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Big Caravans And 4 X 4


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First let me explain. We are born again into caravanning, bought a van last year after a 25 year absence. Just completed first major trip, 5 weeks plus touring Spain and have noticed big differences between UK and Continental Caravanning.

 

In the 80s I don't remember there being any 85% rule etc. You (I) just bought a caravan that the family car was able to tow at the then max speed of 50mph. A 14 footer was quite a big van. I towed a Bailey Pageant with my company car, a 1. 6 petrol Cavalier. I now have a more recent (07) Pageant pulled by a 1. 6 diesel Hyundai i30.

 

Today it seems that caravans are huge and heavy. Not much choice for a decent, new, 2 berth around 1200kgs or less.

 

On a motorway I play a little game counting how many vans are pulled by ordinary family cars and have many by huge 4 x 4s. In the UK it seems 4 x 4s are the norm, well over 50%, whereas on the continent (ignoring GB vans) they are not. You still see normal family cars pulling vans, even some quite small cars, many more than here.

 

My question is what is driving this trend?

 

Are manufacturers just building big vans, so you have to buy a big van/car?

 

The caravan press seems to heavily promote 4 x 4s and large vans! Are they leading the trend or just reflecting it?

 

Have motor movers influenced things?

 

Why is it different the other side of the Channel.

 

This is not criticism of anyone, but I will be interested in your views.

 

Great forum have got a lot of useful info from you guys!

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The 85% guideline is just that, a guideline, its not law. the only law you have to abide by is that you can't tow more than is stated on your vehicles V5.

As for big vans, well when we had ours, it was a 26' bailey Senator, but then we had 4 kids so needed the room. 4x4's are popular here & not just with the towing fraternity, they just are, more so than on the continent. Towing with one, is I believe, a reflection of that. My next car, when ever i can afford that, will more than likely be a 4x4 & don't tow anything bigger than my little Erde 125 trailer these days, but i like 4x4's.

I refer you to the Rt Hon Member for the 19th Century.....................pictured just to the left of your screen..................

 

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I suppose the answer,in my case,is because I can; after years of having to be careful with money (mortgage,children,university fees etc!).I like having all mod cons (providing they all work!) and that means weight gain.

I think we may be a little more safety conscious than we used to be,hence I still apply the 85% guideline even though we have been caravanning for a few years now.

There are still plenty of lightweight caravans too for those that want them.

Continental caravanners tend to use on site facilities more and eat out more than we do so their caravans tend to be lighter,although you do see some very heavy foreign caravans being towed by surprisingly light cars. Maybe we Brits are just extra safety conscious?

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Also remember that some vehicles which appear to be 4x4s are not.

 

A number of manufacturers produce models which come in both 2 and 4 wheel drive.

 

My CRV is two wheel drive but is indistinguishable from the four wheel drive version.

 

I decided that I didnt really need four wheel drive and the 2wd drive version was cheaper and more economical.

 

poolebob

Honda CRV Diesel Petrol & No caravan now. :angry:

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We've only been 'vanning for a year, but with my limited experience this is my thoughts.

 

In Europe, at least the sunnier climes, there is less need for a 4x4 as there doesn't seem as high of a chance of getting stuck. It also seems our European friends don't seem too worried about weight in general.

 

Our van, our first, is something like 23', but as a family of 6 we need the space.

We have started to attend rallies and intend to continue as they are excellent value for money. In one occasion I struggled for grip on nothing more than wet grass and a slight incline. On another a 4x4 offered to tow the van out onto the road for us. It was so muddy the car struggled solo, would never have made it hitched up.

 

When money permits, I'd love a 4x4. Even my wife who doesn't usually agree with me does on this one.

Edited by MonkeyMark

Just beginning our adventure. 95% of my time on CT I use my phone. As a result correct spelling and grammer will be used sparingly. This is due to fat fingers. Please don't let it bother you.

