An in-depth guide to Shakespeare’s county, Warwickshire, home to premium leisure-vehicle dealership, Raymond James Caravans

caravan dealer warwick


We always recommend staying close to your caravan dealership for your first night or two in a new van. That way, if you have any questions or issues, the experts are on-hand to provide the solutions.


This regional guide will also help you have a memorable day when you take your caravan for its annual service at RJC. Drop your van off and go see the sights.
Read on, to discover the best historic and modern-day attractions in Raymond James’ county – Warwickshire.


caravan dealer warwick



It may surprise you, but Raymond James Caravans’ head honcho, Bill Chilver, ISN’T the most famous William to ever have worked in

these parts! 


A certain well-known scribbler, by the name of Shakespeare, also called wonderful Warwickshire his home, and it’s his legacy that makes the leafy region such a fantastic place to spend a day or two in your caravan.

Read on, to learn our favourite attractions, for anyone spending time in the county.



caravan dealers warwick - raymond james


Warwick is a beautiful and ancient town that boasts one of the world’s finest castles at its heart.


Park in the Pay & Display at St Nicholas’ Park (CV34 4QY) where the maximum charge is up to £7 for the day (card and RingGo app only). There is a 2.1-metre height barrier.
St Nicholas’ Park, with its thatched café, is a great place to ease yourself into the day with a coffee or breakfast. 


It’s a treasure trove of perfectly-manicured lawns and sweeping pathways, interspersed with mature trees and formal flowerbeds. It sits right on the bank of the gently-flowing River Avon, and is perfectly placed for a picnic later in the day. 


The café is open all year, and there’s crazy golf, tennis, a skate park, paddling pool and a funfair – so it’s perfect for kids. 

Visitors can also hire canoes, kayaks or pedalos and ‘navigate’ a couple of hundred metres down the Avon, to take in the vast majesty of the castle’s defences. 


Boats are available from 10am to 5:30pm, every day of the week in June, July and August, and on weekends in March, April, May and September. It’s worth planning ahead… call 01926 494 743 or check online at warwickboats.co.uk.

For details of St Nicholas Park, visit warwickdc.gov.uk.

One iconic view of the Castle is from the A425 Banbury Road bridge over the River Avon, right next to the Park. From here you can frame the impressive fort between huge trees.


Next, walk the short distance into the town centre, keeping your eyes peeled for the amazing architecture and details that are all around. These include magnificent St Mary’s Church, the intricate stone archway on Castle Hill and the façade of the Tourist Information Office with its ornate detailing. 


However, you’ll need to walk the length of Jury Street and the High Street (not that far in reality) to see the very best architecture outside the castle. The Lord Leycester Hospital, a timber-framed, medieval building at 60 High Street, is no longer a hospital, but its charmingly wonky exterior is packed with 900 years of history. 


Expect entry costs to be around £10 for adults when it reopens in Summer 2023, though it’s possible to download a 20% discount voucher from the website.

caravan sales warwickThe building was a chapel from 1126, before a Guildhall was added. Later, in 1571, it became a hospital for wounded and aged soldiers. 


In 1617, the Great Hall held a feast to celebrate the visit of King James I to Warwick. It must have been the mother of all parties… it took the town 10 years to pay off the bill! 

When it reopens in Summer 2023, after a major refurbishment, the Lord Leycester gardens will be open all year (c.£3 entry) and there’s also a lovely café in the medieval surroundings.

Those fascinated by the history can pay from £11 for a guided walking tour, or save some money by downloading the free ‘Warwick Town of Treasures’ app, and take a self-guided tour of the hospital and town. 


I would consider taking headphones along, as Warwick is a busy town and, I would say, slightly spoiled by all the traffic! Also, remember to download the app beforehand, when you have a strong wifi signal. 


The app is excellent, and will enhance any visit to the town. It even includes a guided tour of St Mary’s Church, along with a fascinating ‘walk through history’ in between the two locations. 


All this history will make you hungry, and Jack’s Shack in Jury Street is a good tip for refuelling. It offers an excellent range of cakes, snacks and beverages. It’s a fun spot, and its refreshments are great.  


Warwick Castle


William the Conqueror built Warwick Castle in 1068, although it took another 100 years before it was constructed using stone. 


This incredible fort has a history worthy of a season of Game of Thrones, and there’s barely a decade when it wasn’t at the centre of some drama; from civil war and sieges, to murder, torture and mayhem. The gory details are revealed in all their bloody excessiveness, when you take a Castle day-trip (£34 for aged 3+).

There’s also a range of live shows within the castle walls each day. These include wizards, falconry, jousting and archery, plus a giant working trebuchet catapult. 

Meanwhile, the Castle’s Dungeon reveals why it was sensible to toe the line back in medieval times. 


The endless tales of grisly ways to die might appeal to those with an appetite for the gruesome endings! The dungeon, of course, is extremely popular and costs a £8 supplementary fee.

The Castle itself is quite astonishing. On the outside there are the towers, ramparts and 64 acres of stunning gardens; while, inside, the Great Hall and staterooms are sensational. 


There’s plenty to keep kids engaged, too. See if they can escape from the Horrible Histories’ Maze, then find a seat at the War of the Roses Live Arena.


There’s enough at the Castle to keep you enthralled for a full-day, so perhaps take a picnic and save a few bob as you soak up all that history.



British Motor Museum 


This expansive automotive museum is located right next door to Jaguar Land Rover’s HQ at Gaydon (CV35 0BJ).

Admission costs £14.50 for adults, £12.50 for concessions and £9 for kids; but there’s enough here to keep you entertained for at least half a day. Inside, you’ll find hundreds of unforgettable British automobiles, commercial vehicles and motorcycles.

It helps if you’re aged over 45, and can recall the heyday of British car manufacturing in the 50s, 60s and 70s. All those cars you were driven in, or you coveted, in your childhood and teens are on display.


Car enthusiasts will be hit with a tsunami of amazing memories – many involving broken fan belts, steaming radiators and hard shoulders!

Every British automobile your youth is likely to be on display along with many historic motors from racetrack and TV screen.  


The British Motor Museum was expanded a few years back and now has an additional annex crammed with fascinating meta, including F1 cars and some one-off concept road cars. 





William Shakespeare’s legacy has made Stratford a huge tourist trap, but it’s still unmissable, especially if you head there slightly out of season. Park in the Windsor Street Shoppers Car Park (21 Windsor St, CV37 6N), as it’s both cheap and very close to the town centre.


From there, the first stop must be the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and its environs. Here, you’ll find the River Avon with its boat hire and tourist cruises from the Marina, Bancroft Gardens, sculptures and room for kids to play. Plus, just over a footbridge is the lovely Stratford Butterfly Farm.

I can recommend the nearby Pen & Parchment pub for coffee or lunch. You’ll find it on Bridge Foot Road, next to the Tourist Information Office. It offers a wide choice, excellent value and decent quality. There’s, free WiFi, too.


In addition to the RSC, there are five main Shakespeare-focused attractions around the town. These are: Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Shakespeare’s New Place, Shakespeare’s birthplace, Mary Arden’s Farm and Hall’s Croft. 

Shakespeare addicts will want to see all five, but the less fervent can happily make do with two or three. A 12-month, Shakespeare’s-Story Ticket for three destinations costs £25 for an adult, £12.50 for a child and £20 for concessions. 


Meanwhile, tickets for each attraction cost £20, £10 and £16 respectively, so, if you’re planning to visit more than one, it makes sense to buy the Shakespeare’s-Story option. You can always pop back within 12 months to see the remaining properties. (shakespeare.org.uk)



William Shakespeare was born in Stratford in April 1564. His parents were wealthy and the house where he was born still exists in Henley Street, next-door to the Shakespeare Gift Shop and close by the Shakespeare Centre. His father, John, was mayor of Stratford, so William attended the local grammar school.


In 1601, John Shakespeare died, so William, as the eldest son, inherited the house. It was passed down through the family for two centuries, before the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust bought it in 1847.


Aged 18, William married Anne Hathaway and the couple had three children, but, soon after, he moved to London to pursue his writing career. Within a few years he gained both fame and fortune, with many of his most famous works being written from 1589 to 1613.

It’s believed that Shakespeare retired back to Stratford shortly before his 50th birthday. It was here that he died, three years later. By then he had created over 39 plays and 154 sonnets.



Shakespeare’s birthplace is an impressive and elegant house on Henley Street. Close by, at 22 Chapel Street, is Shakespeare’s New Place, the house it’s believed he retired to. The latter is an intriguing interpretation of William’s life, featuring wonderful gardens filled with sculptures.


While in town, consider visiting the amazing Mechanical Art & Design Museum, at 4-5 Henley Street (which is just 100m from Shakespeare’s Birthplace). 


This excellent museum is packed with engaging attractions for grown-ups and children, all of whom will love the collection of weird and wonderful machines on display. It’s Steam Punk meets Scrapheap Challenge… a delight for anyone who loves their engineering delivered in a fun way!

M.A.D is perfect for kids who love their STEM subjects at school, while adults will appreciate the design and sculptural beauty of these mind-boggling machines. 

MADmission is £8.80 for adults, £7 for concessions and £6 for 6-15 year olds. Under 6s go free, while a 2+2 family ticket costs £25.



Mary Arden’s Farm and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage are located in beautiful countryside just outside Stratford. 


You could walk the mile to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage (CV37 9HH), but tit’s easy to park if you decide to drive. 


This is where William romanced his wife to be, and it’s a picture-perfect setting, especially the sensational gardens. 

Anne was born here in 1556 and her descendants lived in the house until 1911! The cute cottage has nine acres of gardens, orchards and woodland, making it a lovely place to chill-out on a sunny day. Maybe, take a picnic and enjoy all that this divine cottage has to offer. 

Further out of town (CV37 9UN), is Mary Arden’s Farm, the childhood home of William’s mother. This is a working Tudor-age farm that delivers all the sights, sounds and pungent smells of a 16th-century small-holding! 

Bad odours aside, period-costumed staff carry out the daily tasks you’d have seen on a Tudor farm. Energetic visitors can also partake in some duck-herding and archery.
There’s plenty to keep kids engaged, too. As well as a large adventure playground, there are butterflies, nature trails, a falconry display and opportunities to ‘Meet the Farm Animals’.








Both historic attractions are fascinating and photogenic.



Where to stay

Stay very near Raymond James Caravans on the lovely Lime Tree campsite at Ratcliffe Culey. It’s just 2.3 miles from the dealership.

Lime Tree Caravan Park


Main Road, Ratcliffe Culey, Atherstone CV93PD
Open All year

Price £23 (£21 for seven nights or more)

T 07891 145467

W limetreecaravanpark.co.uk/

This small, family-run caravan site has flat pitches, along with toilets and showers. There’s a pub nearby, and the lovely spacious pitches make it easy for novice caravanners to get set up. The 16A electric hook up is the cherry on the comfy-camping cake!


Or explore the region, basing yourself at one of these recommended sites.


Harbury Fields Caravan Park

Harbury Fields Farm, Middle Road, Harbury CV33 9JN
Open Until late-November (27 November in 2023)
Price from £18 in high season

T 01926 612457

W harburyfields.co.uk

This stunning campsite has 58 flat, hardstanding pitches, set in lush, rolling countryside. It’s located 15 minutes from Leamington Spa and Warwick, making it perfect for visiting the county’s many attractions. All the pitches are spacious, with full-service pitches also available. The facilities are clean and modern, plus there’s a cosy reception with seats. 


Warwick Racecourse CAMC Site

Hampton St, Warwick CV34 6HN
Open Early March to early-January (to 3 Jan 2024 this year)
Price from £17.40

T 01926 495448

W camc.com

This idyllic tree-lined site is ideally-located for some Shakespeare-based action!

