how to (or not) buy a caravan.

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A buyers guide to buying a caravan       


This is a short story about our search for a cheap (1,500 budget) touring caravan


Everything started so well.. we had owned our own comfy 2 berth Jubilee Supreme for 2 years. We had no idea about caravanning before this. On our first holiday we learned more in the first week than we have since.  "you should have the flaps at the bottom of your awning outwards" said one helpful camper.

"Those flaps should be inside, under the ground sheet" said a passing seasoned caravanner. What's a ground sheet?  we asked each other when he had gone.

"Ne'er, e'er, use the shower in the varn. Causes major damp. Its only put in thar' to make it sell for more! I change my van ever' year for the best model, and I've ne'er used my shower." said the bloke with the biggest, poshest, most expensive van on the site. Well that's what he liked telling everyone!

After more "advise" from other campers, we decided to use the shower. Never saw any damp.

We are now at the point when we have sold the much loved caravan to a nice couple in Lincolnshire. We had advertised the van on eBay, we were very honest in the description, we answered all the questions thoughtfully, we refused the nominal offers to end the auction early for cash, (I told them its a cash sale anyway) and after a very exciting time watching the bids flyby during the last two minutes, the caravan was sold.

We were happy, but also sad at the same time, our caravan, who was, as daft as it sounds, leaving us for pastures new. Good luck, old friend. 

The search for a replacement started in earnest.

We scoured the auction site for days, saving the ones we liked, having  disagreements about the size, colour, style, and anything else you find to disagree about. We made bids on some and lost them all. Then one Sunday afternoon, we came across a caravan that seemed to meet our needs, we bid and won at last !

We emailed the seller straight away. The next morning, we were making a 400 mile round trip across the country.

When we arrived, the seller seemed to be in a rush, " sorry, but I do have to go" he explained, smells funny in here I thought, must be because its been unused for two years, so we duly paid, not knowing what to look for and how to inspect a caravan properly, hooked it on and started our journey home. This was as exciting as it got. From now, things turned nasty. On arriving home, we put the caravan on the driveway facing the house so getting in and out of the caravan would be easier.

As we were pushing and heaving ourselves stupid, with the neighbours twitching their curtains, we noticed our feet were getting rather wet, there was a waterfall every-time we pushed on the rear window/wall. Strange, we thought, must be water trapped in the plastic bit at the bottom.

It was the next day we discovered we had bought a very wet shed on wheels. Despite nearly 50 emails and probably twice that in constructive voice mails to the seller, we received no reply. It was time to cut our losses and have the back of the van repaired. Back on eBay it went and seven days later it was resold to a family in the south. We even delivered it to them, told them what we knew but they were over the moon anyway.

The search started for another caravan. Only this time we vowed to view as many as possible.

 We decided to try and keep within a 100 mile radius. We planned each trip to see 3 or 4 caravans in a day. After 2 weekends of driving and looking at what people were describing as the deal of the century and seeing first hand that what's in the pictures is not always what is on offer, (yes photos can be very deceiving) we were starting to feel a bit despondent.

This all led to THE weekend. On a Friday evening I had spoken to 3 or 4 sellers on the phone, and agreed to view 3 of the wares on offer. The longest chat was with Mr X who lived 240 miles away,(a bit more than the intended mileage, but this guy was so convincing) he had assured us the caravan was clean, comfortable, and dry. At 8:00am, we set off to purchase our dream caravan. Even with a sat-nav I managed to get lost a few times. The petrol station that advertised toilets, food and fuel only told the truth on the last of its statements. I had the misfortune of having to pee behind a generator while traffic was whizzing by only a few feet away.

Eventually we arrived and met Mr X in a pub car-park, the balding, tubby, short man duly gave us grunt and a bit of a growl and motioned for us to follow. We did, down country lanes, through a ford, up country lanes and into a farmyard and there stood his pride and joy, he could hardly contain his obvious pride, "look at her" he purred "ain't she a beauty?" he was almost caressing the side as we walked around to the door. We glanced at each other, we must be from a 4th dimension or another planet, this was not what we expected, the outside needed a scrub and that's being polite. Mr X was positively drooling, then it was time to go inside. Oh my god, I thought as I stepped into the abyss.

OK, a bit harsh, not too bad, I sat by the front window and noticed some bubbling between the glazing and the shelf, Mr X was still expressing his love and adoration for the van, when all of a sudden three of my fingers disappeared through the wall, I had pressed the bubbly bit, and nearly lost my hand in rotten wood.

"Whats this?" I asked "damp?"

"There is no damp in this van !! anywhere" growled Mr X, "I have checked it myself" I looked in the shower-room, "Why is the ceiling soft? What is this tape over this hole? Why does the floor move?" As I climbed out of the van, nearly taking the door with me, MrX had the nerve to ask " well, what do you think then? Are you going to make me an offer?"

Now, I am not an argumentative person, but I must admit I saw red at this statement, "the only offer I'll make to you is that I wont strangle you for too long" I replied in a low but warning voice. Then he closed the door, locked it and pulled down the blind, this was the last we ever saw of him.

The second van was even worse, it took 1hour 45 mins to get there and when we saw it in the drive way it took only a token look through the window to say our goodbyes. We headed west to the last of the day, the seller asked us to meet him, we waited for 30 minutes then he arrived, followed him to a house to get keys, then drove for 20 miles into the countryside where we eventually came to a field, with 4 horses and 3 goats running around this caravan. "You must be joking" we cried to the thin lanky man standing in front of us.

 " Look " said the man "the floor is solid" as he demonstrated by jumping up and down just inside the doorway. It looked more like a trampoline we chuckled on the way home.

The important message is do not take the sellers word for the state of the caravan. Go and see for yourself. Don't be afraid to ask awkward questions. Never be rushed when viewing.

Things to look out for,

always arrange viewings and questions on the phone -  don't arrange to view via email - when you meet the seller ask the same questions again, a liar will forget - try not to meet in car-parks etc, you don't know where you'll end up - caravans at houses or secure storage are best - always give the caravan a thorough check over -  press the ceilings, the walls, in all cupboards above and below -  watch to see if the floor moves when someone is walking around, question all soft spots, we left the window/skylight  open is rarely the truth -  have a good look under the caravan to see any movement in the floor and look at the chassis, galvanised is better -  always shake the door-frame to make sure its secure -  look in all external lockers - ask about towing stability - check the tyres yourself for cracked walls and treadwear - see whats on offer in the classified section, (its where we found our bargain) but only reply to those with a landline phone number - trust your instincts, they are usually correct - if in doubt, thank the seller, walk away and think about how much hard earned cash you are about to hand over, mostly its a one way transaction.

Don't forget to take your towing mirrors, stabilizing bar and a number plate with you.

If you have made it this far, I thank you for reading this and I hope you will take some if not all of the advise.

We did buy a caravan the next day, just 20 miles from home. Just proves its best to start your search by "nearest from your postcode"



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