Although we haven’t purchased a caravan, we have been exploring this as an option. We currently have a Mazda Bongo campervan and love the freedom it brings.
A caravan or motorhome would be even more freeing and when it’s time to say goodbye to our beloved Bongo (who is now over 26 years old), we will likely pick a caravan or motorhome for the extra freedom they provide when it comes to travel.
Are you also thinking of purchasing a caravan for the first time? Read on for things to consider when buying a caravan for the first time to help you make the right caravan choice.
Firstly, is a caravan or motorhome better?
There are definitely pros and cons to both and it depends what will suit your lifestyle and needs.
Motorhomes can be more appealing than needing to tow a caravan, but they are generally more expensive than a caravan. They can also lack in living space as the driving cabin takes up space. They’re not ideal for sightseeing each day as you have to pack away all your belongings each time you go anywhere. If you have a large family then there might not be space to seat you all whilst driving in which case a caravan is better suited for family holidays.
Caravans which you tow behind your car can be cheaper than motorhomes and you might already have a car, so it seems the more obvious option. If you’d like to save some money, then definitely look for some deals. A used one is a good option as well, as many people tend to sell for a lower price than the dealerships. Did you know that new vehicles typically depreciate 20% the moment you drive them off the lot? So you can immediately save that 20% if you opt for a used one. Consider some sale offers before you buy it.
Caravans do need towing though and this isn’t appealing to everyone. They are not easy to go wild camping in as they need space and manoeuvrability to park. So if you plan to explore national parks and wild camp where possible then a motorhome might be better.
Motorhomes are a better option for full-time van living as with a solar panel and the right services, you can live off grid for long periods of time.
However, do you like regularly exploring and going off driving to different day trips from the campsites you stay at? Then a caravan that you tow with your car might be better suited. That means you can leave your caravan all set up at the campsite and easily nip to different locations in your car for day trips.
There are pros and cons for both. You really need to work out how you plan to use your caravan or motorhome for your lifestyle to work out which is the best option for your travels.
Can you tow a caravan with your car?
However, you will need to make sure you are able to tow a caravan. You need to check your car’s handbook to see the maximum weight you are allowed to tow. You can also use this towing tool on the Gov website to see what your driving licence and type of car allows you to legally tow.
You may need to check more than just this though as some vehicles don’t have a towing capacity at all. For example, we own a Mazda Bongo and it’s a really grey area to whether you can legally tow with it. It’s a Japanese import and they don’t weigh them for towing as they don’t have a culture of caravanning.
Does your insurance cover you towing a caravan?
On that note, as well as being able to legally tow a caravan based on your driving licence and the car you own, you also need to ensure you have the proper insurance.
You don’t legally have to buy separate caravan insurance, as it should be covered by your car insurance. However, it will only be protected third party and not if it’s damaged or stolen, so it’s advisable to get an adequate insurance to protect your investment and stop you being out of pocket. It can be very costly to repair or replace an entire caravan!
Some car insurers might specifically not include third party cover for caravans so you need to check with your current car insurance to see if it is an extra cover you need to add.
If you opt for a motorhome then obviously this will need legally insuring as it is one entire vehicle. You can easily compare your motorhome insurance with The Insurers to see the costs you’d be looking at.
Know the rules when towing a caravan
Here are some of the rules for towing:
- In built up areas the maximum speed limit is 30mph when towing a caravan, 50mph on a single carriageway and 60mph on a dual carriageway or motorway.
- Tow bars need to meet ‘type approved’ EU regulations.
- Caravans weighing more than 750kg need to be fitted with their own braking system.
- The caravan must be fitted with a number plate that matches the car towing it.
- If you’ve fitted a tow bar to your car then you may need to let your car insurer know as it could be classed as a modification.
- If your caravan is wider than your vehicle then you need to fit towing wing mirrors.
- Never carry passengers in a caravan whilst driving.
- Pull over if traffic builds up behind you where you are legally obliged to drive slower than the speed limit.
- It is illegal to tow a caravan on the outside lane of a 3+ lane motorway unless instructed to do so such as in the event of an accident or lane blockage.
Whether you opt for a towed caravan or a motorhome, driving is going to be a little different to driving a car. You now have a much larger footprint.
When towing you need to stick to the legal speed limits for towing for a start.
You have much longer vehicles so you need to make an allowance for this when turning corners. Take your time and take it slow.
Lots to think about when buying a caravan
When choosing a caravan there is a lot to think about. You need to know if it’s the right choice for your needs, learn the legalities and ensure you are appropriately covered in the event of an accident.