Buying a caravan - What to look out for?

smyluk Forumite Posts: 11
10 Posts
edited 7 August at 9:42AM in Motoring

Hello! We are in the process of moving house and are considering breaking the chain by moving into a caravan on my parents farm as low cost temporary accommodation. We were wanting to purchase a caravan for future holidays, so it seems like a sensible option for the house move and this purchase to go hand in hand.

We have found Bailey Pageant for sale which my wife has fallen for. However, before commuting to the purchase, as a non-caravan owner I am hoping someone can point me in the direction of what to look out for. This caravan is almost 15 years old so I am fully aware it will need some work, but I don’t want to be gutting the entire thing and it turning out to be a money pit.

What are the common problems and issues with actual caravans around this age?


  • Goudy
    Goudy Forumite Posts: 1,184
    Fifth Anniversary 1,000 Posts
    Damp is a caravan killer.
    Most other things can be put right fairly cheaply but if they are too damp, it's a major problem.

    There are caravan damp/moisture meters that can test for damp and around 15% is pretty normal.
    Anything above 20 or 25% and there is water ingress somewhere.
    30% upwards and it's needs a complete stripdown.
  • Adamhoward20
    Adamhoward20 Forumite Posts: 24
    10 Posts Second Anniversary

    We had a Bailey for about 5 years whilst the kids grew up. Will be great for family holidays if you have young ones too!

    When we brought ours, we discovered some damp issues in the walls. We paid a caravan engineer to rectify it, but it was due to a leak around one of the windows. I don’t think the previous owners had noticed, and a few years of a small drip had caused the walls to badly rot. This was a while ago but I think the works set us back around £700 including parts and labour. It would be worth checking to see if there is any moisture around the windows (you can get a tester from Amazon). If there is, you could use this as a point for some money off. You could probably replace the window seals and wooden structure yourself to save some £££. It is a fairly straight forward process and the actual seals aren’t particular expensive. Probably about £40 per window from someone like Seals Direct,

    On the subject of seals, it will be worth checking the others around the doors, lockers etc if you’re going to be living in this over winter. Depending on your budget, you may want to keep some money aside to replace these too. There is a fairly good list at which explains the different types.

    Other than that, the Caravan Club have a great and very detailed list. Spend an hour reading through compile a list of questions for the seller.

    Definitely run the serial number through someone like TheftCheck too. You don’t want to find your new home is actually stolen vehicle!

  • Rodders53
    Rodders53 Forumite Posts: 1,949
    Part of the Furniture 1,000 Posts Name Dropper Photogenic
    That era of Bailey is traditional construction wood frame and plywood inner wall panels.  (2008 Series 6)

    Baileys innovative AluTech construction started in 2009 with their Pegasus range, so the only wood is in the floor on Baileys since that time...  so on those the floor in front lockers and around wheel arches are the known 'weak points', rear corners too.

    Tyres need replacing at 5-7 years old, including the underslung spare.  Look for manufacture date markings on the sidewalls.  Tyres aren't always cheap due to the load index needed due to the caravan Mass (weight).

    Gas flexi pipe every 5 years... unless stainless steel type (?10 years?). 
    Gas regulator often bulkhead mounted is every 10.
    LPG Gas cylinders:  You'll need Propane (red usually) for winter use NOT Butane (blue).  They are in short supply so not easy to get.  Try to get two thrown in with purchase.

    Leisure battery:  Bailey chargers are poorer than some other caravan marques, being fixed 13.8V float (other use smart chargers) but OK if used wisely.

    Smoke and CO alarms dates should be checked, but are cheap enough and VITAL items in a caravan.

    If it hasn't got a service history/receipts and damp reports consider getting a mobile caravan service tech to do a buyers report on it before committing.  That will check gas and electric safety as well as damp and tyres.  Then a full service on the running gear (brakes etc.,.)

    Ensure your towcar has sufficient 'grunt' to pull the chosen caravan's MTPLM and is within the vehicles towing capacity. 
    Don't forget the towing mirrors.
  • knightstyle
    knightstyle Forumite Posts: 6,905
    Part of the Furniture 1,000 Posts
    Excellent reply by Rodders53.   You can check the age of the tyres by looking at the code 
    • Check the sidewall for the letters DOT.
    • Next to this, there’ll be a 4 digit number code.
    • The first pair of numbers is the week of manufacture.
    • The second pair of numbers is the year of manufacture.

    For example, 0720 means the 7th week of 2020.

    Tyres manufactured after 2000 have a 4 digit code. If you see a 3 digit code, this means they were made before 2000 and should be replaced immediately.

    We have had several Bailey caravans and they are good value and we have never had damp problems.  Have a look to see if the caravan has Al-ko ATC fitted this applies the caravan brakes if the caravan starts snaking, essential extra IMO.

    Fridge not working can often be cured by taking it out and turning it upside down overnight before replacing it.   

    Have fun.

  • Ibrahim5
    Ibrahim5 Forumite Posts: 985
    500 Posts Second Anniversary Name Dropper
    I have towed a caravan for years without any snaking problems. You just have to have a well maintained stabilizer. The friction pads on them wear and either need shims inserting or total replacement. It's easy to do but as with most things if you leave it to someone else you might have problems. You check for wear every time you hitch up.
  • Tallcolin
    Tallcolin Forumite Posts: 2
    Fourth Anniversary Combo Breaker First Post
    All the above is excellent advice. Damp, check electrics/gas/water hookup, nose wheel condition, towing lights and the trailer brake. I’d be surprised if you can get an engineer to visit in the middle of the season, but would be worth asking around. Re towing, confirm which type of connection it has, and whether your car has the same type (can get cheap adapters from 13 to 7 pin and vice versa). Getting a number plate made up can be awkward so consider an online “show plates only” place that will make it to legal standards, and take some tough double sided pads. 
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