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    Buying Old Caravans

    'Morning all. I saw an old caravan for sale on ebay which, if I'd had enough money I might have been tempted to bid on. However, it was 250 miles away so really, too far to make 2 trips. (1 to view first, 1 to go and collect if I'd been successful with my bid). I asked a couple of questions about it, one being 'Is there a service history for this 'van', and the owner came back with the answer 'It had been serviced regularly until its last use, 4 years ago'. Yikes. Had I been serious about putting in a bid I think that might have put me off! I was really just having a look to see what was about that was cheap but still in a roadworthy/useable condition.

    My very first caravan was a home made 10ft job, (back in the '70s) which was also already very old when I bought it, and I must admit I didn't ask many questions about its history, but I took this little 'van all over the place (towing with a Hillman Hunter. Aaaah, fond memories!) with no problems at all.

    I would imagine that a caravan laid up for 4 years might have some issues with rusting brake cables, perished tyres and perhaps dampness if stored outside (As this Swift appeared to have been) What else would I have to look out for? Flat battery no doubt. This Swift had a motor mover, which I need really, to be able to park in my narrow driveway, but I'm not sure whether that might suffer from 4 years of inactivity too.

    I am hoping that if I save really hard I might be able to raise about £1k by this time next year. I would hope that might buy me an old but reasonable caravan.
    Comments on the above welcome! Thanks, Cynthia.

    #2
    Well deciding that I really really wanted a little Kip caravan (not that many in the UK!), I went and bought one advertised as 'let down by a time waster' after the auction had finished. Not really knowing what was right or wrong or what to look for with a caravan, I bought it.

    Seemed the 'time waster' had been right to walk away, as there were many faults on it to rectify. If I had known then what I know now, I would also have walked away!

    Having said that, most things were repairable and update-able so eventually the caravan was in good order with everything working as it should. It took some time and a large chunk of cash though, so my advice would be, if buying a small cheap caravan, to look very very closely at all the things that matter and see everything working before you buy. And take a damp meter with you, as rot between the inner and outer walls can cost a lot of money to repair. In hindsight, I should have bought a Freedom Microlite, there is very little to go wrong with these small caravans... they don't leak, so no damp, and are very lightweight to tow.

    Comment


      #3
      Sorry but there is just as much to go wrong on a microlite as on any other caravan. They still have all the same mechanical parts. I agree damp may not be so much of a problem because they do not have a frame but windows can leak. However I think they are great little caravans.
      I would probably not buy a caravan that had been in a field for 4 years without any attention. Having said that, any caravan I bought would have to be safety checked before I used it.
      Regards, Robinjim.

      Comment


        #4
        I don't agree, Robin. I've had a couple of Freedoms - a Microlite and a Sunseeker.

        The ones I had were old and quite basic compared to "normal" caravans of the same age, so there wasn't as much to go wrong with them. No heating or hot water. No inbuilt cassette toilet. Damp can only come in through worn seals on windows or skylight so is easily sorted - you wouldn't have to strip out and replace wallboarding etc. Yes, the running gear (wheels, braking system) requires the same maintenance but that isn't normally an expensive issue.

        One problem they can suffer from as they age is due to the wall and ceiling "lining", which is a sort of nylon stuff with a foam backing. Heat from the sun, on the roof particularly, causes the foam to disintegrate and the lining drops down. A quick fix is just to stick it back up again. My Sunseeker had this problem and I was going to strip it all out and re-line it with insulation and the stretchy carpet stuff that is used in cars. However, I never got round to it as I got fed up towing a caravan and after a couple of months of a very wet summer tenting I gave in and bought a Romahome C15 instead.

        Comment


          #5
          Certainly older caravans built in the old way with timber frames and jointed aluminium cladding can be a very risky buy.
          But Microlites and Rominis etc. with GRP (fibre glass) construction are a much safer buy. Particularly those with moulded GRP furnishing and fittings too.
          The construction method is why those caravans hold their value so well.
          My Romini is dated 1988 (if I am interpreting the door hinge stampings correctly). The only structural fault inside or out is a small poorly hand-painted area at the front where the GRP finish was evidently knocked before my time.
          At 28 years old I would defy anyone to guess its age anywhere near by inspecting either the inside or outside.
          It is just typical of the longevity of GRP construction .
          Jim.
          Keeping people waiting is stealing a part of their lives.