It has 56 pitches, 31 of which are hardstanding. The facilities are Club-class, though it is open to non-members, too.  It’s perfect for lovers of dogs, walking and cycling… or all three! Located close (but not too close) to the M40, it’s a pleasant 15-minute walk into Warwick town. Alternatively, meander down to the Grand Union Canal at picturesque Hatton Locks.


Other Attractions


The National Motorcycle Museum

Coventry Road, Bickenhall, Solihull

T 01675 443311

W nationalmotorcyclemuseum.co.uk


Kenilworth Castle

Castle Green, Kenilworth CV8 1NG

T 03370 3331181

W english-heritage.org.uk


Royal Leamington Spa

Court Street Car Park CV31 2BB

W royal-leamington-spa.co.uk


Charlecote Park

Charlecote, Warwick CV35 9ER

T 01789 470277

W nationaltrust.org.uk


• warwickshirewalkingtours.co.uk
• britishmotormuseum.co.uk
• themadmuseum.co.uk

  • shakespeare.org.uk
  • warwick-castle.com
    • visitwarwick.co.uk
  • lordleycester.com
    • royal-leamington-spa.co.uk
    • butterflyfarm.co.uk (Stratford Butterfly Farm)
    • hattonworld.com (Hatton Country World)
    • tudorworld.com (Tudor World)
  • Google – Jephson Gardens, Leamington Spa
    • thenec.co.uk (National Exhibition Centre)

The author

John Sootheran is a seasoned caravan and motorhome journalist who previously edited Caravan magazine, and now writes for Britain’s best-selling caravan magazine, Practical Caravan, along with Practical Motorhome and the Camping & Caravanning Club magazines. He also works with a number of major caravanning brands.




We explore the best heating systems on the market for today’s modern tourers 

There’s nothing quite as cosy as a warm and comfy caravan interior on a windy and wet winter day. Shut the door, whack up the heating, close the blinds, and cuddle up on the sofa to read or watch a movie. It is the absolute definition of ‘hygge’.

In this article we’re exploring the different heating systems in caravans, how they work, and their pros and cons.


Stay warm in your caravan


Modern caravans are designed to retain their heat when ‌outside temperatures plunge. These days there are two types of heating system to choose from to keep you warm:

  • Blown-air space heating: essentially, a giant hair drier blowing warm air through outlet vents around the van. 
  • And, radiator-based hot-water systems, a bit like your domestic central heating.


heaters for caravans uk




Truma, Whale, and Alde currently make the most popular caravan heating systems. Typically, these generate ‌4-6kW of heat using gas, electricity (when on hook-up), or a combination of the two.

All three manufacturers produce combination heaters that are designed to heat the caravan and your hot water in one unit. 


heaters for caravans uk



The heaters are controlled from a central panel, which, in modern caravans has a touch-sensitive LED display. In older caravans, the heating system was normally composed of one unit situated close to the centre of the caravan. This unit had an air vent that released hot air and a control panel on the front. Caravan heaters of this design were very popular until about 20 years ago. If your caravan still has one, you should make sure it is serviced each year from a safety and effectiveness point of view.

Spares may be difficult to source, but a reputable caravan salvage business, like spares experts, KTG Caravans, could be a good option.

Oil-filled radiators are a popular choice for caravanners seeking efficient heating solutions, especially for those who prefer oil filled heaters for their consistent heat distribution.

Electric heaters are often favoured for their energy efficiency, making them a cost-effective option for caravan owners. Heaters with an electric heating element are known for their quick heating capabilities and durability.

Heaters designed for small spaces are ideal for caravans, as they provide sufficient warmth without occupying too much room, providing a comfortable living environment even in the most compact areas.

Heaters with a 2000 watts capacity are suitable for those who need a powerful heating solution for larger caravans or colder climates.

An adjustable thermostat is a key feature in caravan heaters, allowing users to precisely regulate the temperature to suit their personal comfort level, providing efficient energy usage and enhanced comfort during their travels.


Blown-air heating


best caravan heater

Blown-air heating systems are a popular and efficient way to keep caravans warm and cosy during chilly weather. These systems work by blowing warm air throughout the living space. 

Blown-air heating systems consist of a heating unit, usually powered by gas and/or electricity. And a network of ducting and vents that distribute the warm air around the various rooms in the caravan. 

The heating unit warms the air. The system then blows the air using a fan into the ducts. It then releases it into different areas of the caravan through these strategically-placed vents.

The aim is to spread the warming effect evenly around the caravan. This makes sure that every part of it is heated, thereby preventing cold spots.  

All the ducting is hidden behind and under furniture or boxed-in, and the small vents can be opened and closed according to your needs.

It has to be said that some users report that blown-air heating can create an uneven spread of heat throughout their tourer, with hot and cold spots. I have never noticed this, but those who feel the cold more just might. 


What is true, is that blown-air systems warm a caravan faster than the wet, Alde-style radiator heating. Mind you, both will transform a cold caravan interior into a warm and comfy place to be within an hour. 

So, a well-designed duct and vent system should make sure that heat is fairly evenly distributed. But check where the outlets are before you buy your next caravan. For example, is there an outlet in the washroom.

Blown-air systems can use gas or electricity, so you can choose which is best for you.

Often, ‌maximum heating output is achieved by using both gas and electric at the same time. Blown-air heaters come with thermostatic controls, enabling precise temperature adjustment and providing a comfortable living environment.

Blown-air systems are compact and lightweight, and much simpler than wet heating systems, which require pipework, reservoirs, and radiators. Blown-air heating is also ideal for caravans where space is at a premium.

These systems can help reduce condensation in the caravan by maintaining a steady and comfortable temperature.

The fans inside blown-air systems can sometimes be heard inside the van and may be particularly audible at night when you’re in the front, make-up double-bed above the heater.

To counter that, noise, heaters are available, which mount on the underside of the caravan, and are protected from the elements by robust casings.

Brands that create blown-air heating systems are: Truma, Whale, Propex, Webasto and Eberspächer, with the first two being the most common in the UK.

The Kampa Diddy Portable Heater is a popular choice among caravan enthusiasts for its compact size and efficiency.


Wet/Alde Heating Systems

heater for caravan




These heaters work like traditional domestic central heating, with a gas and/or electric boiler at the heart of the system. 

The hot water it produces is pumped around the caravan through pipes and radiators, which diffuse the heat around the interior. The radiators are tucked behind the sofa ba230v230V electricity.  Warm feet, happy caravanner!

A Summary – The best caravan heaters


The best choice of caravan heater depends on your requirements, but there are plenty of great options to choose from.

Caravan owners can choose between various heating technologies, including fan heaters for rapid heat distribution and convector heaters for a more uniform heating experience.

Many modern caravan heaters offer multiple heat settings, enabling users to easily achieve their desired temperature.

Look for features like a carry handle for easy transportation and precise temperature control for optimal comfort.

Stick to the big brands and you won’t go far wrong with a 4kW or 6kW heater. The more people you tour with, the larger your van, and if you tour all year, the more likely it is that the bigger 6kW versions are for you.

They’ll heat hot water more quickly and warm your living space more effectively, too. However, if you tour as a couple in summer, a 4kW model should be just fine.

Again, the choice of energy source depends on your needs, but there are gas, electric, and even diesel models (mainly for camper vans) out there. If you tour on hook-up, using mains electricity is probably cheapest, while off-gridders will rely solely on gas.

When selecting a caravan heater, it’s crucial to consider safety features such as overheat protection and tip-over safety mechanisms.

When it comes to blown-air versus wet radiator systems, again, the choice is yours. Both perform admirably, with Alde wet heating‌ perceived as the ‘posher’, but pricier option.


Discover which touring caravan layout works best for you

Choosing the right caravan layout for your needs is a crucial part of buying a tourer.
First-time buyers often make the wrong choices, prioritising cool looks or features, or underestimating the space they require. Only later, after a few trips, do they realise that the floorplan doesn’t quite suit their needs and is cramping their lifestyle.

Often, they’re not big issues. The caravanner just realises another layout may work slightly better, so they plan to update their tourer.

two-berth caravan interior

We’ve broken down the caravan layout choices into the four main sections: lounging and dining, cooking, sleeping, washing, oh, and we’ve also included a short section on ‘other considerations’.

In this caravan layout guide, each part reveals the main options you can choose from.
Caravanners should bear in mind that compromises often need to be made, as it’s almost impossible to have lots of living space in every part of the tourer. I’d argue that only couples who tour in four-berth caravans can have a tourer perfectly suited to their requirements.

Lounging and dining in a caravan

Many British-built tourers feature parallel sofas with a centre console at the front – for storage and occasional dining areas – or U-shaped front lounges with no cabinet.

The cabinet design is ideal for couples who don’t need the extra seating areas, and can dine at the pull-out table top, without the hassle of erecting the fold-up table. However, families, may appreciate the extra seating a U-shaped lounge offers.

caaravan lounge

One of the nicest things about couples’ caravanning, is that they each have a sofa to recline on, feet up. This is great for reading, relaxing, or, and watching TV. If this is your plan, ensure the sofas are long enough to accommodate you in comfort.

As a family of four, when the kids were smaller, we liked to make up the front bed, then use it as a vast sofa, and all snuggle up on it with cushions and throws to watch a movie. It doesn’t get more ‘hygge’ than that!

Buccaneer Bermuda interior - l-shaped lounge

‘L-shaped’ lounges have become popular in luxury caravans and some two berths. This design delivers lots of legroom, which might suit six-foot-plus caravanners. A number of Coachman Lusso and Elddis Buccaneer tourers have embraced this floorplan.

German caravan interior

A few British vans and many European ones feature C-shaped or G-shaped lounges with tables, which can be more like the booths you find in restaurants. This design feature is one that reflects a popular European preference for eating and living outside their caravans as much as possible, when in the warmer climes of southern Europe.

caravan interior for kids

Some larger caravans offer two lounges, one at each end of the caravan. This layout suits families with older children, who want their own privacy and space. Ideally, the spaces can be separated by a solid or concertina door, to minimise any noise.

An alternative to this is a kid’s area at the rear of the van, which typically includes the washroom, bunk beds and a small lounge/diner area. Having their own space keeps kids (and therefore adults) happy!

Bailey caravan interior

caravan interior with pop up dining table


Most caravans combine lounging and dining with space for a pop-up table between the two sofas. The table is usually stored in a cupboard or under the double bed.

If you are an XL-sized caravanner like me, you should consider space and legroom, to make sure you can accommodate four or more people around the table comfortably. Usually, the centre console can be used as extra surface space for condiments, bottles , and dishes of food that aren’t being used.

caravan interior with dinette

Side-diners/side dinette are popular in family vans. Often, they’re positioned opposite the kitchen and appear to have reasonable space for four people to dine.

In reality, once your kids reach school age, dinettes can be a bit limited, especially as there is usually a portion of inner wheel arch, or some pipe-concealing trim, protruding into the diner’s leg space.

In my experience, unless your kids are small, many dinettes are really only sensible for two people. That said, the extra table space is handy when cooking.

u-shaped caravan dining area

A small number of UK vans do have a larger style of side-diner with ‘wrap-around’ seating, while the diminutive Elddis Xplore 304 has a great side-diner space for two to dine in comfort.

In general, smaller caravans tend to have smarter solutions to make the most of the limited space on offer.

caravan kitchen area

Mastering the Art of Caravan Kitchens: A Key Component of Your Ideal Layout

You should decide how important cooking in the caravan is to you, as this will dictate how much space you need in the kitchen area. Are you a budding Nigella or Jamie, who requires lots of space for preparation, or do you prefer to take prepared meals for the weekend that you can just warm up?

