I am a first timer looking to become a caravan owner who is looking for advice ,I have the choice of 2 cars, my car is a 02 735i Bmw or my wife’s which is a 2012 Kia sportage The caravan I am looking at is a 2012 Hobby 650 Premium 5 berth My main question is which car is best suited to tow this caravan if any, the cars I can’t change but the caravan is up for discussion, my caravan wish list is a fixed bed and a large washroom with normal mod cons
You are absolutely correct when you say that starting up is a minefield. There's more to consider than putting a towbar on the car, buying a caravan, hitching up and disappearing off into the wide blue yonder.
First things first. From what you are saying in your post, you are looking at a fairly heavy caravan which will need a correspondingly heavy and powerful car to tow it. Before you set out to purchase the caravan there are a number of things to consider.
Does your driving licence allow you to tow a caravan? If you had a full licence before 1st January 1997, it will have the towing category on it. It may not show it, but if you apply to DVLA it will be put on. If not, you will need to sit a test for the "BE" category. There are rules and regs. governing the max mass of the car and caravan as a unit so be carefull that they are not exceeded by your choice of car and caravan.
Car insurance. You must inform your car insurers that you have fitted a towbar and of your intent to tow. Fitting a towbar is deemed to be a modification to the standard specification of the vehicle. Some insurers make a charge on the premium, most don't. After telling your insurers that you tow a caravan, ensure that you get a replacement policy document that shows this fact. The situation is that, while the caravan is being towed, should it break free from the car and cause damage to another car, street furniture or injure a pedestrian, you are covered for any third party claims on your car insurance but only if you were towing at the time. If you do not tell the insurers and get confirmation, it is a £1 to a pinch of snuff that they will refuse to pay out because you had not told them.
Caravan insurance There is no legal requirement to insure a caravan. However, it makes sense to cover your new baby for fire, theft and damage. It will cover the caravan and essential equipment and there will be a separate element covering things like awnings, wind breaks and other bits and pieces. Be sure to take out adequate cover for the extras. You would be surprised how it mounts up when you consider that an awning for a normal caravan can cost anything from £300 to over £1000 depending on size and quality.
Car Right, now let's look at the car you are going to tow with. It is generally accepted that the best towcars are diesel powered. This is because horsepower for horsepower, diesel engines give more torque than petrol engines and torque is what we need for towing. If you choose a heavy caravan, it follows that you will need a heavy car. Current law states that a trailer (i.e. a caravan) must not have a MTPLM (fully loaded mass(weight)) of more than the kerbweight of the towing vehicle. Note that it is the kerbweight not the max. permitted mass of the towing vehicle which determines the all up mass of the caravan. There is also the "train weight" to be taken into consideration. The train weight must not be exceeded or your insurance will be invalidated. With reference to the towbar, there is a limit for each towbar design and there is a limit to the nose weight (static down load of the towing hitch head) which must not be exceeded at the risk of invalidating insurance. Remember, insurers will use any excuse to wriggle out should you be unfortunate enough to make a claim. If you do not have a towbar at the moment, ensure that, when you are looking around, you choose a reputable manufacturer. There is a plethora of EU regulations covering towbars.
Caravan At last, we are down the exciting bit. Once you have had a look at a few caravans and narrowed things down a bit, you need to know the MIRO (mass in running order). This is the weight of the caravan as it left the factory and is governed by the specification of the caravan you have chosen. If, for instance, there is a spare wheel and carrier in the spec., it will be included in the MIRO. Some manufacturers include a hypothetical allowance for gas cylinders and other essential items which are necessary to allow the use of the living accommodation but not all. Check, check, check! You also need to know the MTPLM (maximum technically permissable mass) of the caravan. This is the all up weight of the caravan with all the crockery, cutlery, food, bedding, clothes and the 101 other things we tend to deem necessary. It also includes things like the motormover if a motormover and spare wheels if they were not in the original spec. and you have fitted one. The difference between the MTPLM and the MIRO is the payload which includes the crockery, cutlery etc. There will be a small plate on the outside of the caravan low down near the door which will have the MTPLM and the MIRO stamped on it.
