With air traffic in chaos, families are looking for alternative options for vacations closer to home.
But with the demand and prices for hotels in the UK also skyrocketing, many people are looking for more independence, including buying a touring caravan. About 555,000 UK households already have one, and the two main caravanning clubs have seen membership rise rapidly.
However, the caravan is only half the story. Owning your own mobile home on wheels is one thing. But do you have a suitable vehicle to tow it – whether it’s a large 4×4 like a Land Rover Discovery or Defender or a rugged Jeep, or a more modest SUV or station wagon, petrol, diesel, hybrid or all-electric version?
Remember that not only pulling power and stability are important factors, but also range and fuel costs. Adding a house on wheels to your vehicle will more than halve your fuel economy. And there are particular challenges if your vehicle is electric, as ministers have mandated all new cars to be soon.
Useful places to seek help include the two main caravanning and camping organisations: the Caravan and Motorhome Club (caravanclub.co.uk), which is celebrating its 115th anniversary this year with a record 390,000 households; and the Camping and Caravanning Club (campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk) with a record 350,000 household members.
Both are well represented at the Motorhome & Caravan Show (mcshow.co.uk), taking place at Birmingham’s NEC from 18 to 23 October — with over 1,000 leisure vehicles on display, towing sessions and test drives — which have only just gone on sale.
CHOOSE FROM THE BUNCH
The annual Tow Car Awards 2022, jointly organized by consumer magazine WhatCar? and The Camping and Caravanning Club, which recently named the 201 hp Audi Q5 40TDi diesel Quattro Sport the top choice and ‘the best all-rounder’. The Q5 also won the highest award in the weight class from 1700 to 1899 kg.
Cars can only tow vehicles up to a certain percentage of the vehicle’s own weight. Most were tested to 85 percent, but some had a lower limit if it was specified.
Track tests include driving at 60 mph (the legal limit for towing on a highway), acceleration time from 30 mph to 60 mph, and braking distance from 50 mph to a stop. Practicality and boot space were checked to see if it could accommodate ‘a typical caravan load of luggage’, as well as tire repair kits and trailer stability system fitted.
Value for money, safety and running costs were also considered, as well as how good the car was to drive without a caravan. The jury said of the winning Audi Q5 that it was “exceptionally stable” and pulled “quietly” at all speeds, with an “almost ideal blend of performance, stability and usability”. It costs £46,650, it’s not cheap, but the residual prices are strong for resale.
The jury praised the strong pulling power of the diesel engine, which takes the caravan ensemble from 30 mph to 60 mph in 10.6 seconds.
The top-rated electric car was the new 321 hp Kia EV6 77.4 kWh all-wheel drive GT line, which cost from £48,195, and was also WhatCar?’s overall Car of the Year.
Gallery: Cadillac Lyriq First Drive 2023 (motor1.com)
It has a 1,600kg tow weight (less than 85 percent of its 2,090kg curb weight), but is one of the fastest vehicles with a caravan in tow, accelerating between 30mph and 60mph in just 5.5 seconds. But the tow range was only 101 miles (compared to his solo range of 232 miles). The best towing range for an electric car was the BMW i4 eDrive40 M Sport at 113 miles (compared to 258.2 miles solo). The lowest was 78.1 miles through the BMW iXxDrive40 M Sport compared to 198.8 miles solo)
The average reduction in fuel consumption for an electric car towing a caravan is more than half (54.6 percent) compared to a third for a petrol or diesel car.
Which car? notes: ‘With an electric car, you will therefore have to stop more often. Moreover, topping up is probably much more complicated.’
However, none of the motorway services operated by the three main operators in the UK currently allow caravanners to charge without disconnecting first. And through one-way systems, some make it impossible to go from the loaders back to the tow parking lot.”
Meanwhile, the rival Caravan and Motorhome Club Tow Car of the Year Awards 2022 named the SEAT Leon Estate the overall winner, as well as in the 1,100-1,200kg weight category. It was praised for its ‘powerful petrol engine, controlled handling, comfort and ease of use’.
Priced from a more affordable £29.05 OTR, the SEAT Leon Estate FR 1.5 TSI 150hp DSG car can tow up to 1,700kg (max braked trailer weight) and can be fitted with a retractable tow bar for an additional £710. the Caravan and Motorhome Club said: ‘The Seat Leon is a great all-round family car. The judges loved the punchy 1.5-litre TSI petrol engine, which worked well with the 7-speed DSG automatic transmission.
Of tests conducted at the Millbrook proving ground in Bedfordshire, they said of the SEAT: “On the faster parts of the route it remained calm and calm, while on hilly, twisty roads it felt agile, the engine coped very well with the slopes.’ It turned out to be comfortable, spacious and with a decent trunk.
Nick Lomas, Director General of The Caravan and Motorhome Club, said: ‘As the staycation grows in popularity, it is more important than ever that the club continues to provide qualified and objective information to help members find the right tow truck for their needs. .
“We are also getting more and more questions about the technical and practical aspects of towing hybrid and electric vehicles.”
You don’t need a special driving license to tow a caravan, but there are rules about the load you can tow, depending on when you passed your driving test and whether your car is suitable for towing.
Experts from car finance company moneybarn.com said motorists should follow the manufacturer’s instructions when coupling the trailer to the hitch, check the tire profile and make sure insurance covers you for towing.
Be careful when towing, especially when slowing down, stopping and cornering: “Trailers tend to bend when cornering, so it’s important to allow extra clearance.”
Extra vigilance is required when parking and road positioning, especially when stopping at curbs, entering toll booths or stopping at gas stations.’
If you park your caravan at home, in your driveway or on private land. check the building permit rules – and especially if there is a ‘restrictive covenant’ on the rent of your property.
Are you ready for a hectic Friday?
Since summer vacation kicks off in earnest today with “Frantic Friday,” you’re ready to blast your way through it.
You must be, as British families are taking more British ‘staycations’ and even some ‘daycations’ to avoid chaos and foreign flight cancellations.
The RAC predicts there will be 4.29 million leisure drivers on roads in England and Wales today, with nearly 19 million cars on the road over the weekend.
INRIX, the specialist in transport analysis, advises drivers to plan well ahead and start their journey early in the morning or later in the evening.
The worst traffic jams are expected on the M25, especially near the Dartford Crossing, the M3 and the Surrey section between the M23 and M40. The A303 at Stonehenge, the M4 between Cardiff and Newport and the M5 south of Bristol are also likely to experience long queues at the weekend, with breakdowns adding to the problem.
Sat-nav app specialists Waze say just a third (32 percent) of British motorists plan to spend their holiday abroad this summer, while 59 percent expect to take day trips, defined as a journey of more than ten miles from home with no overnight stay. Waze predicts that the number of domestic trips will increase sharply as drivers prepare to leave earlier and spend up to 12 hours on the road.
Coastal roads, national heritage and walking spots have seen the biggest increase in traffic, with the Lake District (23 per cent), Cornwall (20 per cent) and Yorkshire (18 per cent) topping the list of destinations.