We do a mix of both, but also tend to cook outside on the barbecue as much as possible.
Apart from some two-berth vans, where the kitchen is against the back wall, many popular caravan layouts have kitchens in the middle.

caravan layout - kitchen area

Things to think about in the kitchen department, include:

  • Is there enough space for people to get safely past you when you’re cooking?
  • How much worktop space do you need?
  • Is there any work surface or table/diner behind you?
  • How many burners does the hob have?
  • Is the fridge big enough?
  • Is there plenty storage in cupboards and lockers?
  • How high up is the microwave?
  • Is there an extractor fan fitted?
  • Or a window directly behind the hob?
  • Are there enough power points?

Bailey Pamplona interior

In my experience, you need all the prep space you can muster, so fold-up worktop extensions and worktop sink covers are both useful. My advice is to do all your prep, then cook. There’s rarely enough space to do both at the same time.

island bed in a caravan

Decoding the Best Bed Options for Your Caravan Layout

The bedroom department is where caravans offer the most choice.
For starters, do you want a fixed bed or a make-up bed? Are you happy to construct your double bed each evening?

I’m too lazy for that, though, when we had the Adria Thames, we left the front make-up double bed in place all day, as we were in a warmer location and living outside.

Caravan lounge before making up the bed

caravan lounge with the bed made up

Choosing a make-up double-bed over a fixed-double bed, does free up a lot of space for larger washrooms, kitchens, and side-diners, so, if you don’t mind the extra effort, they can be a great choice. Just work out where you can store the bulky bedding conveniently.

If, like me, you prefer the convenience of a fixed bed (and all that lovely storage underneath), you have a lot of options to choose from.

caravan island bed

The first is, do you want an island bed (where you can walk around three sides) or a French bed, tucked-up against three walls, where both occupants access it from one side?

The latter takes up less space, but you have to climb over your sleeping partner to exit the bed when nature calls! Again, it’s convenience versus van space, and only you can make that call.

Many island beds which come off a sidewall, feature an extending/retracting bed base, which allows you to have a wider walkway through to the rear washroom during the day.

French bed in a caravan

French beds tend to be situated next to the washroom towards the rear of the caravan, while island beds typically protrude from the side wall or back wall, and can be paired with a rear washroom or mid-washroom.

Most French beds have a section of the mattress cut off to allow easier access past them. I’ve never had an issue with it, but check that you are comfortable with this design feature.

caravan en suite

The ‘en-suite’ washroom crosses the middle of the van, so there’s one door into it from the front, and another door or doors connecting it to the rear bedroom. My kids are very noisy sleepers, so I like the idea of solid bedroom door(s). The other benefit of this design is that front-bed occupants, don’t need to go through your bedroom to access the loo.

In some tourers, the en-suite arrangement, features a shower in the corner of the bedroom.

single beds in a caravan

In recent years, twin-single beds sleeping areas have become a more popular option in caravan design. As we get older and a good night’s sleep becomes a more valuable commodity, many couples make the choice to sleep separately.

All the major manufacturers offer twin-single bed options, usually along with a rear-end washroom, and the major benefit is that you won’t disturb your partner if you have to get up in the night.

pic 20

caravan layout

Kids’ bed choices depend very much on the size of your sprogs. When ours were younger, we’d pop them both in sleeping bags on the make-up front double. As they got bigger, they went into bunks, but they soon outgrew those, so they then used the front sofas as single beds. As the boy passed six-foot, we had to create a bed extension, using cushions to support his feet, before chucking him into a pup tent!

bunk beds in a caravan

Bunks are great until the kids reach the age of 10-12. You have two options: fixed bunks and make-up bunks. The latter is often found over a side diner and a bit of a pain to erect, plus you have to store the mattresses. In general, only large families who need five or six berths are likely to use these fold-up beds.

Finally, always take a tape measure with you to check frame/mattress sizes. I favour the mid-washroom layout, as it creates a double-barrier from the front of the van where kids or guests might be sleeping. However, many of the accompanying beds are only 5’10” long, and I’m 6’2”!

caravan layout en suite layout

Exploring Optimal Washroom and Toilet Layouts for Your Caravan

There are two main factors to consider regarding the washing and loo layout in your caravan: where the facilities are positioned, and how they are delivered.

You typically have three choices when it comes to the delivery of washroom facilities:

  • An all-in-one washroom, where the loo, basin, and shower are all in one space.
  • A very compact space containing the three facilities (basically a shower-room space with a loo and basin in it!). As it saves a lot of space, this can be an effective choice if you are happy to use the site facilities, and just need the loo for night-time convenience.
  • Two separate rooms, one containing the shower and the other with the toilet and basin.
    Also, a few modern caravans feature an en-suite arrangement, with the shower cubicle in the corner of the bedroom.

caravan washroom


caravan washroom compact

caravan en suitecaravan layout interior

The second factor is the position of the washroom and loo. As always, the best layout is a very personal choice, with each option having its own merits: the rear washroom is well away from the living and cooking areas, while a mid-washroom separates the bedroom from the front make-up bed(s).

Some larger caravans have the toilet and basin in a room positioned centrally, while the separate shower room is on the other side of the caravan corridor.

caravan toilet

While most washrooms are compact, Thetford and Dometic caravan toilets feature a swivel seat so that they can be adjusted to ensure sufficient leg-room.
Larger families may find that separate loo and shower rooms can speed up the whole morning ‘ablutions’ process, as they can be used at the same time.


caravan cupboard storage

caravan storage cupboard

Caravan cupboard

Key Factors That Take Your Caravan Layout from Good to Exceptional

The four sections above are the obvious layout considerations, but there are other important factors to think about.

Storage space is perhaps the most important of these and shouldn’t be underestimated. Always check that you have enough payload space in top lockers, drawers, wardrobes, under sofas and beds, and in externally-accessed lockers, like the front gas locker.

In recent years, eight-foot wide caravans have grown massively in popularity. The extra few inches of internal space makes a surprising difference to the accommodation, creating the sense of being in an apartment rather than a caravan.

caravan lounge

Dog lovers should also factor in space for their beloved pets, remembering you’ll need space for a dog bed and bowls.

Of course, using an awning makes a huge difference to your caravan layout choices, as they can double the amount of living and storage space available.

Awnings can be real game changers, especially if you add a bedroom annexe. With an awning, warm-weather caravanners may never need to use the caravan lounge.
European caravans, like those from Hymer and Dethleffs

caravan interior

Concluding Thoughts: Navigating Choices for Your Ideal Caravan Layout and Embracing the Adventure with Raymond James Caravans

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to choosing your ideal caravan layout. Just be mindful that you can rarely have it all, compromises will have to be made, and there’s a good chance you won’t get it right first time.

Safe to say, practicalities will inevitably trump luxuries in the long term, so, while ‌ mood lighting is lovely, it’s more important that your bed is long enough! Have a good think about your priorities, and how you’ll use the caravan. Make a list of essentials and ‘nice-to-haves’ and you can start shortlisting your perfect layout from there.

In summary, finding the perfect caravan layout can seem overwhelming, given the wealth of options available. This guide aims to help you navigate these choices, highlighting the importance of prioritising your specific needs.

However, nothing beats a personal consultation with experts. For that reason, we highly recommend a visit to Raymond James Caravans. Their friendly, experienced team understands the intricacies of caravan layouts and are ready to help you in making the best decision for your lifestyle.

So, why not make your caravan adventure even more exciting and memorable? Visit Raymond James Caravans today, and let them guide you towards your ideal caravan layout.

The author

John Sootheran

John Sootheran is a seasoned caravan and motorhome journalist who previously edited Caravan magazine, and now writes for Britain’s best-selling caravan magazine, Practical Caravan, along with Practical Motorhome and the Camping & Caravanning Club magazines. He also works with a number of major caravanning brands.



There’s a huge range of caravan styles to choose from. You could pick a titchy teardrop, a titanic twin-axle, or any size and style in between. John Sootheran explains the pros and cons of each.

Matching a caravan to the touring lifestyle you’re pursuing is easy, as there are so many brilliant choices out there. I’ve split this guide into six sections:
• Teardrop trailers
• Folding and pop-top tourers
• Trailer tents
• Small caravans
• Family vans
• Luxury and lifestyle tourers

Read on to discover which option might be best for you.

teardrop caravan

Teardrop trailers

Tiny teardrop caravans score highly for cuteness and ease of towing, but they don’t offer the same level of practicality as regular caravans.

In some respects, teardrops are a step up from camping, as you’re sleeping off the ground in a comfortable environment. But they’re really only for sleeping and relaxing in, as you can’t stand up inside. You’ll also have to head outside to cook, and use the campsite facilities, as there’s no loo or shower.

For the more adventurous caravanner, teardrops are a great option, especially when touring in warmer climes, as you can live outside most of the time.


  • Compact and lightweight, making them easy to tow and manoeuvre.
  • Sleek designs deliver aerodynamic advantages and excellent fuel efficiency.
  • Simplicity of construction means lower maintenance and servicing costs. Storage is also easier and cheaper.
  • Cosy interiors typically include sleeping accommodation and basic amenities.
  • Affordability makes them an attractive option for first-time buyers or those on a tight budget.


  • Limited interior space restricts the number of occupants and storage capacity.
  • Lack of integrated bathroom and kitchen facilities may require the use of external amenities.
  • Minimal headroom can be inconvenient for taller individuals.
  • Smaller size may limit comfort during extended trips or unfavourable weather conditions.

Check out…
W diddyvans.co.uk
Google ‘Teardrop Trailer’


eriba caravan

Pop-Top and Folding Vans

These compact tourers feature clever mechanisms, allowing you to quickly and easily expand the living space inside. The result is a small and easy-to-tow caravan while on the road, and a more-roomy living space once on pitch.

Folding caravans look like medium-sized trailers before the sides and roof are folded-up into place. Once ‘erected’ they look rather boxy, but they do their job well and have windows and a full-height door like a regular caravan. The benefits include a low weight, easy towing and they’re simple to store.

Pop-top caravans, like the Eriba, take a different approach, with a pop-up roof section that’s folded flat while on-tow, but can quickly be unclipped and elevated to add 12-18inches of extra headroom inside. Normally, the roof panel is solid, while the side sections are made from a durable fabric.

Once you’ve had a cutesy Eriba you may not want to go back to a standard caravan. As they say: “Once you’ve popped, you can’t stop”!


  • Compact when folded, offering low MTPLM weights, plus easy storage and manoeuvrability.
  • Quick and easy set-up process, allowing for faster deployment and convenience.
  • Expanding living space when unfolded, providing more room for occupants.
  • Integrated amenities, including lounges, kitchens, and bathrooms, delivering increased comfort.
    Once ‘popped’, caravans with elevating roof sections can accommodate caravanners over six-foot tall.
    The Eriba is considered a design classic, which holds its value very well.


  • Limited insulation in some models may result in them only being two-season tourers (except for the hardiest caravanners).
  • Relatively smaller interior space compared to conventional caravans.
  • Folding mechanisms and pop-top roofs may require occasional maintenance.
  • Folding caravans have a greater number of joints where moisture could get in.
  • Even when expanded, both types of caravan tend to be on the compact side.

Check out…
W trigano.fr/fr/caravanes/silver
W goburcaravans.co.uk (pre-owned caravans only)


Opus trailer caravan

Trailer tents

Trailer tents make a comfortable half-way house between camping and caravanning. They’ve been popular for decades, as they deliver most of the amenities you’d see in a caravan. However, the roof and most of the sides are entirely fabric.

One trailer-tent stands out in particular, and that’s the Opus Air folding camper. This clever camping vehicle starts off as a full-on, Action-Man-spec trailer, but converts in about five minutes into a vast living space, containing a lounge, kitchen and two double beds (and that’s before you add the vast optional awning).

