Touring Caravan Market Update

Paul McDonald

27 Sep 2018, Editorial

The season is now ending and it is time to look forward to 2019. It has been a tough year for the touring caravan industry and 2018 has not repeated the same level of success as the last few years.

Back in July, feedback from dealers suggested that the market had not flourished this year, with the majority reporting suppressed sales. Recent feedback from dealers and subscribers, who kindly responded to the revised Glass’s quarterly touring caravan trade survey, indicated that it has been a similar story in August and September with order intake behind the same period last year.  

Ongoing economic uncertainty continues to hinder consumer confidence and there are concerns that new vans may now be too expensive. This has encouraged some to look at purchasing a used motorcaravan as an alternative to a new tourer as the price walk-up has narrowed, especially when you factor in the price of a suitable towing vehicle. However, a number of dealers have experienced an increase in newcomers to the market this year, with some progressing from camping in tents to touring caravans.

Slower new sales has led to heavier stock levels in the dealer networks, increasing pressure on dealers to offer more discount, which in turn has reduced profit margins. However, even with these discounts and various manufacturer promotions, there is still a large amount of 2018 carry-over stock. Whilst, it is always good to retain some carry-over stock, having too much poses a risk to 2019 sales.

The overall view from dealers is that 2019 is likely to be a similar season.

In terms of what has sold well, the Swift Super Sprite 8 foot wide models have proved to be very successful this year across many dealerships, offering great value for money with their extra levels of space and impressive features for the price. The transverse island bed layouts appear to have repeated their ongoing success. Although the trend for 2 berths continues to decline, end kitchen layouts have proved to be popular.

The annual HERMCA Lawns outdoor show took place at its normal location near Hull. Despite understandably being increased caution for the 2019 season, the atmosphere was vibrant with some impressive displays and plenty to keep the trade and public interested. The next NEC show takes place in Birmingham between the 16th and 22nd October and should provide a good early indication of how the 2019 season may perform.

Used Market

It was better news for the used tourer market. Despite some mixed feedback from dealer visits and respondents to the latest online survey, a slight majority held the view that demand this last quarter has been similar to last year. It was always likely that economic uncertainty would have a lesser impact on the used market. However, it has still been tough and a reasonable number of dealers reported suppressed sales.

In terms of what is popular, much like new, transverse island beds remain the focus. Interestingly, later 2015-2017 models have been strong sellers for some dealers recently. However, a number of respondents reported stronger sales in the lower priced segments too, which continues to indicate cautious spending. Following period of success, some dealers explained that twin fixed beds have experienced a decline in popularity recently.  

New Sales

According to the latest figures released by the National Caravan Council, production of units intended for UK distribution were 23.7% down in June compared to 2017. The moving annual total [m-a-t] of production was 4.6% down on 2017 in June, with 22,039 units produced at the end of June 2018, compared to 23,109 at the end of June 2017. Despite factory-invoiced sales seeing less of a dip in June than they did in May, they still experienced a significant drop at 15.6%. Meanwhile, the moving annual total [m-a-t] remains at 1.4% behind that of last year.

Touring Caravan Sep2018 Chart

Key Points - New

●             Apart from 2 berths where demand was reported to be lower this last quarter, feedback for all other berths was mixed but demand generally equal or lower.

●             4 berths fared best.

●             Majority of dealers are offering more discount this year.

●             Margin retention continues to trail 2017.

●             Customer finance penetration believed to be broadly in line with last year with 10-year HP deals remaining the focus and a low take up of PCP.

●             Majority of respondents hold the view that stock levels are high.

Key Points - Used

●             Feedback for demand on used vans was more positive and overall reported to be broadly in line with last year.

●             2 berths continue to be more popular as a used choice.

●             Dealers views on availability of used stock in the market was rather mixed but suggested it was broadly in line with last year overall.

●          Fewer part exchanges continue to hinder stock availability for some respondents.

●             Opinions on dealers own stock levels was largely varied but suggested they were broadly in line overall, with the exception of 5 berths where the consensus was they were slightly lower. 

●             2 and 4 berth units are the most plentiful among stock levels.


2018 has no doubt been a tougher year than expected. Despite this, some dealers have had a strong year but they remain in the minority. However, 2018 has not necessarily been poor in isolation, just not as impressive as the last few seasons. Moving forward to 2019, the consensus from many respondents is that it is likely to be similar in view of the political landscape.

The used market continues to fair better, perhaps showing signs of strengthening during the last quarter. There was always a chance this could happen with reduced consumer confidence, people looking to a more affordable option of caravanning. However, it has still been tough. Whilst the prospects for 2019 remain uncertain, the UK experienced a fantastic summer period this year and that will no doubt have made the idea of holidaying at home more appealing. This is certainly a promising factor for the coming season, encouraging more newcomers to the market.

October Edition

For the October edition, taking into account the time of year and the fact that the market has continued to be slower, values have 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.

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.