Keep your caravan ‘extension’ looking great and in top condition with our handy cleaning and maintenance guide


Caravan awnings are vital additions to our touring lifestyles, delivering supplementary living space and storage, and providing extra insulation when cold-weather touring.


In recent years, the design and materials technology in modern awnings has exploded, and the prices have increased too. A good-quality awning now typically costs from £600 to £3,000, so it makes sense to look after your expensive caravanning accessory, by keeping it clean and ensuring it is fully waterproof and ready for your next touring holiday adventure.


Our guide reveals the techniques and products you should consider to achieve both.

Cleaning a caravan awning


caravan awning cleaning


Cleaning a caravan awning is essential to maintain its appearance, keep it serviceable, and prolong its lifespan. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to clean a caravan awning effectively:









1 Timing is crucial

how to clean a caravan awning

Awnings should only be stored away when dry, so you’ll need to choose a dry day for your cleaning session. Ideally, you’ll have warm weather with a light breeze, as these conditions will speed up the drying process. 


This means you’ll be able to see the results of your endeavours quickly, and get the awning packed away, confident that there is no damaging moisture lurking in the folds.
Start cleaning as early in the day as you can, as this will allow plenty of drying time.


2 Choose a suitable location

cleaning your awning


Awnings can be big and somewhat awkward to deal with. Even a ‘small’, two-metre porch awning can be cumbersome, so plan your cleaning session well. To work easily, you’ll need an area as big as the ‘footprint’ of the awning, with at least a metre (three feet) of space all around.
Find a level and open space to work in.



3 Spot clean or complete clean?


Okay, are you targeting one or more specific areas of dirt, grease, or grime on your awning, or are you planning a complete spring clean of it?
If it’s the former, you might get away with laying the awning out on the ground, or over a heavy-duty ‘washing line’. I’m talking about a very strong cord or rope, here, as awning material can weigh more than 20kg. A standard washing line won’t cut it, I’m afraid.



cleaning process

Take care if laying the awning out on the ground to clean it, and consider laying it on top of your awning carpet, to keep it as clean as possible.


If you’re giving your awning a total wash-down (and‌ reproofing it afterwards), you’ll be better off erecting it. This could be independent of the caravan, and, while it may take a bit of time, it’ll ease the cleaning process and really accelerate the drying time.

It should take just a few minutes to blow up an air awning, but a bit longer to build a pole awning, which will need four vertical poles, i.e.: including the two that go next to the side of the caravan. Once erected, it makes sense to peg both down with four ground pegs and two or four guy-lines.

4 Remove loose debris 

clean caravan


Once erected, start the cleaning process by lightly brushing any loose dirt, leaves, or other debris off the awning fabric with a soft brush or dry cloth. This will help to prevent any abrasive particles from damaging the fabric during cleaning.








5 Prepare the cleaning solution 

awning cleaner

Next, you need to prep the detergent solution. This may be a pre-mixed, ready-to-spray, mild detergent, or you may need to dilute a concentrate in a bucket of water. Follow the awning manufacturer’s instructions for the correct dilution.


6 Test a Small Area 


awning manufacturers


Before applying the cleaning solution to the entire awning, it’s worth testing it on a small, inconspicuous area to make sure it doesn’t cause discoloration or damage. You may want to leave it for 30 minutes to check for any delayed effects. 


7 Pre-treat stubborn marks

tent cleaner


Consider pre-treating any grease or dirt marks that look like they may be stubborn with a specialist cleaner or a slightly stronger dilution of the detergent mix. Allow 20-30 mins for the solution to take effect. 


8 Clean the awning fabric 


Using a soft cleaning brush, mitt, or sponge, gently scrub the awning fabric with the cleaning solution. Start from the top and work your way down. At this point, you can pay extra attention to those particularly badly soiled or stained areas.


9 Rinse thoroughly 


Using a hose pipe or a bucket of clean water, rinse the awning thoroughly, removing all traces of the cleaning solution before it dries, and making sure there’s no soapy residue left on the fabric.
In warmer weather, you may want to clean one panel at a time, to limit the risk of the cleaning solution drying on the fabric.
Naturally, all this is much more difficult with the awning laying on the ground.


10 Check for stubborn marks


awning fabric

With the awning washed down, you’ll need to let it dry (at least partially) to see if your efforts have been successful in removing any marks and blemishes.






11 Re-treat any persistent marks


caravan bucket

If you find that some marks are still visible, you could retreat those areas with a strong dilution of cleaning fluid, or seek out a stronger detergent such as Ultramar’s Power Cleaner. Use these solutions as instructed and be mindful that you may cause fading of the awning material if you overdo it.







12 Dry the awning 


caravan reproofing

Once you’re satisfied with your cleaning efforts, it’s time to dry the awning.
As mentioned, this is easiest with the awning erected. If it’s laid out on the ground, you may need to lift and rotate it sporadically to make sure all the sides dry out. 

On a warm, breezy day, an erected awning should dry out within an hour or two.

Check seams and folds for dryness – you must NOT put the awning away with any wet or damp areas, as this will inevitably cause mildew and mould to grow on it.  


13 Roll it up


Once you’re happy that the awning is completely dry, you can dismantle it. Make sure the ground below has also dried out before you do this, and consider collapsing it onto the awning’s carpet for protection. 

