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Buying a used caravan tips and tricks

Buying a used caravan tips and tricks

I love a bargain but sometimes it’s too good to be true and is a harsh reality when you find the bargain was a lemon. To avoid the most common pitfalls of buying a second hand caravan look out for these things.




Maintaining your caravan will prevent rust. Rust and corrosion may be formed from being exposed to moisture and is often expensive to restore if not eliminated early.

Your caravan should be inspected for dirt build-up. You should not let mud and dirt gather anywhere. Furthermore, store your van in a dry location to avoid corrosion and rust when not in use. Where no cover is available buying a caravan cover can also help prevent rust but it should be taken off after rains to dry out and stop humidity build-up.

Fish oil or lanolin are excellent at fighting rust. Apply a coat of either, and then over the top a rust-blocking paint can be used. Frequently touch up any chipped or peeling paintwork to help prevent rust. Do not skip the axle and chassis as these are important and still need maintaining to preventing rust.

When not in use, caravans should be stored in cool, dry environments. Or cover the caravan to help prevent rust.

There are also electronic gadgets to prevent rust, I don’t have one so I can’t vouch for them but I have been told they work, a search on ebay type in Electronic Rust Protection.

caravan-rust                           Electronic-Rust-Protection


Water Damage:

The most common caravan repairs and problems are connected to water damage. Often the deterioration that has gathered over time, for example an unknown leak that ultimately results in rotting or rusting frames and that also creates mould!

What’s to look for in water damaged caravan?

  • Warning signs are DIY repairs, bowing panels inside, repainted walls or roof
  • Check the seal around windows for damage
  • Make sure windows and doors work and are in good shape
  • Use the scent test: do you notice any damp smell? Also smell for chemicals to hide odours.
  • The Insect test: Ants like damp wood, indicating a possible leak, of course split honey or sugar can also invite ants.

Risk reduction is the recommended line of defense to prevent water leaks. So regular upkeep and proper storage of your caravan can help extend the life of your pride and joy.





Mould can cause allergic reactions, infections, and toxic reactions. Reactions vary from minor to very serious health issues.

Mould can propagate inside any caravan in damp or wet spaces without enough air flow, including caravan walls, ceilings, carpets, insulations and on wood. When dampness forms in a caravan mould will typically appear. There are various kinds of mould and all have the ability to trigger health issues.

There are Mould detectors that you can buy for around $100. These mould detectors could be money well spent when buying a second hand caravan as mould in a caravan is a write-off in my books. To get rid of mould inside internal walls and roof spaces is close to impossible or close to a full internal rebuild.

To find a mould detector try a search on places like ebay “Moisture Meter Detector”



Looking inside and out for faults:

Always check that windows and doors open and close and are in good shape

Examine water tanks, electrical wiring, plumbing and general condition underfloor frame and floor plate condition.

Suspension: check for damage, rust, fractures, distortion and shock absorbers

Tyres: do the tyres have good tread? How old are they? Are the correct tyres fitted (refer to compliance plate)? Is there a spare tyre?

To check the age of the tyres near the edge of the rim, look for a long serial number starting with the letters “DOT.” The code will end in either three numerals (pre-2000) or four (post 2000) and correspond to the two-digit week followed by the one- or two-digit year.

The A-Frame: Is the tow hitch and wiring in good shape? Also check the brake and jockey wheel.

Roof: Check for damage, leaks, hail damage and cracks

Electricals: Check over all power points for damage or burn marks from shorts, test all lights and all appliances.

Gas and bottles: Inspect condition of gas bottle or bottles, regulator and plumbing. Gas leaks can be tested by applying soapie water and look for bubbles. If you see any bubbles there is a gas leak.

Awnings and Annexes: Check for damp or mould marks, rips and tears and thinned material from sun damage. Also look at the frame of the annex and awnings looking for bent factored, missing parts or broken zippers. Make sure it winds or fold out right. Also many add on annexes are not always the right height, so always have the whole annex setup for proper inspection.



Before setting out on the first adventure it’s advisable to get a mechanical check on the towing car or truck, particularly the brakes, suspension and tyres.

  • Examine your caravan for roadworthiness before you leave, make sure everything is tired down and secure inside and out.
  • Always check your caravan lighting, hitch and chain before you set off.
  • Check the surface and set the correct tyres pressure, including the spare.
  • Have the wheel bearings inspected and greased every few years at least.
  • It’s also a good idea to have a fire extinguisher, smoke detector and even a CO2 monitor in every van.


We covered most of the common dilemmas that can manifest. The main point is to get any issues fixed before they get worse and buyer beware when buying any second hand caravan. Don’t be shy and ask lots of questions about any caravan you are thinking of buying. The main questions would be: How many owners prior? Is there anything I should know about the van? And other questions like: Has the van a current weighbridge cert? Add-ons and extras could push the weight over the legal limits. Ask if the current owner has the certs for both gas and electrics in the van. Last but not least make sure the tow car or truck can legally tow the van.

So now it’s your turn to tell me about faults or errors that have cost you money or caused headaches and also any tips or tricks I missed out on.


About Matt

Matt is the husband of Mindy, the Travelling Naturopath. Matt is a Jack of all trades, who loves working with his hands to make life easier. As a natural problem solver, he has the ability to see a solution where one is needed. Matt has a background in construction, computers and machinery. One of his passions is to share his innovative solutions with others, especially regarding living on the road.

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