Over the last couple of years, I have noticed a few more of our guests turn up with new 8ft wide caravans. Before 2017, if you were interested in an 8 foot/feet wide caravan your options were pretty thin on the ground. You could opt for a German caravan such as a Hobby, though there were also 8ft wide caravans produced by Buccaneer (Elddis) and Adria. However, since 2018 pretty much all of the UK mainstream caravan manufacturers are offering 8ft wide caravans including Bailey, Swift and Lunar. There is a lot of debate about whether 8ft wide caravans are suitable for UK roads and are you restricted in terms of the campsites you can visit? Therefore, with this post, I thought I would discuss the topic of 8ft wide caravans and their pros and cons.
If you are looking for reviews on specific 8ft wide caravans that’s not what this post is about. This post is a general overview of the benefits and potential drawbacks of 8ft wide caravans. As a small site owner who can accommodate 8ft caravans, I’m pretty neutral on the subject. I’ve discussed the topic of 8ft wide caravans with our guests a couple of times in the past. From those who own 8ft wide caravans to those who don’t. There can be some pretty strong opinions on the subject. Some concerns are reasonably justified where others can be managed. When it really comes down to it, it will be a personal decision on if the benefit of the additional 6 inches in width outweigh the potential downsides.
Introduction to 8ft Wide Caravans
A ‘standard’ UK caravan has a typical width of 7ft 5 inches, therefore an 8ft caravan is typically 6 inches wider. Now, someone who has no experience with caravans and towing, in general, may be surprised to learn that an extra 6 inches in the width of a caravan can cause a pretty heated debate. They may also presume that anyone who does own/use a caravan would obviously want more space. Well, that’s just not the case when we consider the findings of a poll Caravan Guard did in 2018.
The Caravan Guard poll received input from over 300 participants, with 60% of those participants stating they would not consider an 8ft wide caravan. The reasons given for the opinion against 8ft wide caravans were predominantly concerns over towing a wider caravan long narrow UK roads. However, there were also concerns that service stations and campsites are not set up to accommodate wider caravans. Below I’ll discuss the concerns raised above with regards to 8ft wide caravans from my own perspective and from discussions with our guests.
8ft Wide Caravans on Typical Non-Main UK Roads
I don’t believe that many of those who stated ‘no’ in the poll referenced above were concerned about towing an 8ft wide caravan on wide/main roads. Their concerns were likely focused on the last couple of miles either getting to/from a campsite or if they store their caravan on their driveway at home. Many non-main UK roads and even some main roads can be pretty narrow. However, to make matters worse parking at the side of the road is a common sight on UK roads. Therefore, negotiating around parked vehicles on a narrow road with a caravan in tow can be stressful. There can be instances where you have only a few inches either side of a ‘standard’ caravan. Therefore, while adding 6 inches in width may seem insignificant, in some cases it may make the difference between continuing forward or having to reverse the caravan.
The General Condition of UK Non-Main Roads
If a poll was conducted to ask caravanners if they feel the condition of UK roads is improving or deteriorating there would be no prizes for predicting the outcome. I think it can generally be acknowledged that a severe lack of investment in ‘proper’ road repairs for potholes and roadsides is a reality. In rural locations where many campsites are located, I believe part of the issues is larger/heavier tractors along with poor quality road repairs.
Now, the generally poor condition of UK back roads and B roads is obviously an issue for all caravans, whether they are 7ft 5 inches wide or 8ft wide. However, with an 8ft wide caravan, you may have less of an option to avoid that pothole. Furthermore, if the roadside has deteriorated and been broken away more often with an 8ft wide caravan you will have to venture ‘off-road’ with those nearside wheels. Not to mention the increased risk of window scatches brushing up against a hedge to get through.
I’ve written previously about why its not a good idea to blindly ‘trust’ caravan satnav units. Within that post, I discuss how you can design your own custom route and upload it to pretty much any SatNav or smartphone. If you are considering an 8ft wide caravan I would even more strongly encourage you to consider that approach.
