When it comes to buying a new caravan or trailer, you have really only one option, and that is to go to a dealer.
But in the second-hand market, you also have the option of a private sale. With websites such as Gumtree, OLX, and even Facebook becoming more and more popular with sellers of used caravans and trailers, there has been a marked increase in units being sold directly between interested parties, with no dealers involved.
For many people, especially first-timers, buying a used caravan seems the most practical and cost-efficient option. Yes, there are many “bargains” to be found in private sales, but unless you are a seasoned caravanner or know exactly what to look for when buying secondhand, you could be making a deal that’s going to leave you stranded on the side of the road.
For instance, Stefan Potgieter told us on Facebook how he bought his first caravan in a private deal, but added, ‘It was full of leaks and wood rot… I fixed it and sold it again. I learnt my lesson, and the second one I bought had no problems, but then I knew what to look for!’
And while there are many reports of happy private-deal customers, there are also people who have experienced similar issues to Stefan’s.
Anslin April tells us, ‘I have bought four caravans privately. The third one I inspected properly, but during our first camp it rained and the water poured in at the extrusion rail… right onto my mother-in-law (whom I love). I sold it again.’
There is an Afrikaans saying “goedkoop is duurkoop”, and this could not have been more true for John Lourens, who says, ‘I bought an Exclusive in the Cape… and three weeks later I had to fix R19 000 in wood rot.
‘Take the caravan for an inspection [at a dealer] before you pay the money. ‘If you’ve made the deal, you sit with the problem.’
Perhaps some of the best comments on the “dealer vs private sale” issue came from Romeo Pretorius, the co-owner of All Outdoors, who says, ‘If you know exactly what to look for, buy private.
‘Otherwise, rather buy from a dealer where you will get a warranty. With the insanely high prices that some private sellers ask for caravans, you could just as well buy from a dealer and be sure there is nothing wrong with the van.
‘On a daily basis, I see people who bought in private sales bring in their caravan for a small problem… then I have to show them the big problems.’
The important thing is that when you know what to look for, you can get a bargain in a private deal, as has been the case for Kitta Coleman, who says, ‘We have bought eight caravans directly from the seller, and we’ve never had regrets and everything was fine. You just have to look and feel that everything is in order. We only pay once we have done the inspection.’
Of course, when it comes to private deals there are also some straight-up scams going around. For instance, what Jaco Jordaan warned members of the KAMP-MAL Facebook group, “Please be careful. There is a person who calls himself Werner, he advertises a 2013 Sprite Swift for R90 000 [on Facebook], the ad is also on OLX. When you phone him he drops the price to R85 000, but you have to pay the deposit immediately because there are apparently 50 other people interested. When you tell him you want to come look at the caravan, he puts the phone down in your ear.”
The issues arising from a private sale are also not new, despite the internet making these deals a lot easier. Caravan & Outdoor Life spoke with Allan Vos from Kennis Caravans & Motorhomes in Roodepoort. Allan has been in the caravan business for over three decades, and here he shares some of the knowledge and wisdom he has picked up over the years.