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9 things you need to know before buying a classic caravan

antique caravan
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Nostalgia is big business and that’s certainly true in the caravan community. But buying a caravan from a bygone era is no straight-forward process. We look at nine things you need to know before you buy.

1. If you’re really serious about buying a classic caravan, join a club or go to an event

Caravan forums also attract dedicated vanners, who will only be too pleased to help you with enquiries. They’ll give you the lowdown on buying classic and antique caravans, and may even put you in touch with reputable sellers.

2. You’re not only buying a classic caravan but also a labour of love

Do you know what you’re getting yourself into? With a modern, secondhand caravan, you can pretty much couple it with your tow vehicle and drive away. But with almost any classic or antique caravan, you’re going to have to perform some restorative work on it before you really start using it. Chances are you are buying it to restore.

3. They can be full of mystery

If you’ve ever had experience with buying classic cars you’ll know that a sketchy history of chicken wire and bog may be concealed beneath its shiny Duco. And when renovating old houses, fixing one problem only uncovers other, sometimes bigger problems. When buying a classic caravan the same is true. That’s not to say all sellers are trying to pull a shifty, but you just don’t know what’s waiting under a panel of an antique caravan before you lift it up.

4. Water is no friend

No matter how good a condition it’s in, any classic caravan should be closely inspected for water damage, including rot and rust. Regardless of construction – whether it’s ply, aluminium or fiberglass – water damage is one of the most common issues affecting old caravans. Pull up panels and inspect the seams, overlapping panels and door and window frames – anywhere water can sit or enter.

5. When DIY isn’t good enough

Unless you’re a seasoned pro, there are limits to your abilities and workshop capabilities. Know when you need to hand over to the professionals. Tasks, such as mending aluminium cladding, repairing electricals, significant work and modifications to the running gear, and cabinetry, are examples of jobs that may require professional help.

6. You’re going to need spares

When you’re working on a caravan ‘project’, you may need to replace common components, such as wheel bearings, 12V wiring, fittings, brake components and accessories, such as the jockey wheel.

7. They’re not always legal

Just because the seller says it’s ‘legal’ that’s no reason to assume it is so. You can be fined for towing a caravan that isn’t road-worthy and if you end up in strife it could affect your insurance. If you’re not looking for a total project get it inspected before buying it.

8. Check the chassis

From the drawbar to the taillights, check for heavy, structural rust. Check wheels and tyres – the latter of which are a good indicator of the condition of the trailer and how much use it has had.

9. You’re about to get cooler

Classic caravans are talking points. You’ll raise eyebrows for all the right reasons when you pull in at a caravan park. Laymen and vintage enthusiasts alike will have questions for you. And everyone will want to see inside out of sheer curiosity.

Classic and antique caravans are a labour of love and only serious vanners will be able to live with them. But despite the downsides, owning one is a rewarding experience.

See what spares and accessories are available for your classic caravan.

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