A caravan or motorhome is a wonderful way to holiday. It’s a simple life, away from the hustle and bustle that consumes most of our lives on a daily basis. It’s a time to get closer to nature, put your bare feet on the soft grass and light a braai fire. That’s all good and well if you have a caravan, but what are the hurdles if you are a first time buyer?
The good news for buyers is the second hand caravan and motorhome market is always very buoyant. Caravans and motorhomes hold their value incredibly well and tend to last a long time. A quick look at what’s for sale presently shows caravans and motorhomes that are 30 years old right up to one or two year old and demo units. Caravan dealers can’t get enough second hand units to support the demand, and as used caravans and motorhomes are traded in, it is not long before they are sold and leave the showroom floor. This is great news for the South African market and for sellers who can realise excellent prices for their second hand units.
But… as the buyer, you still need to do your due diligence to ensure your purchase is as good as advertised. Here are some critical tips you need to consider when purchasing a used caravan or motorhome.
What should you watch out for when spending your hard-earned cash on the caravan of your dreams?
Purchasing a caravan is usually a dream come true for the buyer. Often the long and wonderful journey into the outdoors starts off with camping in tents, then upgrading to trailers, trailer tents and finally ending up deciding that the time is right to purchase a caravan or motorhome. Sounds simple right? Hold your horses! To get the very best bang for your buck and enjoy a hassle-free caravan purchase, read on to arm yourself with all the best buying advice.
In a recent letter received from one of our subscribers, it detailed a caravan purchase that by all accounts went horribly wrong and has still not reached complete resolution. In light of this, let’s have a look at a few of the pros and cons associated with caravan purchasing to ensure your next transaction is plain sailing.
Where should you buy your caravan?
The first point of call, when buying a new or late model used caravan, is to find a reputable dealer in your area. Having a dealer located near you makes servicing, repairs and parts purchases a whole lot easier. Dealers that have been in business for a long time have clearly weathered the storm and in most cases are here to stay, whereas smaller dealers may not have the backing to sustain themselves in times of economic drought, such as those experienced during the Covid lockdown. If the dealer you are purchasing from is not in your geographical area, it makes it increasingly more difficult to have a snag list attended to after delivery.
What should you look for in a dealer?
Each particular caravan purchaser has different wants and needs. For this reason it is wise to choose a dealer that has a variety of model and brand options. In South Africa many caravan dealers are multi-franchises and offer a selection of different brands and used stock. This makes it a lot easier for the purchaser to find the perfect fit caravan when comparing various brands on the same showroom floor.
What recourse does the buyer have?
In most cases, the caravan dealer will take some form of deposit to secure the new or pre-owned caravan for the purchaser. In the case of a used caravan purchase, the buyer will alert the dealer to any defects that need attention prior to delivery. At delivery, the purchaser will check the caravan to ensure the defects have been sorted out to his satisfaction and then the balance of the payment, either a cash transfer or bank finance documents will be signed. An offer to purchase is initially filled out, with notation of the defects that need repair, to secure the particular caravan for the purchaser. It is often easier to get defects repaired through the larger manufacturers as they have more to lose and don’t want their names dragged through the mud. Recourse from private sellers can be much more problematic.
Deposits: yes or no?
We at Caravan & Outdoor Life understand that deposits are paid to either secure a caravan or to be used as a down payment on a custom build. We do not suggest the full amount ever be paid up front for a caravan build. Money held back on a new, custom caravan build or used caravan offers leverage to the purchaser if the caravan is not delivered in the condition promised by the manufacturer or private seller.
Do the necessary checks
- Do a Facebook check of the manufacturer
- Check Hello Peter for negative reviews
- Check Google customer reviews
- Speak to others that have purchased similar products
- Have a look at the manufacturer’s website
Website clues you can use
The dealer’s website is a great way of assessing the company’s willingness to promote and spend money on their brands. Remember that customers often don’t have the time to visit dealerships in search of their dream caravan but will rather spend time online narrowing down their search before making the trip to the dealer. If possible, though not imperative, it is advised to purchase your caravan or motorhome from a dealer in your area. This way, you know the dealership through the purchase and you have a home base for yearly check ups and servicing. Most dealerships also have a parts and accessories department and if you’re anything like us you’ll often have G.A.S and find yourself loading up on accessories, braai stuff and the plethora of must-haves found in these kinds of shops. By the way, G.A.S is the acronym for “Gear Acquisition Syndrome” and not what Aunty Bessie has after a second helping of Uncle Pietie’s bean curry.
Dealership staff must do their duty
What was your reception like at the dealership? Was the salesperson friendly and knowledgeable about their caravans? Do they have a full service and parts department? Are they willing to attend to any noticeable defects? Is there a warranty period? Remember to notate any defects that need attention prior to delivery on the offer to purchase to avoid any problems down the line.
Private purchases can be problematic
Buying a caravan privately has its own long list of pitfalls. Firstly, you, the buyer, need to check the caravan out for any defects. If the seller offers to repair any defects, these can be done prior to money changing hands. Another thing to bear in mind is that there are lots of scammers out there who are happy to take your securing deposit for a private caravan sale and then they disappear into the night.
No registration papers means no sale!
Does the caravan have registration papers and is it registered in the seller’s name? A caravan that has no registration papers could well be stolen. Without registration documentation, the caravan can never be transferred into your name. Don’t get caught! If the registration papers for a used caravan are not in the seller’s name, this should be a major red flag as it is incredibly difficult to get hold of previous owners. For all you know, the original owner (the owner’s name and ID number is reflected on the registration document) might have left this earthly plane for greener campsites.
If you as the buyer know someone that is in the caravan industry, it is advisable to get their input if you are purchasing privately. Ask them to assess the caravan, even paying a small inspection fee to ensure your purchase is a good one. Remember, there is little or no recourse when buying privately. Simply, you need to be very careful when buying privately. To avoid a disappointing caravan purchase, it is possible through the various checks set out above to easily find a dealer that offers great product, excellent pre-purchase service as well as premium after-sales service.