Everything you need to consider when buying a used caravan

15/02/2024 By RV Solutions Blog GO BACK

Are you thinking of buying a used caravan? As long as you know the common issues to look out for and how to spot a great deal, buying a secondhand caravan is the perfect way to get off the beaten track at a fraction of the price of a new caravan. 

We know that the ins and outs of what makes a quality caravan can be a little complicated, and remembering to check them all when you go for an inspection can be overwhelming—that’s why we’ve pulled together this checklist of everything you need to consider when you go to buy your next used caravan. 

To jump straight to the nitty-gritty, download our printable checklist to take with you to your next inspection, or keep reading to learn more about each component you’ll need to look out for. Let’s get started.

Why buy a used caravan?

Buying a secondhand caravan can be a great option for those looking for a more affordable way to enjoy all the benefits of caravan adventuring, for a fraction of the price of new caravans. If you know where to look, you can find used caravans for sale in excellent condition, and they can be significantly cheaper than buying a brand new model. Used caravans also often come with a range of additional upgrades and accessories that have been added by previous owners, that may not be included in newer models. 

As long as you know how to tell the difference between a fantastic, high-quality and well-maintained caravan from an old, battered and bruised caravan that might only last you a year or two, buying a used caravan is well worth it. 

To help you learn how to figure out that difference, our team of caravan specialists have pulled together a list of all the must-check caravan elements when you go to your next inspection. 

1. Determine your needs and budget

Before you start looking for a used caravan, it’s important to determine your needs and budget. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Think about how you’ll be using the caravan. Will you be taking it on long trips or using it for shorter getaways? Do you need a lot of space for your family and kids, or are you happy with something smaller? Will you be going on off-road or off-grid adventures? Consider your lifestyle and what you’ll need from your caravan.
  • Consider your vehicle’s towing capacity. Make sure your vehicle is capable of towing the caravan you’re interested in.
  • How much can you afford to spend? Set a budget for your caravan purchase and stick to it. Remember to factor in ongoing costs like insurance, registration, maintenance, and storage
  • Consider any future repair costs. When you purchase an older caravan, you may inherit some issues that require fixing. Make sure you factor the price of those repairs into your budget.

2. Do your research

Once you’ve determined your needs and budget, it’s time to start researching potential caravans that could suit your lifestyle. Here are a few things to think about:

How do you want to buy your used caravan?

There are a number of options available, including buying from a private seller or purchasing from a used caravan dealership. If you’re buying from a private seller, make sure to inspect the caravan thoroughly and get a written contract of sale. If you’re buying from a dealership you may find that their secondhand caravans come completely serviced and inspected for you, like at RV Solutions. It’s important to note that not all used caravan dealerships offer this kind of quality assurance, so be sure to check with each specific dealership.

Research the make and model

Do some research on the make and model of the caravan you’re interested in. Look for reviews and feedback from other owners to get an idea of any common issues or concerns.  Look for reviews online and ask friends and family if they have any experience with the model. This will help you get a better understanding of the caravan and any potential issues you may need to look out for. You can also use online resources to find out the average price for the model you’re interested in, which can help you negotiate a better deal.

Check the caravan’s history

Once you’ve done your research and found a caravan that meets your needs, it’s important to check the caravan’s history. Look for any signs of damage, and make sure to get a written record of any work that has been done. Additionally, you can use online resources to check the caravan’s registration history. This will help you make sure that the caravan is in good condition and has been well-maintained throughout its lifetime.

You can also conduct a Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) search online, which outlines if the caravan you are interested in purchasing is free from debt, stolen or has been written off. 

3. Inspect the caravan

Inspect the caravan

Once you’ve done your research and found a caravan that meets your needs, it’s time to book in an inspection to check it out. During the inspection, look for any signs of damage or wear and tear in the mechanical elements, interior and exterior of the caravan. It can be pretty overwhelming when you go to inspect a caravan, especially if you’ve never owned one before, which is why we’ve put together this list of things to check when you go.

Mechanical and electrical inspection

Ensuring your secondhand caravan is mechanically sound is the most critical part of the buying process, which means it’s important you know what to look for. To make sure you check everything, run through this list:

  • Chassis and undercarriage—Inspect for rust, cracks or damage, as the chassis is the foundation of the caravan and its integrity is crucial for safety.
  • Suspension system—Check the condition of springs, shock absorbers, airbags, and any signs of uneven wear, which are essential for a smooth and safe towing experience.
  • Brakes and bearings—Ensure the brakes are functioning properly and the wheel bearings are in good condition, as they are vital for safe towing and stopping.
  • Tow hitch and couplings—Examine for wear and tear, and ensure they are compatible with your vehicle, as these components connect the caravan to your car and are critical for safe towing.
  • Wheels and tyres—Look for tread wear, cracks, or damage on tyres, and check the condition of the wheels, as they need to be in good shape for safe and efficient travel.
  • Air conditioning and heating systems—Test these systems to ensure they are operating effectively, as they contribute to the comfort of your caravan experience.
  • Battery and charging systems—Check the condition of the battery and ensure the charging system is functioning, as these are crucial for powering the caravan’s electrical systems.

If you’re not confident that you’ll know how to check all of these mechanical elements effectively, it can be a good idea to buy through a used caravan dealership that can check these things for you before they list the caravan for sale. Here at RV Solutions, we have only the best of the best used caravans for sale in our Rockingham store, all serviced, inspected and in full working order by our team of RV specialists before we hand the caravan over to you. 

