When it comes to purchasing a new caravan or motorhome it’s always best to do as much research as possible. Although the majority of the time there will be nothing untoward about the vehicle you’re viewing, there is always a risk, so it’s important to be aware. Buying a brand new caravan is great and comes with loads of benefits if you can afford to do so, however most people tend to buy second-hand which is where you need to be extra vigilant.
There is no one sure fire way of knowing if you are buying a stolen caravan as thieves are becoming more and more wise to the tricks they need to use to get away with it. However, there are some steps you can take to reduce the risk. Of course the majority of dealers and private sellers are completely trustworthy, but a few dodgy sellers mean you need to be aware of a few things. When looking for a new or used caravan for sale, it is best to either purchase directly from a dealer or look on a reputable marketplace website that moderates ads, for peace of mind.
Here are a few tips to avoid buying a stolen caravan:
Be wary of cash payments!
If the seller refuses to give you the caravan unless you pay cash this should ring alarm bells. Most transactions are typically done by bank transfer or card payment nowadays so a cash only sale is very rare. If the seller is insisting on a cash payment, it’s likely there is something dodgy going on and you should avoid the sale and look elsewhere. It’s much better to be safe than sorry.
Too good a deal to miss?
If the price seems too good to be true - question it! Stolen caravans are not the easiest to hide so thieves would want to make a quick sale and therefore not price at the same level a reputable seller would. It’s likely that there’s a reason behind the bargain price you’re looking at and that could be for a variety of reasons but it is important to consider that the advert might not be genuine. If this is the case it is best to ask as many questions as possible to get a better idea of whether the sale seems genuine, but if you still have any concerns it is best to avoid the sale and maybe try a dealer instead.
Does the advert look legitimate?
Before taking time out of your day to contact the seller or visit the caravan it’s a good idea to ‘sense check’ the advert. Scammers will often use ‘stock’ images or maybe even images of interiors that are not of the model being advertised. Double check that all the information seems to match the manufacturer descriptions and photos before going any further with the seller. A legitimate ad is likely to have photos of the caravan on the drive (all in the same location) or from holiday photos so this is a good thing to look out for.
Verification is key
Before you purchase the caravan you should have a CRiS check done online so you can verify the history and ownership of the caravan before committing yourself to the purchase. You should also check the VIN CHIP security label (normally located on the window) as it should be fairly obvious if this has been tampered with. VIN CHIP comes as standard on UK touring caravans that have been manufactured by NCC members after 2016 as it is a highly effective theft deterrent.
Make sure you see it in person
Even if the caravan looks great in an online advert you should never hand over any money before seeing the caravan in person. If the seller insists on this, then alarm bells should ring. A reputable seller would be highly unlikely to ask for this. You may be asked for a holding deposit or full payment to secure to the caravan (with time wasters being a common reason) but until seeing it you should not do either.
Inspect the caravan
Look out for damage to the towing hitch, this is a typical sign of a stolen caravan. Another thing to look out for is mis-matched wheels or alloys as this could be a sign that the wheel was removed in order to steal the caravan or damaged in the process of a rushed getaway. Again, make sure to check for the VIN CHIP.
If you were to buy a stolen caravan then not only would you be losing the caravan itself, you would likely lose all the money you have paid for it and any services paid for whilst in your possession. The best advice to avoid this is to be aware of all the points mentioned above and to ask questions and follow your gut, if something feels off it probably is.