Touring Caravan Editorial

Paul McDonald

28 Jun 2018, Editorial

The touring caravan market has not flourished through the last quarter. The majority of UK dealers have reported suppressed sales compared to last year. A combination of factors has led to this downturn.

  • The delayed start to spring following the cold and wet winter and poor Easter weather
  • Continued economic uncertainty

The fine weather experienced since early May has come too late for the market to stage a full recovery. With the current economic climate, reduced consumer confidence will continue for the foreseeable future. Additionally, less terrorism abroad has led to increased confidence in overseas holidays. However, despite the market being behind last year, in isolation it has not been that poor. What makes it seem worse is the fact that the last few seasons have been strong and experienced growth.

The market is quieter than anticipated, this contrasts to the last few years where stock levels have fallen early. This year there is a large amount of stock among many dealers. This has led to increased pressure to offer more discount, in turn reducing profit margins. Even with these discounts, there is likely to be more carry over 2018 stock into 2019. Consequently, some manufacturers have cut back on production this year.

In terms of what has sold well, the transverse island bed layouts continue to be the focus, particularly the centre washroom variants.  Interestingly, 2 berths have done well for some this year, with the Bailey Pegasus Genoa a strong seller.  However, the 2 berth market continues its decline overall. Sales for the Bailey Unicorn have been healthy, whilst the Lunar Clubman and Quasar have been a success for some. Fixed side bed layouts are less popular now due to more favourable transverse island beds.

Used market

The economic uncertainty challenging the new market is imposing a less negative effect on the used market. However, whilst sales and demand have fared better than new, the overall majority of feedback received during dealer visits or from respondents to our latest online survey report sales to be behind last year. With the milder weather, some dealers did say they had experienced an uptick in demand during May.

The centre washroom, end bedroom continues to be a very popular used layout, as do fixed island beds. Demand for end washroom, side dinette layouts is more variable. Like with new, 2 berths have been strong sellers for some. A number of dealers explained that the majority of sales have been towards the lower priced segment this year, another sign of cautious spending. Better news is that some respondents have seen an increase in first time buyers this year.

The 2019 season is now rapidly approaching and the HERMCA Lawns outdoor show is just a mere couple of months away at the start of September. Shortly followed by the October caravan and motorcaravan show at the Birmingham NEC.  As well as these shows, there will be a number of smaller events held across the country that will help maintain interest and sales momentum.

New Sales

According to the latest figures released by the National Caravan Council, production of units intended for UK distribution was 25% down in May compared to 2017. The Moving annual total [m-a-t] of production was 1.5% down on 2017 in May, with 22,554 units produced at the end of May 2018 compared to 22,900 at the end of May 2017. Factory invoiced sales saw a significant dip in May at 23% behind that of May 2017, with the moving annual total [m-a-t] 1.4% behind that of last year. These figures support the quieter season this year. 

Touring Caravan Factory Invoiced Sales

Key Points

Demand feedback

  • Through the last quarter new demand is behind last year across all berths
  • 2 berths are suffering the greatest downturn
  • 2 berths continue to be more popular used choice than new
  • Used demand was mixed but overall reported to be broadly in line with last year

Stock feedback

  • Respondents view new stock levels as high this year contrasting with lean stock levels in 2016/17
  • Few dealers will run out of stock early this year
  • Respondents suggest there is more used stock in the market this season compared to 2017
  • Some dealers informed Glass’s that used stock supply is low as a result of fewer part exchanges
  • More private offers this year
  • Used stock levels reported in line or higher than those of 2017 for 2 and 4 berth units
  • Larger 5/6 berth family unit stock levels more mixed
    • These are difficult to locate, particularly at this time of year when demand at its greatest

Discount feedback

  • Most dealers are offering the same amount of discount or more than last year

Margin Retention

  • Margin retention reported to be behind 2017 overall

Customer Finance Penetration

  • Customer finance penetration believed to be broadly in line with last year
  • 10 year HP deals remain the focus with comparatively low take up of PCP


Although certain dealers report sales and demand to be broadly in line or stronger than last year in recent months, these have been in the minority and the general consensus has been that 2018 has been a quieter season. In terms of what the future holds, some respondents hold the belief that the market could increase following a quieter season, whilst other dealers feel that 2019 is likely to be similar to 2018 as a result of ongoing economic uncertainty.

As expected, the used market has fared better, but even this has paled in comparison with last year. The UK was certainly unfortunate with the weather earlier this year, which no doubt had an impact on sales. Whilst the new market remains suppressed, the used market could strengthen moving forward as it is the more affordable option, but this is only a possibility and there is currently little sign of this occurring. The prospects for 2019 are very uncertain in view of the political landscape.

July Edition

For the July edition, taking into account the time of year and the fact that the market has been slower this year, values have been reduced across the board.

For those who subscribe to the app, please make sure you check for data updates on a regular basis and download them. Since the April valuation update, more than 100 models have been added that were previously not valued.

About the author

Paul McDonald

Paul McDonaldLeisure Editor

Paul has worked for Glass's since 2001 in various customer and vehicle valuation orientated roles, before becoming Leisure Editor just over a year ago. In his current role, he's responsible for keeping up to date with conditions and trends in the Motorcycle and Touring Caravan markets so we can provide accurate and reliable values to our subscribers. This means he's out and about a lot visiting dealers, manufacturers and auctions as well as analysing observation data.