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Another way of looking at is, how many big cars do you see in general (jag, merc, BMW and the like) driving around abroad ? To me there is a lot of "normal " cars . When I've been in Europe I might see 2 or 3 big cars and they are noticeable by the few that are on the road, when I get back him I see about 5 or 6 of the big cars in the first 5 miles. To me Europeans don't really bother about large expensive cars.

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Another way of looking at is, how many big cars do you see in general (jag, merc, BMW and the like) driving around abroad ? To me there is a lot of "normal " cars . When I've been in Europe I might see 2 or 3 big cars and they are noticeable by the few that are on the road, when I get back him I see about 5 or 6 of the big cars in the first 5 miles. To me Europeans don't really bother about large expensive cars.

Except in Germany and Luxembourg!

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Seems to me that we tend to like bigger cars in the UK than the rest of Europe, whether it's used for towing or not, judging by the number of 4x4s outside my daughter's school of a morning, or is it to do with the need to climb up the kerbs!

 

Went to Italy a couple of weeks ago solo for a family wedding, I did notice that my Passat seemed to stand out as a big car in a carpark full of small Fiats and Daewoos and the like.

 

At the moment, I'm quite happy pulling a 1500kg van with the Passat, yes can struggle for grip on the very odd occasion with the van, but it manages perfectly well 99. 99% of the time.

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It's chicken and egg really.

 

The popularity of fixed beds, in whatever guise, and end washrooms have made vans much bigger in general over recent decades. The necessity of fitting a permanent bed/beds of at least 6ft length in addition to having a front lounge means vans have to be around 5ft longer, all other things being the same and that drives weight. Midships washrooms are slimmer and make better use of limited space, whereas taking the washroom to the back will lead to a temptation to make it bigger and therefore heavier.

 

We have 5ft 6ins lounge benches, midships washroom/kitchen and rear single dinette. Shipping length is 20ft 6ins and MIRO 1082kg.

 

Last week we were seriously looking at the fixed single bed offering from the same range. 5ft lounge benches (6ins shorter) 23ft 9ins shipping length (3ft 3ins longer), MIRO 1196kg (10% more). The kitchen area was a foot shorter compared to ours but it was still a much bigger van. A similar layout Swift Challenger Sport is the same length but weighs a much larger 1290kg, nearly 100kg more.

 

I'm not sure what sort of ratio of fixed bed vans the Continentals buy but maybe it's much less than over here.

I've got nothing to do on this hot afternoon

but to settle down and write you a line.

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Maybe Europe has better roads. Ones without the potholes that can swallow a small hatchback.

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Another way of looking at is, how many big cars do you see in general (jag, merc, BMW and the like) driving around abroad ? To me there is a lot of "normal " cars . When I've been in Europe I might see 2 or 3 big cars and they are noticeable by the few that are on the road, when I get back him I see about 5 or 6 of the big cars in the first 5 miles. To me Europeans don't really bother about large expensive cars.

Does that make me not normal then?!

Genuinely, the state of our roads and the like means that a lot of people like the higher driving position than the low slung approach of a normal car nowadays.

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Maybe these have all been covered, but I'll sumarise:

 

  • Heavier 'vans
  • More likely to camp in winter or on pitches that are not adjacent to paved road
  • More safety conscious (weight wise) pushing Brits towards heavier cars
  • SUVs are more fashionable here

I'll also add that one reason why SUVs are more popular here may be due to our tendency to buy more non-European cars.

Take a look at who makes the better value SUVs: Honda, Nissan, Kia, Hyundai, Ford, Toyota. These brands aren't as popular in France and Germany where there is, I think, greater loyalty to domestic brands. BMW, VW, Merc, Renault and PSA of course all make SUVs, but they are either very pricey or came to market very late.