Now, carefully roll it up, taking care to crease the plastic windows as little as possible. Once it is compact enough, it can go back into its bag.


14 Reproofing your awning (Optional) 

awning cleaning product


Once your awning is clean and dry, you have the option of reproofing the material with a specialist reproofing solution. These come in spray-on and paint-on forms, from a range of manufacturers. You’ll know if this is needed, when your awning shows signs of water not beading on the fabric.

Consider using a water-based solution to proof an awning as it won’t smell as strongly as solvent-based ones, and is better for the environment. The reproofer shouldn’t affect the breathability of any fabrics it’s used on, e.g.: awnings, tents, jackets, etc. Some also provide UV protection for the awning fabric.
Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application and coverage.


15 Awning cleaning tips 

caravan awning birmingham


  • Don’t use harsh or abrasive cleaners, as they can damage the fabric and the waterproof coating.
  • Avoid using a pressure washer, as the high-pressure stream can damage the fabric and the seams.
  • Regular maintenance, including brushing off debris and keeping your awning clean and reproofed, can help to prolong its life.
  • Try to avoid camping under trees on campsites, due to the damaging tree sap they produce, and the higher risk of bird muck.


16 Awning cleaning materials and accessories

caravan brush


You will need…

  • A mild detergent or specialist awning cleaning product
  • A (long-handled) soft brush, mitt, or sponge
  • A hose or bucket of warm water
  • Soft, clean cloths or microfibre towels
  • Awning reproofing solution (optional)

tent proofer

Awning cleaner contacts

Fenwick’s at Raymond James Caravans or in-store

HLS Supplies hlssupplies.co.uk

Ultramar ultramarxl.com

Onechem assured products.co.uk

Fabsil fabsil.com

Essential Caravan Awning Maintenance: Tips and Products from Raymond James Caravans

In wrapping up, it’s paramount to keep your caravan awning in tip-top shape, not only to bolster its longevity but also to maintain its aesthetic appeal.

At Raymond James Caravans, we’re well aware of the significance of proper awning upkeep. We offer an extensive array of products and expert guidance to aid you in this endeavour. Our guide lays out a detailed roadmap for cleaning and maintaining your awning, making sure it’s waterproof and ready for your forthcoming holiday escapades.

For additional tips and counsel on caravan upkeep, as well as to peruse our broad selection of caravanning accessories and cleaning products. Our knowledgeable staff are always prepared to provide you with tailored advice and effective solutions to maintain your caravan and awning in pristine condition.

Regular maintenance isn’t just about enhancing your touring experience; it’s also about making sure the durability of your caravan’s vital appendages.


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.




Acadia may be deemed Coachman’s ‘base range’, but the quality of the layouts and build seems exceptional


Coachman’s new-look Acadia caravans for 2024 deliver everything we’ve come to expect from the Hull-based manufacturer: style, comfort, versatility and practicality.
These four luxury caravans come in standard (seven-foot-five-inch) and Xtra (eight-foot) widths.

The standard-width 545 and 575 roll on single axles, while the wider 630 Xtra and 660 Xtra boast twin-axles, which some believe makes caravans even more stable.

All Acadias feature refreshed exterior graphics, light-grey side panels and white ABS front and rear panels. Add in the dark-tinted windows and you have four very cool-looking tourers.

Overall, the Acadias look modern and aerodynamic, without relying on lots of stuck-on plastic accoutrements.

Inside, the Acadias get soft-close hinges on their top lockers, a ventilated microwave oven, and integral USB sockets in the fixed-bed spotlights. The single axles feature a 91-litre Thetford fridge/freezer, while twin axles have huge 137-litre equivalents. Alde wet central heating is standard.

Finally, a Teleco Teleplus TV aerial with DAB radio reception is now fitted as standard across the range.


Acadia 545

Caravan Review: Coachman Acadia & Acadia Xtra 2024 range -Raymond James Caravans

This van has a traditional front-end lounge with parallel sofas separated by a useful centre console. This tourer is light and airy, thanks to its large window area, including a vast panoramic roof window.

The kitchen is adjacent and has a Thetford dual-fuel hob (3 gas rings + 1 electric) along with a grill and oven, there’s also decent storage in cupboards and lockers. A fold-up worktop extension gives more space for meal prep, and opposite is more worktop area with a decent-sized fridge beneath. At head height there’s a flatbed ventilated microwave.

A ’corridor’ cleverly separates the bedroom from the living area. On one side is a large shower cubicle, and opposite is a separate room with toilet, washbasin and heated towel rail.


Caravan Review: Coachman Acadia & Acadia Xtra 2024 range -Raymond James Caravans

Caravan Review: Coachman Acadia & Acadia Xtra 2024 range -Raymond James Caravans


This ‘en-suite’ layout means the entire bedroom area can be separated from the front of the tourer using one or both doors, which is excellent for privacy. Front, make-up bed users don’t have to traipse through the rear bedroom to use the loo either. Win, win!

The bedroom features an extending island bed coming off the rear wall. It’s a luxurious setting, and each occupant gets a small wardrobe, bedside table, and locker, plus, of course, there’s voluminous storage (for lightweight payload) under the bed.