Opus Air features air-beam technology and inflates quickly to create an impressively rigid structure. In trailer format, Opus can be loaded with outdoor gear like mountain bikes, surfboards or canoes, to increase its already substantial ‘cool-quotient’!


  • Versatile and lightweight design allows for easy towing and setup.
  • Expandable living space, with the option to add annexes for additional rooms.
  • Quick and straightforward assembly process, making them ideal for shorter stays.
  • Considerably cheaper than caravans offering equivalent space and spec.
  • Easier storage and parking due to their compact nature.


  • Some trailer tents can take longer to set-up than a traditional caravan, though the Opus Air doesn’t.
  • Limited insulation and weather resistance may pose challenges during extreme conditions, and limit year-round usage.
  • Integrated facilities are sometimes minimal, necessitating trips to the campsite loos and showers.
  • Less durable construction compared to solid-sided caravans.

Check out
W camperlands.co.uk

Swift Basecamp

Small caravans

The small-caravan sector has a huge range of style options within it, and they can offer a cool and trendy alternative to ‘white box’ caravanning, the image of which puts some people off.

The previously-mentioned Eriba is a great option in this sector, but there are also some brilliant adventure caravans like Knaus’ Sport & Fun and Swift’s excellent Basecamp. These two offer all the benefits of comfortable and cosy caravanning, but in compact and sporty packages.

Knaus Sport&Fun

They’re ideal for the outdoor enthusiast who likes the idea of a campervan, but doesn’t appreciate their lack of practicality and versatility, or the huge prices.

A well-spec’d small caravan can be bought for less than half the price of a campervan, and, once you’re at your destination, you have your tow car to travel in, not a van!

Other great brands worth a gander are Wingamm with its Rookie, the GoPod Going, or the Jetstream from the excellent Polish brand, Freedom.

Barefoot is another superb small caravan, but I’ll cover that in Lifestyle Caravans.


  • Small footprint and lightweight construction offer excellent manoeuvrability.
  • Reduced weight allows for towing with smaller vehicles, saving on fuel costs.
  • Efficient use of space ensures comfortable living areas within a compact design.
  • Integrated amenities, including kitchens and bathrooms, provide convenience.
  • Ideal for solo travellers or couples seeking a minimalist lifestyle.
  • Clever design touches offer excellent sports-equipment storage in some small vans.


  • Limited interior space may feel cramped during extended trips or when inclement weather forces you inside.
  • Restricted storage capacity requires careful planning and organisation.
  • Limited headroom in some small vans may be an issue for taller caravanners.
  • Lower overall weight may make them more susceptible to wind turbulence when towing.
  • Washroom facilities may be compact, and the smallest vans may only offer a portaloo option.Check out…
    W freedomcaravansnorth.co.uk
    W go-barefoot.co.uk

Bailey Caravan

Family vans

These are the traditional (usually white) caravans that account for most touring caravan sales in the UK. The design of these caravans has evolved and been perfected over the decades, to the point where they offer the very best combination of size, weight, facilities, practicality, and comfort.

They tend to come in a weight range from 1100kg to 1700kg (MTPLM).

Typically, they’re available in two to six berth layouts, so ideal for couples or larger families. British-built models feature extensive lounging, cooking, sleeping and washing facilities, with even budget models delivering excellent comfort and versatility.

There’s a wide choice of bed options available.

For starters, you should decide if you want fixed or make-up beds. Fixed beds remove the hassle of ‘building’ your bed every night, but they do take up more space. From there, you can select double beds, single beds or bunks.

Almost every van offers extensive kitchen, dining, washroom, and loo amenities, but these come in a vast range of lay-outs, with different elements prioritised. You’ll find more information in our Ultimate Caravan-Layout Guide.


  • • Spacious interiors with dedicated sleeping and dining areas for the whole family.
  • • Ample storage options to accommodate personal belongings and equipment.
  • • Enhanced insulation and weatherproofing ensure comfort in various climates and seasons.
  • • Integrated facilities, including larger kitchens and bathrooms, cater to family needs.
  • • Wide range of layouts and configurations available to suit different family sizes.


  • The larger sizes require a suitable tow vehicle with adequate towing capacity.
  • Increased weight may affect fuel efficiency and require more robust towing equipment.
  • Manoeuvrability can be challenging, especially in tight or crowded spaces.
  • Higher initial cost compared to smaller caravans or teardrop trailers.
  • Almost always some compromise to be made in selecting the best layout.

Check out…
W coachman.co.uk
W elddis.co.uk
W swiftgroup.co.uk

Airstream caravan

Luxury and lifestyle tourers

Each major British caravan manufacturer offers several luxury tourer options in its ranges.

The Buccaneer range from the Elddis Group is one of the best known, and typifies the luxurious interiors that you can expect to find in this sector.

Since the 2019 model year, every manufacturer has offered eight-foot-wide caravans. These are just six inches broader than previous models, but that makes a huge difference inside, giving the feel of a luxury apartment rather than a tourer.

Check out the Buccaneer collection; Bailey and Swift’s Grande ranges, Coachman’s Laser Xcels, Elddis’ 800-series vans and Adria’s Adora and Alpina eight-footers.

The extra three inches of width at each side makes a negligible difference when towing.

Barefoot Caravans

Luxury vans feature high-quality fixtures and fittings inside, along with superior panel and fabric finishes. They also tend to offer more appliances and equipment, from motormovers and solar panels to auto-levelling and air-conditioning.

If cost and weight aren’t an issue for you, check out the extensive specifications on offer before you buy. Of course, cramming all that extra spec and equipment in, inevitably results in a bigger and heavier caravan, so check that your tow car can pulling your preferred option.

For the heaviest vans, you’re looking at a large SUV, such as a Range Rover or VW Touareg, or a hefty pick-up, like the Nissan Navara or VW Amarok. Most luxury vans run on twin-axles, which makes towing safer and more stable.

Many modern luxury caravans are now nudging the £50,000 price point, so it’s important that you make the right choice.

Lifestyle caravans are increasingly popular. That might be an iconic polished-aluminium Airstream or the uber-cute Barefoot two-berth, which is perfectly designed for festival living!

You pay a premium for this type of caravan, but, if image is as important to you as versatility and build quality, then these vans are well worth considering. And remember, thanks to their rarity, they’re likely to hold their value well.


  • Premium features and high-quality materials offer a luxurious and comfortable caravanning experience.
  • Spacious and well-designed interiors provide ample living space and storage.
  • Advanced amenities, including fully-equipped kitchens, luxurious bathrooms, and entertainment systems.
  • Enhanced insulation and climate-control systems ensure year-round comfort.
  • Superior craftsmanship and attention to detail create a stylish and sophisticated ambiance.
  • Labour-saving devices enhance the caravanning experience and can extend older participants ‘caravanning years’.


  • Higher price points may be prohibitive for budget-conscious buyers.
  • Increased weight may call for a larger, more powerful tow vehicle.
  • Larger dimensions may limit storage options.
  • Complex systems and high-end features may require additional maintenance and expertise.
  • Less manoeuvrable compared to smaller caravans, requiring more planning when selecting sites.

Check out…
W go-barefoot.co.uk
W adria.co.uk
W swiftgroup.co.uk
W airstream-uk.co.uk


In the realm of UK-made touring caravans, each category offers its own set of advantages and drawbacks.

Teardrop trailers appeal to those seeking simplicity, affordability, and ease of towing.
Folding and pop-top tourers combine compactness with expandable living space and integrated amenities.

Trailer tents offer versatility and affordability, but require more time for set-up. Compact caravans cater to solo travellers or couples seeking efficient use of space.

Family vans provide spacious interiors and dedicated family-oriented amenities. Luxury and lifestyle tourers offer the pinnacle of comfort and sophistication, albeit at a higher price point.

By considering the pros and cons outlined in this article, prospective buyers can align their preferences and requirements with the diverse offerings of UK-made touring caravans.

Whether you’re embarking on a solo adventure, exploring with the family, or indulging in a luxurious getaway. There’s a touring caravan perfectly-suited for your travels throughout beautiful Britain and beyond.

The author

John Sootheran

John Sootheran is a seasoned caravan and motorhome journalist who previously edited Caravan magazine, and now writes for Britain’s best-selling caravan magazine, Practical Caravan, along with Practical Motorhome and the Camping & Caravanning Club magazines. He also works with a number of major caravanning brands.


Almost every element of caravanning involves weight considerations. This crucial factor affects your tow car, packing, licences, manoeuvring, additional equipment, and much more. Our comprehensive caravan weights guide explains all.

Knowing your tow car and caravan weights, and how they impact your towing, is all important.

The key things to know about this are:

  • Your caravan MiRO, MTPLM and Payload figures
  • The 85% rule (for towing novices) and 100% rule (for experienced tow car drivers)
  • Noseweight
  • Driving licence provisions

We’ll start this guide by explaining what the most important weights in caravanning are.

Mass In Running Order (MiRO/MRO)

MiRO is the empty weight of the van in kilogrammes when it leaves the factory. I say ‘empty’, but it includes the following:

  • the weight of one gas bottle
  • flush water
  • and an amount of freshwater stored in any onboard tank.

Surprisingly, it doesn’t include the weight of a leisure battery, even though they can weigh more than 12kg.

Find the MiRO weight and other details on the weight plate near the caravan door in modern tourers.

Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass (MTPLM)

caravan weight plate
Caravan weight plate

The ‘Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass’ is the heaviest weight at which you can safely tow your caravan. The weight plate displays the weight in kilogrammes. For most caravans, the MTPLM falls between 1000kg (for lightweight two-berth caravans) and 2000kg (for larger, luxurious family tourers).

As well as the weight of the caravan, the MTPLM encompasses all items inside or attached to your caravan. These items include the leisure battery, flush water, clothing, foodstuffs, awnings, motormovers, and air conditioning units, etc. When weighing your holiday tourer, it should be lighter than the maximum weight allowed for your van.

In fact, the MPTLM figure isn’t a legal limit. Factors like axle and tyre ratings determine its basis. Exceeding it could invalidate your warranty and insurance.

A police check could result in authorities charging you for careless driving, towing a dangerous load, or breaking a general law. Overloading a caravan can significantly alter its towing performance and safety.


Payload refers to the weight of items you can load into your tourer before exceeding its weight capacity. To calculate the allowable payload, simply subtract the Mass in Running Order (MiRO) from the Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass (MTPLM).

This will give you the weight in kilogrammes of contents that you can safely carry in your caravan when towing.

Typically, this includes:Motormovers

  • clothes
  • food
  • gadgets
  • toys
  • books
  • games
  • sports equipment
  • awnings
  • camping furniture
  • your water carriers
  • and other accessories.

For instance, in the weight plate image, the MTPLM of the Coachman 630 Vision caravan is 1701kg. While the MiRO is 1531kg, leaving a potential payload of 170kg.

The weight of clothes and food may seem like a lot. But there are other things to consider.

These include leisure batteries, motor movers, satellite dishes, bedding, footwear, televisions, and awnings. These items can add significant weight to the van.

Noseweight  caravan weightplate

The noseweight is the force that pushes down on the towball. This happens when you lift the jockeywheel and corner steadies of the caravan.

Noseweight is measured in kilogrammes and should ideally be between 5% to 7% of the fully-laden weight of the caravan. For example, a 1500kg caravan should exert a downward force of 75kg to 105kg on the hitch.

Noseweight limits are also specified by the tow car and the towbar manufacturers, and should not be exceeded.

Typically, a towbar has a weight limit of around 80kg to 110kg. Refer to your car’s manual for specific details. Some car towbars only have a weight limit of 50kg. These models are not suitable for towing a caravan

You measure the noseweight of a caravan using a noseweight gauge, a specialist scale which you place between the caravan hitch and the ground. When you raise the jockey wheel, the gauge supports the weight on the nose of the caravan, allowing you to read the weight measurements.

