INTRODUCTION TO CARAVANS
Nowadays, more & more people are embracing the choice of a 'Caravan' styled solution to their wheelchair accessible short breaks & holidays.
They provide a great way for you and the family to travel with convenience, in comfort and with style.
Before you decide on your ideal caravan, you'll want to know which type of layout is a good match for your tow vehicle, travel aspirations & lifestyle.
Here we answer some key questions to help you get on the road and off the beaten track.
WHAT A CARAVAN CAN OFFER YOU?
A Caravan can give you the type of freedom & independence that other types of accommodation can struggle to match.
If you want hassle free, comfortable long-distance travel in the comfort of your own vehicle, the convenience of having your personalised accommodation with you whilst away, the ability to travel with very little planning, confidence in the fact that you’re access needs & healthcare equipment is with you at all times.… wherever the road leads………then a caravan is the right choice for you.
Over the last ten years caravans have made significant strides in many areas, such as construction, insulation, heating and interior design. All of these combined mean, that a caravan really can be a practical solution to provide a sanctuary from where easy, comfortable & spontaneous travel & holidays are an option for everyday life.
A caravan itself, is designed to be a Home from Home, giving you warmth and comfort wherever you are.
The kitchen in the LIV. caravan is well-engineered to make the best possible use of space available. First time buyers will be very impressed with the amount of cupboard space available. Most caravans come with a built-in microwave, cooker with hob and oven, fridge, and a sink with mixer tap.
Our wet rooms are all fitted with wide door access, level access flooring fitted with high quality Altro-Marine style flooring, unique multi-drainage system, antibacterial clad walls with feature wall and all contain quality sanitary-ware and a good shower.
TYPES OF CARAVAN
Two wheels on one axle
Lighter than a twin axle so can be towed by smaller cars
Easier to manoeuvre onsite, which is especially beneficial whilst learning to tow
Four wheels on two axles
Tend to be heavier requiring a larger tow vehicle
On road have benefit of extra grip and stability
Offer more space
Can be harder to manoeuvre
In order to be able to tow a caravan a driver must hold at least a Category B on your driving licence. If you passed your car test before 1 January 1997 you are generally entitled to drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 8.25 tonnes maximum authorised mass (MAM).
If you passed your driving test after 1 January 1997 and have an ordinary category B licence, you can:
Drive a vehicle up to 3.5 tonnes or 3,500kg MAM towing a trailer of up to 750kg MAM
Tow a trailer over 750kg MAM as long as it is no more than the unladen weight of the towing vehicle (with a combined weight of up to 3,500kg in total)
More information on driving licence categories
Note: If you want to tow a trailer weighing more than 750kg, when the combined weight of the towing vehicle and trailer is more than 3,500kg, you will need to pass a further test to obtain a B+E category licence.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT CARAVAN
Choosing the correct layout interior for your needs is crucial.
Will you travel all year round?
If you plan to travel all year round you will want to make sure your caravan has excellent insulation. All our caravans meet the Grade 3 standard for heating and insulation, meaning the interior warms up from -15 to -20 degrees centigrade in under 4 hours and the water system still works..... Perfect for Winter Travel or a trip to the Nordic Fjords.
How many 'Berths' (Sleeping Accommodation) will be required?
Who will be using the caravan?
Think about the sleeping configurations you need;
Do you need a double bed or two single beds?
Do you need the bed to be fixed or pull-out?
Do you require bunk beds for children?
How many people will be seated around the table? Do you need two separate areas or one main area?
STORING YOUR CARAVAN
Another key factor to consider is storage, for when your caravan is not in use.
If you have space and want to store your caravan at home things to consider are:
Check that there are no obvious height problems
Check your local bylaws because there may be restrictions
Think about the security of your caravan if it is parked on a driveway
If you are not fortunate enough to have space at home things to consider are:
Cost-effective options, such as finding a local storage centre. It would be worth having a look in your local area to identify who offers a caravan storage service. We recommend that you check where it will be stored and check that the area is secure and what security measure they have in place. Find out what their policies and procedures are, for example can you access your caravan at any time or are there closing hours, or do you need to contact them in advance to access your caravan. You would also want to know about insurance and costs.