Acadia 575

Caravan Review: Coachman Acadia & Acadia Xtra 2024 range -Raymond James Caravans

The 575 shares a traditional parallel-sofa-plus-console lounge area with the 545. It feels airy, light and spacious partly thanks to the ageless, light-grey upholstery. Top locker storage, a Din-sized stereo FM radio and neat, chrome spotlights all add to the sense that Coachman has thought of everything.

The kitchen is similar to the 545, too. There’s a stainless-steel sink with stylish, pivoting chrome mixer tap, next to the Thetford hob, grill and oven. Worktop space is enhanced with a fold-up extension, and there’s more worktop behind the cook, too, above a 93-litre low-level fridge/freezer. A kitchen-area rooflight helps to create a positive airflow to reduce cooking odours.

The 575 varies from the 545 in the bedroom department, which is found in the middle of the caravan, so this tourer has a washroom at the rear.


Caravan Review: Coachman Acadia & Acadia Xtra 2024 range -Raymond James Caravans

Caravan Review: Coachman Acadia & Acadia Xtra 2024 range -Raymond James Caravans


The transverse, fixed double bed comes off the nearside wall and extends at bedtime, allowing for a wider walkway when it’s not in use. Both occupants get a side table, reading light and wardrobe, plus there are three sizeable lockers above the bed.

The spacious washroom, with its swivel-seat Thetford loo, generously-sized shower and stylish basin, is accessed via a sliding door. It also features a heated towel rail and plenty of storage.


Acadia 630 Xtra

Caravan Review: Coachman Acadia & Acadia Xtra 2024 range -Raymond James Caravans

Apart from having four stylish, black, diamond-cut Laufen alloy wheels instead of two, the 630 Xtra shares its elegant external appearance with the Acadia four-berths.
Step inside, though, and the ‘Xtra’ is immediately apparent, as the added seven inches of width makes itself felt!

I can never get over how such a modest ‘enlargement’ makes such a huge difference to the feeling of spaciousness in a caravan. These eight-foot-wide Acadias, really do feel like luxury hotel rooms on wheels – except this one is a family sized room!

The vast L-shaped sofa is super-comfy, with plenty of room for five to cuddle up and watch a movie. This area quickly makes-up into a huge bed at night. Next to it, is a similarly oversized side-diner, which also converts into a large bed. This layout really does look great for harmonious family hols… even if it’s raining!


Caravan Review: Coachman Acadia & Acadia Xtra 2024 range -Raymond James Caravans

Caravan Review: Coachman Acadia & Acadia Xtra 2024 range -Raymond James Caravans


The kitchen has exceptional worktop space on two levels, lots of storage, a stylish sink and versatile Thetford hob and oven.

Next to the kitchen is a wardrobe and drawers, and opposite those are two bunks for the kids, which are wider than many caravnning-kids’ beds. Each bunk gets its own window and privacy curtain, too.

Finally, at the back of the van is a good-sized and tasteful washroom, with a toilet, heated towel rail, contemporary-style basin, and large shower, that’s adequate for XL-sized caravanners.

Acadia 660 Xtra

Caravan Review: Coachman Acadia & Acadia Xtra 2024 range -Raymond James Caravans

The 660Xtra shares the brilliant lounge and side-diner of the 630, but this model opts for a fixed double (French-style) bed instead of the make-up-bed-and-bunks combo.

The fixed bed is enclosed on 3.5 sides, so very private, but also relatively easy to access. It’s located next to the well-sized washroom, with its swivel Thetford loo, stylish basin, heated towel rail and large shower cubicle.

Again, the sheer amount of space is immediately apparent when you get inside this tourer. I dare say, it would be very easy to sleep two adults and four (sub-teen) kids comfortably, as both the lounge and diner quickly convert to sizeable beds.

Storage in the kitchen is excellent, and the diner table offers extra prep space to complement the work top. A dual-fuel, four-burner Thetford oven and hob is perfect for family cooking, and the large sink should aid the kids washing up (I’m joking!).


Caravan Review: Coachman Acadia & Acadia Xtra 2024 range -Raymond James Caravans

Caravan Review: Coachman Acadia & Acadia Xtra 2024 range -Raymond James Caravans


A tall, slim-line fridge freezer offers sufficient cooling space to cater for larger families.

Like its Acadia brethren. The 660 has shock absorbers for smoother towing, a Whale external BBQ gas point, double-glazed windows, excellent insulation for four-season touring, fully-bonded awning rails (so, no troublesome screwholes) and superior fixtures and fittings all round (including dovetail-jointed furniture and soft-close lockers).

All-in-all, this is a world-class tourer that matches comfort and convenience to an almost matchless standard.

Summing up the Coachman Acadia and Acadia Xtra Caravan 2024 Ranges

Right across the range, these Acadias have a real feeling of quality about them. The layouts are versatile, too, so there’s something for everyone.

Smaller families, or couples who have occasional guests, will love the 545 and 575, while, families who need lots of space, will find that the 630 and 660 are sensational options.

I’ve seen few caravan interiors as stylish and tempting as these amazing Coachmans.






















Coachman’s 2024 luxury Lasers caravans have reached new heights (and sizes) in Xcel form. Let’s see exactly how good a caravan can get

Coachman’s four 2024 Laser Xcel tourers – the 845, 850, 855 and 875 – are bringing domestic practicality, comfort and luxury to a campsite near you!

