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Young Family Venturing Into Europe Insearch Of Caravan/car Advice


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We are a small family looking to travel Europe for 6+ months in 2012. We have two children, who will be 2 and 3 when we depart.

 

Having spent 2 months travelling France in a Renault Scenic / Tent when our eldest was just 8 months, we are comfortable with budgeting and planning our journey.

 

What we do need advice on however, is caravans! We used to have a campervan (1984 Talbot Rambler), but for the purpose of this adventure we feel a caravan will be best to offer more mobility in terms of setting-up camp, and being able to to use the car more freely.

 

We're looking to purchase a 2nd-hand caravan during Nov-Jan, with a budget of about £4,000. Additionally, we will need a larger car as our 2002 Renault Scenic (1. 9 diesel) would struggle to pull a 4-berth. We've probably got a budget of around £2,000 for a car! (Not much for either, I know!)

 

Having looked round a few caravans, our preferred layout is sleeping area at either end, with the kitchen in the middle (we feel this is the best layout for the kids to settle without disruption at night-times. Such include Elddis Avante 475, Abbey Vogue 516, Hymer Nova 530 (all 2004 models + out of our price range!).

 

I've split my questions into four sections: caravan, car, insurance, considerations. . and would be extremely grateful of any advice.

 

Recommended caravans? Purchase from dealer or private? If dealer, is it best to pay more for an extended warranty?

 

Recommended cars? Minimum car weight? Is diesel best option? Best to have a car no older than 10 years? Would you do this journey in a car with more than 100,000 miles on the clock?

 

Insurance: Typical costs? Limitations on insurance for 6 month or more? Can I get EU cover for a car older than 10 years?

 

Any other considerations?

 

Massive thanks,

 

Lee (firmanfamily)

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Only ever owned 1 caravan so can't really help with that.

 

Cars: definitely diesel (more torque, good for towing) and I'd recommend automatic - makes things less stressful IMO. I would recommend a Hyundai Santa Fe. Lots available for your budget, very reliable and only a 2 litre engine, so won't kill you on petrol costs (unlike things like Shoguns, Land Rovers etc). You could go for a Ford Mondeo-type estate but you will be at the limit it can tow. Wouldn't worry about mileage, for your budget, you're not going to have much choice and anyway, modern-ish cars should have no problems with 100k+ miles.

 

Take out breakdown cover with ADAC (German equivalent of AA) - they cover you (not the vehicle) for ALL of Europe, even the UK, for about £90 a year. Covers the caravan and any vehicle you happen to be in (includes your wife as well).

 

Have fun ;)

Edited by nelmo
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Thanks Nelmo,

 

I would have thought that a non-EU-built car would be a no-no, in case we ever suffered car problems and needed parts. I imagine the cost of repairing a Korean car in Europe would be about double that of a European car. . What is your view?

 

I was actually thinking of a Mondeo, but like you said, wasn't sure whether it would be suitable to pull a 4-berth.

 

Thanks for the heads-up about ADAC - that sounds very reasonable!

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We tow with a Mondeo Turbo Diesel Estate - which has a very useful sized boot for luggage. We've had five previous Mondeos - saloons and Estates. Go for a diesel car - diesel is significantly cheaper in France. It should tow a four berth. There are plenty of Ford dealers in France and plenty of French Mondeos. There are some good ex-fleet cars, which might be high mileage but have a complete service history with everything which needed doing being done - ours is of that school, and was absolutely immaculate when we bought it almost two years ago. It's not had any problems during those two years, except after filling up with some 'dodgy' supermarket fuel in France in May/June this year (reported on this forum). You shouldn't need to go older than ten years with a Mondeo to keep within your budget. ADAC is good for breakdown cover. I'm not sure about longer term insurance for caravans - ours is insured for storage in France, through Towergate Baker, and the cover includes repatriation of the caravan if necessary.

 

We bought our first caravan from a supermarket noticeboard advert - they always seem to be genuine caravanners who are selling up or moving up-market - and often come with a variety of bits and pieces of equipment. Sometimes, like our first van, they come completely equipped! That's where I would start to be honest, rather than dealers.

 

France has some super campsites - municipal ones can be very cheap, but also things like an ACSI card (children under 6 go free on some sites) or Camping Cheques bring down the cost of some campsites quite substantially except in very high season. The season in France is quite short though, so don't expect lots of choice if you're doing 'winter' caravanning. In summer, though, there are up to 11,000 campsites to choose from - something for everyone!