 

For us, the main reasons for going down the 4x4 route were:

  • 4wd gets the van out of the storage site in winter (we don't have a mover)
  • It's nice and stiff at the back so no low hanging back end!
  • Slightly heavier than our last car (a large family estate) giving a few more options when we swap 'vans

However, if we get motormover on whatever our next 'van is, we might well go back to a large, fast, estate. I am not convinced at all about winter (on-road) motoring benefits (though not tested this yet). For snowy roads we have a small FWD hatchback, which always seems to be the best thing to have (after studded tyres)!

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There are several reasons why the Continentals tend to have smaller towcars:

 

  1. For a start, the 85% recommendation is unknown on the Continent so one tends to buy a towcar making full use of the manufacturer's allowable towing limit.
  2. Vehicle tax on big SUV's and 4x4's can be prohibitively high in some countries.
  3. I think that, on the whole, Continentals tend to use their caravans less often relative to the solo mileage of the towcar so the emphasis is more on economical use in the solo condition, less so for the maybe two or three times a year that the car is going to be used for actual towing.
  4. They probably tow more on motorways where acceleration, for example, is not quite so much an issue. Besides, most countries have an 80km/h speed limit on oufits and this can usually be maintained with even quite a modest towcar.
  5. There's no real equivalent to CL sites as in the UK, so towcars don't usually have to pull a caravan over soft or slippery ground, hence there's no real need for four wheel drive (except perhaps for those who take their caravans on winter trips in the Alps).
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As said above it looks like its driven by the ballooning weight gains of caravans in recent years. My Adria Adora is something like 1700Kgs. Couple this with the tendency of modern car manufacturers to reduce the weight of the vehicles to decrease fuel consumption and you are soon towing close to 100%. I like to have a far heavier vehicle than the caravan and tow at around 75% so that there is less risk to my family when we travel around, so I have a large 4x4 which also allows me to take more holiday items without overloading and also more space for all of us in the car which is a bonus on long journeys.

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As an as large as i could afford 4x4 and as large as i could afford caravan owner, here is my rationale-

 

4x4:

I mostly use CL's. On one occassion i had a fwd car and a lighter caravan. It had rained the day before, and the site seemed fairly dried out. Until i came to going back up an incline to level up. Cue car getting stuck and rescue by farmers discovery.

 

The roads in this country are terrible. I drive a good mix of undulating country lanes, towns and the capital. They all have serious potholes, and the speed bumps in the urban areas are just the biscuit.

 

I have a job where i HAVE to get to my place of work. Whether thats in sun, flood (3ft wade depth) or snow.

 

Im an outdoors fan and need the loadspace for all manner of goodies.

 

And at 30mpg its as good as a relatives golf gti.

 

Caravan:

Need the storage for little one.

 

Wanted a big washroom.

 

Need a good size lounge for rainy day play and comfortable family eating.

 

I could.

 

 

I work a tough job, i want the best i can provide for my family, so why the hell not.

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one of the factors may be licence category's I think the Europeans may have had the b+ e test years ago while we had grandfathers rights

That's why they use the lighter tow cars under the 3500kgs train weight

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I have noticed while in France, continental caravans do not have the same interior specification as most uk manufactured caravans, some I have been in do not have a fitted cooker and hob, no microwave etc, so the majority of continental made caravans are much lighter than ours, hence no need for a 4X4.

Edited by philby
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All I can say is that having towed for 29 years or so with many saloon and hatchback cars I finally reached the stage where I could acquire and afford a 4x4 ( BMW X3 3l diesel) and can honestly say that I have never enjoyed before such effortless secure towing. Gone are the days of the tail nearly wagging the dog or that very nervous few miles of towing till you get used to the dynamics of your rig. Don't get me wrong in thinking I have suddenly become lapse in my careful loading the rig, to the contrary, its took me a long time to reach my towing goals and I am even more carefully about my rig setup despite having a greater margin of safety. So for me the arguments about using a 4x4 are all in the driving experience.

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It may be that vans are lower speccd and lighter because many countries on the continent have better weather than us - less need for cooker, indoor seating for example

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Cars have got more powerful and small engines under 2. 0 lt are producing more power than a 3. 0 lt 20 years ago so it has allowed people to go for larger caravans and braking has improved with most tow cars having discs all round and ABS systems and stability systems .