Interior inspection

Next up you’ll need to take a look at the interior of the caravan. You’ll need to make sure everything is in good condition, and everything is in working order. So you don’t miss a beat, take a look at our checklist of things to look out for:

  • Overall cleanliness and condition—Assess the general cleanliness and condition of the interior, as it can indicate how well the caravan has been maintained.
  • Signs of water damage – Water leaks often leave behind stains, especially on ceiling panels, walls, and around windows or doors. If the floors, walls, or ceiling feel soft or spongy, it’s likely due to water damage.
  • Upholstery and soft furnishings—Check for stains, tears, or excessive wear in upholstery, curtains, and mattresses, which might suggest the need for replacements or indicate underlying issues.
  • Cabinets and storage units—Ensure that all cabinets, drawers, and storage units open and close smoothly and are structurally sound, as they are essential for convenient storage.
  • Appliances—Test all appliances to ensure they are functioning properly; faulty appliances can be expensive to replace or repair.
  • Plumbing system—Check for leaks, proper water flow, and functionality in the kitchen and bathroom areas to ensure the plumbing system is in good working order.
  • Electrical systems—Test all lights and electrical outlets to ensure they are operational, as electrical issues can be challenging to diagnose and fix.
  • Windows and doors—Inspect all windows and doors for proper sealing and locking mechanisms, as they are crucial for security and insulation.
  • Flooring—Look for any signs of damage, warping, or dampness in the flooring, which could indicate water leaks or structural issues.
  • Ceiling and walls—Check for any discolouration, bulging, or dampness that may suggest water damage or leaks.
  • Ventilation systems—Test the functionality and efficiency of the heating, cooling, and ventilation systems to ensure a comfortable environment inside the caravan.
  • Smoke detectors and safety equipment—Verify that smoke detectors and any other safety equipment are present and functioning for your safety.
  • Odours—Be aware of any unusual odours which could indicate mould, mildew, or other hidden problems.
  • Light fixtures and fittings—Ensure that all light fixtures and fittings are intact and functioning, as they contribute to the overall ambience and functionality of the interior.
  • Entertainment systems—If present, test these systems to ensure they are working, as they add value and comfort to your caravanning experience.
  • Bed mechanisms—In caravans with foldable or convertible beds, check the mechanisms for ease of use and stability.
  • Signs of modifications – Check for modifications like couches changed to recliners or beds, as these modifications may impact the structural integrity of the van if not installed correctly. 

Exterior inspection

Finally, take a look around the outside of the caravan. You’ll need to inspect things like the general condition of the paint and body of the caravan, as well as other exterior accessories. Remember to check the following things: 

  • Overall body condition—Examine the caravan’s body for dents, scratches, or rust, as these can indicate previous damage or poor maintenance.
  • Roof and roof seals—Inspect the roof for damage or leaks, and ensure all seals and joints are intact to prevent water ingress.
  • External storage compartments—Check that all external storage compartments open, close, and lock properly, and are in good condition.
  • Lights and reflectors—Ensure all external lights, brake lights, and reflectors are operational and intact for safety and compliance with road regulations.
  • Awning—Test the awning for ease of operation, and inspect for tears, mould, or damage.
  • Gas bottle holders—Examine for rust or damage and ensure they are secure and compliant with safety standards.
  • Jockey wheel and stabilisers—Verify the functionality and condition of the jockey wheel and stabilisers for ease of manoeuvrability and setup.
  • External fittings—Check all vents, covers, and external fittings for damage or blockages, as these are important for ventilation and the operation of appliances.
  • External paint and decals—Look at the condition of the paint and decals for fading or peeling, which can indicate exposure to elements and general age.

At RV Solutions, not only do we guarantee our secondhand caravans are mechanically up to scratch, but we also meticulously go into every other aspect of our caravans, both internal and external, to ensure you’re only hitting the road with the best of the best.

4. Test drive and tow

Caravan Test drive and tow

Make sure your vehicle is capable of towing the caravan you’re interested in. Check the towing capacity of your vehicle and make sure it’s compatible with the weight of the caravan.

Once the exterior and interior inspection is complete, the next step is to take the caravan for a test drive and tow—if you’re buying privately, you’ll need to do this yourself. If you’re going through a used caravan dealership like RV Solutions, a test tow is completed as part of our pre-delivery check. 

If you’re taking the caravan for a test tow yourself, ensure the caravan is securely attached to the tow vehicle and all lights and brakes are working correctly.

Take the caravan for a short drive and check for any rattles, vibrations, or other irregularities that may indicate a problem. Pay attention to the braking performance of the caravan and the tow vehicle, and be mindful of how the caravan handles on corners and inclines.

If possible, try towing the caravan up a hill to test the power and performance of the tow vehicle. Finally, check the brakes and lights again at the end of the test drive and make sure the caravan is securely attached to the tow vehicle.

5. Check paperwork and legalities

Before you make a purchase, it’s important to make sure all the paperwork and legalities are in order. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Check the ownership and registration documents. Make sure the caravan has clear ownership and registration documents. Check for any outstanding debts on the caravan.
  • Check service history. When purchasing a used caravan, look for one with a good service history. A well-maintained caravan should get a service annually, or every 10,000km, whichever happens first. This can give you peace of mind knowing that the caravan has been well-maintained and cared for.

You’re ready to go!

Once you’ve done your research, conducted an inspection and checked all the right paperwork, you’ll be ready to buy your used caravan! Remember to take your time running through our inspection checklist carefully, especially if you’re buying privately, so that you can find the highest-quality caravan to last you years to come. 

Our top tip is to download our free, printable version of the checklist and take it with you to your inspections, so you can be certain you won’t miss a beat. 

If you’d prefer to skip the work and get straight to buying a secondhand caravan you know you can trust and take out on the road safely, give our team a call or check out our available used caravans for sale in Rockingham here.

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