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by Twolitre View Post
            Certainly older caravans built in the old way with timber frames and jointed aluminium cladding can be a very risky buy.
            But Microlites and Rominis etc. with GRP (fibre glass) construction are a much safer buy. Particularly those with moulded GRP furnishing and fittings too.
            The construction method is why those caravans hold their value so well.
            My Romini is dated 1988 (if I am interpreting the door hinge stampings correctly). The only structural fault inside or out is a small poorly hand-painted area at the front where the GRP finish was evidently knocked before my time.
            At 28 years old I would defy anyone to guess its age anywhere near by inspecting either the inside or outside.
            It is just typical of the longevity of GRP construction .
            Jim.
            Thanks everyone, and Jim, I thought GRP did deteriorate with time? When I used to be into sailing dinghies, some of the older GRP ones used to develop a sort of 'crazing'. Or maybe that's due to being used on the sea?

            Anyway, all this stuff is a bit academic really, as I can't afford any sort of caravan until my finances have recovered from a very expensive few months. I need to be able to dream though. Gives my positive thoughts something to focus on!
            Cynthia

            Comment


              #7
              A grand should buy you a decent second hand van....but be careful.

              My story.....
              Our first van was a very old three birth (I converted it to four with the help of a stretcher from an old ambulance). I paid £200 for it back in 1986. It had the name "Robin" on the front (I presumed that was the make)...I've never seen another like it. I bought an awning to fit from an advert in the local paper.....a bargain at £25.
              We used it for two summers and then sold it for £250.

              Next was the big mistake.....
              A nice looking 5 berth swift for £600.
              To be fair...I guess we had our money's worth. We had another three summers before the kids woke in the morning and their bed was soaking wet. A leak in the roof dripping directly onto their bed.
              I now, for the first time, became aware of the possibility of damp in a caravan. I sold it to a local second hand caravan dealer for £200.

              Armed with a damp meter, I then went in search of a replacement and found a nice 4 berth.
              It was now getting more expensive....£2000 this time.

              A few years later...and I traded that in for the Sprite....buying from a dealer this time...(getting even more expensive). £4000 for the new van, less a £2000 trade in value for the old van. We had the Sprite for 9 years.

              That was followed by the Abbey....again from a dealer (£4000)... And the best of the bunch.
              An awning was purchased new (from NR awnings), plus a bedroom annexe.
              If my memory is correct, I kept that for seven years.

              Last year saw the end of caravanning......
              Now widowed I took the plunge (so to speak) and bought a campervan.
              The caravan was now in storage and costing £300 a year to keep it there.
              Having already paid three years of storage, and the next payment due......I advertised it on Facebook at a giveaway price of just £1000, complete with awnings and all accessories. It sold within days (not surprisingly).

              What have I learned from the experience?
              Answer:
              You don't have to spend a fortune to find a good dry caravan that suits you.
              The higher the purchase price, the more you are likely to loose in exchange value.
              There is just as much enjoyment to be had from an old caravan as a newish one.

              My advice:
              Buy a damp meter.
              Don't buy the first you see....
              And good luck.
              Last edited by Allen; 18-04-2016, 01:18.

              Comment


                #8
                Crumbs, you keep late hours Allen....

                Thanks for your posting and advice. I had a damp meter, which I bought to check the moisture level of logs before buying them for my multifuel stove (at my previous property. No such luxury here!) Unfortunately I left it at the property when I moved. I can't remember how much I paid for it... maybe I could see a used one on ebay.

