Buying a Caravan at a Show: A Guide
Buying at a show can be a bewildering experience because the amount of choice is vast. Our guide will help you cut through the confusion, to pick the perfect new caravan for you
The opportunities for buying a caravan at a show are enormous. There are two shows a year at the NEC; a show September near Hull; plus eight other Caravan Magazine shows.
The number of caravans bought at shows is vast. It proves that many find these events the perfect hunting ground for their ideal buy. At the two NEC shows and the Lawns, in particular, many manufacturers display their entire ranges. For some of the big manufacturers, that means up to 40 models. So how do you find the right model to suit you?
We’ve given a lot of thought to this, and have come up with a plan for getting a good caravan. It's a guide to making the best use of your time at a show, in a very methodical way. It will prevent you becoming confused by the vast number of caravans to compare on price and layout.
TIP: A Great Show App to Keep Organised
Keeping all this information organised can be hard at a show.
But, there is a free app called 'Google Keep' which will help you keep notes including photos and voice recordings for each caravan on your list. It is easy to use. It synchronises with the online version of the app so you can go through it in detail when you get home on your computer or while at the show. Download it here.
1. Define your time at a show
If you only plan to spend one day there, you need to plan that day hour-by-hour to make the best use of your time. Set yourself targets: get your choice down to three or four by lunchtime, take a break and discuss it. Then go back and see the models on your shortlist again. By 4 pm you should be good to make a confident choice.
2. Define your shortlist
Before buying a caravan at a show, compile a shortlist of models which interest you from the websites of manufacturers who will be at the show.
That’s about how many berths you will need, the most weight (MTPLM) for which your car is suitable, and how much you want to spend. Those three key factors will immediately enable you to draw up a list of suitable caravans before you go to a show.
But you could have 20 caravans on your list, all on paper with figures which suit you. So how do you start to filter them?
We compiled our own photo reference guide so that we could sit down later and assess all the info we had gathered. It’s a five-image plan for each caravan.
3. A five-image plan for buying a caravan at a show
1. The exterior, with the name and model number showing.
That’s your basic first memory jogger.
2 .The information panels on the exterior of the caravan.
The information panels give you essential figures, such as the weight, the price and the caravan's equipment. And, very often, also a diagram of the layout, too.
The information panels also display any particular show offers to add value to your buy or reduce its cost. It’s these show offers that form the second biggest single reason for buying a caravan at a show. The first reason is, of course, is the vast number of caravans under one roof.
You may find some caravans come with a motor mover. Or an awning, That’s £1000-worth of added value (depending on the mover and the awning, of course). Put another way, if you intended to buy an awning or a motor mover, that’s a significant saving on your budget.
3. A picture looking down the caravan from the front to the rear.
This picture will show the kitchen, the bed arrangements and it will be a clear reminder about the number of cabinets. And, so the amount of storage.
4. A picture looking from the rear of the caravan towards the lounge.
The shot will show the fabric scheme. That’s a significant influencing factor in making sure the caravan you buy matches your taste, your weight needs and budget. Your caravan is your home-from-home holiday accommodation, so you have to feel at home in it!
5. Pictures of specifics that are important to you.
The amount of kitchen surface, or the quantity of wardrobe space. Or the place where you store the table (making it easy or less easy to get in and out for use).
You will now have your personal guide to refining your buy. Take a break, go for lunch and study your photos. You may have gathered brochures, too. But there’s nothing like details you’ve compiled yourself to polarise your thoughts.
Remember, brochures have one aim: to sell that caravan. Your photos will reflect what you are looking for, in detail.
4. Dealer Specials
There’s an extra twist to your choice. That’s the vast number of dealer special edition versions of standard caravans. They have additional equipment and unique fabrics to enhance the character of the caravan.
Assuming you’ve decided that a particular standard model is the one for you, the next step is to seek out any dealer special editions.
The dealer specials are often more expensive than the regular caravan. But the value of the extras will be greater than the difference between the price of the standard caravan and the special edition.
Dealer specials represent excellent value – they’re well worth considering.
5. The Deal
Representatives of dealers from all corners of Britain are on manufacturer’s stands. They compete hard for your business. You can shop around at a show; finding out which dealers will give you the best deal. That’s about how much money changes hands, of course, rather than the price of any given caravan.
How much discount for no part exchange? How much does a dealer value your part-exchanging caravan? Are there any extras on offer? A leisure battery, caravan step or Aquaroll, for example. These may vary from dealer to dealer.
If you want to buy on price alone, that’s fine. But there is a further consideration for getting a good deal.
To keep up your caravan’s warranty, you must have it serviced every year. During its warranty period, that means taking it to a dealer who sells that brand of a caravan.
What if the best deal is from a dealer 300 miles away? Will you travel there every year to have it serviced? A great excuse for an extra break. But are you sure you want to take on that commitment?
Beware: if you buy a caravan from a distant dealer, you might find that a dealer closer to home can’t or won't service it for you. They will often give preference to their customers.
They will only want your service business if they have workshop time for caravans they haven’t sold. There are exceptions, of course. And these will usually be larger dealers with larger workshop capacity. Check before you go ahead with buying a caravan at a show.
Comparing the Deals
Now that you know how to look for the right deal, you might find our free comparison list to download and print off. Use it is your shortlist to note down the details of each caravan and compare. We've included four tables, one for each caravan. If you need more, just print off more pages.
Download the free list to help you with buying a caravan at a show here:'Show Buying Guide & Comparison List'.