Regular My Trike readers will know that I’ve been on the lookout for an old(ish) caravan for quite a while, which is how I got involved in the caravan saga that I wrote about a couple of posts or so ago. I need one at least 6 metres or so in length because it’s for placing on the land that I’m buying in Fleurac for me to live in while my new house is being built and as that will now probably be for a year or more, anything smaller would be far too cramped.
My searches show that there are really only three or four significant manufacturers here in France in the large caravan market – Fendt, Tabbert, LMC and to a certain extent, Caravelair with, as I see it, the first three being the leaders. My budget (up to 3000€ max) means that I’m looking at caravans up to about 20 years old as I don’t think a higher expenditure can be justified given that only I’ll be living in it and I’ll only need it for a relatively short time before, hopefully, reselling it.
The ones that meet my needs and come up the most on Le Bon Coin are Fendt and Tabbert and my experience of the last few weeks is (a) there are very few, if any, in my area and (b) the ads for the ones that do come up are almost always taken down very quickly, presumably because they’ve been sold. This means that you have to respond to a suitable ad very quickly and also be prepared to travel some way, possibly, to see a caravan in the flesh. So what’s the story?
Unlike in the UK, to all intents and purposes, all caravans here in France (and the rest of the EU) require their own licence (carte grise) and registration idependently of the vehicle towing them. My large, two-axle trailer has its own ‘immatriculation’ whereas my small single-axle one doesn’t. It’s related to the load-carrying capacity. So what happens if an owner loses their caravan’s immatriculation document (carte grise)? If they have put the registration into their name on acquiring the caravan, no problem. They can just apply for a duplicate – it’s only about bureaucracy like most things in France.
But what happens if, possibly being a bit lazy, they omitted to transfer the caravan into their name? The simple answer is that they are sunk. If their name was not on the carte grise, even though they legally acquired the caravan from its former owner, there is no way that they or anyone else other than the registered owner can acquire a duplicate. But that’s not the end of the matter. As it’s illegal to use any vehicle requiring a carte grise on the public road without one, the legal requirement is that that caravan has to be given up for destruction.
‘What????’ I hear you exclaim, even a 3-year old Tabbert that’s worth maybe 20,000€? The simple answer is ‘Yes’. Unlike in the UK, where the Caravan Club maintains a database of stolen caravans, there is no equivalent here in France. So presumably some bright spark thought that it would be clever to introduce such a rule in order to prevent, or at least deter, stolen caravans being sold on without carte grises. But instead it has had a different outcome entirely.
Without going into detail, we all know that there is a certain class of customer that has no problem with acquiring (and presumably using) brand new stolen caravans in the UK where there is a stolen caravan database and presumably the same applies here in France where there isn’t. But that is only one segment of the market. Another huge segment comprises those owners of newish and older caravans who have no carte grise for their caravans for whatever reasons, who have no intention of giving them up for destruction and certainly not while they have reasonable residual value. So what happens then?
The caravans cannot legally be used on the road but that does not stop them being desirable for other reasons, the primary ones being for placing on a private property, such as a back-garden for a relative’s use as accommodation, for siting on a ‘leisure area’ such as a privately owned fishing lake or hunting area or finally, to be used as temporary accommodation on a private ‘terrain’ while the owner has a house either renovated or built on the ‘terrain’ in question.
Sure, caravans with a carte grise, even older ones, have an enhanced value in the marketplace, but there is still a very healthy demand for those without for the reasons I’ve mentioned above. Even older ones if they are in reasonably good shape, and especially larger ones, which offer an alternative to mobile homes that require expensive specialist transport and siting, whereas if you are prepared to take the chance and tow them ‘sans carte grise’, caravans do not.
So that brings me onto the subject of this post. I’ve been searching for a large caravan for several weeks to live in once I leave my present house on or before 30 June. I’ve missed many opportunities but kept coming back to a Fendt that was being offered for sale at what looked like a reasonable price in the Ile de France just to the south of Paris (500 kms from where I live) but which had remained unsold.
I gave the seller a ring a few days ago requesting some more photographs, which he sent, and subsequently decided to drive north yesterday to see it as I was prepared to take the chance of towing it back without a carte grise. To cut a long story short, I ended up knocking his asking price down by a couple of hundred euros and heading back south again with it behind my Kia.
I was delayed getting away from home in the morning and as I only started heading south again shortly after 3.00 pm, I knew that there was no chance that I’d be able to make it back before the curfew here in France that takes effect at 7.00 pm. However, luckily I’d planned for such an eventuality and had taken some pillows, my sleeping bag and a blanket with me, so was able to pull into a service area shortly after the curfew deadline and spend the night in the caravan.
I had an early night so I could get away early this morning and was cursed to have a vehicle with a chiller trailer parked next to me whose engine kept starting up and running during the night to protect the load. Nevertheless, I got a reasonable night’s sleep and here are some shots that I took of the caravan, a Fendt Diamant, and the Kia hemmed in by large artics in the lorry park before I walked across to buy a cup of chocolate, a croissant and a pastry for breakfast.
It took me between five and six hours to drive north including a (very) brief stop for a ‘tea and a pee’. However, it took around seven hours to get back, including the best part of four today, and here are some shots of the old girl after I’d arrived home and parked her up on my front lawn.
OK, you can see from the pictures that it’s been around the block a few times – several blocks actually. However, although it’s a bit scruffy on the outside, the interior is still quite tidy for its age and will turn out quite nice after it’s had a thorough clean right through. But the main thing is that because it hasn’t been used as a touring caravan for some time, it’s been rigged up to be used as a static with connections for mains water and electricity (notice the lights are on in some shots). That suits me just fine, although I’ll need to add an electric water heater of some kind as it only seems to have a connection to a cold supply.
Its old fridge also seems to be working, although it’s taking ages to cool down, but that’ll be a plus if it is OK. I haven’t had a chance as yet to give it a proper going over but hopefully after I’ve finished all the work on my house, I’ll have some time to sort the caravan out before moving it over to the land at Fleurac. Before then, though, I’ll need to sort out a key as the original one has been lost. But when the time comes I’ll need to make sure not to leave valuable stuff behind inside as no caravan is really secure. However, things like that are for the future…