If you stay on a commercial site for a month or longer, you can get some big discounts. 

We used to stay for 10 months on a site and then moved to another for the winter.  Moving sites in the winter is no fun.  You need to ensure that your water does not freeze and that the waste water does not freeze either.

We enjoyed living in our caravan and met many people as it was like living in a small friendly community, but sadly I developed an illness that meant we had to move back in under brick and tile.  Below is a picture of our set up.

Caravan set up.jpg

 

Wow that set up look's incredible; looks more akin to a static! I am sorry to hear of your illness. So in general, most sites are fairly accommodating to "long termers"? Is there anything we can do to ensure we get the best possible rates, short of being fairly blunt and asking? Do a lot of sites only open seasonally? We have a UK base address (where we can stay whenever we like) and where all our correspondence will go. 

 

 

On 07/05/2019 at 21:59, Mr Plodd said:

Not a lot to add to the above other than, if it was me, I would go for the biggest caravan my tow car could pull (when it’s grotty in the winter you will need as much internal space as possible, make sure it has a fixed bed with a sprung mattress, and get the biggest, best quality awning you could afford. 

 

Another really useful purchase is an induction job, very efficient use of your (included) electric and minimises your (expensive) gas consumption. We take one away with us. Last year, over 8 weeks, we used just half of a single 6Kg gas cylinder. Nearly all meals were prepared either on the induction hob, microwave, or a combination of both. We even use it at home now (especially as we have solar panels!)

 

Andy

 

So far, our two must-have's were fixed bed and awning, coincidentally. We have both agreed we prefer the internal set up of a fixed bed, at least allowing us to separate leisure and sleep. In an ideal world, a fixed bed caravan that also has a small fixed table two seater area so my partner would have a sort of permanent work area. I have seen several with this set up, albeit on the larger end of the spectrum. Is a motor mover a necessity? 

 

 

On 07/05/2019 at 23:44, Durbanite said:

In the cooler months we had a 47kg gas bottle and used a gas fire in the awning so we could sit outside in the awning and watch TV.

 

That does sound pleasant! :-)

 

On 08/05/2019 at 03:59, baddon said:

With your budget an older German caravan may have better insulation than the Uk ones for the same money. They also tend to be 8Ft wide so a little more room as well. 

 

I will keep this in mind, any particular brands? 

 

On 08/05/2019 at 06:10, sleepyfolk said:

 

 

A) - Not mad, quite the opposite - we are in our 6th year, no regrets and quite comfortable through storms and snowmageddon, as said - once you’re on the circuit you’ll find out places where you can stay for over 28 days - we just moved every 28 days for the first 4 years and wintered over on a farm we got to know.

 

B)- As we were intending to full time, and mostly with 240v hook up available we made a short list of absolute must haves - 1. Fixed island double bed 2. Large fridge/freezer 3. Separate shower - not one of those combined wet room things. This led us to a Bailey Senator Louisiana series 5 - the series 6 isn’t the same- fixed island bed at the rear so you can have some peace and quiet if one person wants a lie in or a late film whilst the other goes to bed, 115L fridge/freezer, L-shaped settee (more comfortable we think), small but good bathroom with separate shower cubicle. It’s also a twin axle so more stable to tow.

 

C)- Payload - if you are full time you have a lot of junk to cart around - quite a few caravans have very little payload left for your personal effects, the Louisiana was also able to be upgraded weight wise via Bailey for £60 to give us a payload of 347kg which is fairly healthy.

 

Get yourself an electric fan heater for when you’re on mains - no need to use gas - just use that for cooking. 3 do a great home broadband deal £20 a month for unlimited data - (offer due to end later in May), we also have Sky TV, an iMac and TV on a twin ergotron arm so it’s easy to work from home, airport express to stream music to the wharfdales and Cambridge amp.

 

 

That is great to hear and totally reassuring. Just kind of reaffirms what we hoped in terms of plausibility. How does the internet work, is it a dongle that works via the mobile phone network? How do you find the signal availability and reliability? This is one thing we will certainly need to ensure we have access to for work. 