These sumptuous, eight-foot wide caravans all run on twin-axles for added stability on the road, and are jam packed with high-quality furnishings, well-appointed kitchens, opulent washrooms and super-comfy bedrooms.

For me, these are luxury couple’s caravans, but families of four could also experience the extravagant touring lifestyle they can offer, with smaller kids (or guests) sleeping on the vast make-up front beds.

Each Laser is constructed with insulative 25mm wall panels, consisting of an aluminium-skin and polystyrene-cores. Meanwhile, the floors are made of 45mm insulated sandwich-composite.

Throw in Alde’s fantastic programmable, wet central-heating system, and you have true four-season tourers, that will offer cosy and warm retreats from the worst weather a British winter can muster.

Coachman has improved the already-impressive spec of its 2023 models, by adding 40-litre onboard water tanks; voluminous 159-litre Thetford fridge/freezers and Teleco Teleplus TV aerials with DAB radio reception, plus a host of other desirable practical and styling additions.

Laser Xcel 845

Caravan Review: Coachman Laser Xcel Caravan Range [2024] Raymond James Caravans


This lavish tourer features a plush L-shaped sofa next to a slim console cupboard. The floor is a durable vinyl, but these Lasers come with deep-pile, loose-lay carpet for added warmth and cosiness. The sofa converts into a vast double bed for guests or kids.


Caravan Review: Coachman Laser Xcel Caravan Range [2024] Raymond James Caravans

Caravan Review: Coachman Laser Xcel Caravan Range [2024] Raymond James Caravans

Adjacent is a stylish, compact L-shaped kitchen which boasts a fold-up extension, lots of storage, stainless steel sink (with cool, flexible mixer-tap nozzle) and a versatile Thetford hob and oven. Opposite is a 159-litre fridge/freezer at a useful mid-height, with additional worktop space next to it.

A corridor, with the spacious shower on one side and well-equipped washroom on the other, leads to the rear bedroom, with its island bed coming off the back wall. The dark wood-effect wall panels exude a quality feel which is enhanced by the layered lighting options and multi-angle reading lights. The bed retracts in the daytime to create more space in the bedroom.

Laser Xcel 850

Caravan Review: Coachman Laser Xcel Caravan Range [2024] Raymond James Caravans

The new 850 model offers luxury couple’s accommodation that few airbnbs can match. Parallel sofas in the lounge feature premium, sprung construction and high-quality, durable grey fabrics. The ‘hygge’ quotient is enhanced with three tasteful cushions on each side, in coordinating shades of beige and gold.


Caravan Review: Coachman Laser Xcel Caravan Range [2024] Raymond James Caravans

Caravan Review: Coachman Laser Xcel Caravan Range [2024] Raymond James Caravans

Like the other Laser Xcels, the kitchen offers expanding worktop space, three drawers, plus a pan locker and a large cupboard for provisions. A large locker and the flatbed, ventilated microwave are at head height, with a rooflight/vent above.

The washroom and shower are found ‘amidships’ separating the lounge and kitchen from the bedroom rather neatly. The washroom has a large mirror and lots of cupboard storage, plus a super-stylish bowl-style washbasin in a dark mushroom colour. On one side is a heated towel rail, with a Thetford swivel loo opposite.

The shower has a transparent hinged door, and is big enough for the larger caravanner. The shower tap and showerhead both look like quality items, and the unit has two small, built-in shelves.

Laser Xcel 855

Caravan Review: Coachman Laser Xcel Caravan Range [2024] Raymond James Caravans

Step inside the luxurious Laser Xcel 855 and you’re immediately confronted by one of the biggest (and comfiest-looking) sofas in the world of caravans. This L-shaped settee has deep, sprung cushions, and occupants are treated to a lovely bright and airy environment, thanks to the large windows and huge front roof-window.

That said, the nearside front window is missing, having been replaced by a mount for a pleasingly-large 32in television. I can’t think of any other caravan that looks quite as inviting as this for a night watching a movie with the ‘other-half’ or family.

Caravan Review: Coachman Laser Xcel Caravan Range [2024] Raymond James Caravans

Caravan Review: Coachman Laser Xcel Caravan Range [2024] Raymond James Caravans

The kitchen sits on the nearside, and has plenty of worktop space with the fold-up extension in place. A good-sized sink and Thetford hob (three gas burners and an electric hotplate) deliver domestic levels of practicality.

The rear bedroom is separated from the lounge and kitchen by the mid-washroom arrangement, which has the large shower on one side, opposite the well-equipped washroom with its loo, basin and towel rail.
The bedroom has an island double bed coming off the offside wall. The bed base lifts to reveal a vast storage space below, and also retracts to create a wider walkway around the bed, during the day. A window on the rear wall and a rooflight provide plenty of daylight illumination.

Laser Xcel 875Caravan Review: Coachman Laser Xcel Caravan Range [2024] Raymond James Caravans


The 875 is a dream of a couple’s caravan, as it just feels so spacious and welcoming – from the sumptuous parallel front sofas to the opulent island double bed in the middle of the van.

