Choosing a Caravan: Try Before You Buy!

If you’re considering buying a caravan, before you get all “Homes and Gardens” and start thinking about fabrics, furniture and kitchen items, there are several practical matters that you need to address.
At BCH Camping we know a thing or two about caravanning so we can offer guidance about the functional elements of your purchase, and once those boxes are ticked we can help you with the fun items you will need to set up your home from home.
Here are our hot tips for buying your caravan that will set you up for years of carefree travelling.
Have caravan will travel?
Yes, if your car is big enough and you’re licensed to tow! If you’re not planning on upgrading your towing vehicle, your choice of caravan may be limited by its towing capacity.
Here’s a quick way of testing if your vehicle has what it takes to tow the caravan of your dreams:

  • Divide your car’s kerb weight (found in your handbook) by 100
  • Multiply that figure by 85
  • The result is your “85% recommendation”, which is the maximum weight of caravan you can comfortably tow
  • Check this against your car’s Towing Limit (again, in your handbook) which you must stay within
  • Finally, check your driving license to make sure there are no limits to towing
We have a comprehensive range of towing products on the BCH Camping website to help you get from A to B, including cables, mirrors, jockey wheels, plugs and hitch locks.
Make sure your caravan is roadworthy
This may seem obvious, but when choosing a second-hand caravan particularly, you need to be sure that it complies to the National Caravan Council (NCC) standard. Most caravans sold in the UK will carry the NCC badge. If your caravan of interest doesn’t, you will need to carry out the necessary checks to ensure that it does comply to its specified standards including safety aspects such as gas installations, water systems, emergency exits and tyre specifications.
Don’t forget the damp test!
One of the reasons we would suggest that you only buy a caravan that you have personally inspected, and not one through an online auction, is because your nose could be the best judge of whether the caravan is worthy of your commitment and affection. At the slightest mould-test-twitch, check the caravan carefully for damp.
Any stains and discoloured areas – particularly inside the roof locker areas – could indicate that there is an inherent problem with the bodyshell which will rack up costs in repairs.
When you’re not using your caravan, where will you store it?
This may affect your decision on the length of caravan – you don’t want it to overlap onto the pavement if your driveway can’t accommodate it.
caravan storage guide
If you would ideally like to squeeze it into your garage, there are options available. Folding caravans or pop-tops could suit your needs. They have a lower profile on the road which makes them more stable and fuel-efficient to tow.
Careful consideration needs to be given to where the caravan will be stored if not at home during the winter months. Make sure you have this organised before you sign on the dotted line.
Caravan layout – try it out for size
Don’t be shy about making your caravan shopping a family day out! Take everyone who will normally be sleeping in it to establish which layout works for you. You should also take a tape measure, pen and paper. Pretend to eat, sleep, relax – you won’t get arrested! Then you must stick by your guns and only go for the caravan that gives you the size and layout of accommodation you need. When else will you have the opportunity to choose aesthetics and comfort over “location, location, location”?
caravan layout
If the number of people who travel with you varies from trip to trip, and it’s usually just for you and your significant other, but sometimes grandchildren or young adults will join you, you may not need to go to the expense of a 3 or 4 berth caravan. Instead, look into maybe a 2 berth, and whether an awning could give you the extra space you need on an ad-hoc basis.
Some caravans have fixed beds while others have beds that can be converted into seating. Make sure that any fixed beds are big enough for the intended occupants and that you have enough lounge seating. If you decide to go for convertible beds, you need to have the physical capacity to change them into seating if this would need to be done regularly.
Washrooms and campsite facilities
If you’re an adventurous soul who is happy to use the campsite facilities for washing, you could save space in your caravan by not having a shower room. If you do decide you need a shower room, check it is big enough to use – they’re usually very “compact” and not suitable for everyone.
You should also remember that if you do want the luxury of a shower room, you will need to carry all water to and from your caravan so again, make sure you have the physical capacity to do that.
Eating in or dining out?
The kitchen facilities and dining area you require will depend on whether you intend to cook meals in your caravan, or mostly eat out. A full cooker with a large oven adds to the weight of your caravan and takes up space, when in fact it may be unnecessary. A microwave can often cover most essential cooking, or you may prefer to use a camping stove outside of the caravan to feel like you’re at one with your surroundings.
Awnings make great dining rooms if you’d rather prioritise having more relaxed seating inside the caravan for use during the evenings. You can use fold away tables and chairs, which can be taken outdoors in good weather.
caravan awning read our guide 

Don’t settle just because it’s a good price
Make sure you love the specification, furnishings, colours, layout, storage and size. Whilst paying the right price is important, your caravan should be your oasis of calm; your happy place. You don’t want to be sitting in it, wishing you could change it, having to console yourself that at least you’ve got enough money left to go to the pub! This is an important investment, make sure it’s the right one.
Accessories and picnics
Now that all the serious stuff is done, you can go wild adding accessories, furnishings and kitchen products (you see, we got there in the end!). BCH Camping also stock a wide range of caravan bathroom products, water equipment and caravan care products.
If we can offer you any further advice on the purchase of a caravan, please do get in touch, we’d be happy to help. Likewise, if you have any of your own tips you’d like to share, or would like to comment on this article, we’d love to hear from you.