 

We do not have too much in the way of personal belongings any more but I can certainly see how these things accumulate rapidly.  I am still coming to terms with MAM and the in's and out's of towing restrictions. As I only passed 10 years ago, I will have to do my B + E. I believe I am allowed up to 3500kgs combined but I have a fear we will surpass this so will be taking my test. I have experience with trailers through work, but this is a completely new world for me. We have to start somewhere, right? 

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You are indeed correct, on your licence you can drive a car and caravan combo that doesn’t EXCEED 3500kg Permitted max train weight. (you can drive up to 4250Kg but that’s only for a 3500kg tow car and a 750kg trailer, caravans are MUCH heavier than that) 

It’s important to realise it's not the ACTUAL weight that’s restricted, it’s the maximum possible by the two vehicles “plates” 

If you are thinking about a twin axle caravan then it’s more than likely it, combined with a tow car capable of towing it, will exceed 3500Kg. So a B+E licence will be required, so get that course and test booked as round our way there is a looong wait for B+E tests (3 months!) 

 

Andy

 

 

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6 hours ago, JNH said:

I will keep this in mind, any particular brands?

Tabbert, Fendt or LMC

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3 hours ago, Borussia 1900 said:

Tabbert, Fendt or LMC

I don't think any of those are suited to long term living if they are like the Hobby.  The Tabbert that was on site could only accept direct mains water same as the Hobby.  Of course the other issue is getting them serviced.

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2 minutes ago, Durbanite said:

I don't think any of those are suited to long term living if they are like the Hobby.  The Tabbert that was on site could only accept direct mains water same as the Hobby.  Of course the other issue is getting them serviced.

Not sure why there would be an issue with servicing, they are all on AL-KO chassis and are kitted out with Dometic/Truma equipment the same as UK caravans are.

I didn't suggest Hobby because they are 'budget' caravans and don't have the same insulation and robustness that a Tabbert of Fendt has. If you mean they don't have an external pump and one of those funny drum things that UK caravans use then you are correct, they don't have those.

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9 hours ago, JNH said:

Wow that set up look's incredible; looks more akin to a static! I am sorry to hear of your illness. So in general, most sites are fairly accommodating to "long termers"? Is there anything we can do to ensure we get the best possible rates, short of being fairly blunt and asking? Do a lot of sites only open seasonally? We have a UK base address (where we can stay whenever we like) and where all our correspondence will go. 

 

You need to visit sites personally as for obvious reasons they will not tell you over the phone.  By moving off for 2 -3 months to another site, you avoid paying council tax.  For the winter it is always best to try and find a site with pitches that have water and waste facilities to each pitch.  No fun dragging water barrels around in the snow etc.  Also need pipe insulation to put across any water feeds into the caravan.  Waste water is not an issue as it drains away straight away. 

Also for winter pick a site that is not liable to flooding.  On one occasion we had to get off the site within half an hour as the water was coming in so fast.  We left the 47kg bottle behind and virtually dragged the caravan off the pitch!

Lickhill floods 2008.JPG

Lickhill flooding 04 Jan 07.JPG

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Oh dear, where in the UK was this? 

 

I am looking at mainly Passat, A4 Avant and or Octavias for towing. Certainly the 2.0TDI's around the 06-09 vintage. Has anybody any experience with these in particular? 

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1 minute ago, JNH said:

Oh dear, where in the UK was this? 

 

I am looking at mainly Passat, A4 Avant and or Octavias for towing. Certainly the 2.0TDI's around the 06-09 vintage. Has anybody any experience with these in particular? 

That was in Stourport on Severn and about 1/2 mile from the actual river.  Most of those would be under rated for a twin axle and if living full time in a caravan a twin axle would be the way to go.  I would never recommend a single axle for full time living unless single.

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13 minutes ago, Durbanite said:

I would never recommend a single axle for full time living unless single.