Make sure that the gauge meets the BS7961 standard. A 130kg model can be purchased from Milenco for £43.52.

Alternatively, you could place bathroom scales on the ground under the hitch and place a piece of strong wood in between the hitch cup and the scales.

The Caravan's A-frame is the point where its noseweight presses down on the towbar
The Caravan’s A-frame is the point where its noseweight presses down on the towbar

As you carefully wind up the jockeywheel, you’ll see the weight on the scales increase, until the jockeywheel is off the ground. At this point, you can read the noseweight.

Achieving the correct noseweight should result in the caravan having a slightly nose-down angle. This delivers optimal stability and aerodynamic effect while towing.

Reading a car’s weightplate

Usually, a vehicle’s weightplate is found inside one of the front door jambs.

Typically, they display four weights. From the top these are:

Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) aka Maximum Allowable Mass (MAM)

These terms describe the same thing: the maximum weight of a vehicle for safe driving. It includes all contents, luggage, fuel and passengers. Driving above this weight is likely to cause damage and produce an unsafe drive.

GVW is the weight used when working out the total mass of a caravan outfit for B+E purposes. Do not use the kerb weight for this calculation.

Usually, GVW is around 400kg more than the kerbweight. My tow car, for example, has a kerbweight of 1730kg and a GVW/MAM of 2115kg. That means I can carry 385kg of people and luggage. Get to know your car’s kerbweight.

Gross Train Weight (GTW)

tow car weight plate
A tow car’s weightplate. You can see its GVW is 2115kg. The GTW is 3790kg. The front and rear axle maximums are the two numbers below that

This describes the combined maximum allowable mass of the tow vehicle and trailer.

It’s the combined weight of the tow car’s GVW and the caravan’s MTPLM. It’s shown on the data plate in the picture as 3790kg.

To find the weight of the maximum allowable caravan weight, you subtract the GVW figure from it. In this case, a caravan weighing up to 1675kg could be towed.

Front and rear max axle loads (respectively)

Here, the front axle can carry 945kgs and the rear axle 1180kgs.


Your tow car’s kerbweight is used to assess your 85% and 100% tow-match status.

It denotes the weight of the tow car with all standard equipment and a full tank of fuel – but no driver, passengers, or cargo.

You can find your tow car’s kerbweight figure in the owner’s manual, on the manufacturer’s website, on your V5 registration document (G Mass in Service – XXXXKG) and sometimes on the car’s weightplate.

Kerbweight shouldn’t be confused with other weights like Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) and Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM).

The 85% and 100% towing rules

tow car kerbweight
Your tow car’s kerbweight is used to calculate its 85% and 100% tow-match status

The NCC, both major caravan clubs, and a number of industry experts came together to develop the 85% rule, guidance which is designed to provide safer towing on Britain’s roads.

While not a law, the advice is eminently sensible and infringing it could cause problems in the event of an accident or insurance claim.

The 85% rule states that novice caravanners should only tow caravans that weigh no more than 85% of the kerbweight of the tow car.

As an example, if your tow car weighs 1600kg, a novice caravanner can safely and sensibly tow a tourer with an MTPLM weight of up to 1360kg. (1360 is 85% of 1600).

Conversely, if you’ve bought a caravan with an MTPLM of 1450kg, you’ll need a tow car weighing at least 1705kg.

Once the caravanner has racked up a few towing miles and become a confident tow car driver, this limit is raised to 100%. That means the same 1600kg tow car can safely pull a caravan with an MTPLM weight of 1600kg.

Under no circumstances should you tow a caravan that is heavier than the tow car.

These rules may contradict other guidance on the tow vehicle’s weighplate or in the manual, but these figures are accepted across the industry as safe and sensible.

Our graph below shows the suggested minimum kerbweights for a number of caravans with different MTPLM figures.

Minimum Towcar Kerbweights’ Guide

Caravan MTPLM Min Kerbweight Novice (85%) Min Kerbweight Experienced (100%)
750kg 882kg 750kg
1000kg 1176kg 1000kg
1250kg 1470kg 1250kg
1500kg 1764kg 1500kg
1750kg 2058kg 1750kg
2000kg 2352kg 2000kg

Knowing your car’s towing limit and towing weight capabilities are important factors to grasp.


Packing a caravan

loading your caravan
This caravan front gas locker is vast, but you can’t just fill it with heavy items, or your noseweight will be too great.

Imagine your tourer is a seesaw with the axle as the fulcrum. The more weight you load towards the front of the caravan, the greater the weight pressing down on the towbar. Conversely, if you load weight further back behind the axle, that will push the rear of the caravan downwards and lighten the load on the towbar.

The aim is to create a modest amount of downforce on the towbar, typically between 70kg and 120kgs. This keeps the rear end of the tow car ‘planted’ improving traction and control, and the front of the van slightly nose down, which is most stable for towing.

It also creates a safer tow, as it’s less likely to induce any snaking in the caravan. Loading significant weight towards the back of a tourer can create a ‘pendulum effect’, which means that, once the caravan starts swaying, that snaking effect can be hard to bring under control.

Watch this short video to see the dramatic effects of poor loading: https://bit.ly/3wkAbjM

Loading your caravan correctly is an important aspect of safe towing.

Pic 11

The safest way to pack a caravan is to keep all heavy items down at floor level and as close to the axle as possible. That way, you get less see-sawing effect, and a smoother towing experience.

If you have a rear island bed with lots of storage space beneath, don’t be tempted to tow with heavy items stored there.

To lighten your caravan, put heavy things like awnings and wheel locks in the boot of your tow car. Or use a roof box mounted on your roof rails.

When packing a caravan for the first time, use a noseweight gauge to make sure your packing has a suitable noseweight. You can tweak it by moving contents around inside your van, for example, by putting something substantial in the front gas locker.

Replating your caravan for extra weight allowance

caravan weight plate
Caravans can be ‘Re-plated’ to a hevier weight. Typically this service costs under £100

Caravans have two MTPLM figures. There’s a minimum weight for standard caravans, but there’s also a maximum weight limit. The caravan’s structure including its chassis and axles, define this upper limit.

Some caravanners find that after adding several devices, maybe a motormover and air conditioning, they have severely limited their payload. In this instance, they can pay the manufacturer or dealer to replate their tourer to the upper limit.

For example, a tourer might have a payload of 140kg, but the owners add a motormover, a solar panel, a second gas bottle, and air-conditioning. This eats up 80kg of payload allowance, leaving them only 60kg to play with.

As the chassis and axles have some leeway in their design, their caravan can be replated, raising its MTPLM by between 40 and 70kg. This gives owners plenty of payload allowance to continue their luxury touring lifestyle.

Expect to pay £50 to £100. Bailey, for example, charges £65 for many van weightplate upgrades.


B+E driving licence category

B+E is a driving licence category that allows the holder to operate an outfit with a combined weight (Gross Train Weight) of up to 8250kg, as long as the trailer MAM doesn’t exceed the weight of the unladen vehicle.

Before 16th December 2021, laws surrounding the B+E licence category limited many drivers’ tow car choices. The rules in Britain changed. Now, anyone with a UK driving licence can tow a trailer/caravan weighing up to 3500kg maximum authorised mass (MAM).

police e caravanns
The Police sometimes set up weighing-stations in motorway services to check caravan weights in the busy summer period

This law change is a boon for younger caravanners who passed their driving tests after 1st January 1997, and previously had to take a tricky and expensive extra driving test to tow a heavier tow car/caravan combo.

This law change doesn’t apply in Northern Ireland, so the B+E test is still required there for those who passed their driving test after 1st January 1997.

The DVLA has revised its database with the new categories, and B+E will be added to driving licences when they are renewed.

What happens if my caravan’s too heavy?

Towing an overweight caravan is dangerous and doing so could put you and other road users at risk. Towing dangerously is frowned upon. From time to time the police will install temporary ‘weigh stations’ at services on busy holiday-route motorways.

For example, Wiltshire police recently pulled over 100 outfits and found 13 of them to be infringing the law on the M4. These drivers received fixed penalty fines, but also had to sort out excess weight issues there and then. Not a great start to any holiday!

The author

John Sootheran is a seasoned caravan and motorhome journalist who previously edited Caravan magazine, and now writes for Britain’s best-selling caravan magazine, Practical Caravan, along with Practical Motorhome and the Camping & Caravanning Club magazines. He also works with a number of major caravanning brands.John Sootheran


Raymond James Caravans’ comprehensive guide to caravan terminology. Jargon busted!

Like many specialist interests, caravanning and motorhoming have lots of unique words, terms, and abbreviations that you need to understand. Some are very important, as they involve your safety and legality.

So, to understand why MiRO is different to MTPLM, and what the 85% rule is, read on…

13-pin socket
13-pin socket

7 and 13 pin towing electrics

The electrical plug on your caravan that attaches to the car. Your towcar has the female receiver, while the electric cable on the caravan contains the pins.
7-pins are the older design for caravans and trailers and don’t supply power to as many facilities as a more modern 13-pin plug.

7-pin plugs only power the lights, indicators, brake lights, and fog lights; while 13-pin sockets also power the fridge and reversing lights.

Once you have positioned the small plastic block into the groove and rotated the socket into place, your van’s lights should be operational. As well as the lights of the tow car. Occasionally, the block and groove can become misaligned, preventing the socket from pushing into place.

In this case, use a Plug Socket Alignment Tool to realign the two parts. Typically, these cost about £5 online.

The 85% rule (for novices)

This rule is not a law, but a recommended safety guideline for novice caravanners to match their tow car and caravan. The caravan’s MTPLM weight should not be more than 85% of your tow car’s kerbweight. Eg: a 1500kg caravan requires a tow car weighing 1765kg for safe towing by a novice.

The 100% rule (for experienced caravanners)

 Caravan A-frame

As you become a more experienced tow car driver, you can extend the 85% rule ‌to 100%. For example, a 1500kg caravan requires a tow car with a 1500 kg kerbweight.


The metal A-shaped frame at the front of a caravan, with the hitch-head on the end. As well as the tow hitch, you’ll find the breakaway cable, jockey wheel, handbrake, and‌ the ATC indicator light and AL-KO stabiliser here. Usually, they have a plastic moulded fairing.


The type of strong and resilient plastic used to make many caravan panels. It’s an abbreviation for acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene.

Actual laden weight

This number is the total weight of a caravan and its contents combined (when towed). This figure should not exceed the Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass (MTPLM) of the caravan. Or the police could pull you over, fine you, and have to remove weight from your caravan.

Air awning

air awning
An air awning

An awning that uses inflatable air beams instead of metal poles in its construction. These are lighter-weight, quicker, and easier to erect, and very sturdy when put-up properly.


AL-KO chassis
AL-KO chassis

AL-KO’s ATC (AL-KO Trailer Control) is an anti-snaking system for caravans. It detects the early signs of a caravan getting out of control and automatically applies the brakes to pull the van back in line.

AL-KO chassis

Most new caravans are built on a strong, but lightweight, galvanised steel chassis made by the German company, AL-KO.


A branded rolling water carrier, which you can pull along with a long handle, rather than carry. The name has become the generic term for water carriers that roll, but other brands are available.


A tent-like construction that attaches to the side of the caravan to give more living and storage space. They are made of fabric stretched over a frame. Frames once composed of steel poles are now built with rigid inflatable beams. more often due to their lightweight and the ease of inflation.

Awning length

The size of many awnings is expressed as their length in centimetres. It’s the total length of the roof and two sides combined – up one side, across t

traditional pole awning
The awning rail connects the awning to to the caravan

he roof, then down the other side to the ground. Typically, this might range from 750cm to 1100cm.

