Ever wanted to pack up some stuff and getaway for a few days? Buying your own caravan allows you to do this whenever you feel like, with no costly hotel fees. Guest blogger, Sharon Eason from mealsinfields.co.uk, explains how to buy a caravan and kit it out for less than £2000…
Let’s start with a budget of £2000 to buy a caravan and get it ready for that first foray into the countryside.
Set aside £1500 to buy your caravan. It will be elderly – at least 10 years old, and well used. If you are buying privately, reduce the buying price to around £1000 to allow for a full service and safety check by a qualified engineer. This will set you back between £200 and £400, but could also save your life. If you are buying from a dealer, the caravan will have been checked and cleaned, so you can spend the full £1500 on your first wheelie-house.
So, we have just £500 left to kit out the caravan for a family of four. Essentially you have just bought a second home, and as no-one wants to keep packing and unpacking, you now need to find equipment for that home. I use the word home deliberately as much of the equipment you will need can be found in your own home. Very few specialised items are needed – thankfully because they can be expensive.
Invest £40 in membership of either The Caravan Club or the Camping and Caravanning Club. The advice both clubs offer is worth far more than the membership fee. You can join either club online. www.caravanclub.co.uk or www.campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk.
The expensive essentials are mostly for use outside the caravan. They will eat up about half of your budget, on the whole will be purchased from a specialist shop and include:-
A drinking water container. Spend a little time on the Internet as there are two or three manufacturers, but the prices are around £1 per 1 litre capacity. Choose a barrel with a handle from the outset (usually referred to as an Aquaroll) as you will very quickly tire of carrying a large plastic jerrycan. Set aside £40 for a 40 litre Aquaroll.
A waste water container. There are lots of options on the market, but do remember that you have to lift the filled container and empty it. It may involve a walk to the disposal point, so don’t go silly with the size of the container. Black plastic jerrycan type container is around £15.00, Wastemaster around £40.00
Gas Tank(s). There is no getting away from it, gas is expensive. Calor Gas is available right across the UK, but there are cheaper alternatives – for example FloGas and AltaGas – but the alternatives may be difficult to come by in some areas. You will be asked to pay a deposit on the tank, which is then replaced when empty. As a guide 6 Kg of Propane can cost anything between £18.00 and £25.00 depending on supplier and location.
Mains Hook Up Lead. Leads with the correct connections are available from any caravan dealer, but you might find them a little cheaper in the specialist accessory stores such as TowSure, GoCamping and others. It is actually cheaper to pay for a pitch with mains electricity than it is to take the basic pitch and run on gas. A 50 metre lead is the best buy and it will ensure that you can reach the ‘box’ easily. Not every pitch has a mains hook up next to it.
110 amp hour leisure battery. Unless provided with the caravan, you cannot manage without a battery. Expect to pay around £80 to £90 from a caravan dealer or accessory store, but it will normally be guaranteed for at least one year.
Tacky Mat. You will find this in caravan dealers and accessory stores. Vital to stop things falling out of lockers.
Those are the essentials. Let’s turn our attention to the inside of the caravan, and consider it in terms of ‘rooms’. Before you part with a single penny, rummage around your house and see what you could easily transfer – especially for that first weekend away.
Bathroom. There is no need to buy anything for the bathroom. You will need to take towels and flannels or sponges, but they do not need to be brand spanking new. You might like to consider a non-slip mat for the floor of the shower.
A word of caution – do use liquid soap as bars of soap will solidify in the waste pipes and cause a blockage which is really nasty to clear. Remember the pipes are much narrower than those at home.
Bedroom. Again, no special purchases needed here. Take the sheets, pillow and duvet off the spare bed!! If you do decide to buy bedding for the caravan, take a long look at the value ranges in your favourite supermarket. They are ideal and will not break the bank. A 10 tog duvet is more than adequate, you really do not need anything ‘special’. Check out supermarket prices online as they vary from week to week.
Kitchen. This is the spending area – but again you can keep costs to a minimum by thinking about what you actually use.
Take a wander into any budget shops or Supermarkets and look for the following items:
Crockery – A full set of four dinner plates, side plates, soup/cereal bowls and mugs was selling at £12.00 in my local supermarket last week.
Glasses – cheap as chips £1.00 for a set of 4 in most supermarkets. Line the locker with tacky mat and place the glasses close together. Wedge them so they can’t fall out, then throw a tea towel over them to reduce vibration. Cheap glasses are thicker and mine have been travelling around with me for the past three years!
Cutlery – shop around as prices vary. Look for the all metal versions rather than those with plastic handles as they stand up to the vibration and bumps of travel better. Prices start at around £10.00 for a set for four people.
Pots and Pans – Budget shops are a really good starting point. Buy the cheap set with saucepans and a frying pan. You are cooking on bottled gas and thick bottomed pans will take forever to heat. You should get a set at under £20.00.
Kettle – while you are in the pots and pans section, don’t forget a whistling kettle for use on your gas cooker. Price will depend on capacity, but budget around £5.00 to £10.00
Utensils – here is a real can of worms. Just keep a list for a week of what you actually use at home, and check that you don’t already have a few spare items. If you are forced to buy new, get the plastic versions as they can then do double duty. See the glossary page on www.mealsinfields.co.uk for ideas on how to reduce the number of utensils you take with you.
Washing up Bowl – Wilkinsons have nice little bowls at around £1.00. A small washing up bowl will use less water than the sink, and can be taken to washing up areas on site. Choose size and shape to fit into the kitchen sink in your caravan.
Outdoor Eating. You will want to sit outside and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Again, the supermarkets do excellent ranges of folding chairs and tables – just watch the weight. Caravan dealers will have lighter weight chairs and tables, but they come at a cost.
With careful shopping you should just about have enough change left to book yourself onto a Caravan Manouvering Course. Both the Caravan Club and the Camping and Caravanning Club run weekend courses covering the theory and practice of towing and reversing your caravan. Invaluable.
For ideas on what to eat and how to cook it, go to www.mealsinfields.co.uk. A stock of over 200 recipes for meals that can be cooked in your caravan awaits you, together with ideas on where you can stop, shop and dine.
Enjoy your caravan and the freedom it gives you to explore the wonderful British countryside and seaside.