 

You'll have a fabulous time!

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Thanks Nelmo,

 

I would have thought that a non-EU-built car would be a no-no, in case we ever suffered car problems and needed parts. I imagine the cost of repairing a Korean car in Europe would be about double that of a European car. . What is your view?

 

I was actually thinking of a Mondeo, but like you said, wasn't sure whether it would be suitable to pull a 4-berth.

 

Thanks for the heads-up about ADAC - that sounds very reasonable!

 

Not sure if parts would be tricky - I guess they would be, although it's less likely to breakdown than a Ford ;)

 

It's not the number of berths of the van, it's the weight. Some 4-berth vans weigh less than some 2-berth vans! A Mondeo has a towing capacity of about 1500kg, I think. You can get 4-berths that weigh less than that but a Santa Fe has a towing capacity of about 1800kg, so whatever van you get, you'll always be much closer to the Mondeo's maximum, so more stress on the car and a less stable outfit.

 

You could consider a large MPV, like a Ford Galaxy. They have a 2000kg towing limit and are pretty common - problem is, they tend to be a bit battered by the time they're down to the £2k mark (our friends just managed to trade in their Seat Alhambra - it actually broke down on the way to the garage to get their new car! They had quite a few problems with it in the years before they changed. ..).

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We tow with a Mondeo Turbo Diesel Estate - which has a very useful sized boot for luggage. We've had five previous Mondeos - saloons and Estates. Go for a diesel car - diesel is significantly cheaper in France. It should tow a four berth. There are plenty of Ford dealers in France and plenty of French Mondeos. There are some good ex-fleet cars, which might be high mileage but have a complete service history with everything which needed doing being done - ours is of that school, and was absolutely immaculate when we bought it almost two years ago.

 

Thanks VaIA,

 

Do you know any specialists that deal with ex-fleet cars?

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Sorry I don't - a lot are sold at auction. Check our your local car auctions - but make sure you have someone who knows about cars look the vehicles over. You can get some advice from 'googling' ex-fleet cars.

 

We bought ours from a local vintage car dealer, who had bought it at auction. We got it for a really good price, so we were happy - so he must have paid peanuts for it at the auction itself!

Edited by ValA
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I thought it was becoming more difficult for members of the public to buy at auction, isn't there some sort of new fee which makes it uneconomic?

 

I wouldn't have thought dealers in ex fleet cars would have cars old enough for your price range, most change withing three years.

 

Adac will cover breakdown but you will need health insurance and European motoring insurance, sometimes available from your insurance co for an extra fee, sometimes included as part of the policy.

 

Take a look at www. caravanfinder. co. uk to see what layouts/models of caravan fit what you're looking for.

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We toured Europe for a year with a Santa Fe, albeit a new one. No problem at all in finding Hyundai dealers. We never had a breakdown, but it did need a routine service in Italy, achieved without any problem. As previous posters have said, diesel is the better option, more pulling power and cheaper to fill in every country in Europe except the UK. I too would go for automatic. A diesel car with 100,000 on the clock is only just run in! As long as bodywork is sound and it has a proper service history I would not regard it as a potential worry.

 

As for caravan there is a huge choice. Watch the weight. if you are going down the Mondeo route you might be limited. Remember too that if you are travelling long term you will have lots more to carry, either in the car or in the caravan. Another point to look at is the "accessories", most of which are vital and can add a lot to the initial outlay. Things like the aquaroll fresh and waste water containers. An awning, which I would consider esential when travelling longer term, especially with young kids. Security devices (hitchlock, wheel clamp, tracker) which your insurance company might insist on. A private sale by someone who has finished their caravanning days might include this. If buying from a dealer, see how much they would throw in with the asking price. We had all our extra gear thrown in with the sale, which was a private sale through a dealer, and it was not until we totted up what was there that we realised the value of that package.

 

Our UK car insurance covered us for 90 days, and our trip overlapped two insurance periods, so we had 180 days. We then had to change car insurance. Some companies will do better. Our caravan insurance, through caravan Club, covered 180 days, but again the renewal period extended this and later they were quite happy to extend cover. We did not take out breakdown/repatriation as we had a new car and the Hyundai breakdown guarantee covered the whole of Europe and anything we were towing. epatriation was not needed as we had sold our house in the UK and had nowehere to be repatriated to! However ADAC has been mentioned often in this forum and I think we would go with them for our next long trip.

