Written by Neil Thomas
How to check if a caravan is stolen: 7 top tips for caravan buyers
If you're in the market for a caravan, it's best to perform the necessary checks to ensure you're not purchasing a stolen model.
Buying a stolen caravan can lead to various stressful complications, often resulting in a return to its rightful owner or financial losses.
Most sellers and dealers will be legitimate and trustworthy, but with caravan theft rising, it's wise to be vigilant.
Throughout this blog post, we'll give you some actionable advice to reduce the risk of purchasing a stolen caravan.
Why investigate whether a caravan is stolen?
Financial loss is the main reason to look into whether a caravan or motorhome is stolen before you purchase it. If the police determine that the caravan you've purchased is stolen, they can confiscate it as part of their investigation.
The rightful owner of the caravan can also reclaim their property, leaving you without a caravan and potentially out of pocket if your insurance doesn't pay out.
There are also legal consequences to consider. Should you become part of an investigation, you may need to cover legal expenses to defend yourself in court.
Plus, you could run into issues if you unknowingly purchase a stolen caravan or motorhome and decide to sell it. Potential buyers are likely to conduct their due diligence and could discover that the vehicle is stolen, leaving you in a troublesome situation.
Tips for conducting caravan due diligence
It's no secret that purchasing a stolen caravan — or any stolen vehicle, for that matter — can lead to complications for you or your business.
With that in mind, here are some steps to ensure you're giving yourself the best chance to avoid the stress of these issues.
1. Research the caravan's history
Before committing to any caravan purchase, gather as much information as possible about the caravan's history.
You can check online forums, classified advertisement platforms and social media groups for any reports of stolen caravans that match the description or the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) of the one you're interested in.
There are also online services that track stolen vehicles, which you can use to see if your chosen caravan has been reported stolen.
2. Verify the ownership and documentation
Insist on seeing proof of ownership from the person selling the caravan, especially from a private seller. In the case of motorhomes, you can request to view the logbook or service history for the vehicle. Ensure that the details provided — such as the name and address of the seller — match the logbook.
Unlike most of Europe, caravans based in the UK don't need a logbook, V5 or V5C. You can, however, view any paperwork attached to the caravan (such as insurance, receipts, etc.) and check that the name and address of the seller match the documents.
3. Inspect the caravan
Take your time inspecting the caravan thoroughly. Signs of tampering or forced entry — such as damaged locks — could point towards the caravan being stolen.
You can also check for inconsistencies or red flags on the caravan, such as hasty modifications or altered registration plates.
Make sure to see it in person. Even if the caravan looks perfect in the advert, you should only hand over money after seeing the caravan in real life. A reputable seller will have no issue with you seeing the caravan in person.
4. Conduct a CRiS check
A CRiS (Central Reservation & Identification System) check provides a history check on any pre-owned touring caravan, giving you peace of mind over the caravan you want to purchase.
A CRiS check tells you:
- If the caravan has been reported as stolen
- If the caravan has been recorded with outstanding finance with specialist finance houses registered with CRiS
- If the caravan has been written off by an insurance company with specialist insurance companies registered with CRiS
- If the caravan is registered with CRiS to a named keeper, although names cannot be published without permission.
5. Cross-check VIN numbers
A caravan VIN number (the chassis or CRiS number) is an identification number unique to each caravan. You can find this number on the chassis and caravan windows, and it's a way of tracking stolen caravans to their registered owners.
You can compare the VIN displayed on the caravan with the one on the ownership documents. It's also worthwhile to closely examine the VIN plates to check if they've been tampered with or replaced. Inconsistent VINs across the caravan could point to potential theft.
6. Hire a professional pre-purchase inspection service
These types of services can be handy in providing peace of mind over the caravan you wish to purchase, ensuring you don't waste time and money.
Mostly, these inspections focus on safety, whether damp is present, and wheels and tyres, but often include a CRiS check and VIN markings check to ensure everything is as it should be.
So, if you want to confirm that the caravan is both safe to purchase and own, consider researching these pre-purchase checks.
7. Trust your gut
This point may seem obvious, but it's an important step. If something seems off during the purchasing process, trust your instincts.
If the seller exhibits any suspicious behaviour or the deal seems too good to be true, ensure you carry out the above steps before committing to a purchase.
Caravans and motorhomes are a significant investment, so you should be cautious every step of the way if you're buying pre-owned.
How can you protect your caravan after purchase?
So, you've carried out all the checks and are happy to purchase your caravan — great! You're now ready for adventures and memory-making in your new investment.
But, just by reading this blog post, it's clear you're aware of the current issue surrounding stolen caravans throughout the UK.
It's reported that 4,000 caravans are stolen across the UK every year, with caravan theft a growing problem nationwide after the surge in domestic holidays following the COVID-19 lockdowns. In fact, the demand for caravans and motorhomes has risen by more than 30% since the pandemic.
But, there's a way to give you an excellent chance of recovering your caravan or motorhome if the worst happens.
AX Track technology offers a 99.1% recovery rate and provides industry-leading protection for your emotional investments.
The covert, Thatcham-approved technology ensures your prized possession can be located in the event of theft, giving you peace of mind over your caravan and the memories it holds.
Read our report on sentimental vehicles
Whether it's an increased demand for staycations, a lack of security features in classic cars or the desirability of top-of-the-range luxury vehicles, thieves' focus on vehicles is increasing.
In our latest report, we delve into this recent rise in sentimental vehicle theft and the steps you can take to keep your cherished possessions safe.
To download your copy of the report, click below.