Like all Lasers the kitchen is well equipped, with top-class appliances and bags of practical storage, there’s also lots of space for people to get past the cook (which isn’t always the case). The highlight is perhaps the capacious fridge, which will provide more than enough chilled storage for four.

A neat concertina screen pulls across easily, to separate the bedroom from the front of the tourer.

Caravan Review: Coachman Laser Xcel Caravan Range [2024] Raymond James Caravans

Caravan Review: Coachman Laser Xcel Caravan Range [2024] Raymond James Caravans

In this van, the washroom is at the rear, and divided from the rest of the caravan by a sliding door. It’s one of the most spacious washrooms around, with plenty of floorspace, as well as a Thetford swivel toilet, bowl-style basin, large shower and lots of storage.


The devil’s in the detail with these vans. You can see Coachman’s focus on ‘going the extra mile’ in its dovetailed furniture joints and the soft-close function on many of its lockers and drawers.

But if details aren’t your thing, just immerse yourself in a specification list that puts many competitors to shame – seriously, we’re talking three pages of A4!

Yep, the Laser Xcel range genuinely gives all other tourers a run for their money, so get yourself down to Raymond James Caravans in Atherstone to check them out.
























Coachman Laser caravans have always been among the most luxurious tourers available. So, what do the new-for-2024 models have in store?

Coachman’s three 2024 Laser Xtra tourers – the 545, 575 and 665 – are luxurious eight-foot wide caravans. The 545 and 575 feature single axles, while the 665 Xtra has twin-axles, all three deliver exceptional living spaces with well-thought-out lounges, kitchens, bedrooms and washrooms. in this eight-foot-wide format, they genuinely feel like extravagant apartments!

In addition to the already amazing spec of the 2023 models, these Lasers offer 40-litre onboard water tanks; spacious fridge/freezers (137 litres in the 545 and 575, and 159 litres in the 665), ventilated microwaves, flexible black and chrome kitchen taps, black LED reading spotlights and a Teleco Teleplus TV aerial with DAB radio reception.

Each Laser is constructed using very insulative 25mm aluminium-skin-polystyrene-core sidewalls, and 45mm insulated sandwich-construction floor with extra bracing. This means the Lasers are ideal four-season tourers, especially as they boast Alde’s excellent programmable, wet central-heating system with radiators discretely tucked away behind sofas and stylish boxing.

Externally, the Lasers have contemporary light-grey side panels with 3D decals, and aerodynamic, white ABS front and rear panels. Stylish 10-spoke alloys finish off the look perfectly.

Laser 545 Xtra

Caravan Review: Coachman Laser Xtra Caravan Range [2024] Raymond James Caravans

This tourer is light and airy with the huge, ‘banquette-style’ L-shaped sofa adding a real sense of extravagance to proceedings. All furnishings feature superior, sprung-construction and the plush, dark-grey material matches the stylish wood-effect wall panels perfectly, while the large window area and vast front roof window let light stream into the caravan. Six plump, colour-coordinated cushions only enhance the sense of indulgence that this van exudes. Safe to say, visitors will be green with envy!

The 545’s kitchen is also L-shaped, and features a fold-up worktop extension, to provide additional prep space. The composite worktop is stylish and hard-wearing in a ‘white-pebble’ finish, while the sink tap features more innovation, with its black flexible spout, which can be manipulated and twisted to make washing-up easier. A circular ‘fill-in’ panel covers the sink when it’s not in use.

Caravan Review: Coachman Laser Xtra Caravan Range [2024] Raymond James Caravans


The dual-fuel Thetford hob (3 gas rings + 1 electric) sits above a grill and decent-sized over. Opposite is a tall, slimline 137-litre fridge with adequate food storage for four or more. All the Laser windows feature Softrollo pleated blinds and flyscreens.

Beyond the kitchen, the 545 narrows, with a ‘corridor’ leading to the bedroom. This delivers a pleasing sense of separation and privacy, and, as the shower room is on one side and the loo and basin on the other, it means that front-bed occupants don’t have to ‘sneak’ through the bedroom to get to the bathroom in the night! This really is a great layout on so many levels, especially as not one, but two doors can be used to separate the bedroom.


Caravan Review: Coachman Laser Xtra Caravan Range [2024] Raymond James Caravans


The shower is generously-sized, so even XL caravanners won’t be bashing their elbows, and the washroom has similarly ample proportions. It features Thetford’s swivel loo, Alde heated towel rail and a stylish bowl-style basin. You’ll never want to visit a campsite loo block again!

This layout gives a real sense of having a luxury en-suite bedroom, and this feeling is only heightened by the retracting island double bed that comes off the rear wall. As well as sleeping on a quality foam mattress, each occupant gets a wardrobe, bedside table, flexible reading light (with USB charging port) and magazine/book holder. Plus, there are three spacious lockers above the bed.

Laser 575 Xtra

Caravan Review: Coachman Laser Xtra Caravan Range [2024] Raymond James Caravans


This tourer shares its overall dimensions with the 545, but the lounge has reverted to the traditional parallel-sofas layout, with a fold-away table that can be positioned between them for dining. The extra width of this eight-footer, makes that dining experience more pleasurable, as there’s ample legroom and sofa length for four.

A front console between the sofas provides practical storage with its deep drawer and locker beneath, and its pull-out table top.

