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Buying a caravan – be van aware

Before purchasing a caravan it is important that you make an informed decision about what you are buying.

Rebirthing involves removing or changing identifying information of a stolen or written-off vehicle (including trailers) to hide its identity, and disguise it as a different vehicle.

There are significant risks associated with buying a stolen or rebirthed caravan. You may not be able to register or use it and you may not be able to recover any costs spent on purchasing it.

These risks also apply to camper trailers, tent trailers, and other light trailers such as box trailers, boat trailers, and horse trailers.

There are a number of steps you can take to protect yourself in order to make an informed decision prior to purchasing a caravan. The first thing to do is to look for signs that indicate that a caravan has been tampered with.

Use the interactive Van Aware tool to identify issues related to a caravan's identity.

Screenshot of the Van Aware tool

Trailer plate

Manufacturers must affix a trailer plate to their products. The plate is commonly attached to the draw bar or A-frame, or inside the front boot or storage compartment. The plate must be made from durable, non-corrosive metal and must be physically affixed to the trailer, not by glue or adhesive, and in a position that is easily accessible and clearly visible. All of this information must be clearly legible, using characters no less than 2.5mm in height and either embossed, indented, etched or engraved onto the trailer plate. It is a requirement for the plate to display a minimum level of information, including:

  • the manufacturer’s or importer’s name
  • vehicle/trailer model
  • Vehicle Identification Number (often referred to as a VIN number)
  • date of manufacture
  • Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM – the total laden weight of a trailer, which includes the tow ball mass and whatever you add as payload e.g. water, gas, luggage)
  • certification statement for new trailers or imported trailers.

Make sure the information engraved on the trailer plate matches the information recorded on the registration papers. Pay special attention to the following items:

  • the manufacturer or importer’s name
  • vehicle model
  • the VIN number
  • date of manufacture.

Chassis number or VIN number removed

There are various rules relating to when identifiers must be stamped or welded into a caravan chassis. What to look out for may depend on whether the caravan is registered or not.

Unregistered caravans

For caravans manufactured in Queensland, it is compulsory for the manufacturer to stamp or weld the VIN number into the A-frame of the chassis.

For caravans manufactured outside of Queensland, this is not always a requirement. Most major manufacturers still weld the chassis number or VIN number into the A-frame or drawbar of the caravan as good practice.

Caravans registered in Queensland

Regardless of where a caravan is manufactured, in Queensland it is a requirement that the chassis or VIN number must be stamped into a substantial part of the trailer before it can be registered.

In cases of theft or rebirthing, these numbers will often be removed to hide the vehicle’s identity. Look for the following:

  • marks where the chassis or VIN numbers have been ground off
  • fresh paint patch on the A-frame where a potential chassis or VIN number could have been placed
  • no chassis number or VIN number present at all.

Caravan decals/branding

Most caravans should have the manufacturer’s name and model name of that particular caravan affixed to the outside of the caravan. It could be suspicious if the manufacturer and model name have been removed and the caravan is completely void of any branding at all.

Cost

If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Sellers who are looking to move a stolen or rebirthed caravan will generally be trying to sell it quickly, so the price will be considerably lower than what it is worth. Visit popular vehicle or caravan sale web sites to check prices and compare the market to get an idea of prices.

Other steps you can take

If you are still unsure then there are further checks available to help confirm that you are not purchasing a stolen or rebirthed caravan.

Personal Property Securities Register search

Before purchasing a caravan, you can request a Personal Property Securities Register search, to help in determining whether it is encumbered, written-off, stolen or registered in any other state or territory in Australia. This search is a quick, easy and inexpensive way to get important information about any security interest over a caravan, or to see if it has been written off or stolen.

Inspections

If you’ve completed any of these steps and you still have questions about a caravan you should seek advice from an industry expert. Caravanning Queensland is the peak industry body for caravanning in Queensland, with members located from the Gold Coast through to Cairns, and will be able to organise a safety check of your caravan.

If an inspection identifies that a caravan has been stolen or rebirthed, the matter may be escalated to the Queensland Police Service for further investigation.