It might be that you have a favourite caravan site to visit and would like your caravan stored on-site ready for when you visit, be that in the UK or abroad.
Whether or not you plan to use your caravan over the winter months, draining water and removing items that can be frost damaged needs considering.
You can find additional advice on storing your motorhome and winterisation on The Caravan Club or The Camping and Caravan Club websites and there will also be a section in your motorhome handbook. There are various further security measures, such as Theftcheck, that you might want to consider.
MATCHING YOUR OUTFIT
The weight of your caravan should never exceed the weight of your car and your car handbook will give you the maximum weight your car can tow.
However to be able to safely tow up hills and stop it is advised that the weight of the caravan with its contents should not exceed 85% of the car’s kerb, or unladen, weight – this is known as ‘Outfit matching’. It is very important to find a good match between car and caravan. Some people work with their existing car, and some people might time buying a new car and caravan at the same time.
Before you start the process of matching, you might like to know some of the technical jargon:
The weight of a vehicle when not carrying a load and excluding fuel or batteries is called the unladen weight
Mass in Running Order (MIRO)
The weight of a caravan ready for the road, without personal effects is called the Mass in Running Order (MIRO). Changes to how this is calculated took place in 2010, so depending when your chosen caravan was built will depend which rules apply.
The Mass in Running Order (MIRO) of a car is called the kerbweight. You will need to look in your handbook for what the manufacturer includes in their kerbweight calculations.
Mass in Service
The mass in service is the Mass in Running Order (MIRO), or kerbweight including a 75kg driver, of a car as it left the factory. You can find this information in the car’s Vehicle Registration information.
The weight of extras that can be carried in or on the caravan is called the user payload.
Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM), Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW), and Maximum Gross Weight (MGM)
The maximum a vehicle is allowed to weigh when it is fully loaded is called the Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM), Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) or Maximum Gross Weight (MGM).
Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass (MTPLM)
Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass (MTPLM) is the Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) of a caravan.
Gross Train Weight (GTW)
The Gross Train Weight (GTW) is the maximum a car and caravan combination is allowed to weigh when fully loaded.
The Towing Limit is the maximum weight a vehicle is designed to tow up a 12 per cent hill (1 in 8).
The weight of the caravan loaded as you tow it on the road is called the actual weight. This must not exceed the MTPLM or MAM.
The downward force the caravan puts on the towball of the towing vehicle is called the noseweight. The optimum noseweight is generally 7% of the caravan’s laden weight. Before buying it is important to check this isn’t in excess of your car manufacturer’s stated limit.
A good basic checklist to work through when matching, assuming that your chosen caravan is braked, would be to find out:
The kerbweight of your car (by looking in the handbook).
Multiply the kerbweight by 0.85.
You can then check the towing limit for your car in the handbook.
You can then compare these figures with the MTPLM for the caravan.
You will also need to check that the car’s towball limit is suitable for the noseweight of the caravan.
Always check that your driving licence permits you to drive a combination such as this.
Matching your car and caravan can seem overwhelming when you first start. You can find more detailed information on The Caravan Club or The Camping and Caravanning Club websites. Or talk to one of the clubs – they both offer a service to do the outfit matching for you, online or over the phone.
Other essential points to consider for a new caravan owner are:
The towbar you will require for the car.
One or two electrical connection sockets attached to, or adjacent to, the tow ball.
You may need to attach extensions to the wing mirrors on your tow vehicle.
Consider purchasing an aquaroll so that you can easily collect water supplies on site.
You might want to join a caravan club, which we will discuss in a separate section.
Check out your insurance policy – it might be that a comprehensive car insurance policy will cover third party risks when towing a caravan but you may wish to cover your caravan comprehensively as well. Note that the insurance company may well require you to fit wheel-clamps and hitch locks. You must gain specialist advice from your insurer with regards what they will cover and what they require. We strongly recommend you do this before you make the purchase so that you are aware of what costs will be involved, and to allow you to find the best insurance quote to meet your needs.
There are many accessories you can buy for your caravan. Coachbuilt GB are happy to recommend additional equipment to enhance the enjoyment of your new wheelchair accessible caravan, just ask.