At night, the illumination inside the Lasers is quite something, letting you create that perfect ‘hygge’ environment of soft mood-lighting, and more intense, multidirectional reading lights. Coachman calls this ‘layered lighting’, with ‘integrated downlighting’ to enhance the ambiance. It genuinely enriches the environment, and the sense of cosiness.


Caravan Review: Coachman Laser Xtra Caravan Range [2024] Raymond James Caravans


The L-shaped kitchen worktop has an extension flap and sits above three drawers and an under-counter lock. With top lockers, too, there’s ample storage.

The all-in-one Thetford hob, grill and oven, has a pan locker below. Opposite this is a tall and slim 137-litre Thetford fridge/freezer.

Behind the kitchen is the bedroom with its large, retracting island bed butting up to the nearside wall. Again, each occupant gets a wardrobe, bedside table and locker, and three top lockers are positioned above the bed. The retracting bed means that there’s ample walkway space to access the rear washroom when the bed’s not in use.


Caravan Review: Coachman Laser Xtra Caravan Range [2024] Raymond James Caravans


The elegant washroom traverses the rear of the van and features a Thetford toilet, a chic washbasin, an Alde heated towel rail and a large shower cubicle. The fixtures and fittings are exceptional and the washroom exudes an air of luxury and comfort.

On the outside, Laser caravans share a whole host of additional features. These include: an underslung (steel) spare wheel, shock absorbers for smoother towing, heavy-duty corner steadies for stability and a Whale cold shower, gas BBQ point, and a 230V external socket.

Laser 665 Xtra

Caravan Review: Coachman Laser Xtra Caravan Range [2024] Raymond James Caravans

The 665 is 18 inches longer than the other new Laser Xtras, and shares its rear-bedroom layout with the 545, although, in this case, the beds come in twin-single form, rather than a double. This increasingly-popular bed choice, gets a boost in the 665, as the two singles are extra wide, with a good walkway to the mid-washroom between them.


Caravan Review: Coachman Laser Xtra Caravan Range [2024] Raymond James Caravans


Like the 545, having the shower room and washroom in the middle of the caravan, creates an en-suite effect and more privacy for those in the bedroom. Both washing facilities are spacious and stylish, and the two-position door to the washroom/loo serves a dual purpose, in that it can seal off the rear of the caravan, or just provide privacy for those using the washroom. It’s a neat bit of design.

The 665 kitchen combines decent worktop space with excellent storage, a sizeable fridge and a versatile oven, grill and hob unit from Thetford.


Caravan Review: Coachman Laser Xtra Caravan Range [2024] Raymond James Caravans


The 665’s lounge has parallel sofas with deep sprung cushioning for excellent comfort and cosiness. Two occupants can bag a sofa each, get their feet up (shoes off!) and watch a TV positioned on the bulkhead next to the fridge. There would be few nicer places to chill out and relax!


These new Coachman Laser Xtras, really are something – three versatile layouts with options on beds, lounges and washrooms. Everything from the upholstery to the lighting effects, and the premium foam mattresses to the XL-sized shower cubicles is designed to deliver the highest levels of comfort, practicality, privacy and, let’s face it, show-off-ability!
These really are next-level caravans.























Review of the Coachman Lusso Caravan Range for 2024

Lusso is Coachman’s new elite range. The Hull-based manufacturer had already set a high bar, so just how good are these new, improved tourers?

Coachman’s new Lusso caravans take luxury, comfort and practicality to new levels.
For 2024, there are two vans in the range, the single-axle Lusso I and the twin-axle Lusso II, which measures almost half-a-metre longer. 46.5cm may not sound like a lot, but it does add noticeable interior space to the extravagant Lusso II.

Both vans feature a whole host of added extras, including air-conditioning courtesy of Truma, Alde wet central heating, E&P’s brilliant self-levelling system, shock absorbers for smoother towing, an under-locker extractor fan, a 40-litre onboard freshwater tank, a Phantom Vanguard alarm system, a 100W solar panel and even a Dometic safe!

Add to that all of Coachman’s standard fare, like premium upholstery and stylish interior design, and you have a range of tourers that can compete with any opposition in the luxury-lifestyle stakes.

Both Lussos have bold interior and exterior styling touches that set them apart from their peers, and despite their size and weight they are easy and safe to tow thanks to their excellent AL-KO chassis and suspension, plus AL-KO’s essential ATC safety system and the company’s AKS 3004 hitch stabiliser.

Lusso living really does give comfort and convenience on the campsite, a new meaning!

Lusso ICoachman Lusso range [2024] Raymond James


Coachman Lusso range [2024] Raymond James Step inside the Lusso I and you’re immediately confronted by the vast L-shaped sofa in dark grey. The furniture features superior sprung upholstery and high-quality, premium fabrics. This is enhanced with six coordinating cushions in various shades of grey and silver. The dark fabrics and med-dark wood panels add an air of class and exclusivity, but the large windows and front roof window keep this living area feeling bright and spacious.

In the locker above the sofa is the Teleco Teleplus TV aerial with integrated FM/DAM receiver. The Lusso is also 5G-ready – ideal if you need to work (or stream TV shows) while you’re away.