Unless you choose a continental single axle caravan which are in many cases (like mine 7.9m x 2.5m) larger than many UK TA caravans :ph34r:

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17 minutes ago, Durbanite said:

That was in Stourport on Severn and about 1/2 mile from the actual river.  Most of those would be under rated for a twin axle and if living full time in a caravan a twin axle would be the way to go.  I would never recommend a single axle for full time living unless single.

That picture must have been taken the year that the town was renamed Stourport in Severn ... Bewdley probably got it as bad, but I can't make an awful joke about the town ...

Piece of trivia that will never come in useful; my grandparents kept the Severn Trow pub in Stourport during the early 1960s.

Steve

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Posted (edited)

I wouldn't get hung up on a German van. There aren't that many of them and many aren't well equipped with respect to cooking, heating and showers. You may also find they won't work on non electric hook up sites.

 

A fully off grid caravan (leisure battery, shower,12v system, gas powered fridge and, ideally solar panel) will allow you to use small, cheap, beautiful sites as stopovers.

Edited by svimes
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On ‎07‎/‎05‎/‎2019 at 13:07, Paul1957 said:

Something to consider, camp sites may be a bit distant from the university and you may miss out on some of the benefits/fun of student life.

 

You should compare costs of caravanning vs renting a house and may find there might not be that much difference but a big factor will be the location,  such as

- renting, rent depends on the town but £500 to £1000 a month, council tax £200 a month, gas/electric £100 a month, water £50 a month. internet £30 a month, insurance £20 a month, TV licence £155 a year (a caravan may not need one). There may be other things but this lot gives about £900 to £1400 a month.

- caravanning, you will need a car and caravan but used ones for both could be £10k to £20k to get something decent, site fees approx £20 to £30 a night average over the year depending on the facilities. Caravan insurance approx £200 to £300 a year, car insurance is probably similar whether renting or caravanning. The caravan can be sold at the end of the year but you could guess about £2000 less than paid.

I would hope a decent van could be obtained for less then 10k but then, what does decent mean? Lots of mod cons or fault free?

 

macafee2

 

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19 hours ago, JNH said:

 Is a motor mover a necessity?

 

No, handy I suppose but we don’t have one, twin axles are a bit easier to reverse and manoeuvre anyway. You need to consider the extra weight that a motor mover adds, personally I’d rather have the payload. What we did have fitted that we found a great bonus if you’re moving around a lot is E&P hydraulic self levelling, just push a button and the van levels itself, also very handy for fitting both wheel locks.

19 hours ago, JNH said:

 

 

That is great to hear and totally reassuring. Just kind of reaffirms what we hoped in terms of plausibility. How does the internet work, is it a dongle that works via the mobile phone network? How do you find the signal availability and reliability? This is one thing we will certainly need to ensure we have access to for work. 

 

Yes it’s a router with a SIM card in, details here http://www.three.co.uk/Discover/Devices/Huawei/HomeFi?memory=0&colour=Black I already have the box so I was able to get the unlimited data deal for £20 - it’s £22 if you haven’t got the box it looks like, reception has been very good we’ve found with 3. The router is mains powered but actually runs off a 12v power supply so you can just get a 12v stabilised supply and run it off the van if you need to.

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9 hours ago, macafee2 said:

I would hope a decent van could be obtained for less then 10k but then, what does decent mean? Lots of mod cons or fault free?

 

macafee2

 

I was thinking 10k to buy a car and caravan with both in good condition, not 10k each. The caravan would probably cost more than a car since they seem to keep their value better.

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2 hours ago, Paul1957 said:

I was thinking 10k to buy a car and caravan with both in good condition, not 10k each. The caravan would probably cost more than a car since they seem to keep their value better.

 

To be honest, this is probably where we are. I have seen several vans that we like (albeit online, as I'm still 9000 miles away) for around the £5k ballpark. I am also very confident in being able to find something reasonable to tow with for less than that. I have owned many VAG group PD engined diesels and for reliability, simplicity and efficiency they are second to none. Parts availability and support is vast and any maintenance I can DIY. 

 

Would people recommend visiting a caravan trader as opposed to private?

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