Knowing the year of a caravan is essential to understand as you are buying, so you know what you’re getting and whether it is good value for money.
To get the best caravan and accessories, you should try to buy ‘as new as possible’. This makes it more expensive but if you intend to buy an older used caravan, research the quality and availability of spare parts and check the condition thoroughly.
History of caravans
In the 1960’s the introduction of aluminium clad caravans and high production fibreglass vans saw caravan manufacturing take off in Australia with about 85 caravan manufacturers spread throughout the country.
Throughout the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s there were many changes to the structure and accessories with many of these still distinctly different from modern vehicles.
The easiest way to tell when a used caravan was made is by checking the serial number or Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) usually found on the chassis or chassis plate. VINs numbers may also be found in the lower right-hand corner of the windows and can sometimes be located on the metal weight plate near the exterior door.
The VIN is a 17-digit unique number assigned to a caravan to give it a unique identity. Every vehicle has a unique identity which is used to identify the vehicle and relate to it inapplicable documentation.
Decoding VIN numbers
The characters of the VIN are not random but represent some information related specific details of the vehicle.A decoder can extract this information from the VIN, but it can also be done manually. The general breakdown of the letters and numbers of a VIN follow these rules;
- Country of manufacture
- The make
- Whether the caravan is single or twin axle
- Optional manufacturer information (different model ranges)
- The manufacturer of the caravan
- Model year
- Optional manufacturer information
- Vehicle’s unique serial number
The manufacturer will be able to identify the caravan from the number, but if the plate is missing, the caravan’s handbook should guide you to the age.
What to look for
Most caravans have longevity over two decades if they’re looked after, so choose a second-hand or used caravan that is well within that age.One of the worst things that can happen to an old caravan is water penetration, which can cause extensive damage and it is costly to fix.
Caravan dealers should be quite happy to run their professional damp meter over any vehicle you are interested in buying, and it’s best to ask how long the previous owner has had the vehicle.
Not all parts are generic, and certainly, the older a caravan is, the harder it will be to source replacement parts. You will need to know the model number should you ever need to buy a specific part.Find out if there is a caravan-owners club that can help you to find parts and give advice or info.
Hopefully, this will give you a fair amount of guidance, so you know how old the caravan you’re buying is, what that means and what to look out for so you buy quality.