TIPS FOR BUYING A LEISURE VEHICLE
With a wealth of different models to choose from, we can provide you with some practical advice to help you make some important decisions up front. You’ll be experiencing freedom in the leisure vehicle of your choice sooner than you think.
1. FIRST DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT TO DO IN YOUR TOURING CARAVAN OR MOTORHOME
Short distance touring in the UK or long distances abroad? Which type of vehicle is going to give you the maximum flexibility?
If you are intending to double up a motorhome or campervan as an everyday vehicle, you might like to consider a hi-top conversion. For longer trips a coachbuilt is likely to be better. If you are going to stay on sites that have facilities including shops, restaurants, shower blocks and electrical hook ups, you may not need every piece of equipment on offer. If you're planning to travel off the beaten track, you will want more on-board.
Most motorhomes use diesel and turbo diesel engines and with technology improving all the time, these engines are powerful, quiet and economical. Petrol engine options are also available and some can be converted to run on LPG.
If choosing a caravan, use our tow check web site to match which caravans are compatible with your car for towing. If you’ve never towed a caravan before or want to brush up on your skills there are a number of courses available run by clubs and organisations around the country. Find out more in guide to owning a leisure vehicle here.
2. HOW MUCH SPACE WILL YOU NEED?
Do you want a very compact vehicle or do you need lots of space? Size does matter - how you use it, what you feel comfortable in, and what you feel confident driving. Has it enough storage for your needs? Check out practical things like storage space for sports equipment especially if you are going to use it mainly in support of a hobby or activity.
Make sure the vehicle has sufficient space and payload for any special equipment and the facilities needed for you to enjoy your activity. Your dealer will advise you about the payload of the model of your choice.
3. HOW MANY PEOPLE, HOW MANY BERTHS?
Even if there is only two of you, you may decide the additional space in a 4/5 berth caravan or a medium sized motorhome suits your needs better. The size of your car may limit the size of caravan you can tow. Some people choose a smaller caravan but supplement it with an awning or tent, or if you are considering a motorhome, an annex to gain extra living space.
Practical Caravan magazine gives awards for the best caravans for small families, large families which is a useful reference tool to help you make the right decision.
If you are intending to carry passengers in a motorhome, make sure the vehicle you choose has a sufficient number of passenger seats, with seatbelts fitted, to legally accommodate the size of your party.
Check whether you have room for the vehicle on your drive and enough headroom in the garage (a medium-sized motorhome could be 6m-7m long, 2.5m wide, and 2.9m high). If you don't have room, there are secure storage areas where caravans and motorhomes can be stored. The Caravan Storage Site Owners Association has an official register of secure sites. For more on storage download our guide to getting started with a leisure vehicle here.
5. COMPARE, CONTRAST AND BUY FROM A REPUTABLE SOURCE
Shows are great places to see lots of different makes and models and compare and contrast them. We recommend that you visit either the February Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show or the October Motorhome and Caravan Show. Both events take place at the NEC and are the UK’s largest showcase for hundreds of caravans, motorhomes, tents, caravan holiday homes and accessories all under one roof.
Your local dealer is your best place to buy – just go along and talk to him. He can give advice on handling, servicing, finance and warranties. Click here for more information.
If you are considering buying a pre-owned caravan or motorhome they can offer excellent value as a first step into leisure vehicle ownership. Download The National Caravan Council’s Top Tips for buying a second-hand touring caravan and visit the Motorhome Sales Code of Practice.
6. FOR SECURITY IF YOU ARE BUYING A CARAVAN MAKE SURE IT’S REGISTERED WITH CRIS
CRiS is the NCC’s caravan registration and identification scheme. All caravans manufactured (from 1992 on) by NCC members have a unique 17 digit ‘VIN’ number. When a caravan is sold, the new owner’s details are sent to CRiS. Since 1997, new touring caravans have been electronically tagged as additional security. Click here for more information.
7. FOR SAFETY, MAKE SURE YOUR LEISURE VEHICLE IS NCC APPROVED
If you are considering buying a vehicle, make sure it been approved by the NCC and has the EN 1645 badge of approval for caravans and the EN 1646 badge of approval for motorhomes. The NCC Approved badge is the sign that when a vehicle was built, it complied with all relevant European and UK health and safety standards, industry Codes of Practice and UK regulations. Some of these are not required in countries outside the UK, so you need to be sure that your vehicle is safe – look for the badge. Click here for more information.
8. DECIDE A BUDGET...
…and put a bit aside for extras - a caravan mover or awning, a motorhome annex, water carrier or barbeque. Maybe a flat screen TV, DVD player or even folding satellite dish if these aren’t already included. (Remember, these may restrict the weight of personal effects you can place in your caravan when under tow.)
9. JOIN A CLUB
For sites, travel information, technical advice and much more, it's worth joining either one of the UK’s largest clubs dedicated to delivering the freedom that you seek. The Caravan Club or The Camping and Caravanning Club offer a great way to meet people and get involved in events and activities.