                Someone once told me that Swifts are prone to damp and leakages, but that may be just their own personal experience of the 'vans. Apart from the Gobur, which has a seamfree one piece roof, which tends to help keep out the rain, I have previously had an Avondale Leda and an Elddis Avante, both lovely caravans, and trouble free. I wouldn't hesitate to buy either if I could see one at my budget range. That's more likely with the Avondales as they're now obsolete.

                I have seen 'Robin' caravans about, though not for a long time. I think they were made in the 70s. One of the many firms either swallowed up by bigger manufacturers or just went bust. Who remembers CI caravans, Cavaliers and Monzas?!

                Does it matter if you buy an obsolete make of caravan? Most of the fittings are universal anyway. Top of my list of 'Must haves' would be a service history or at least a gas safety check history. It's nice to know if the 'van has been stored undercover, and if not used for some time, at least moved occasionally to prevent tyre damage.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by CyberCynth View Post
                  Thanks everyone, and Jim, I thought GRP did deteriorate with time? When I used to be into sailing dinghies, some of the older GRP ones used to develop a sort of 'crazing'. Or maybe that's due to being used on the sea?

                  Anyway, all this stuff is a bit academic really, as I can't afford any sort of caravan until my finances have recovered from a very expensive few months. I need to be able to dream though. Gives my positive thoughts something to focus on!
                  Cynthia
                  What you say about GRP crazing can be true. But it may depend on factors like quality of materials and the environment in which it is used.
                  Whatever, just looking around suggests that the life span of GRP is greater than metal cladding (with inevitable joints) over a probably timber frame (which often rots with damp). Thoough it was not a sea boat
                  I had a GRP cruiser (boat) of indeterminate age which had well outlasted most vessels of other types of construction.
                  In the end, the serviceable life of GRP seems to be unpredictable except that it will generally well outlast other methods of construction and materials. It is generally lighter too.
                  Just looking at motorhomes for sale. So often a GRP living space well outlasts the structural and mechanical aspects and the living bit is sometimes (dangerously) transferred to another vehicle because its GRP construction has outlasted the original vehicle.
                  Jim.
                  Keeping people waiting is stealing a part of their lives.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by Caz View Post
                    ...Yes, the running gear (wheels, braking system) requires the same maintenance but that isn't normally an expensive issue.
                    I have a mobile caravan chap who comes and services the running gear, it costs around £60. I have a gas safety check as well, that costs about the same. I have both of these done year and year about - towing gear one year, gas the next. I don't have it insured (but is insured 3rd party whilst towing through car insurance) and it sits on the drive, so no storage costs. The major cost last year was buying two new tyres as mine were cracking on the walls and needed to be replaced. My local garage chap supplied and fitted them for around £90 for the pair. This is your general maintenance figure on a small caravan. I have neither a hot water system or a built in bathroom/loo space. My luggable loo goes in the awning!


                    Here's a little tale for you, Cynthia. I bought my little caravan quite blindly for £900, so I had a fair bit of work to do after I got it home. I spent over £400 putting in a modern electric system when I bought it (as it had 'live' continental plugs and no unit) and having a three-way fridge installed. Spent another £60-£70 on the lever tap system, which is not run on 12v and has no pump, it's something less to go wrong, and I bought the fridge from ebay second user at approx. £60. Apart from a leaking window seal, I've been pretty lucky regarding having few leaks and damp (touch wood). I put in a new front window, which had to be made to measure and cost around £370-ish, later on, purely cosmetic as there was a crack in the outside part of the glazing and it kept steaming up.

                    I also spent £700 on a motormover, as even though it's lightweight, it was a pig to get back on the drive.

