How To Buy A Used Caravan – Private Seller Purchase Checklist


Hi, I’m Chris, I run Horton Common along with my father Robert.

Many of our guests to Horton Common chose to purchase a used caravan, their reasons for that choice vary. Sometimes its because they are new to caravanning and didn’t want to invest too much into a hobby they were not sure they would enjoy. For others its simply a case of being able to get a ‘better bang for their buck’. For instance, some could afford a new small caravan but instead chose to opt for a more premium/larger caravan. Whatever the reasons for choosing to purchase a used caravan you do have to very careful with a private seller. You obviously don’t want to overpay for a used caravan but more importantly, you don’t want to scammed. Therefore this post I will discuss checks (and a link to a checklist) to help you get the best deal on a used caravan.

How To Buy A Used Caravan Via Private Seller
When purchasing any used caravan but especially via a private seller you need to diligently check the condition and facilities of the caravan before agreeing on a deal: Original Image – Autotrader.co.uk

The main purpose of this post, and the checklist referenced below to assist you when purchasing a used caravan from a private seller. When purchasing from a dealer you should receive some sort of 6-12 month faults warranty with the caravan. Obviously, when you are purchasing a caravan from a private seller, there is no warranty and no recourse should something go wrong. So while aspects of how to buy a used caravan and the checklist below are applicable to both private sellers and dealerships, with a private sale you have to do a more thorough inspection of a used inspection.

Introduction on How to Purchase a Used Caravan from a Private Seller

I’ve previously written a post on how to purchase a second-hand caravan. There are some similar topics discussed between these two posts. However, where that post was a general overview of purchasing a caravan from either a dealer or a private seller, this post along with the linked checklist is more focused on purchasing a used caravan from a private seller. As with any private sale as I discuss in my post on motorhome private sales, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Hence, always keep your wits about you. The checklist linked below can definitely help you avoid getting a bad deal or failing for a scam. However, if at any point during the deal you feel uncomfortable because something just doesn’t seem right, be polite, but walk away from the deal. The basis for this post is a checklist produced by YouTuber Dan Trudgian. Below is Dan’s video where he discusses the checklist and briefly discusses each of the 11 sections (125 points) within the checklist.

Click here to open up Dan’s used caravan private seller checklist in a new window.

Below I’ll provide some of my own comments about each of the 11 sections included in the checklist while linking to my other posts which discuss the topics in more detail. I would encourage you to click the link above to Dan’s checklist and read through it. Obviously, when you go to look at a used caravan you should print it out. I suppose you could read the list on your phone, tablet, laptop. However, you will be unable to make quick/accurate notes which you can later review to decide if you want to purchase that used caravan.

The Seller and The Caravans Paper Work

So before you even bother to inspect the caravan itself, your first priority is to check out what documentation comes with the caravan and to ‘test’ the seller. If the individual concerned really does own the caravan, they should at least have some specific knowledge about it. First, ask to see the CRiS document for the caravan. CRiS stands for Central Registration & Identification Scheme. All caravans manufactured after 1992 were automatically registered. Check the numbers on the CRiS certificate match the CRiS sticker on the caravan. Then check that the private seller’s name is on the CRiS document and ask to see their drivers licence/passport for confirmation. You can also check the CRiS number and caravan details on the CRiS website.

Used Caravan CRiS Check
If you click the image above the CRiS Check page will load in a new window.

Then ask the private seller for the service history documentation for the caravan. Best practice is for caravans to be serviced annually. Now, the seller may not have service history details and they may state they have been servicing the caravan themselves. I know several of our guests that do service their own caravans. However, when it comes to a sale it means two things. First, as the potential buyer, you are taking on additional risk. Secondly, the seller must reasonably expect to receive a lower sales price on the caravan as a result of the questionable servicing standards. The caravan may have been serviced to a professional standard, but there is simply no evidence to prove that. For instance, improper fitment/adjustment/maintenance of the caravan brakes can obviously have serious consequences.

Finally, ask the seller to provide the manuals for the heating system, water system and fridge etc. Having access to these manuals will make it much quicker for you to address any potential issues in the future as you will have a quick reference for the specific model number of the appliance. However, I would never describe missing manuals as a ‘deal-breaker’, just more of an annoyance than anything else. In saying that, if the seller has no manuals at all that would immediately make me suspicious. Ask them to show you how the hot water system controls work as a tester.

