Buying a preloved camper or caravan is a great option for anyone on a budget, but there can be a whole world of risks when buying a used — and still relatively expensive — camper online, particularly on public forums such as Facebook Marketplace, eBay or Gumtree.
There are many things every buyer should consider when purchasing a camper or caravan — and even more so when purchasing it online. For those completely new to the game, it would be advisable to take every opportunity to tour some campers in person before buying, whether this is prevailing upon your caravanning friends or visiting a showroom. By familiarising yourself with campers, caravans and hybrids, you will be able to start compiling the list of things you do and don’t like about each of these options, and then narrowing down to the specific company or models that you want to start looking for online. It will also help you categorise the brand names or included features that might come with a higher price tag.
Much like shoes, a camper or caravan isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario. Everyone has different requirements and tastes, and while the images or reviews online might look fantastic, it is always advisable to check out the camper in person to ensure it is practical for what you need. ‘Great storage’ might be a blanket statement, but does it fit your fishing rods or sports gear? It might sleep six, but will your teen kids be comfortable? The list goes on.
When it comes to buying online, the best course of action is to take a healthy dose of scepticism and remember that there is always the potential for skeletons — or perhaps more likely water damage or broken seals — to be hiding out of sight in whatever images the seller chooses to show you.
So, to help you avoid being scammed online, here are some red flags you should watch for when buying a camper or caravan online, and in truth, anything that you would consider costly.
Number one on the list is a camper or caravan that is being sold at a price that does not correlate to current prices of similar preloved models. There are levels of wariness with this red flag; a price that is a fraction of the expected price might excite you, but remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. There are countless stories out there of buyers who have been scammed with an emotional story from the seller explaining away the miniscule cost, only for the item to never be delivered. And while you might only be set back a couple grand, that’s a decent dent out of your overall budget.
The second level may be less of an overt scam. If the cost isn’t obviously well below the standard price, there may still be something you need to watch out for, such as damage or patch-up jobs that the seller hasn’t acknowledged in their statement.
In the early stages, this may not raise any red flags, but the further along in the process you get, the more you should be wary of why the seller is not willing to meet or speak in person to discuss the purchase.
Ads can very easily be stolen online and reposted, often at a much cheaper rate, so when you have the opportunity to speak to the buyer, make sure you ask lots of questions and keep an eye out for discrepancies in their story.
If the seller is unwilling for you to see the camper or caravan in person and/or have it checked over by a professional before you hand over the money, steer clear. Seeing the camper in person is a very important part of the purchasing process and will ensure that you are not being swindled by either a camper that doesn’t exist or is in a much worse state than pictured. Remember, while that nice, well-kept camper or caravan pictured might seem the diamond in the rough, those pictures could be a decade or more old.
A genuine seller will understand your reasons for wanting to see the camper or caravan in person beforehand, so it is always advisable to play it safe with anyone who seems a bit sketchy, particularly if this happens in combination with never having spoken to them in person.
Something to watch out for is how the seller is requesting payment. If they are asking for you to pay via pre-loaded cards, cheques, international money orders, cryptocurrency or wire transfers, be suspicious. No matter what the seller says, the safest way is the old-fashioned, in-person bank transfer. That way, both you and the seller have a record of the transaction.
Additionally, be wary if the seller is pressuring you to make the purchase or transfer the money before you have had the chance to see the camper or caravan in person and potentially have it checked out by a professional. This could come across a couple of ways, with the buyer actively and frequently trying to convince you to buy, or by sharing an emotional story to sway your feelings. But no matter how dire it seems, hold onto your healthy dose of scepticism. In some cases, this might be a genuine case of multiple interested parties, but even if everything is legitimate, don’t let yourself be pressured into making a choice.
Purchasing online from private sellers might seem like a bit of a minefield, particularly for those who trust easily. But remember, genuine sellers are out there. Sometimes you just need to dig a bit further and take a grain — or perhaps a handful — of salt as you scour the ad listings.
At Mars Campers we work hard to develop the best value for money camper trailers with a view of helping you create memorable experiences with your loved ones.
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