Anyone who has ever purchased a caravan, or is currently considering becoming a caravanner, will know what an emotional rollercoaster it can be.
Firstly, there is something we wish we had known before we bought our caravan and chose our Adria, and that is how much weight we would gain from outdoor dining and how many new friends we would make. In our first year or caravan ownership, from never having a caravan before, we have never had so much fun, felt so much freedom to go away when we want and the opportunity to spend quality time together.
If you are currently considering venturing in to the great unknown of caravanning then hopefully our Adria experience can help you. The best advice is go looking with an idea then prepare to come home with no idea.
Before heading off to look at caravans it’s worthwhile sitting as a family, or couple, and deciding if you want a new or pre-owned caravan and the benefits each of these may have for you. We wanted a new caravan and a full warranty, we felt then we would always know the history of our caravan.
Then you need to have a discussion about what do you want the caravan for, will it be short weekend trips, the occasional weeks holiday, a seasonal pitch or do you intend, like us, to use it for weeks at a time touring all over. This is important because it will give you an idea of the size of caravan you might be better with. Our 8ft wide Adria is fantastic for our long trips, it has great storage and is a home from home. If fun is your thing then the compact Adria Action may be the ideal tiny tourer for you. This compact two berth caravan is ideal for couples wanting quick getaways.
Layouts are very important , initially we thought we wanted a french or side fixed bed but only after looking at several we realised it wouldn’t work for us as the length of the beds were shorter and one of us would have to climb over the other. If you’ve seen Jules you will know my concern. Each layout has its own practicalities and we would suggest you spend time thinking how they will work for you. If you’re a family you need to think about making beds on a night, who will sleep in the front, can you get to the toilet in the night without disturbing the family. Also consider what is important to you, as we were planning extended trips a large fridge was important to us and the Isonzo offered a huge tower fridge and freezer. We also wanted wardrobe space for clothes and that’s what we got. Go to various dealerships and look at the models, its strange but you tend to find you get the feeling when you’ve found the right one, you will know what we mean when you find it.
It’s important to set a budget too, its easy to get drawn in by the more luxurious caravans with lots of extras but are you stretching yourself , don’t forget you will need lots of accessories to get set up, including insurance and storage fees. We added up we spent about £2,000 on top of our caravan purchase, which we shall come to. We were impressed at the value for money Adria offered compared to other manufacturers. So with your budget fixed its always best if you can secure the all important motor-mover in that price. It may be you don’t feel you need one, or aren’t sure what they are, believe me its been the best extra we had fitted to the Adria. We use it for moving the Isonzo on to tight pitches, lining up the wheel for the locks and for levelling the caravan when we need ramps.
Now, you think you’ve found the caravan of your dreams, you know your budget and your excited. Whats the next step, check your tow car will tow the caravan. When we bought our Isonzo we needed to change our car, fortunately it was due to be changed in any case, but you need to ensure that your car has a kerb weight sufficient to match the MTPLM (maximum total plated laden mass) of the caravan. Your caravans MTPLM should not exceed 85% of you cars kerb weight, this is a general advisory rule and is not a legality but it would be sensible to be guided by it. Also make sure you can tow your caravan on your drivers licence, if you passed your test after 1st January 1997 you might need to take a further B+E test to tow.
Dealers will often tell you to buy your caravan at one of the large shows and to be fair the excitement of the buying experience at a show is great fun, but most of these deals can be done at other times with a bit of negotiation. Motor-movers are often included in the show deals.
Once you’re caravan is ordered its time to think practicalities and accessories. You would be wise to insure your caravan, there are various levels of cover but make sure you get adequate cover for you, you will also need security products to protect your caravan from less honest folk who may try take it. Most insurance companies will offer discounts for security devices and also secure storage. Once the boring bits are sorted its time to talk awnings, bedding, barbecues, televisions and all things caravan related. We do have a great vlog on our YouTube channel covering all the things you need to think about purchasing as you start up.
Once the big day arrives you will be so excited you will no doubt forget all your new accessories at home and you head for collection. When we collected our Adria we arrived and had a very good handover by the dealership, they spent a few hours showing us everything, which we quickly forgot in our excitement to hitch up. We went straight off on a weeks holiday to Shrewsbury to try out our new caravan. The best advice on your maiden voyage is hitch up carefully, tow slowly and safely and arrive at the site in one piece, also consider not going to far so anything you forget or if anything happens you are close enough to sort this.
Once you arrive the first set up will probably take you most of the day, it took us four hours to set up and put the awning up. We did wonder how people just “pop away for a weekend “ as we lost most of the day just winding the legs down. Fear not, you will become more proficient with practice an you will learn to enjoy this bit, I promise. So, you’re all set up, everything is away and you realise that most of the other people on the site have had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoons entertainment. Its now that you will realise how enjoyable owning a caravan is, our first holiday we were amazed at how friendly people were and needless to say that has been our experience to date. In the nicer weather its nice to sit out, barbecues are a must and cosy nights watching the TV with a pack of biscuits is obligatory.
Once the first holiday comes to an end you will be sad to pack up, just make sure you put everything away as you put it out, work backwards, do everything you were told and if you get stuck ask for advice. Once you arrive back home the desire to book another trip will be overwhelming so it is advisable to just give in and get something booked. We book our sites months in advance as at peak times many can be full do book in advance for these.
So thats it, our advice to newcomers to caravanning, you will have holidays like never before and we have been overwhelmed at how many new friends we have made in such a short space of time.