Used Caravan Body Work Inspection

When it comes to the bodywork bear in mind its a ‘used’ caravan. Hence, you have to be realistic when evaluating its condition. Small dints/scratches should be expected. However, as Dan states in the video above, small window scratches can be fairly easily removed. What you really want to focus on is any significant dents and cracks you can see in the GRP bodywork. This also applies to the windows, where cracks can sometimes occur. Check around the joints of the caravan bodywork for movement/cracks. Pay particular attention to the awning rail which can be an issue for a potential leak point into the caravan. If you notice any specific area of concern make a note of it. When you go into the caravan with a damp meter check that area internally for signs of damp.

Caravan Window Scratch Remover

Don’t get too concerned with light window scratches. A quick bit of DIY with an appropriate product you should be able to remove them: Image – Amazon

Used Caravan Wheels and Tyres

The condition and pressure of the tyres on a used caravan are very important considerations which must be checked. Caravan tyres should be less than five years old. Dan shows in the video above how to interpret the four numbers after DOT to find out the age of the tyres. However, even if the tyres are under 5 years old you still need to inspect for tyre wall cracking or potential flat spots from the tyres sitting idle for a long time. If the condition of the tyres is not to a safe standard you should bring that to the attention of the private seller. Explain you would have to change the tyres before the caravan could be towed. Hence, the cost of those replacement tyres should be reflected in the agreed price with the private seller. Depending on whether its a single or twin axle caravan the cost to replace the tyres will obviously vary.

Tyre Tread Depth Gauge

Its obviously a good idea to check the tread depth is legal (above 1.6mm). However, its more often the case that caravan tyres are no longer fit for use due to their age (over 5 years) and the condition of the tyre sidewall (cracks): Image – Amazon

If you do end up agreeing on a deal and the tyres are in good condition its also important they are inflated to the correct pressure. Caravan tyres are inflated to a much higher pressure than car tyres, and you will need a tyre pressure gauge that can read up to 100PSI. Once you own the caravan you may want to consider tyre pressure monitoring for additional safety and tyre savers to maintain the condition of the tyres.

The Caravans Lights, Leisure Battery and Gas Bottles

As Dan discusses in the video above, checking that the caravans lights all work properly is essential. To do this you will need to hitch up the caravan. At the same time, you will be able to evaluate the condition of the stabiliser hitch and jockey wheel. Check the caravan has a breakaway cable and that its in good condition. Its illegal to tow a caravan without a properly fitted breakaway cable. To check the gas system (heating/cooker/hob) you will need access to a gas bottle. Prior to your visit to inspect the caravan ring the seller to ask if a gas bottle (with gas in it) is present. If not, take a bottle with you. I have a post on how to change a gas bottle. You can then test each of the gas-based appliances as Dan states in the video above. You want to see a blue flame, a yellow flame indicates poor combustion and an issue the gas system. There are reported issues with caravan gas regulators which may be the cause of poor combustion if present.

Pigtail Gas Hose

Caravan pigtail gas hoses to connect the bottle to the regulator don’t last forever, however the cost to replace them is very low: Image – Amazon

Whether the caravan comes with a leisure battery or not should not be a ‘deal-breaker’. However, it will be another additional cost you will incur before the caravan is properly fit for use. The cost of a leisure battery varies significantly based on its capacity and technology. I have a comprehensive post on the best leisure batteries to suit different scenarios/requirements.

Checking For Damp in a Used Caravan

Above when checking the exterior of the caravan I stated you should make a note of any areas of the bodywork which may be a potential source of water ingress. Now, inside the caravan, you want to inspect that area for damp with a particular focus, while generally checking for damp around the rest of the caravan. As Dan states in the video above, a ‘musky’ smell can be a sign that the caravan is suffering from damp. Visual signs should be looked for such as staining on the walls. However, when spending thousands on a used caravan you should be investing at least a small amount of money into a damp meter. My post on caravan damp meters explains how to interpret the moisture percentage results to determine if there likely is a damp issue.