 

Finally a word about funding. You ave been to France longer term before, so you know how easy it is to draw cash from an ATM. However each time you do this it will be at a different exchange rate, and, depending on the card you use, there will be commission, even if this is hidden in the exchange rate. We solved this by opening an account with a bank in France. HSBC helped us through this, and to be honest it was a bit of a hassle at the time. However we are so glad we did it. We can transfer a large lump of cash for a single commission charge, often at a favourable rate, and we know exactly how much it has cost in advance, rather than waiting for each transaction to hit your account. The lump went into a savings account (rates are marginally better in France than in the UK for instant access accounts) and the French internet banking system makes it easy to transfer funds to the current account when needed.

 

And don't forget your ACSI card for great off season prices when touring.

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We didn't pay that much more than the OP's budget of £2,000 for our current 2006 Mondeo when we bought it nearly two years ago - as I said I think the auction price must have been very low. It had one fleet owner, a full service history with everything which we thought might need to be replaced already being done, and was absolutely immaculate inside and out. It's not now - and we've put quite a few more miles on it - but there are bargains out there, you just need luck and to be looking at the right place at the right time.

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Plenty of food for thought there - thanks all!

 

Looks like a Hyundai Santa Fe may be the best option (or a Nissan X-Trail - similar size, good reviews)... I'll be keeping my eyes out for a reasonably-priced one in the coming weeks.

 

Also - The reason I was more leaning towards buying a caravan from a reputable dealer rather than privately was that I felt there'd be less chance of buying a caravan with faults, damps, problems etc (plus, I'd pay extra for an extended warranty)... Judging by advice I've seen, I will look to buy privately now - BUT - I am far from being an expert - How will I ensure that I ensure I buy something reliable? (I'm sure there'll be another forum on this site that will answer this Q).

 

Thank you.

And finally, 'not so big john' - I've been reading bits and pieces of your EU blog the past few weeks and have found it very inspiring and well written!! Brilliant!

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Looks like a Hyundai Santa Fe may be the best option (or a Nissan X-Trail - similar size, good reviews)... I'll be keeping my eyes out for a reasonably-priced one in the coming weeks.

 

Now that I've cunningly steered you in that direction, just to let you know that I'm selling our 2005 Santa Fe. Above your budget at £4,750 but if you're interested:

 

http://www. ebay. co. uk/itm/2005-HYUNDAI-SANTA-FE-CDX-CRTD-AUTO-RED-/170707871206?pt=Automobiles_UK&hash=item27befb65e6

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I'm not too sure why you'd want an extended dealer warranty if you're going to be in Europe. Surely if something went wrong with the van the dealer would want it back on his premises to sort out the problem?

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jaymac - good point! Thanks, I hadn't considered that. .

 

One more thing that has just occurred to me is that I may not be qualified to tow a caravan. I am 25, passed my driving test in November 2004, and on the back of my driving licence card it only states that I can drive Cat. B (car) and Cat. B1 (small van) vehicles. It also has f k p in italics underneath this. Does anybody have any knowledge on this matter? Can I legally tow, or do I have to do a separate driving test for this?

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This is what it says about Category B on the DVLA webpage

 

 

B

Motor vehicles with a MAM of up to 3,500 kg, no more than eight passenger seats, with or without a trailer - weighing no more than 750 kg

17*

B

As category B but with a trailer weighing more than 750 kg. The total weight of the vehicle and the trailer together can’t weigh more than 3,500 kg. The weight of the trailer, when fully loaded, can’t weigh more than the unladen weight of the vehicle

 

Modern combinations of car/caravan are often over the 3,500kg total limit (second paragraph) - but someone who's more technically inclined will have to explain this.

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One more thing that has just occurred to me is that I may not be qualified to tow a caravan. I am 25, passed my driving test in November 2004, and on the back of my driving licence card it only states that I can drive Cat. B (car) and Cat. B1 (small van) vehicles. It also has f k p in italics underneath this. Does anybody have any knowledge on this matter? Can I legally tow, or do I have to do a separate driving test for this?

 

If the combined weight of your caravan and car is over 3,500kg then, yes, you will need to do an extra test.

 

Unfortunately, the outfit you're looking at will probably be over this limit. ..(my Santa Fe and 1600kg caravan were well over)...

 

Sorry for not mentioning that before - not used to such young people on caravan forums :P

Edited by nelmo
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