Awning rail

The rail into which the awning cord is threaded and pulled up, over, and down the other side of the caravan. Full awnings use the entire length of the rail, while porch awnings only use a section of the rail running across the top of the caravan. The rail has several entry points for the cord to be slotted in for porch awning use.

AWS – Approved Workshop Scheme

This National Caravan Council approval-scheme is for caravan engineers that have reached a high level of experience and service delivery. It’s your guarantee of quality service and maintenance.


See Driving Licences.


Beds are called berths in caravans. Typically, the number of berths will range from two to six.

Blown-air heating

Caravan breakaway cables
Caravan breakaway cables

A popular heating system in modern caravans. A powerful fan blows warm air through ducting pipes and vents to heat the caravan’s interior.


A German caravan chassis maker. In recent years, BPW has refocused its business away from caravans. But many used tourers will still run on excellent BPW chassis, especially those from the Elddis group.

Breakaway cable

This short steel cable links the caravan handbrake mechanism to the tow car’s towball. It either attaches to it with a carabiner clip or is looped around it). If by chance the caravan ever gets separated from the tow car’s hitch, the breakaway cable will activate the caravan’s handbrake, thus stopping it from moving.

Butane gas

Two types of liquified petroleum gas (LPG) are used in caravanning, for heating, cooking, and even to cool the fridge.

Butane and Propane gas bottles
Butane and Propane gas bottles

Butane is one, and it comes in Calor’s blue cylinders. Butane has a small energy advantage over the Propane alternative.

However, as it boils at just minus-2°C, it may not work efficiently at lower temperatures, so is therefore only recommended for caravanning in warm weather. All-season caravanners should choose Propane.


The UK’s major provider of bottled gas. The company has retail partners all around the country and its bottles are also sold at many service stations, DIY shops, and camping outlets.

Caravan Clubs

There are two main caravanning clubs: The Camping and Caravanning Club and The Caravan and Motorhome Club. Both have extensive networks of excellent sites and CSs/CLs, and they also offer members advice, information, events, training, discounts, and other services including travel-agencies, breakdown cover, and insurance.


Carver is a defunct brand of caravan heaters, that was very popular in the 1990’s and earlier. Carver made space and water heaters. Truma bought it in 1999.

A caravan toilet with electric flush and swivelling seat
A caravan toilet with electric flush and swivelling seat

Cassette blind

These roller blinds are fitted as part of the caravan window assembly, and the blind fabric is stored inside the casing when not in use. They often include a flyscreen.

Cassette toilet

A caravan toilet, where the waste tank sits underneath the loo, separated by a blade valve. The cassette is part filled with toilet chemicals and can be accessed through an external hatch. The cassette is removed for emptying and cleaning, then part-filled with chemicals again, before it is replaced in the locker.

Cassette toilet chemicals

Toilet chemicals help keep your cassette toilet clean and in good condition.
Pink chemicals go into the top ‘flush’ tank, while a small amount of blue or green chemicals go into the waste cassette.

The pink chemical lubricates the flush system, rinses the toilet bowl, and helps to keep things fragrant. The blue and green chemicals are designed to break down waste matter and toilet paper, and to prevent smells and the build-up of gases.

Some modern chemicals are considered more eco-friendly as they don’t contain formaldehyde.


CaSSOA storage facility
CaSSOA storage facility

The Caravan Storage Site Owners’ Association is a national body that oversees and rates security measures at caravan storage facilities. Member facilities have to achieve high standards of security, protection and convenience, and the best are recognised with Gold and Platinum status.

Chemical Disposal Point (CDP point)

Chemical Disposal Point or Elsan Points are the place on a campsite where you empty your toilet cassette and rinse it out.

Chemical toilet

A caravan toilet that is self-contained, not connected to the mains drainage. Waste material is held in a sealed tank, ready to be emptied when it’s full (usually indicated by a warning light). Thetford and Dometic are the main manufacturers. See: Cassette toilet

CS or CL sites

These small campsites have five pitches or fewer. Most have limited facilities. which is reflected in their prices. Some have washing facilities and hook-ups, but many are designed for off-grid caravanning.

Often, they are in the stunning, unspoilt locations, where planning permission for more extensive campsites wouldn’t be allowed.

Corner steady

caravan corner steady
A caravan corner steady

Most caravans have four corner steadies, wind down legs attached to each corner of the underside of the caravan floor. Once a caravan is levelled, the steadies are wound down to keep it stable.

CRiS (check)

The Central Registration and Identification Scheme (CRiS), sees every UK caravan (since 1992) given a unique ID number and added to a register. This ID is linked to the owner’s contact details, so the two can be reunited in the event of a theft.

Like an automotive HPI check, caravans with CRiS can also be ‘history-checked’, highlighting if, for example, they have ever been written off or stolen in the past. When buying a new caravan, always check that all the CRiS numbers on the windows or tamper-proof sticker match the documentation.


An organisation that evaluates the services offered by insurance policies, including those for caravanners, giving the best a five-star rating.


Delamination is when the bonded layers of a multi-ply/sandwich-construction panel, start to separate. Usually, water ingress, or poor lamination in the manufacturing process causes this problem.


A caravan side diner or dinette
A caravan side diner or dinette

Also called a side-diner, this is a compact dining area in a caravan with parallel sofas and a table in between, or a C-shaped sofa around a table. Usually, these dinettes can be converted into a large single or small double bed.

Driving licences

Up until 16th December 2021, if you passed your test on or after 1st January 1997, you had to take an additional B+E towing test to allow you to tow the same weight trailer/caravan as those drivers who passed their test before that date.

The government removed this restriction in 2021, meaning that anyone who passed their test after 1st January 1997, can now tow caravans weighing up to 3500kg… that’s every modern touring caravan.

Before choosing a car/caravan combination, check your tow car’s Gross Train Weight (GTW) – the maximum allowable weight of the car plus caravan plus payload.

Electric hook-up (EHU)

See: Mains hook-up.

Elevating roof (Pop-Top)

A caravan with pop-top roof
A caravan with pop-top roof

Some smaller caravans have a pop-up roof to increase the headroom inside for taller caravanners. These caravans generally have fabric-covered sides and a solid top. These aspects make them more aerodynamic when towed, resulting in better fuel economy, easier parking, and simpler storage.

Flame-failure cut-out

Caravan gas appliances should have these fitted. They stop the escape of gas inside the caravan if a flame blows out.


Flogas is a nationwide distributor of gas bottles and products in the UK. Check online for your nearest outlet.

French bed

A French bed
A French bed

A double bed enclosed on two or three sides, meaning one occupant may have to climb over the other to exit the bed.

Full-service pitch

A premium campsite pitch which has a fresh water supply and a wastewater drain, along with a hook-up post and, sometimes, a TV aerial connection. Usually these are more expensive than standard pitches.


caravan garage
A Kanus caravan with its large garage hatch clearly visible

A large storage space for transporting bulky items like barbecues, bicycles , and other outdoor gear. They can be accessed from outside the caravan and are more common on motorhomes, though the Knaus Sport & Fun caravan does feature a large garage.

Gas locker

An external locker, accessible only from the outside of the caravan, where gas bottles are stored. Front-end gas lockers tend to be large and may contain other equipment like a spare wheel, while a small number of caravans have more-compact side gas lockers.

Grab handles

Large handles located at each corner of the caravan that are used to hand-manoeuvre the caravan onto its pitch or into its storage position.

Grey water

The wastewater from your caravan’s shower, basin and sink. This is collected in a grey-waste container outside the caravan and must be emptied in a dedicated disposal point wherever possible.

Gross train weight

This is the total weight of the tow car, caravan, and payload. It should not exceed the amount of the caravan’s MTPLM and tow car’s Gross Vehicle Weight combined (see below).

Gross vehicle weight (GVW)

The weight of the tow car loaded to its maximum safe level, as stated by the vehicle manufacturer.


Glass-reinforced plastic, a versatile and strong material often used to make the curved front and back panels of a caravan. It’s also known as fibreglass or glass-fibre.

It is hardwearing and resistant to small dents and scratches, but older GRP panels can suffer from ‘chalking’ when the material dries out, breaks down and becomes dusty.


A hard-standing pitch
A hard-standing pitch

A pitch with a base made from a hard substance including gravel, Tarmac or concrete. In winter, and in wet or muddy conditions, these pitches are preferable to grass pitches, as you’re less likely to sink into the soft surface or get your outfit muddy.


The mechanism at the front of the caravan’s A-frame that attaches your caravan to the towball on your car.

Hitch-head stabiliser

A type of towing stabiliser that’s incorporated into the caravan’s hitch. It clamps small friction pads tightly onto the car’s towball, when the stabiliser handle is pressed down, and works by applying friction to the tow ball.


hitchlock caravan
A high-visibility hitchlock is clearly visible on this caravan

This security device prevents the caravan hitch from being connected to (or removed from) a tow ball, by blocking access to the hitch-release handle. Usually made from strong steel, they are locked in place with a key.

When the caravan’s unhitched, the hitchlock can be combined with a towball blank to prevent another towball being inserted into the ‘cup’.


See: Mains hook-up.

Island bed

A bed that can be walked around on three sides.

Jockey wheel

The small wheel at the front of a caravan, fixed to the A-frame. It supports the forward end of the caravan and makes manoeuvring an unhitched caravan easier.

The jockey wheel can turn ‌360° and may feature a hard plastic wheel or a rubber pneumatic one. The wheel is on the end of an extending post and can be wound up and down with a handle to level the tourer.

When not in use, it is raised and locked firmly in position with a screw-in clamp handle.


The weight of tow car, including a tank of fuel, but excluding passengers. The weight in kgs is usually found on a data plate inside one of the front door jambs.

Leisure battery

leisure battery
A good quality leisure battery is essential

A 12v caravan battery used to power the lighting and other low-current devices when the caravan is not on mains hook-up. They often look similar to a car battery, but don’t have the high cranking power needed to start a car – instead they give a lower, consistent output for a longer time.

Leisure battery output/stored energy is expressed in ampere-hours (Ah). A smaller battery may be 65Ah, while one designed to power devices like motor movers, that require more current may be 110Ah.
Leisure batteries come in different forms, including lead-acid, AGM, Gel and lightweight/high-power lithium batteries.

Living Space

The living space is an integral part of a caravan, providing a comfortable and functional area for occupants to relax, dine, and sleep while on the move.

It refers to the interior space of the caravan that is specifically designed to meet the needs of travellers and recreate a cosy home environment within the confines of a mobile unit.

The layout and size of the living space can vary significantly depending on the type and model of the caravan.

Load index

Found on tyre side walls, this number indicates a tyre’s maximum, safe load-carrying capacity.

Mains hook-up

A pitch hook-up (EHU) with mains cable connected
A pitch hook-up (EHU) with mains cable connected

This is an outdoor power point found on a campsite pitch. Usually, the electric hook-up is on a post, which may have two points, including one for the next-door pitch.

Connect your caravan to the hook-up post with your caravan’s mains power cable. You’ll then receive 230v mains electricity in your caravan, meaning you can use the heating, microwave, and oven without flattening/damaging the leisure battery.

Mains hook up posts usually feature a circuit breaker which will cut-out if you overload the post by using too many devices at once. Typically, a post will deliver between 6amps (on some sites in Europe) and 16amps (many UK sites), after which it will cut out and need to be reset.

Also known as electric hook-up or EHU.

Manufacturer’s braked towing limit

The maximum weight of a braked trailer that a tow car will pull safely. Pulling away on a 1-in-8 gradient incline confirms the figure. The ‘braked towing limit’ figure can be misleading, and‌ lead to unsafe towing. See: 85% rule.


(Mass In Running Order) – The unladen weight of a caravan before it’s filled with holiday payload – clothes, food, and equipment, etc.