Damp Meter

Personally, I think its vital to have at least some type of moisture meter available for damp testing when looking to purchase a used caravan: Image – Amazon

You’ll also want to check the upholstery for stains etc, but also check the condition of the foam. Overtime upholstery foam can lose its support/bounce and hence become pretty uncomfortable. It can be replaced, however again that’s an additional cost to be aware of.

Checking the Caravans 230V Electrics and Accessories

To be able to check the 230V electrical system in the caravan you are going to need two things. Obviously a source of mains power and an adapter. I discuss this in more detail in my post how to connect up a caravan to a houses electrical supply. You will want to check the caravans lights work on both 12V and 230V power. Then go around the caravan checking all the other appliances such as the microwave and fridge. If something fails to turn on, before determining its a fault with the appliance check the fuse box and inspect the applicable blade fuse.

Caravan Mains Power Adapter

You are going to need access to a mains power adapter to check the 230V system/appliances in the used caravan: Image – Amazon

Now its possible the caravan may have some additional accessories such as a solar panel or motor mover. The private seller may be attributing part of the price to these accessories, so you will want to check they actually work. In terms of motor movers on used caravans, well motor mover problems are possible. However, much of the time, a motormover failing to operate properly is the result of an underpowered, undercharged or faulty leisure battery. Also, try and check the condition and operation of the caravan TV aerial and radio if possible.

Caravan Security Devices, Alarm and Tracker

Depending on the age of the caravan it may or may not come with an alarm or tracker. However, its more than likely the owner will have fitted some selection of security devices such as a hitch lock, wheel lock, leg locks and maybe an additional door lock. Now, the make/model and type of security devices included with the used caravan (if any) will hold different values. From the sense that not all hitch/wheels locks are rated to same security standards. Before you go to look at the used caravan, talk to some caravan insurance companies and get a quote on the caravan. They may state they will provide additional discounts if specific security devices are fitted. Hence, even if the seller is including a hitch lock/wheel lock as part of the deal, if your insurance company doesnt recognise those particular devices, you may end up having to replace them.

AL-KO Caravan Hitch Lock

If the used caravan comes with a black AL-KO hitch lock that’s good, as its recognised as one of the most secure devices by most insurance companies. However, check the seller has the certificate to prove its not a cheap replica: Image – Amazon

Some caravan insurance companies only provide discounts for fitting the AL-KO wheel lock and the black AL-KO hitch lock shown above. If the used caravan comes with these security devices that’s good. However, you also need the seller to provide you with the registration documents to prove they are authentic AL-KO products and not replicas.

Conclusions on How to Purchase a Used Caravan via Private Sale

The only other quick thing I wanted to reference above but forgot to was regarding the toilet cassette. Now, understandably some people are not comfortable using the cassette of a used caravan. You could obviously thoroughly clean it. Alternatively, there is a ‘fresh up’ replacement toilet cassette which you can get as I discuss in this post. If you have never actually used one before I have a post on how to use a toilet cassette. Again, the reason I wrote this post was to highlight Dans checklist discussed in his video above. If you click the image below then Dan’s checklist will open in a new window.

Used Caravan Pre Purchase Checklist
Click the image above to load Dans used caravan pre-purchase checklist: Image – the-trudgians.com

A couple of final words of caution. Buying a used caravan via private sale can get you the best caravan possible for your money, but it does, even following the checklist carry additional risks over a dealer purchase. Therefore, never presume a private sale is your best option. Find out what dealers are selling the equivalent caravan for. If the price difference is negligible it probably makes far more sense purchasing it from a dealer. Also, I would recommend visiting a dealer first anyway. You can check out the various caravan layouts to work out which one will best suit you.

That’s it, thanks for reading, and don’t forget to check out Dan’s list. I also hope at some point in the near future you consider coming to visit us here at Horton Common caravan site to check out our fully serviced pitches and amazing views. šŸ™‚

Chris - Site Manager

Hi, Iā€™m Chris, along with my father Robert we operate and maintain Horton Common Caravan Site. Located in the Staffordshire Moorlands Horton Common benefits from expansive views over the Peak District National Park. Horton Common features five hard standing fully serviced pitches for caravans and motorhomes.

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