A BUYER’S GUIDE TO CARAVANS AND MOTORHOMES
FROM THE CARAVAN & MOTORHOME SHOW 2011 – MANCHESTER CENTRAL 20– 23 JANUARY
Heading off into the exciting world of touring is a real pleasure – but how do you decide what to buy in the first place? This simple guide will help those new to the scene as well as experienced tourers.
Like any major purchase, it’s crucial to gather some information first and work out what you can afford. This will make the browsing and selection process much easier. As well as searching around for good finance deals, consider the finance available through your motorhome or caravan dealer, as they may offer a very competitive rate.
Simon Howard, Marketing Director of Bailey Caravans commented: “The key for anybody looking to purchase a caravan at the show, particularly first time buyers, is to do your homework first. Given the extensive range of products on display at exhibitions like The Caravan and Motorhome Show 2011, it is easy to feel spoilt for choice if you do not have a reasonable idea what you are looking for before you enter the halls.”
With a budget in mind, the next step is to decide what sort of layout best suits your needs by asking yourself a series of questions.
Consider the following:
How many beds and are they a good size?
Do I need a large washroom, or will I use on-site facilities?
Do I need a large hob or oven, or will I be barbecuing/eating out?
How much storage space do I need?
What layout would I prefer, for example if caravanning with children, do I need an area which can be divided off for earlier bedtimes?
Do I want a single or twin axle?
Although it is tempting to head for a particular manufacturer straight away, you may be happier with your final selection if you start with a list of needs and wants and looking at which of the many offerings best meets your requirements.
There are other factors you also need to consider, such as where you will store your caravan or motorhome and if it requires a specific entitlement on your driving licence: If you obtained your driving licence prior to 1997 your normal category B licence allows you to drive a car/caravan combination up to 8.5t combined weight, or to drive a motor caravan up to 7.5t gross vehicle weight. For licences obtained since 1 January 1997 the weight limits reduce to 3.5t for both, and above that a further test is required to obtain a B+E category, or LGV licence.
Representatives from The Camping & Caravanning Club, Practical Caravan, The National Caravan Council and many others, will be on hand at the show to offer a wealth of help and advice with technical requirements such as these.
Pulling Your Weight
Should you be looking at going down the caravan route, one of the most important factors to take into account is what you will be using to take it on holiday. Iain Geddes, The Camping and Caravanning Club’s Senior Technical Advisor explains: “When choosing a caravan make sure your car is capable of towing it. Many dealers use the Towsafe system to guide with matching your vehicle to an appropriate caravan, and The Camping and Caravanning Club also offers this service.” Visitors to the show can benefit from first-hand experience of the Towsafe system on The Camping and Caravanning Club stand.
For those new to the leisure pursuit, many experts recommend sticking to a caravan that weighs no more than 85% of the weight of the towing vehicle. It is also worth checking the vehicle documentation with the manufacturer direct for specific advice on maximum towing weights.
Home From Home
Motorhomes have an equally loyal following as caravans, and with the extra freedom they provide are a popular choice with more adventurous tourists.
James Saint, director of Freeborn Motorhomes offers the following advice: “Well-informed future owners have real potential to become happy owners once they have discussed what they think they need from their motorhome and how matching their aspirations can best be achieved. Shows are a great help as they give lots of ideas. It’s a bit like researching where you want to live and the house you want to live in – it’s just that this house will have wheels attached and will go where you want it to!”
When choosing a motorhome it is important to not only consider the layout and dimensions of your interior space, but also the vehicle that underpins it. There are a huge number of wheelbase lengths, engine and transmission options and power systems, and while it can be tempting to tick all the boxes on the options list, remember that any add-ons also add weight: extra weight means extra fuel consumption, pushing up your running costs.
Know your own Caravan / Motorhome
According to Lea Lawrence, Marketing Manager of Lunar Caravans, The Caravan & Motorhome Show 2011 is undoubtedly one of the best opportunities to maximise the part exchange value and ensure a good deal. Lea commented: “I have met many customers in the past who know they have a Lunar Quasar or a Swift Charisma but not much more.” In her experience, dealers working the show will want to know the following:
What make, model and variant? e.g. “Lunar Quasar 525”, not just Lunar Quasar Model Year
Service history (including stamped up service books and date of last service)
Water ingress – has the caravan been inspected recently? Is there any area of the van with signs of damp?
How many owners has it had?
The general condition of the van (dealers will understand general wear and tear issues)
Is there anything missing? (loose items like Al-Ko Secures, Submersible pumps, handbooks, radio fronts etc)
Is there anything extra? (motor movers, satellite systems etc, all of which can add value to your van)
Lea Lawrence advised: “Be honest with the dealer when discussing your part exchange as most reputable dealers will take an order subject to inspection. Being honest up front as well as ideally bringing some photos will ensure trouble free transactions when the day arrives to pick up your new caravan.”
Advance day tickets for The Caravan and Motorhome Show 2011 at Manchester Central cost just £6.50 compared to £8 on the door, and kids go free! (aged 16 and under). Tickets can be booked online at www.caravanshows.com or on the ticket hotline number 0844 209 7351.