Buying new v used – caravan pros and cons
Just like buying a car, there are advantages and disadvantages to buying new and second-hand when it comes to caravans. There’s far more to this decision than simply how much money you want to spend. Warranties are one factor, depreciation is another. And there are many more…
Buying a used caravan
If you're buying your first caravan, you may be unsure of all of your requirements and how well a particular layout will suit you, until you begin to use it. If you later decide that a different layout would suit you better, it’s a less costly mistake if you have bought used, simply because of the depreciation.
You can trade in your first purchase and choose another used caravan without breaking the bank. Although it’s better not to make a layout mistake at all, it does happen and some people do part-exchange their first caravan quickly for one with a different layout.
The pros of buying a used caravan
- More caravan for your money
- Wider choice of layouts
- Greater choice of brands and dealers
- Often have aftermarket extras fitted
Buying a used caravan means you can get more for your money and you also get a greater choice of layouts as many are no longer available in new ranges.
Many nearly new caravans are in sparkling condition, almost indistinguishable from the day they left the factory, yet are significantly cheaper than a new equivalent.
Just like with new cars, new caravans depreciate quicker the newer they are – and then depreciation slows. Which means, if you buy used, your investment in leisure retains more of its value for longer.
The cons of buying a used caravan
- No, or limited, warranty cover
- The layout might be right but the interior may not be to your taste
- Someone has used the toilet, slept in the bed and used the cooking facilities
- May require more maintenance
- Dated look and equipment
When buying a used caravan, you may have to compromise on your ideal fabric colour or furniture finish to get a model at the right price with the right layout.
Used caravans typically come with a shorter warranty (three months to three years) compared to new caravans.
With used models, make sure the documents match the vehicle and that the caravan is free from finance. Buying from a dealer in this respect is less risky than buying privately, and you get the warranty cover that is absent from private sales.
You should always have a full damp check carried out as well as a habitation service and safety check.
The National Caravan Council (NCC) operates a series of schemes to help – find out more here: thencc.org.uk
If you're looking to buy a caravan and need some expert advice, make sure you check out our 2021 edition of Buying Your First Caravan. Out now, it's packed full of information on caravan types, layouts, practical insight and much more. Buy it here.
For even further reading, you can search our digital content archive. Start searching for the content you're interested in using the search bar below, which give you access to every issue of Caravan magazine since 2013:
Buying a new caravan
The pros of buying a new caravan
- Manufacturer-backed warranty
- The caravan is fitted with the latest tech
- You get a brand-new, unused model
- Made to your specification and tastes
Buying new is attractive for many reasons, not least that the caravan is fitted with the latest technology, including lightweight construction, better security and safety systems and the most modern cooking and bedding systems. You also get a warranty of up to 10 years.
You can take your time and compare caravans before deciding, whereas, if you are buying used, you may have to make up your mind quickly, otherwise the caravan you are considering may be snapped up.
Buying a new caravan means you can specify the model to suit you with the fabric and wood finishes you prefer. You can have extras added by the dealer or sometimes by the manufacturer at the factory.
The cons of buying a new caravan
If you make a mistake and buy a layout that proves not to be ideal, it’s costly to change because of the depreciation.
This is why you need to do your research and create a must-have list. If you’re buying new, look out for previous year’s models, which are still unsold. The best time to do this is in the weeks running up to the October NEC show.
Retailers are especially keen to sell any remaining caravans in the summer, before the new model-year caravans arrive, although discounts can be found at any time of the year.
Even though these caravans are not of the new model year, they are still new which means you get the warranty advantage – and pay less.
Buying a caravan - what you can get for your money
Buying a used caravan
If you are exceptionally lucky you may find a lovely used caravan for £5,000 or less. Although caravans in this price bracket – and that are in really good condition – are rare, they do exist.
Dealers generally only sell the exceptional ones in this price bracket. You may also find one at an auction or for sale privately. But be sure you know what you are doing, make sure it is damp checked and that all the electrics, wheels and tyres, and gas systems are safe.
If you have a budget of £10,000 you may have to search for a while to find something in really good condition for its year. But, be patient and one may come along that is perfect. Remember that second-hand availability peaks over the winter months as people leave the hobby (often to upgrade to a motorhome), or trade their current model in for a new one.
With trade-ins, note that most new caravans are sold at the massive show at the NEC in Birmingham every October. Orders are taken here and deliveries begin the following spring so expect more trade-ins to appear for sale in dealerships during that period. With more stock, some dealers may be open to negotiation.
£10,000 - £15,000
Between £10,000 and £15,000 you have a really good choice and can expect to pick a caravan that suits your requirements and taste fairly quickly.
Upwards of £15,000 there’s the best choice because many caravans are traded in for newer models in their third to fifth year and the resulting part-exchanges make excellent buys. Expect a dealer warranty when spending this much and expect a high-quality model with some aftermarket extras like awnings already fitted.
Buying a new caravan
At-a-glance guide to four examples in four price categories in the 2021 ranges…
Xplore 304 £15,194 – diminutive four-berth
Sprite Alpine 4 £17,995 – fixed bed, light in weight
Bailey Discovery D4-2 £16,599 – two-berth, innovative in style
Bailey Discovery D4-3 £17,399 – three-berth with two lounge-dining areas
Sprite Major 4 SB – £19,850 – four-berth with island bed
Xplore 586 £18,244 – six-berth with an offside dining area
Adria Altea Aire £19,695 – two-berth with a U-shaped lounge
Bailey Phoenix+ 642 £19,999 – four-berth with rear washroom
Bailey Pegasus Grande Messina £24,999 – 8ft wide with a rear bedroom
Swift Challenger 580 £24,710 – island bed, rear full-width shower room
Elddis Affinity 574 £24,444 – with twin beds in a rear bedroom
Coachman Laser Xcel 875 £36,465 – 8ft wide with a rear shower room and double bed
Buccaneer Bermuda £36,194 – with a rear bedroom and L-shaped lounge
Swift Elegance Grande 835 £34,905 – 8ft wide with a rear bedroom
Coachman Laser 650 £32,205 – with a separate rear bedroom