How to prevent accidental damage to touring caravans

Recently, we conducted an analysis of our touring caravan claims data.

Accidental damage came out on top, accounting for more than two-thirds of claims, and of these claims, the vast majority were a result of driver error.

What many caravan owners may not realise is that while your vehicle is covered under its car insurance policy while towing a caravan, the caravan itself is not.

To prevent accidental damage to your caravan, and to keep you, and others on the road safe, there are a number of things you can do.

Plan your route carefully

Many campsites are located in the most picturesque parts of the UK.

Touring caravan at night

But this often means these beautiful, peaceful, out-of-the-way places don’t have the infrastructure designed to cope with large vehicles, let alone caravans. Tight, winding lanes leave little room to manoeuvre and a wrong turn that leads to a dead end can be incredibly difficult to reverse out of.

SatNav and other route planning apps may show the fastest route to your final destination – but it might not be the most suitable with a caravan in tow. Before heading off, check your journey avoids low bridges, and take note of where you may need to take things slow, especially on single-track roads or those with low walls or ditches.

Towing a caravan over long periods can be exhausting, so ensure you factor in plenty of rest stops along the way.

Check your surroundings

It may sound obvious, but checking your surroundings before you set off is crucial. A number of claims were made after collisions with gate posts on caravan owner’s properties, when entering and exiting campsites, and when retrieving caravans from storage sites.

When towing a caravan, due to the excess weight, it will take longer to pull out onto a junction, and the turning circle needs to be much wider. While it can be tempting to risk pulling out as soon as there is a gap in the traffic flow, doing so may result in caravan wheels being clipped on kerbs, as well as increasing the potential to cause accidents involving other drivers if they have to suddenly slam on their brakes to avoid you.

Keep an eye on the weather

In adverse weather conditions, especially high winds, take it slow when towing. Windy weather can cause caravans to wobble, and even snake, which can cause a driver to lose control. If a caravan does begin to wobble or snake, it is far easier to get back under control when travelling at lower speeds. If possible, consider waiting until the bad weather passes, especially if the route you are taking cannot avoid driving on exposed roads and motorways where crosswinds are more likely.

The same goes for wet weather. Drive slowly to allow for an increase in the stopping distance when towing on wet roads. Never drive through water you suspect may be any deeper than 10cm (4 inches), and check the seals on skylights and windows regularly to prevent rainwater from entering the inside of the caravan.

touring caravan wet weather

And if you do decide to hunker down until the bad weather passes, make sure the caravan isn’t sited near trees, as falling branches can do a lot of damage. You may also need to weigh the caravan down or secure it using straps, and awning should always be removed in high winds. It’s also important not to situate a caravan in areas which are susceptible to flooding during periods of heavy rainfall.

Weighing up the risks

When a caravan leaves the manufacturer, its weight in kilograms is known as the Mass in Running Order. This information is typically found on the weight plate inside the caravan door and is the weight of the caravan when empty.

When the caravan is loaded with all of the owner’s possessions, the Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM), or Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass, is the entire weight that can be towed. Food and clothing are relatively lightweight items, but other necessities such as awnings, motor movers, and recreational batteries can quickly add up. Knowing the noseweight that the caravan can handle is crucial to avoid stress on the hitch head while towing, too.

Before towing a caravan, you also need to know the weight of your vehicle to calculate its towing capacity. This is usually specified in the owner’s manual, but to be sure, you may want to use a weighbridge as the weight of the vehicle specified by the manufacturer is the unladen weight (i.e. when it’s not carrying any passengers, goods or other items).

The rules for towing changed back in December 2021, and the MAM you can legally tow will depend on when you passed your driving test.

Practice makes perfect

If you want to improve your confidence while towing a caravan, there are a number of Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) accredited training courses available. These courses cover everything from making sure a caravan is hitched (coupled) to a vehicle properly, to reversing around corners safely while towing. Upon successful completion of the course, some insurers, including Compass, will offer a discount on your touring caravan insurance policy.

Even experienced drivers can be caught out in tricky situations, so it’s a good idea to practise towing during quieter periods and after your caravan has been in storage over winter. And if you purchase a new vehicle, as different makes and models handle differently, it’s important to refresh your towing skills before setting off on a long journey.

Touring caravan being towed

While following this advice can help to minimise the risk of damage to your caravan, your car insurance policy alone will not cover it in the event of accidental damage. Protect your holiday home with our comprehensive touring caravan insurance.

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