Boss tips to buying a second hand caravan

It is no secret that buying a used caravan could probably cost quite a bit less than a brand new one. But the appealing price tag can come with risks. Purchasing an overpriced or faulty vehicle can be prevented if you know what to look for.

vintage Millard caravan hitched to a 4x4 on the beach

Image by @bujaandmae - shared with permission



When it comes to buying a preloved caravan, there are so many options out there, and choosing the right one for you can seem to be quite a daunting task. Luckily, sites like Rv boss will help you view listings from both dealerships and private sellers all in one place online. With a variety of search options, you are sure to find what you are looking for with ease. And with great reviews and tips, you are sure to be set up for success when making your purchase.


True to our name. we have compiled Boss tips to help you out when purchasing your next second-hand caravan.


1.       Size and weight matters


Before purchasing a caravan it is essential that you give careful consideration to your vehicle’s towing mass and construction before proceeding with the purchase.

Check what regulations are in place regarding what size load your vehicle is legally allowed to tow – some states require specific sizes of caravans to be towed only by certain types of trucks or vehicles.

Keep in mind the bigger the caravan the more power you will need to pull it. The larger the caravan the more difficult it will be to maneuver it both on the road and in campsites.

Along with the size, you would need to find out your vehicle’s towing mass. You can find this out in your vehicle owner’s manual (under the towing section) or stamped on your vehicle’s compliance plate.

You would also need to check the towing limit of your towbar and all other towing parts such as the ball mount, coupling, tow ball, A Frame, and safety chains. These usually have their limits stamped to them.

The lowest capacity item will set the weight limit for the whole rig.

Once you are aware of what size and weight caravan you can purchase you can then begin searching for a suitable caravan.


2.       There is more to it than just the price


If it seems too good to be true, it usually is. Now, we are not saying that there are not any great bargains out there but do not let what appears to be a bargain distract you from what could potentially be a dodgy deal.


If you are looking for a caravan that will hold a decent resale value, avoid buying repairable write-offs or from someone who has bought it from a damaged vehicle auction and then repaired it. If you are confident in any repairs, and happy with the seller, make sure that you get it at a good price as it will naturally have a lower resale value.

You can check this by doing a full registration/ PPSR check.


3.       Question the seller


It is always best to question the seller and have all your questions answered before continuing with the purchase. Do not be afraid to ask questions!

Things to ask (if not already included in the ad) include:

  • Caravan age

  • History and maintenance record

  • Full service history

  • List of any major trips

  • Main touring roads - off road or sealed

  • Main storage locations - covered or outside

  • Major problems 

  • Any outstanding repairs

  • Brake replacement history and upcoming timeframe

  • Confirm the documentation provided, e.g. owner’s manual, current weighbridge; gas and electrical certificates

  • Any missing spare parts, accessories, appliances, remotes

  • Warranty details and expiry for vehicle, manufacture, upholstery, components, and appliances 

If a seller refuses or is hesitant to answer your questions, it is best to see it as a red flag and consider another seller. 


6.       Registration and report


It is important to make sure that the caravan has a valid registration. Ensure that the details in the registration document match the caravan and there will be no issues transferring it to your name.

Check that the Chassis/VIN numbers on the documentation match. If the VIN numbers have been ground off or covered in any way this could be a sign of a stolen or rebirthed caravan.


5.       Arrange a viewing


Inspecting a caravan is a must before handing over any money. Classified systems are an incredible service to search, read and see photos of your potential new home on wheels. However, nothing beats an in person inspection. 

When you have found the listings that you are interested in it will be time to organise a viewing. It would always be best to take along someone who knows a thing or two about caravans. But if that is not an option then make sure you take your time to do a thorough inspection and use your common sense and instinct. To assist your inspection process, see the checklists below in Step 6 and 7!

When attending an inspection take along a note pad, tape measure, ladder and flashlight. Note all your observations and caravan’s specifications, use the flashlight to better inspect hard to see spots, and use the ladder to check the roof. More on that below. 

Boss Tip - Take a lot of photos as you inspect. This will help you remember specific details.



6.      Exterior Inspection Checklist


Now that you have found a great listing, asked questions, arranged a viewing, and checked all the documentation. Now it is time to physically inspect the caravan.

There are many factors to keep in mind when inspecting the exterior.


The caravan’s body and frame

Are there any dints, rust, chipped paint, or scratches? Check for any obvious paint jobs or fillings that could be disguising bigger issues. Rust can be a real issue so be sure to also look for stone chips on the undercarriage that has been left unattended.