 

 

i m going out in a few weeks to look at 30 ft caravan to put behind my pick up weighing upto 4000 kg MAM.

 

 

Dave

Jeep Commander 3. 0 V6 CRD

Isuzu D- Max Utah Auto

Elddis Crusader Storm 2000 Kgs, Unipart Royal Atlas Mover .

 

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Somehow decades back the spec. between UK and Continental vans parted company.

 

Most Continental vans are sold with a very sparse spec. and the makers offer an enormous list of factory fit optional extras. Often even these long options lists don't even include such normal standard UK items as ovens and microwaves.

 

A standard Continental van will have no boiler, no shower, no flyscreen, no spare wheel, no charger, no radio etc, etc. This means that the MIRO weight of a Continental van is much lower than the MIRO of a UK equivalent, however spec. them up to UK standard and the weights are roughly the same.

 

Because they are offered the option of 'bare' vans many are purchased with a low spec and therefore low weights and can be pulled by smaller cars. Why UK dealers and manufacturers think that their customers have to be spoon fed highly fitted out vans loaded with heavy equipment and not be given the opportunity to save money I really can't figure, or can I? Possibly it has something to do with maintaining as much potential profit as possible and exploiting the gullibility of the UK consumer.

I've got nothing to do on this hot afternoon

but to settle down and write you a line.

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Somehow decades back the spec. between UK and Continental vans parted company.

 

Most Continental vans are sold with a very sparse spec. and the makers offer an enormous list of factory fit optional extras. Often even these long options lists don't even include such normal standard UK items as ovens and microwaves.

 

A standard Continental van will have no boiler, no shower, no flyscreen, no spare wheel, no charger, no radio etc, etc. This means that the MIRO weight of a Continental van is much lower than the MIRO of a UK equivalent, however spec. them up to UK standard and the weights are roughly the same.

 

Because they are offered the option of 'bare' vans many are purchased with a low spec and therefore low weights and can be pulled by smaller cars. Why UK dealers and manufacturers think that their customers have to be spoon fed highly fitted out vans loaded with heavy equipment and not be given the opportunity to save money I really can't figure, or can I? Possibly it has something to do with maintaining as much potential profit as possible and exploiting the gullibility of the UK consumer.

 

 

Maybe we should start a "What would you do away with in current UK 'vans" thread?

 

I'd lose the microwave gladly!

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Most Continental vans are sold with a very sparse spec. and the makers offer an enormous list of factory fit optional extras. Often even these long options lists don't even include such normal standard UK items as ovens and microwaves.

 

 

 

Mind you even they don't offer alternative front panels with or without big window, gas locker and internal roof lockers ;)

I've got nothing to do on this hot afternoon

but to settle down and write you a line.

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Could it be that the difference has something to do with the way we use our caravans? I think that continental caravanners tend to use their caravans mainly for sleeping in, with all other activities like cooking, dining, socialising, etc done outside, or in communal areas. I've observed that tendency even when the weather is relatively cool in Europe. It seems to me that British caravanners spend a lot more time inside their caravans and perhaps that is why there is a tendency to buy bigger and heavier caravans. Then again it could just be that the British like to have more personal space - just compare how European caravan sites often have smaller pitches that are closer together than would be acceptable on most British sites.

We fight not for glory, nor for wealth nor honours . ..

but only and alone we fight for freedom,

which no good man surrenders but with his life.

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Been Caravaning since I was 22 and had 3 caravans and had 5 tow cars and worked my way up the ladder too the Rig I have now and now I am 46 so its took time.

Did my time climbing over Bodies at night too get out too Loo SO that is my Reason for Big Caravan .

 

Ste

. ....One life, Don't waste it fixing LandRovers .

Ford F350 SUPERDUTY Towing 640 Hobby @ 1%

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