Even bought second-hand, caravans involve a significant financial investment. For this reason, and for your own peace of mind, it is important to carefully research each caravan you consider, before making any commitment to buy. Not only could you find yourself buying a stolen caravan, you could lose your money and be left with nothing, or leave yourself open to having money skimmed from your bank account. Make sure your caravanning experience is a positive one by being vigilant and aware of potential scams at all times. Of course, opportunistic fraudsters are bound to keep coming up with new ways to part trusting people and their cash so you will need to keep your eye on the ball and check everything out, particularly if a deal seems too good to be true.

The pros and cons of buying second-hand

  • Second-hand caravans will be cheaper than brand-new models, meaning you may be able to afford a higher spec. Of course, the difference in price may be what makes it possible for you to own your own caravan in the first place.
  • There is no guarantee of knowing the true, full history of a pre-owned vehicle. This is particularly true when buying from a private seller.
  • Buying from a private seller also means you won’t have a warranty to fall back on

Best practise for buying a second-hand caravan

  • No matter where you are planning to buy from, always have a HPI / CRiS check done before committing to a purchase or signing a contract. This will enable you to verify the history of the caravan and verify the owner’s details. It also prevents any nasty surprises, such as outstanding finance.
  • It is generally best to buy from a dealer, as this means you will get a warranty and can be confident in the history and condition of the caravan. It is also far less likely that you will end up with an unsafe van. The available of finance options is another major advantage to buying from a dealership, rather than through a private sale.
  • If you do opt for a private seller, remember to be particularly scrupulous when carrying out your checks
  • Once you buy your new caravan, register it with CRiS immediately as this will make it much easier to recover the van should the thieves target you next

Buying online? Watch out for these scams

Online shopping is quite possibly one of the best inventions of recent years, but it also carries a number of risks. As it is easier for scammers to draw people in when they’re operating in text rather than face to face, you will need to be extra vigilant while checking the authenticity of that bargain. As we mentioned earlier, scammers are constantly coming up with new ideas, but here are some of the most common approaches they tend to use.

  • Advertising a high-spec, top of the range caravan at a bargain price. When the potential buyer calls the seller to enquire further, they are told it is in fantastic condition and, as such, has generated a lot of interest. The seller asks for a deposit to secure the caravan. Need we say that the caravan doesn’t actually exist?
  • The seller of a similarly amazingly priced caravan claims to be out of town and unable to meet up but, handily, the advertising website offers a middle-man service. You receive a very believable invoice bearing the logo of the website… and pay for a caravan that, once more, doesn’t exist. No caravan dealers that buy and sell or similar websites actually offer this service.
  • There are a number of variations on the above two examples, including a seller asking for a Moneygram or Western Union transfer, asking for an up-front payment as they have had enough of time-wasters, selling via eBay and mysteriously deleting the listing once the payment has been made or similar. In short, never hand over money for a caravan you haven’t seen and always remember that things that seem too good to be true probably are!
  • Never follow a link in an email. If a seller asks you to visit a listing on a particular site, always access the site by manually typing the URL into your browser. Don’t leave yourself open to becoming the next victim of a phishing scam.
  • Keep an eye on your bank account at all times. Whether you have made a payment for a caravan online or just shopped online in general, it’s important to be aware of any unrecognised transactions. The sooner you notice the problem, the more chance there is of it being sorted out.

How to identify a stolen caravan

Now that you know that you should always see a caravan in the flesh and meet the seller before parting with any cash, the next step is learning how to spot a stolen caravan. The following tell-tale signs should be enough to have you running a mile:

  • Tampered/damaged CRiS number or none at all
  • Damage to the towing hitch
  • One non-matching wheel, such as one metal wheel on a caravan with three alloys. This could well mean that a wheel was removed or damaged in the haste to get away with their haul.
  • Lack of original documentation or unwillingness to provide a receipt
  • Photos that don’t seem to match – if you’ve never seen a photo of that model with that interior before, check it out. Similarly, mismatched photos can be a sign of an ill-gotten caravan. Sellers will normally take a series of photos in the same location to use for their ads, not a random selection of different locations with a couple of internet stock photos thrown in. It’s not a sure-fire indicator of theft, but it should be enough to have you checking carefully.
  • A description that doesn’t appear to match with the photos and the seller’s story
  • A seller who is reluctant to meet you at their home and instead insists on meeting in a service station or similar location for handover
  • If buying from eBay or another auction site, remember to check for the seller’s history and feedback

Still in doubt?

Step away! No matter how good a bargain that caravan is, it’s not worth losing money or receiving stolen goods for. If you are in any doubt whatsoever as to the origins or specifics of a caravan, do not proceed with the purchase. You will find a caravan that meets your requirements and falls within your budget (as long as you are realistic!), you just need to have patience and take care.

The Good News

There are websites out there, such as Caravan Finder that do an excellent service of selling second hand caravans, not just from dealers but also from private sellers.

Remember that the vast majority of people are decent and honest but there are unfortunately a few bad apples out there. Our intention is not to scare people with this article, but to make you aware of some of the more unscrupulous practices currently happening. The more that people are aware of the pitfalls will hopefully stop these people in the long run as they will not see it as a worthwhile money making scheme.

Have you experienced any problems buying second hand or have any tips? If so why not tell us about them below.

Don't forget that once you've bought your new pride and joy you'll need first class insurance to protect it. Remember that fantastic cover does not need to cost the earth and we think that you'll be very pleasantly surprised at the level of cover that we offer and our prices! Call us on 01480 402460 for a no-obligation quote.

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