Driveway and Campsite Access with an 8ft Wide Caravan
As caravaners ourselves when we designed Horton Common, the width of the entrance was a key priority. We only ever really visit small CS and CL sites, and with many of them, the width of the access and the turn in angle leaves much to be desired. Some people within the Caravan Guard poll had expressed concerns with regards to campsite access widths.
With larger campsites and club sites the width of the entrance should not be an issue. If I designed Horton Common so a 20-tonne gravel wagon can access the site, I’m pretty sure every large club site has aswell. However, with smaller campsites access/turn in on the entrance may be a bit tight. Hence, if you do opt for an 8ft wide caravan checking out details of the entrance width within the owner is not a bad idea.
Storage of an 8ft Wide Caravan
Whether you keep your caravan at home or at a caravan storage yard before you purchase an 8ft wide caravan you need to check that the additional width is not going to be an issue. When storing an 8ft wide caravan at home do you have sufficient space to position the caravan and still get around it for cleaning and maintenance? Personally, where we store our caravan between our garage and greenhouse those extra 6 inches with an 8ft caravan would cause us problems. While the caravan its self would fit we would no longer be able to open the door to actually enter the caravan.
The Benefits with 8ft Wide Caravans
Now, after reading my comments above it may sound like I’m a bit downbeat on the concept of 8ft caravans. Some people who completed the Caravan Gaurd survey commented that 8ft caravans should even be banned! I don’t agree that 8ft caravans should be banned. As long as the owner is aware of the potential drawbacks the choice of an 8ft caravan should be available. After all, lots of other 8ft wide vehicles currently use UK roads. Obviously, bear in mind within an 8ft wide caravan you are going to have to set up your towing mirrors a little differently to see behind the caravan. Besides just being generally bigger, there are some specific benefits with an 8ft caravan over a narrower 7ft 5inch caravan when it comes to living space and layouts.
8ft Caravan Sleeping Arrangement Benefits
Just to point out the obvious, those additional 6 inches mean its easier to use the caravan living space and manoeuvre around the furniture and other people. For instance, at the seating area/dining table, you have more legroom. Furthermore, with an 8-foot caravan, squeezing past your partner while they’re cooking a meal in the kitchen is easier (and safer). However, personally I think the real benefit of 8-foot caravans is when it comes to the sleeping arrangements. Now, if all of your family members are below 6 feet tall this is not an issue you may have personally experienced. However, for those who are, sometimes sleeping in a caravan isn’t that comfortable. Those extra 6 inches in width with an 8ft caravan can open up more practical and comfortable layout options.
The Popular Transverse Island Bed Layout
For instance, as I’ve discussed in my post on caravan layouts, I’ve noticed the transverse island bed becoming a popular option with our guests. Often in combination with a rear washroom, the transverse island bed is a popular layout with both couples and families. Well, those additional 6 inches in width with an 8ft caravan can make this layout even more practical. The additional width will make it even easier to walk past the island bed to access the rear washroom.
Conclusions on 8ft Wide Caravans
While the current general feedback from the caravanning community is an aversion to 8ft caravans, as more 8ft caravans become available and the layout benefits become apparent more people may ‘come on board’. However, there are general concerns and fears about towing an 8ft wide caravan on narrow UK roads which are often not in great condition. I personally feel these are legitimate concerns. For me, the topic of 8ft caravans should be treated along the lines of campervans vs caravans. There is no right or wrong choice, there are simply different preferences and circumstances. For instance, if you prefer to use campsites with seasonal pitches I think the benefits of an 8ft wide caravan outweigh the drawbacks with the short period of time commuting. However, if you commute around to lots of different locations in your caravan and you already find access to campsites etc an issue, choosing an 8ft caravan is probably not for you.
I hope you found this post interesting/useful. Some of our guests who now own 8ft caravans were apprehensive before their purchase. However, they have told me they quickly adapted to the wider caravan. Therefore, before you instantly discount an 8ft wide caravan I believe you should consider where and how you are going to use it. However, I think a caravan beginner may be better off starting with a smaller/narrower 7ft 5-inch wide caravan until their towing skills are more honed. Thanks for reading, and I hope in the near future you consider coming to visit us here at Horton Common caravan site. 🙂