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Holiday Home From Home

Holiday Home From Home

This is the time of year when the caravans of Britain make their annual appearance on our roads and as usual they are sure to polarise opinion. Some drivers will become instantly enraged or frustrated as soon as they see that swaying fibreglass rear end far in the distance. This will happen even if the driver is himself off on a family holiday to a static ‘van based at the coast.

Most drivers, however, will understand that a caravan makes a lot of sense for UK vacations, especially during these hard financial times. As a consequence their popularity is increasing despite the murderous movie ‘Sightseers’! Modern caravans range from functional to luxurious and make an ideal base to explore Britain and Europe.

The choice of tow-car can be critical. Most cars are capable of towing a ‘van but in truth some are probably unsuitable. It is usual for manufacturers to quote maximum towing weights which should be the starting point of any buying decision. It is both illegal and dangerous to breach that figure. The vehicle doesn’t have to be large but it should have a strong engine which ideally would be a diesel for the extra pulling torque they can deliver.

The choice is large. Some people prefer to choose to use panel vans or pick-ups but most ‘vans will be seen behind family sized cars.  Possibly the ideal vehicle would be the Land Rover Discovery. The latest version has a feature called the ‘Trailer Stability Assist’. This automatically detects the presence of a hooked-up trailer. Once a speed of thirty seven miles per hour is reached this device monitors the behaviour of the caravan and uses selective braking to counter any swaying or other unsuitable movements. It’s the perfect safe towing feature.

The snag with the Discovery is the price. Lesser mortals may have to settle for something like a Volkswagen Passat or even a Golf – which was an award winner in the entry level class up to 1424kg. The VW 2.0L diesel is a fine engine that packs real towing punch. Broadly speaking, the heavier the caravan the bigger the vehicle should be to tow it, but it all depends on the manufacturers figure and, of course, the law.

Finding a tow-car is the first step towards a caravanning holiday but there is still much to learn. In essence, the driver is in control of not one but two vehicles. Any novice who has tried reversing with any sort of trailer will attest to how tricky this can be and how quickly things can go seriously pear-shaped!

Since 1998 all subsequently registered vehicles, their tow-bars and tow-balls must be type-approved and all electrics and lights should be fully connected. Any hint of transgression will find the unwary driver at the side of the road with blue lights reflected in the sleek flanks of the prized  caravan. Caravanning is a great way to take the family on holiday but it is not something to try on a whim.

This post was written by:

- who has written 474 posts on Motor Blogger.

Geoff is a freelance writer and photographer.

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