Buying a caravan
The biggest initial outlay is the caravan itself. The price of a new caravan depends on its size, accommodation, style and other extras. A second hand caravan is valued according to its age and condition.
Running costs for a caravan
There may be further costs around transport and installation.
Installation covers such things as building or improving a foundation on which the caravan sits, levelling the caravan, connecting it to electricity, gas, water and sewerage and commissioning the appliances.
Get an “all-in” quote when negotiating to buy the caravan and do not forget about the costs of occasional repair, maintenance, improvement and servicing.
The biggest of the annual running costs is the pitch rental or fee. Pitch fees tend to increase from year to year.
What pushes up pitch fees are things like inflation, district and regional rates and the cost of any improvements the park owner chooses to make.
Some parks have special areas with more services such as piped gas for which you can expect to pay extra.
Since you hope to use the park for a number of years, find out as much as possible about previous and future price increases.
Although you cannot expect a guarantee as to the exact amount of future increases, the park owner should be able to tell you what factors they use to calculate the pitch fee increase.
If you consider that the term in your agreement dealing with pitch fee increases allows for extreme or unjustified increases in fees then this term may be challenged for fairness.
You should contact the Trading Standards Service for advice on this matter.
Some park owners charge a higher pitch fee if they did not sell you the caravan for example if you bought directly from someone selling their caravan and leaving the park.
Pitch fees, for the following season, are normally due for payment in the first quarter of each year.
Many park owners offer a discount if you pay them before a certain date.
Electricity and gas
You will need to buy electricity and gas when the caravan is in use.
The site owner, as the reseller can only sell mains gas or electricity to you at the price they bought it from an authorised supplier and cannot make a profit from the sale.
If the electricity is metered, the bill should state the units consumed, the cost per unit and the total price.
If you have any enquiries or would like further information about the Maximum Resale Price of electricity you should contact the Utility Regulator.
As the electricity supply to a caravan is restricted, most caravans use gas cookers. With bottles (cylinders), you can buy the gas when you need it.
Where a park operator insists that customers only buy cylinders from them, and they are much cheaper elsewhere, this could be regarded as unfair and not enforceable by the park owner.
You should also check for charges for water supply and sewerage such as emptying of septic tanks.
Clearly a caravan and its contents have a sizeable value, and you should seriously consider insurance.
Many parks actually make it a rule that caravans on the park have adequate insurance cover and in some cases they can arrange specialist caravan insurance.
There is a choice of policy type, new for old, or market value and you should make sure your insurance policy covers the following:
- third party liability
- public liability
- the caravan for the whole year, including periods when the park is closed
As with all insurance, it pays to shop around. Look out for companies that specialise in caravan insurance. Some park owners can arrange insurance usually with a particular insurance provider.
They cannot insist you buy this insurance but, if you do not, they can charge a reasonable administrative fee for checking any cover you take out. Unreasonable charges for this could be regarded as a penalty and are open to challenge as unfair.
Before buying any insurance ask for a copy of the policy and read it.
The park owner is within their rights to reasonably require things such as repairs and maintenance to be done in a certain way, particularly when they relate to safety and the good order of the park.
Park rules or contract should make clear what restrictions should be observed.
However, when a park owner says certain goods or services must be bought from them such as repair work, storage boxes and insurance and this causes a loss to the caravan owner, this could be regarded as unfair and not enforceable by the park owner.
You should also consider depreciation of the caravan.
Rates are paid by the site owner and this will be covered in your site fee.