Miro includes all standard fixtures and fittings, liquids (in the heater, flush and water tank), plus the gas bottle. Strangely, the weight of the leisure battery is not included.


(Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass) This is the maximum total weight (in kg) a caravan should be, with all your equipment, food, clothes, etc on board. You should never exceed this weight. You’ll find it on the weightplate near the door.


caravan motormover
A caravan motormover

A powerful electrical device used for manoeuvring a caravan when it is not hitched to a tow car. The motor mover rollers slide out and press into the caravan’s tyres. They can then be controlled with a handheld remote, to turn and propel the tourer.

National Caravan Council (NCC)

This caravan trade association represents manufacturers, suppliers and dealers in the caravan industry, and strives to improve many aspects of the caravanning lifestyle.

The NCC makes sure that new caravans follow safety regulations, and it manages a number of quality and security initiatives including CRiS and AWS.


The side of the caravan nearest to the pavement when travelling on the left- hand side of the road (the passenger side). In the UK, entrance doors are positioned on this side of the caravan.

Nose-down attitude

Most caravans tow most stably and safely if they are hitched with a slightly nose-down angle. Some pick-up and van-based tow cars require their towbars to be lowered to achieve this angle.

A Milenco noseweight gauge
A Milenco noseweight gauge


The weight pressing down on your tow car’s towball by the caravan’s hitch when the caravan is attached. It’s usually expressed in kg. Towcars and towballs have a noseweight limit which shouldn’t be exceeded.

Normally this is between 60kg and 120kg. You can manage the noseweight by moving the contents of the caravan around, for example. A very full front gas locker (containing, say, heavy wheel and hitchlocks) is likely to increase the noseweight. Moving these items nearer to the axle should lower it.

Noseweight gauge

A short, post-shaped device, that’s positioned between the hitch-cup and the ground. It displays the weight pressing down on the hitch (the noseweight) once the jockey wheel has been wound up.

Off-grid caravanning

Off-grid caravanners are totally self-contained, and don’t require electric hook-up or mains water/drainage to function. This is achieved by managing electricity and water usage, and by relying on solar panels and large leisure batteries to maintain an electric supply. Typically, off-grid caravanners do not use generators.


The side of a caravan away from the kerb when driving on the left-side of the road (the driver’s side). European caravans often have their doors on the (UK) off-side.


The term for a combined tow vehicle and caravan.

A 6kg Propane gas bottle
A 6kg Propane gas bottle

Overrun brakes

The braking system utilised on caravans. As the tow car slows, the caravan pushes forward, compressing the hitch mechanism. This in turn activates the caravan brakes via cables, slowing it down.

Pendulum effect

This is the effect created when too much weight is placed too far back in the caravan, causing it to start swinging back and forth like a pendulum. This can be extremely dangerous, but is usually easily remedied by moving weighty items around inside the caravan. See: Snaking


A pre-delivery inspection is the final checks made by a manufacturer or dealership before a caravan leaves its premises. These inspections should include hundreds of different checks, making sure the caravan leaves the facility in the best condition possible.

Pop top

See: Elevating roof.

Propane gas

Propane is a form of Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) that is bottled for caravanners. It’s an alternative to Butane and has a boiling point of -42°C, so can be used in the very coldest temperatures. It’s generally found in red gas bottles.


 A caravan enthusiasts' Rally
A caravan enthusiasts’ Rally

A caravanners meet-up or holiday, where a group of caravanners, say, from a club, all stay at the same campsite and have an agenda of events and activities.

Pic 29


A plastic storage box that attaches to rails on the roof of the car to provide extra storage on the move. Roofboxes are a valuable way to carry holiday equipment, as they keep weight out of the caravan for a better balance between car and caravan.


A window panel in the ceiling of the caravan, designed to let light flood in. Most can be opened to improve ventilation and incorporate black-out blinds and flyscreens.


SafeFill is a private company that supplies gas bottles designed to be self-filled at petrol forecourt LPG pumps. This gives access to much cheaper gas: on the forecourt, you typically pay around £1.20 per litre, whereas bottled gas costs upwards of £2 per litre.

Seasonal pitch

When you pay a campsite to leave your caravan on a pitch for an entire summer season, or some other agreed time.

Single-axle caravans

A single-axle caravan
A single-axle caravan

Tourers with two wheels, one on each side. These are easier to manoeuvre on site as you can turn them on the spot. They’re also cheaper to maintain and service. Also see: Twin-axle caravans.


A small number of caravans have sides that slide-out electronically, to create more space inside. Slide-outs are most popular in fifth-wheeler caravans and in the USA.


Snaking occurs when a caravan becomes unstable at speed and begins to oscillate from side to side in a sort of pendulum effect. Poor caravan loading and speeding, high winds or other vehicles can cause it overtaking, at speed and destabilising the van with their deflected wind.

AL-KO ATC is designed to correct uncontrollable snaking.

Stabiliser (AL-KO)

An AL-KO stabiliser
An AL-KO stabiliser, pushing down the handle clamps the towball tightly to minimise swaying

A hitch-head safety device which minimises unwanted movement of the caravan by controlling how easily the caravan hitch can pivot on the tow ball.


Thatcham is a security enterprise which tests and rates alarms, trackers, locks, and other security devices. Thatcham-approved devices are considered the best by many and can deliver insurance discounts if used.


The 50mm metal ball on the back of your tow car, which slots into the receiver-cup on the caravan’s hitch head and allows the van to pivot when it’s being towed. Towballs should be bare metal and not rusty or lubricated, especially if using a stabiliser as the friction pads can become contaminated.

Tow hitch

The ‘cup’ part of the caravan that clamps onto the tow car’s towball, creating a secure connection for towing. It’s also the point where you measure the caravan’s noseweight.

Tow matching

Online services which help you match your tow car to a suitable caravan. They compare kerbweights and MTPLMs to find suitable matches.

Island bed

An island bed
An island bed

An island bed is accessible from three sides with the ‘headboard end’ against either a side wall or end wall. When the bed comes off one of the caravan’s side walls, it’s known as a transverse island bed.

Twin-axle caravans

Twin-axle caravans are more stable than ‌single-axle tourers; and less likely to suffer from snaking. Twin-axle caravans are considered easier to reverse as their response to the car’s steering inputs is slower and more accurate.

Twin-axle caravans are more expensive to insure, maintain, and service than single-axle vans.

Tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS)

 A tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS)
A tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS)

These smart devices relay tyre-pressure information to the towcar instantly, allowing the driver to see the state of inflation of their caravan tyres, and if any have deflated or have lost some pressure.

Underfloor heating

Underfloor heating in caravans is growing increasingly popular, with systems made by Whale and by Truma. They’re considered to give a more even heating effect than blown-air heaters, and take up less space than Alde heating with its radiators.


This is the amount of kit, food, clothes, etc you can load into the van without exceeding the MTPLM weight. Subtracting the MIRO weight from the MTPLM can calculate it.

Typically, it’ll be 100-200kg. Adding appliances like motormovers, air conditioning units, and satellite dishes uses up your valuable ‌payload allowance.

VIN number

This unique 17-digit identification number is typically etched on windows, printed on a caravan’s registration documents, and die-stamped into the chassis. Avoid buying any caravan if it seems these have been tampered with.

See: CRiS.

Waste-water container

A portable water carrier that collects grey-waste water from the caravan for disposal at the CDP.

Water carrier

An Aquaroll water carrier
An Aquaroll water carrier

A container for transporting water from the site tap to your caravan. The best are barrel-shaped with a long handle, making them easy to roll along, even when full. See: Aquaroll

Water ingress

When water finds its way into the caravan structure through damaged or deteriorated seals, screw and bolt holes or panel joints. Once inside, it can cause untold damage, rotting absorbent materials, including wooden framing, and causing mould and mildew.


A Caravan weightplate
A Caravan weightplate

The weightplate is found next to the door on most caravans and displays all the key weights and other important information. You’ll find those crucial MTPLM and MIRO weights here.

Avoid buying if the weighplate is missing or has been tampered with.

Wet locker

A waterproofed storage area, usually isolated from the rest of the caravan, and accessible through an external locker door. They’re perfect for ‌storing wet, dirty, or muddy items.

Wheel lock

caravan wheel locks
A range of wheel locks from Fullstop

A lock that affixes securely to a caravan’s wheel, preventing it from being moved. Some wrap around the wheel and clamp in place, while others bolt through the wheel spokes into a receiver plate behind the wheel.

This type, like the AL-KO wheel lock, is considered the best and attracts the biggest insurance discounts.

The author John Sootheran

John Sootheran is a seasoned caravan and motorhome journalist who previously edited Caravan magazine, and now writes for Britain’s best-selling caravan magazine, Practical Caravan, along with Practical Motorhome and the Camping & Caravanning Club magazines. He also works with a number of major caravanning brands.


choosing a caravanThe ultimate guide to choosing the best touring caravan for you and your family

Ready to dive into the world of caravans and unlock the secret to finding your perfect match? Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the sea of options out there, and not sure where to start? Hey, I get it! Choosing the right touring caravan can feel like navigating through a maze of possibilities. But fear not, because I’ve got your back!

Here are the Top 10 things to consider when choosing the ideal caravan to suit your needs.

They include: size, cost, berths, fixed or make-up beds, tow weights, layout, wear and tear, new or used, type of heating and whether you buy privately or from a dealer.

These are all crucial factors that will affect your choice…and that’s before you get onto the details, like bed length and the height of the microwave!

Choosing the best touring caravan for you, involves a mix of all these factors, and they are all interconnected – the layout affects the bed choice, which in turn affects the caravan length, which might have implications for storing the tourer – it’s just a case of deciding which elements are most important to you.

So, let’s get started…

choosing a caravan

Think about: your part-exchange or deposit, increasing interest rates, the type of finance

Ah, the $64,000 question – sometimes literally these days!!

How much you can afford to pay for your touring caravan may dictate whether the caravan you buy is new or used, large or small, and a luxury or budget model.
It’s easy to get carried away at a show or in a shiny showroom, so, set a total budget, or an affordable monthly provision, and stick to it. If the price sounds too good to be true, then step back before you make any rash decisions.

Your deposit or part-exchange caravan will affect the deal, as might the APR interest rate you’ll be charged for finance. If your finance deal is based on a variable rate, you should make sure you can afford increased monthly payments if the interest rate rises.

Negotiate hard, and be fair on the price, but don’t mess the dealership around, especially if you’re ordering at a show.

If you’re buying with finance, you can often flex the deal by altering the loan length or tweaking the monthly payments…just don’t get carried away – the longer the repayment period, the more interest you’ll pay in total.

Also, remember to factor in extra start-up costs like camping accessories, a gas bottle, a leisure battery, and you may also have to buy a bigger tow car!

For a full explanation, see our Caravan Financing Guide (coming soon).

choosing a caravan

2. Caravan Size: What Will Suit Your Needs?

Think about: Berths, Space, Width/Length, Axles, Weight, Where you store it

How big does your caravan need to be? Usually, this will be dictated by the number of beds you need, but it’s also affected by the amount of internal space you require‌ for kids or dogs. Typically, families go for four or more berths, while couples might select a two to four-berth van.

An extra-wide, eight-foot tourer offers immense space inside, but just check it’ll fit on your drive! I’ve towed various eight-footers and that extra few inches makes a much bigger difference inside than it does outside.

It could even be argued that the extra track width makes for a more stable tow. I certainly barely noticed the width when towing.

Of course, more beds usually means it’s a longer and heavier caravan, which can affect manoeuvring, towing and storage…and, possibly, the number of axles.
The largest caravans tend to have twin-axles, and because of this, they are‌ easier and more stable to tow. But of course you’ll have extra servicing costs, and possibly higher insurance, storage and pitch fees.