With your trust ladder, remember to also check the roof. It is not uncommon to have minor dints and scratches on the roof caused by low hanging or falling objects. 

Check under the van for cracks in the chassis and the condition of the axel. Have a look at the wiring and piping.

While there, check out the handbrake cables. Ensure that they are not frayed and there is adequate tension.

Ensure that all gas and electrical components are in good condition.

Also check that the tow hitch moves freely; the jockey wheel easily winds up and down; and that the awning opens and closes as expected.


Windows and doors

Check that all the window and door seals and ensure they open and close properly.

Check for lifting sealant and if any sealants have deteriorated. This is important as it could indicate that there have been leaks or that you will be at risk of leaks.

Make sure that each windowpane is blemish-free. Small chips can grow and turn into bigger problems over time.



Be sure to check all lights, especially those particularly important ones such as headlights, indicators, and brake lights.


Tyres and wheels

Make sure all five tyres (including the spare) are in good condition; have plenty of tread and no cracked sidewalls. And check with the seller when they were all last changed.

Check the caravan’s bearings. Loose bearings, although not expensive to replace could mean poor maintenance.


7.       Interior Inspection Checklist


There is more than just cleanliness when it comes to checking out the caravan’s interior. When checking the interior, use all your senses, especially your nose. Sniff out for the smell of mould, mildew or cigarette smoke.


The caravans body

The most common problems with used caravans are moisture or water damage and should be the first thing you look for.

Look carefully at all the flooring; walls; corners and inside all cupboards for any stains.

If you have a damp meter, use it to determine if there is any sign of dampness.

Make sure that all cupboards open, close, and latch, and that the window winders work.

Ensure that you can lock all windows and the main door.


Gas and Electrical work

Check that all lights work as they are supposed to and do not flicker or dim out.

Test every power-point to make sure they work.

If there is gas make sure all components are in good condition and work. Check LP gas cylinders for their last inspection date. They should be tested within ten years.


Kitchen and appliances

Test the cooking elements. Stoves should heat up quickly and microwaves are cleaned and working as normal.

Turn on the fridge and give it some time to cool. The freezer section should become cold, this will indicate if the fridge would need repairs or not. Absorption fridges would need to be used on a level surface in order to cool.

If there is an aircon, turn it on and test its cooling and heating functionalities. Look out for sputtering and if it struggles to work.



This includes everything from sink pipes and showers to toilets. Test every faucet and ensure they all work properly while paying attention to drainage and remember to give the toilet a flush.

Check all pipes and pipe fittings and look out for leaks. Any sort of leak is important to note as this could cause bigger issues down the line.



8.       Take it for a test drive


This is just as important as inspecting the caravan. What is the point of purchasing a caravan that looks good but does not drive well?

It is important to get an idea of how it will hook up to your vehicle and how it handles on the road.

During your test drive take note of how it pulls off and brakes. Try to find a few humps and bumps in the neighbourhood and note its suspension and listen out for any odd sounds.

 Some sellers may be reluctant to allow a test drive, but this is arguably one of the most important variables before purchasing your caravan, and not one to leave out. So, if the seller is reluctant it may be a sign that they are possibly hiding something.

Boss tip - During the test drive turn the radio off and don’t ask the seller too many questions. This will allow you to better hear and feel any issues without distractions. 


9.       Finalities before handing over the big bucks


Once you have completed all your checks and gone on a test drive – don’t forget to get the keys for all locks.

Now that that is sorted, go over your notes and complete additional research if needed.

It is likely everything will not be in perfect condition and you should expect some wear and tear. Discuss the minor issues that would need repairs with the seller and negotiate repairs or the selling price.

Any major issues that could possibly cost a lot to repair or compromise your safety should be a deal-breaker.

Once you have negotiated and come to an agreement, it is recommended to allow some time for all this information to sink in and brew, after all this is a big investment and should require some extensive thought.

If you still have any questions or doubts it is recommended to seek advice from an industry expert. 


Once you are confident with your decision, it is time to shake hands, get the keys, and complete the deal. Do not forget to get the keys for all locks.

The only thing left to do from there (after registering it in your name) is to start planning your next adventure with your new caravan! Visit Campstay for all your holiday, campground and activities needs!


Now that you’re armed with helpful tools to keep you safe on the road, begin hunting for your perfect RV today. Search our extensive list of motorhomes and caravans for sale in Australia - search now. If you’re planning your trip and need a place to stay, Campstay has the best park or campground near you, search today.

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