Towing As mentioned above, the absolute maximum mass of the caravan must not exceed the kerbweight of the car. It is generally accepted that the all up weight of the caravan should be around 85% of the kerbweight of the car. It is not a law, it is a recommendation in order to give a safety margin for towing. Never, ever exceed the MTPLM of the caravan. If you are unfortunate enough to be stopped by the boys in blue in a routine check and the caravan is over weight or is in excess of the kerbweight of the car, you are in a whole lot of deep trouble. Because the caravan is over weight it is being towed illegally so the car insurance is automatically invalid. You are therefore, uninsured and liable to all the hassle that the situation entails. Fines, points, possibly a ban, car impounded and a massive hike in your car insurance. It ain't worth it!
Weight distribution In order to keep the weight of the caravan down, if there are only two people using the caravan, heavy items like awnings, water barrels, waste catch tanks and items of that nature can be carried in the car unless you plump for a 5 berth caravan and you need all the seats for the passengers. Then the whole situation changes because the payload of the caravan divided by five does not give a lot per person and, when they are all being transported, everything else has to be accommodated in the caravan and the boot. In all honesty, I would have to crawl into a corner with my comfort blanket and suck my thumb if that is the scenario.
Hey! It is not all doom and gloom. Just be careful and sensible in choosing the caravan and the car and take what has been said above as a guide based on 28 years of caravanning.
Clubs The two main Clubs in the UK are the Caravan Club and the Camping and Caravanning Club. There is very little to choose between them. Many of the Forum members, including myself, are members of both. This gives wide coverage of the country. If there isn't a site in a specific area for one Club, there will probably one run by the other Club nearby. The same applies if you approach a site of your choice and you cannot get in because it is fully booked. Both Clubs have a list of Certificated Locations or Certificated Sites which are small 5 caravan sites, some which are very basic with a water tap and somewhere to dump the loo to quite sophisticated sites with electrics, loos, showers etc. Generally, the charge per night is anything from £6 to £15. If you crave peace and quiet they are very useful although some are on working farms and cows, hens, geese and all the other animals can be very noisy at times. There are also many commercial sites with bars, shops, swimming pools and all the usual bells, lights and whistles at an appropriate per night charge if that is your scene. Do your homework and choose your site.
All the above comments are made in good faith based on experience. However, as I am not a lawyer, they must not, in any circumstances, be used as a basis for legal argument.
Please keep the Forum up to speed on progress in your quest for an outfit. Above all, enjoy your caravanning.
Welcome to the joys (and frustrations) of caravanning. I think Dickers must be congratulated on laying out such a comprehensive schedule of the things you need to consider. If your heart is set on a 2012 Hobby 650 which has a gross permissible weight of 1900kgs your towcar needs to have a kerbweight of at least 2300kgs which would rule out both of your existing vehicles. Whilst Hobby make an exceptionally well made caravan they are a target for theft by some of our travelling community. It can be more difficult to insure a foreign built caravan than a British built one. Don't let all the rules and regulations (and any negative comments) put you off joining that happy community of caravanners that we enjoy being part of. Just take your time making your decisions and check and recheck to make sure you don't make any expensive mistakes.
afterthought: I don't consider the washrooms in the Hobby's to be particularly large. I don't know what part of the country you are in but there are several large caravan shows coming up soon (Manchester & N.E.C.) it is worth going along and just nosing aroundto look at the various layouts.
Welcome to the forum, we have all been there when we all started. So many questions, and for a lot of us there were no forums, let alone computers. However, I think Dickers has highlighted some excellent pointers in this post. The choice of caravan as Kiaman said looks a bit ambitious for the potential tow cars that you have mentioned. Also you will need to take into account the point that Dickers mentioned on what type of licence you currently hold, that could have major a bearing on what you can legally tow.
Hobbies are as Kiaman said a big favourite with the traveling community and you will need to think seriously about security of your investment.
You will find plenty of help and expertise on the forum, so go through Dickers list to start with and don't forget to ask as many questions as you want. Remember there is no such thing as a silly question. We are all here to help, and just think of it this way, many of us have been doing caravanning (or Motorhoming) for a very long time and we are still learning too.