Click here for a full guide to caravan types (coming soon).
Click here for a guide to caravan layout options (coming soon).

Lighter is generally better, as lightweight tourers are easier and more fuel efficient to tow, plus they give you a greater choice of tow car. Here’s why…

choosing a caravan

3. Caravan towing weights: What Can Your Vehicle Tow?

Think about: Matching your tow car, fuel consumption, maths!

In recent years, the towing rules (especially around the B+E driving licence category requirement) have been relaxed. But there are still some sensible rules to follow.

The main one is that your loaded caravan shouldn’t weigh more than your towcar. In fact, the caravan clubs and the National Caravan Council have agreed on the 85% rule.
This states that novice caravanners who’ve recently passed their driving test in their first year or two of ownership should only tow a caravan that weighs no more than 85% of the towcar’s kerbweight.

choosing a caravan
Your caravan weight plate will help you make the right caravan choice

The caravan weight used in this calculation is the MTPLM (Maximum Technically-Permissible Laden Mass). You’ll find this on the small weightplate, usually located on the outside of the van, near to the door.

The MTPLM is the maximum weight the caravan can be when it’s fully loaded with all your possessions, food, water and gas bottle, etc.

Meanwhile, the car’s kerbweight can be found on a sticker in the door jamb, or in the manual.

Here’s an example (image to the right).

You want to buy a Bailey Phoenix+ 440 caravan with an MTPLM of 1347kg.

As a novice, that weight should be 85% or less of your towcar’s kerbweight, so your car must weigh 1585kg or more. Your Vauxhall Insignia Estate has a kerbweight of 1633kg, so you’re good to go. In fact, you could tow a caravan weighing up to 1388kg.

Tow car weight in kg x 0.85 must be higher than the caravan’s MTPLM.

Once you have gained some good towing experience, the Clubs say that you can increase that weight ratio to 100% – but never above.


choosing a caravan
Car dataplate info helps to match your towcar and caravan

Taking the same example, your towcar kerbweight only needs to be 1347kg to pull the Phoenix, a VW Polo for example.

Based on this information, if you buy a bigger caravan, you should factor in the possibility that you might have to buy a bigger towing vehicle, too.

For a full explanation, see our Ultimate Caravan Weights Guide (coming soon).

4. Caravan Layout: Which Layout Will Work Best for You?

Think about: Lounge style, bed options, fixed, or make-up beds, washroom position, privacy, dining, kitchen space

There are probably a dozen popular caravan layouts which are the really big sellers, though, from time to time, a manufacturer will experiment with a new arrangement.

The fact is, you can’t have everything, so you need to prioritise your requirements and be prepared to compromise on a few things that aren’t so important to you.

The biggest questions are:

  • Would you prefer a traditional lounge with parallel sofas and a cabinet, a wraparound U-shaped area, or something rarer, perhaps ‘L-shaped’?
  • Do you want fixed or make-up beds?
  • Do you need double beds, single and/or bunk beds?
  • How big a kitchen do you require? Do you need plenty of worktop space?choosing a caravan
  • What level of storage is needed?
  • Do you prefer a single washroom or separate shower and loo facilities?
  • What about a compact washroom with shower and loo spaces combined? These are fine as a back-up if you normally use the site facilities.
  • How much aisle space do you need? Where will the dog(s) sleep?
  • What about a separate lounge for the kids?
  • How about a separate diner space?
  • Privacy-wise, do you want the washroom to separate you from the front of the van (and the kids)?

Agree on your priorities and select a caravan accordingly, though you may find that your priorities change over time, once you’ve lived in a van.

Remember, adding a large porch awning or a full awning can transform your living, sleeping, storage and pet options.

For a full explanation, see our Ultimate Caravan Layout Guide (coming soon).



choosing a caravan

5. Caravan Storage: How Much Space Do You Need?

Think about: Space for storing clothing, provisions, accessories, hobby kit, and wet stuff

The amount of locker, drawer, wardrobe, and cupboard space you have in a caravan is crucial, and shouldn’t be overlooked or sacrificed, as I guarantee you’ll come to regret it.

A decent amount of hanging space is important, if you spend extended time away in your tourer and need more formal clothing from time to time. Consider the length of the clothes you’ll be hanging, too. Many caravan wardrobe spaces only have hanging-length for shirts, not longer dresses, or coats.

Outdoors and watersports fans may appreciate the inclusion of a wet-locker for storing wetsuits, sports equipment, or even sandy buckets and spades. Usually, these storage spaces have external access and feature a plastic liner.

Front gas lockers offer great storage potential, but several recent caravan ranges have done away with them. Where will you put your power cable, spare wheel and steady wrench, etc?

Fixed beds usually conceal lots of usable storage space underneath. The best designs offer spring-assist when you lift the bed base and mattress to access this space.

Just remember that storing heavy contents under beds that are positioned behind the axle(s) can enhance the pendulum effect when towing, which can be dangerous.

Move heavy contents, such as awnings, to the centre of the van, over the axle, when towing.

Click here to see our safe caravan loading feature (coming soon).

choosing a caravan

6. Caravan Features: What Do You Need and Want?

Think about: What standard and supplementary accessories and components you need on your caravan

There are many choices to make when it comes to features. Some are essential, like heating, while others are nice-to-haves like solar panels and auto-levelling.

Take heating, would you prefer Dometic or Truma blown-air heating, or does Alde’s ‘wet’ radiator system tickle your fancy? Blown-air is reckoned to be quicker to heat the caravan interior, but Alde heating does it more thoroughly and evenly. Or maybe you’d prefer underfloor heating?

And what about things like fridge and cooker/hob sizes? Is there a microwave and plenty of fridge/freezer space? What about extras like solar panels, air-conditioning, motormovers, satellite dishes and auto levelling.

Four-season touring fans, should also consider the level of floor and wall-panel insulation, for a warmer and cosier (and cheaper) winter-caravanning experience.

Some features (appliances and components) can help to extend your caravanning lifestyle, by taking the legwork and elbow grease out of caravanning. Read about them here (coming soon).

7. Caravan Condition: New or Used?

Think about: Would you be happier with a higher-spec used tourer for the same budget as a lower-spec new one?

Obviously you’ll get more for your money if you buy a pre-owned tourer, so explore both options.

Typically you might get a three or four-year old luxury, second hand caravan for the same price as a new mid-range one, and, given that many caravans are hardly used – especially following the Covid sales explosion – there are some absolute bargains out there.

If you really want a brand new caravan, but want to save a few bob, too, you could consider buying an end-of-year or previous-year’s model. These may have sitting on the forecourt for six months to a year, but have never been used, and they can be picked up with thousands knocked off the price.

That’s because dealerships need to clear space on the forecourt for the next-year’s models coming in, so will often take a hit on the price.

Dealerships generally sell new and used caravans, but you can see touring caravans for sale privately off the likes of Autotrader, Ebay or Facebook Marketplace.


choosing a caravan

8. Dealership or Private sale?

Think about: Are you willing to take the increased risk of buying privately to get more caravan for your money?

You can save a few quid by buying a used caravan from a private individual rather than a dealership, but, as the price drops, the risk of buying a problem caravan goes up, and, of course, there’ll be no warranty.

Privately-retailed caravans are sold as seen (Caveat Emptor, buyer beware – applies), and there could be any number of issues that are invisible to the naked eye. The biggest risk is water ingress, which could be in the structure, but not immediately noticeable.

Of course, buying ‌a model from a well-known caravan manufacturer from a reputable dealer, minimises these risks, as your caravan will have been serviced, PDI’d and will come with a warranty.

Also check if there is any outstanding finance on the caravan if you buy privately.

Again, the choice is yours, but only buying from a dealership gives total peace of mind…and what’s that worth.

choosing a caravan

9. Service history and warranties

Think about: How much can you deduce about the history of your potential purchase through all the paperwork supplied?

A used caravan that’s been properly prepared for sale will often look shiny and new, but may be hiding some serious issues beneath the surface, such as undeclared body repairs, signs of damage or signs of damp.

Minimise your chances of buying a dud, by carrying out the following checks:

  • Check the caravan owner is who they say they are by carrying out a Caravan Registration and Identification Scheme (CRiS) check. This check is quick and easy, with just a small fee payable, and it will confirm who the registered owner of the caravan is. You can check this by calling the CRiS desk at HPI on 01722 411430.
  • All legitimate caravans should have a CRiS registration document, and the vehicle’s 17-digit Vin number should either be etched into each window, or, since 2015, found on a tamper-evident VIN ( vehicle identification number) Chip sticker on windows and the gas locker. Scannable RFID chips are also hidden randomly inside the caravan. If the stickers have been removed, or the chassis number and window etching ground off, you should avoid the caravan at all costs.
  • Sensible caravan vendors will have kept the paperwork and log-book related to their tourer. You should take time to look through the service record and invoices to make sure the vehicle has been serviced at regular intervals, and that there are no signs of serious issues with the caravan, especially water ingress.
  • When buying from a dealership, make sure you are clear on what warranty is being offered. Reputable dealerships will be keen to put right any issues quickly and efficiently, and I recommend spending a night or two close to the dealership, so any small issues you discover can quickly be sorted out.

choosing a caravan

10. Condition – Has the caravan been cared for?

Think about: Investigating the tell-tale signs that indicate how well your caravan has been cared for

In general, you’ll be able to tell whether a tourer has been looked after. As well as a full service book, some other indicators include:

  • Did the original owner care enough to invest in Paint Protection from Paintseal or DiamondBrite?
  • What age are the tyres (see the four-digit number on the tyre wall, for example ‘1020’ means the tyres were made in week 10 of 2020). Tyres over five years old should be changed, and, if they’re three or four years old, you may want to try to negotiate a discount.
  • Likewise, the orange or black 8mm gas pipe from the gas bottle is standardised (EN16436) and date-stamped in a similar fashion. Typically, gas pipes should be replaced after five years, unless they are made by Truma or GOK, in which case it’s 10 years. If any pipe is cracked or brittle, it should be replaced immediately.
  • A well-looked after and PDI’d tourer should have signs of lubrication and/or grease on the moving parts of the A-frame and corner steadies.
  • Are the (alloy) wheels scraped and damaged?
  • How is the upholstery foam fairing? If it’s sunken, it may need replacing sooner than you think.
  • Are there signs of wear or damage on the interior ‘woodwork’, particularly the exposed edges.
  • What condition is the kitchen sink in? Are there signs of wear from scrubbing? Also check the hob surface, burner caps and pan trivets for signs of heat damage/wear. Many caravan kitchens are barely used.

choosing a caravan

Embrace Your Caravan Adventure

As you can see, choosing the right caravan for you, will often involve some compromises, and only you can make those decisions. It’s also quite normal for caravanners to evolve the layouts they select over the first few years of ownership, as they realise which criteria are most important to them.

That’s why many caravanners start off buying a used tourer, while they discover what layout, size and weight, etc suits them best. It can make swapping the caravan easier and cheaper.

Brandwise, you can choose from the top British manufacturers like Bailey, Coachman and Elddis; major foreign brands like Adria, Knaus and Hymer; or one of the smaller manufacturers. There are also lots of used vans on the market from defunct manufacturers like Lunar and Abbey.

Simply take your time to find the right combination of factors to suit your needs, and then visit a top dealer like Raymond James Caravans to check them out and create a shortlist. The experienced staff at high-quality dealerships will make buying a caravan that’s right for you easier.


The author John Sootheran

John Sootheran is a seasoned caravan and motorhome journalist who previously edited Caravan magazine, and now writes for Britain’s best-selling caravan magazine, Practical Caravan, along with Practical Motorhome and the Camping & Caravanning Club magazines. He also works with a number of major caravanning brands.

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