Buying a Used / Second Hand Caravan

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What to look for when buying a second hand Caravan

Damp
Check all the corners, bed boxes and roof lockers and cupboards for signs of damp. This can be done with a damp meter, available from DIY stores and could save you time and money. Check the grab handles and give them a hefty tug. If they appear to be loose, it’s a sure sign that the seals have gone and water has entered the van. Beware, as a damp caravan could cost you twice as much to repair as you paid for it.
To replace the whole front end panel would cost approximately £3000; smaller repairs start from £300.
Possible cost £300-£3000

Seals
Various types of sealant are used in caravan production; acrylic, silicone and oil-based, which can last between five and 20 years. Have a good look around the panels for signs of perished, missing or penetrated seals, water ingress and rusting screws. To re-seal a whole caravan would cost approximately £940.
Possible cost £940

Doors and Lockers
Check that all the doors open and shut properly, including the main door and the lockers. Do they fit snugly or can you see daylight through the seals? Check the hinges are secure and that the locks work and turn freely. Spare cupboard doors on a caravan more than 10 years old would be hard to find, Modern equivalents can be purchased through the dealer from £60. Hinges and screws are available from your local DIY store.
Possible cost £60 per door

Windows
Check around for cracks in the windows and seals.
A common problem is that the plastic trim around the inside of the windows cracks as it gets older. Check the window locks. Make sure they work and watch out for signs of rust round the screws. If the windows are double-glazed, look for signs of condensation between the layers. Replacement windows aren’t cheap and start from £180 for the smallest window.
Possible cost £180

Floors
Take a walk round the caravan to see if the floors are weak or sagging. Pay particular attention around the door, kitchen and seating areas, as these are the main areas of use. These signs would indicate the floor is starting to de-laminate. This is expensive and not easy to repair. The usual method is to inject an expanding foam material every 4in throughout the floor. This is a very labour intensive and costly business, best carried out by a caravan repair centre. Prices start at £150 for a small section, up to £600 for the whole caravan. Our advice is to stay aware unless the price reflects it and you have the budget to get it fixed.
Possible cost £150-£600

Electrics/gas
Get the dealer to check that the gas and electrics comply with safety standards. Get him to show you how the appliances work. Spares for old water heaters are scare and a replacement including taps and fitting would cost £600.Check that all the gas appliances operate and burn with a blue flame. This indicates that the gas is being burnt efficiently and is free of carbon monoxide. Also check that all the gas flues are in good condition on appliances such as the fridge and heater.
Possible cost £600

Hitch and chassis
Although the hitch and chassis should have been serviced by the used dealer, it doesn’t hurt to check that the mechanism moves freely, the push bar moves correctly and that they are both well-lubricated. Check the condition of the rubber gaiter that covers the push bar between the hitch and A-frame. If the caravan has an AL-KO hitch stabiliser, this should not be greased or lubricated or else it will be rendered ineffective. A replacement hitch would eat £200 from your budget, including dampers and fitting. As for the chassis, check the steadies wind up and down freely and that the A-frame isn’t bent. Modern chassis are designed not to be drilled – check that there is a stabiliser bracket.
Possible cost £60

Stabiliser
Replacement pads are available on some models but they need to be set at the right torque to be effective.
New stabilisers retail from £60.
Possible cost £60

Jockey wheel
Check first that the winding mechanism is functioning correctly and is well-greased. Check that the wheel is not worn or punctured if it’s an inflatable, and check that the securing pin or bolt that attaches the wheel is intact and allows the wheel to rotate freely.
Possible cost £30-£70

Tyres
When checking tyres you need to be concentrating less on the tread and more on the condition of the tyre walls. Severe cracking of the tyres’ walls means the side walls are damaged and could blow any time. The cost to replace would be £30 to £70 per tyre.
Possible cost £30-£70

Brakes
Does the handbrake move freely and is effective? Also check that the breakaway cable is in good condition and has secure connection to the base of the handbrake. Put it on and off and watch for signs of drooping or bucking when the handbrake is released. This could show that there may be a problem with the brakes such as binding. Your caravan would have been serviced before collecting, but expect to pay from £120 for a full service which will include the brakes.
Possible cost £120

Breakaway cables
These are often overlooked, but are a vital point of safety if the caravan comes detached from the car. Make sure they are secured and replace if rusty.
Possible cost £5 

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