Buying a caravan: How far would you travel for a bargain?
You've found a bargain online. It's the perfect caravan, with significant savings.
But, is it worth the risk of travelling a long way? What if you arrive and the caravan is not what you thought it would be?
Buying a caravan a long way from where you live has pitfalls.
Is there a way to reduce the risks of buying a caravan that's not as good as it sounds?
Keen tourer and Caravan Magazine contributor, Rod Farrendon, wanted to sell his 'much-loved' Bailey and wanted a caravan with more space and an island bed.
Online Rod found his 'dream caravan'. The van was £4,000 cheaper than anything he could find locally. But, the eight-foot wide caravan was over 100 miles away from his home.
Rod found a 7ft 6" wide Swift Conqueror 645 at his local dealer. The Swift had more space and an island bed layout. And the caravan had a £2,800 discount on it. Rod and his wife liked the fixed island bed layout. (An island makes it more comfortable at night. You don't have to crawl over one another to get out of bed to get to the loo).
Would the promised £4000 savings on the eight-foot wide caravan outweigh the risks involved?
Use caution when buying a caravan
From experience, Rod recommends being cautious when purchasing a new caravan.
Take your time. If necessary, visit the caravan over a few days. Make sure the layout works for you. Then, check reviews and forums to find opinions on your new caravan.
Rod and his wife made their final decision while away for a week with friends.
To get the best price for their Bailey, they'd decided to sell it privately. One evening, in their caravan with friends, Rod announced they were going to buy a new caravan.
"I'll buy it!" their friend exclaimed.
Their friend's wish galvanised their decision. Rod went to the dealer's website on his phone. He showed their friend the caravan they'd decided to buy only to find it had sold!
He searched the internet for another Conqueror 645. All offered discounts and seemed to be selling fast. He found one at a dealership, in North Yorkshire, for £4,000 below its list price. But it was 250 miles away.
That's a long drive, but could it be worth it?
Buying from a distance: the pitfalls
There are pitfalls when purchasing from a dealership that is a long way from home.
Many dealers are happy to service your new caravan, even if you bought it elsewhere. Why?
- There is a good profit margin in a service charge.
The warranty work costs, however, are dictated by manufacturers. They expect dealers to have made a reasonable profit from the initial sale. Manufacturers expect dealers to do any warranty work at cost or with a small profit.
You can't blame them. A dealer who has not made any profit from the original sale is unlikely to want to fill their workshop with unprofitable work. What does this mean? You'll have to travel to the dealership where you bought the van. That might be a long way.
It's one of the potential pitfalls of buying at a show. The dealer you buy from at the show might be nowhere near where you live.
Rod, on the other hand, is happy to take the risk of saving more than £4,000. He's confident enough to do most remedial work that some caravanners might expect a dealer to do under warranty.
This might include adding a missing sealant on the shower tray or tightening loose screws – the sort of basic defect that can be found on any van.
How handy are you?
Be honest. Could you do minor remedial work on your caravan? Working on your caravan rather than paying a professional saves you money if you do it correctly. It will save you time too. Towing your caravan to a distant dealer eats into your original savings. And it takes up your time.
You might have to take your caravan back to the original dealer for any significant work, however.
One approach to distance-buying is to turn your collection trip into a mini-break. Spend a couple of days at a site near the selling retailer. That way any minor issues can be sorted out before you tow home.
Back to the search
Rod eventually stumbled upon their new caravan. It had a similar price to the one in North Yorkshire. But it was only 108 miles away at Pedleys Caravans & Leisure in Coventry.
After a phone call, a bit of negotiation with salesman, Andy, Rod struck a deal. He was going to save a whopping £4,335 on the list price.
A bonus was that this caravan was not an ex-demonstrator. It had not suffered from hundreds of people testing the seats or bouncing on the fixed bed. There would be no wear and tear from several years of normal caravanning either.
Rod paid a deposit over the phone and made arrangements to collect the van.
On the collection day, he arrived to a warm welcome and a hot cup of coffee. The sales team looked after him well.
With the paperwork done, a technician made sure he didn't find any of the sawdust that usually lurks under seats and in the corners of new vans. Then someone else did the handover. Rod paid particular attention to the instructions and using the Swift Command system.
With the new Conqueror 645 securely hitched to the back of his Jeep, a final check of the systems and a wave from the Pedleys team, he left, driving home to Monmouthshire.
Reaching the M50 Rod's hands-free phone rang.
It was Mrs Farrendon asking how far away he was, and "How does it tow?".
He told her he'd forgotten what a dream it was to tow a twin-axle van.
There are pros and cons when buying from a dealership a long way from home. Whether you see a deal on the internet or are offered a tempting price at one of the shows, take your time and weigh up the odds.
Is it worth the seemingly fantastic savings? Rod thought it was worth it. Before you buy a caravan at a dealer a long way from home ask yourself these questions:
- Can I do simple repairs on my caravan?
- How far away is the dealership from my home?
- Are the savings enough to justify long journeys to and from the dealership?
Answer these questions, and you can decide if the savings are worth it or not.
To find your ideal caravan, visit our Caravans for sale section!