                    All in all, I spent a fair bit of money getting my caravan right! It was all done bit-by-bit, according to importance and necessity... Which is why I should have walked away and bought a different one. However, I'm very happy in my little van so any money spent has always been worth it.
                    Last edited by jayjay; 18-04-2016, 08:44.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      I would always go for fibreglass myself no matter what it looks like - It's waterproof, and that is the most important thing for me. I have had two Microlights and a Sunseeker. I have never found a cure for crazing. I think vibration is as much responsible as aging. A small area can be covered with a new gel coat, but once mixed it sets too quickly to work with on a large area. I painted my last caravan. (A Viking Fibreline) and it was successful, although I found an area of damp because the sides were alluminium over a wooden frame, and there was a long term leak where the two joined. Once sorted I would expect the van to last more or less forever, and the same goes for motorhomes. I would never buy a coachbuilt always go for good old fibreglass.

                      egay 064.jpg
                      Last edited by MYKE; 18-04-2016, 09:43.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Hmmm. A bit tough jayjay.
                        I have just had to spend my first repair costs on my Romini £380!
                        But then I have had it now for about 8 years and it is 28 years old. And made of GRP!
                        After all this time I suppose some things are inevitable. One of the two brake cables failed and Alco no longer can supply them for Romini chassis. That meant having a copy specially made - I decided the other, being just as old, ought to be changed too.
                        Dismantling the brakes for fitting them, the engineer discovered worn out brake linings, worn out oil seals and noisy wheel bearings. Brake shoes no longer available either so similar ones were modified to suit.
                        Then on top of that the past sell-by date tyres were replaced. ALSO difficult to source because Ford Escorts were the last vehicles with that size and most tyre manufacturers no longer make that size.

                        Much of that bill was for time locating or making replacements. And just five or so years ago I could/would have sorted it myself. I have the knowhow and skills ability. Perhaps tht last sentence should read "had". Tempus has fugited (sorry Sue) and left me paying out because I am no longer physically up to it.
                        Jim.
                        Last edited by Twolitre; 18-04-2016, 22:57.
                        Keeping people waiting is stealing a part of their lives.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by MYKE View Post
                          I would always go for fibreglass myself no matter what it looks like - It's waterproof, and that is the most important thing for me. I have had two Microlights and a Sunseeker. I have never found a cure for crazing. I think vibration is as much responsible as aging. A small area can be covered with a new gel coat, but once mixed it sets too quickly to work with on a large area. I painted my last caravan. (A Viking Fibreline) and it was successful, although I found an area of damp because the sides were alluminium over a wooden frame, and there was a long term leak where the two joined. Once sorted I would expect the van to last more or less forever, and the same goes for motorhomes. I would never buy a coachbuilt always go for good old fibreglass.
                          I never realised that the Fibreline had more conventional (at that time) aluminium panels on a timber frame. But you have underlined the advantage of GRP by recording the failure of the traditional panels on yours.
                          Fortunately for me the only wood in my Romini is the cupboard doors etc. And they are hardboardy stuff. Nothing to do with construction.
                          Jim.

                          By the way I have no sign of crazing. Which I think has something to do with the care and quality of the GRP laying.
                          Keeping people waiting is stealing a part of their lives.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by MYKE View Post
                            I would always go for fibreglass myself no matter what it looks like - It's waterproof, and that is the most important thing for me. I have had two Microlights and a Sunseeker. I have never found a cure for crazing. I think vibration is as much responsible as aging. A small area can be covered with a new gel coat, but once mixed it sets too quickly to work with on a large area. I painted my last caravan. (A Viking Fibreline) and it was successful, although I found an area of damp because the sides were alluminium over a wooden frame, and there was a long term leak where the two joined. Once sorted I would expect the van to last more or less forever, and the same goes for motorhomes. I would never buy a coachbuilt always go for good old fibreglass.
                            I never realised that the Fibreline had more conventional (at that time) aluminium panels on a timber frame. But you have underlined the advantage of GRP by recording the failure of the traditional panels on yours.
                            Fortunately for me the only wood in my Romini is the cupboard doors etc. And they are hardboardy stuff. Nothing to do with construction.
                            By the way, my old canal boat had no crazing either, but the hull was 5/8th of an inch thick.
                            Jim.
                            Keeping people waiting is stealing a part of their lives.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Caz it's a shame that freedom after all these years have still not solved that lining problem. I nearly bought one a few years ago. Wish I had because I bought a little lunar instead and it was my least favourite caravan I have ever owned.
                              Regards, Robinjim.

                              Comment

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