Next to the lounge is an L-shaped kitchen with excellent worktop space and very good storage options. The composite ‘Silver Pebble’ worktop features a useful fold-up extension, and has a circular stainless steel sink set into it. This can be covered with a drop-in circular insert to increase workspace further.

A snazzy, chrome mixer tap with flexible black, latex spout is designed to make washing up and rinsing easier.

A Thetford, oven (3+1) hob and grill gives the caravan cook plenty of options, and opposite this there’s a slimline 137-litre fridge/freezer.

A large ‘letterbox’ window sits behind the worktop, which is ideal for removing cooking odours from the van.

The kitchen is separated from the bedroom by a fabric concertina, pull-across blind.

Coachman Lusso range [2024] Raymond James

The spacious bedroom has a double, island bed coming off the off-side wall panel. The bed base lifts easily to reveal storage space below, plus each bed occupant has a bedside table and locker, with four further lockers above the bed. A wardrobe and cabinet at the foot of the bed offer further room for clothes and footwear.


At the rear of the Lusso is a spacious washroom with stylishly-designed fixtures and fittings: a Thetford swivel-seat loo, Alde heated towel rail, contemporary bowl-design basin and a large shower cubicle.

Coachman Lusso range [2024] Raymond James

Both Lussos come with deep-pile, stain-resistant loose-lay carpets, though these are not included in the photographs where you see a hard-wearing, vinyl covering in a Grey French-Oak design.

The bedroom also has a large mirror, dressing-table area and all connections for a TV.

Lusso IICoachman Lusso range [2024] Raymond James


Coachman’s Lusso II shares its super-sized sofa with its sibling in a lounge area that also has a narrow console and worktop on the nearside wall. This could be the ideal place to pop a free-standing TV.

Coachman Lusso range [2024] Raymond James

The van is warmed with Alde’s brilliant wet central heating, its radiators cleverly concealed behind the furniture. It also has an alarm sensor, stereo and speakers, flexi-spotlights, a wireless phone charger and enough legroom for four adults… easily.


The L-shaped kitchen offers masses of storage space, both low-down and at head height, and a useful amount of worktop space that makes cooking for four or more a doddle.
The Thetford hob has three gas burners and one electric hotplate, framed by a stylish cast-iron trivet. The cooker also boasts a good-sized grill and fan-assisted oven. Below it is a pan locker, while above is a premium Russell Hobbs flatbed microwave, designed to cook food more evenly.

Opposite the oven is a 159-litre fridge/freezer which has separate compartments and doors.

Directly to the rear of the fridge is a neatly-concealed, fabric, concertina blind, which pulls across to provide privacy to bedroom occupants, and next to this is a suite of wardrobes and drawers. These are doubly impressive, as, not only do they feature dovetail construction, but the drawers have soft-close mechanisms (as do the kitchen drawers). These are neat touches which really highlight the lengths that Coachman has gone to with its 2024 tourers.

Coachman Lusso range [2024] Raymond James

The retractable, double, island bed, can be pushed back during the day, to allow easier access to the rear washroom, or when you might just be reclining on the bed to read or relax. It also lifts up to reveal a vast storage space below. The Lusso II also has a chic padded headboard in a coordinating grey, velvet fabric; bedside tables with two deep drawers and mirrors; a small shelf for phone charging or a watch, plus multi-angle reading lights. It’s a superb place to sleep.

Finally, at the rear of the caravan is a large transverse washroom, with lots of floorspace, an XL-sized shower cubicle, elegant bowl-style basin in grey, flexi mixer tap, Thetford toilet and Alde heated towel rain. A double-width mirror adds to the sense of quality and space, while a rooflight increases ventilation.

Caravan Review: Coachman Lusso Caravan Range [2024]

These two Lusso vans really do offer next-level caravanning, with almost every home comfort you can dream of cleverly included. As global temperatures appear to rise unabated, the air-conditioning will be a boon to many caravanners, especially those that venture south on the continent. Meanwhile, highly insulated wall and floor panels allied with Alde central-heating make these true four-season tourers, meaning buyers can really maximise the use of their investment.

Cooks will love the Lussos (as will their guests), and if you just want to chill-out and relax there really is nowhere better – especially if you find a pitch with a view. Safe to say, if you paid £200-plus for a hotel room anywhere, you’d be very happy if this is where you got to stay!
























Coachman’s VIP range for 2024 is as extensive as it is brilliant.

Five standard-width VIPs – in two, three and four-berth layouts – cater for all caravanners with high expectations of their mobile accommodation.

As the name suggests, the Coachman’s VIP range offers a level of leisure-lifestyle luxury that few caravans can match.

VIP comes in a variety of popular layouts, and excels in every department, from sleeping to lounging, and cooking to washing. The materials and fabrics that Coachman has chosen exude quality at every turn, and the designers’ attention to detail is both impressive and reassuring.

Coachman’s interior designers have gone to town on these 2024 VIPs, which boast luxurious soft furnishings with co-ordinating scatter cushions; cranked-style locker doors and contemporary worktop surfaces that are as stylish as they are hardwearing.

You’ll also find a ventilated microwave (which uses flatbed technology to cook more evenly), high-quality and capacious Thetford fridges (91-litre in the single axles, 159-litres in the twin axles), plus a new Teleco Teleplus TV aerial for improved reception.

VIP 575

Coachman VIP range [2024] Raymond James


This sumptuous, single-axle tourer has a traditional front lounge with parallel sofas and a large, practical console in between. The darker wood effects add a real sense of quality and class to the interior, but don’t think for a second that the VIP interior is dark, as six Primo Polyplastic windows let light flood in.

The front panoramic roof window in particular spreads natural light throughout the lounge and kitchen, and, while it does have a blind, you never need to use them as no-one can see through a window at this height.

So, let’s check out the details: a high-quality, Din-sized stereo system powers two speakers in the front pillars; four multi-angle reading/spot lights add to the ambience at night and there’s even a cable-free phone charger on the front window sill.

The kitchen is compact, but comprehensively kitted-out with a folding worktop extension, round sink (with fill-in panel to expand the prep space), stylish chrome mixer tap, combined Thetford hob, grill and oven… and oodles of storage space.


Coachman VIP range [2024] Raymond James


Opposite is a low-level, 91-litre Thetford fridge/freezer, with even more usable worktop space above, and, above that is the aforementioned microwave. This is both a functional and stylish place to cook.

A combination of wall panels and an extending concertina blind, separate the front living space from the bedroom. The bed is a transverse, island double with a large storage space below the easy-lift bed base and mattress. Being close to the axle, slightly heavier stuff can be stored under here.

The bed has a high-quality foam mattress and retracts in the day to allow a wider walkway to the rear washroom.

Each occupant gets a wardrobe, bedside table, reading light and locker space… and, we’re pretty sure, a great night’s sleep.

The washroom is accessed via a sliding door and contains a Thetford electric-flush toilet, Alde heated towel rail, stylish basin with chrome tap and a super-sized shower cubicle.

VIP 675

Coachman VIP range [2024] Raymond James


The lavish VIP 675 offers quite similar accommodation and luxury to the 575, but it rolls on twin axles, which gives a more stable tow.

The parallel-sofa lounge is very comfortable with superior sprung furnishings and co-ordinating cushions, while a centre console with locker, large drawer and extending tabletop separates the two sofas.

The kitchen has wider drawers than the 575 but otherwise is similarly spec’d with oven, grill, hob and microwave. Where it does exceed the brilliant 575, is in the fridge department, where this tourer boasts a massive,159-litre fridge-freezer combo.


Coachman VIP range [2024] Raymond James


The 675 has a large transverse, island, double-bed with plenty of storage and hanging space for its inhabitants to utilise, while excellent blinds on the window and rooflight ensure the bedroom can be kept very dark even on those bright summer mornings.

At the rear, a washroom stretches the full width of the van and offers a luxurious environment for your ablutions, with its swivel-seat Thetford loo, fashionable bowl-style washbasin, heated towel rail, XL-sized shower cubicle and bags of storage in cupboards and lockers.

Three other models from the 2024 range were not on display at the launch. They are the VIP 460, VIP 520 and VIP 565.

VIP 460

Coachman VIP range [2024] Raymond James


The VIP 460 is a couple’s caravan, where the sizeable front lounge converts into a supersized double bed in just a few minutes. The kitchen sits amidships and offers all the same quality and convenience as its bigger siblings: a Thetford hob, oven and grill, plus a capacious 91-litre fridge freezer and a decent amount of worktop space.


Coachman VIP range [2024] Raymond James

The large rear washroom is home to two good-sized wardrobes, as well as the ubiquitous Thetford loo, lovely basin and cabinet and large shower cubicle. This really is a couple’s haven in a relatively compact package.

VIP 520

Coachman VIP range [2024] Raymond James

The VIP 520 is a three berth tourer, with a make-up front double (from the lovely lounge sofas) and a side-diner that converts into a single bed. This could be ideal for couples with a younger child, or for hosting an occasional guest. In warmer climes, where you can live outside, the bed could be left made-up, for added convenience.

The well-equipped kitchen sits on the nearside wall opposite the diner, which means the diner table can easily be used as extra prep space when cooking.


Coachman VIP range [2024] Raymond James

At the rear is the large washroom, which features two wardrobes plus a Thetford swivel-seat toilet, heated towel rail and sizeable shower cubicle. The stylish basin sits atop a low-level cabinet which boosts storage. As always, Coachman’s focus on classic interior design means this is a pleasant, as well as practical, space.

VIP 565

Coachman VIP range [2024] Raymond James

The VIP 565 is the range’s only twin-single-bed model, with two good-sized single beds towards the rear of the caravan. This space can be sectioned off to create a separate en-suite bedroom layout, as the well-appointed washroom sits behind the bedroom.


Coachman VIP range [2024] Raymond James

In the front is a spacious lounge with parallel sofas and a console in between. The compact kitchen features a Thetford hob, oven and grill, a low-level 95-litre fridge/freezer and there’s also a good-sized wardrobe opposite.


The VIP range of tourers offers two, three and four-berth options, all of which share the brand’s luxury DNA. The fixed-bed options in particular, bring a touch of extravagance to proceedings, and you can choose between island double bed or domestic-sized twin singles. If you prefer a slightly smaller caravan the two-berth 460 and here-berth 520 are both brilliant options.

Whichever one you go for, you’ll definitely feel like a VIP when you’re comfortably ensconced in these fabulous tourers.




















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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