The caravan industry has seen somewhat of a boom in the last 4 or 5 years, with UK holiday-makers increasingly deciding to take their leisure time within these shores, in what have been dubbed 'staycations'. There are now over a million caravans in the UK and in 2011, those vans made a staggering 11.92 million trips between them.
This growth is great news for the caravanning community in general. More caravanners means more products and services that cater to the market, leading to an increase in choice and competitive pricing. It also leads to a rise in employment in the leisure sector and boosts the UK economy, so please, keep on towing.
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Specialised Covers TowPro Elite[/caption]
One area that is seeing an increase as a result of this rise in popularity, is the number of companies manufacturing and selling towing protectors. These towing protectors are designed to be fitted to the front of the caravan whilst it's being towed and help prevent dirt and damage from attacking your investment when it's on the road. They're a great idea generally, there are plenty of hazards when towing that can potentially cause damage to the front of your van: Stone chips, splattered bugs, road debris and exhaust smoke from your own tow car can stain the fascia or damage your window and when you've spent your hard earned cash on a caravan that's going to enable your family holidays for years to come, it makes sense to protect it for your own piece of mind and also to make sure you get the best possible resale value when you're ready to upgrade in a few years.
There has become a wide range of options in these towing covers and they vary in quality, fit and price. To some extent, you get what you pay for but here's a list of things you should consider before buying your towing protector.
1. Is it legal?
First and foremost, your towing protector needs to meet all the requirements laid down in law for towing caravans. The area that towing covers often fall foul of the law is by obscuring the caravan's front lights.
The fascinating Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations of 1989
state that caravans must have two obligatory front position lamps. These lamps must give white light and bear an approval mark or British Standard mark, although there is no requirement for them to be of a certain wattage or size. All caravans manufactured after 1989 meet these legal requirements and are fitted with the correct lights. If your towing cover obscures these lights, you're breaking the law. Be wary of companies that don't know what the law is regarding light visibility or profess that their covers should
meet legal requirements.
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TowPro Elite Clear Eyes[/caption]
Look for towing covers that are tailored specifically to your make and model of van, they should have apertures that allow your lights to be clearly visible through them. If you can't get a tailored cover for your caravan then make sure that the universal fit cover you're looking at has provision for lights. Failure to display your caravan front lights can result in an on the spot fine and potentially, points on your licence.
2. Is it waterproof and breathable?
The water that sprays up from the road is inevitably dirty. It's the same water that's been driven through by every car to go down the same stretch of road in front of you and now your tow car wheels have just dashed it up the front of your caravan. If a towing cover is not waterproof, this dirty water will make its way through the cover where it will be trapped in place against your paintwork and window, causing staining and abrasion.
Water may well make its way behind your towing cover even if it is waterproof. Towing covers don't cover the whole of the caravan so water can trickle down the front and behind the cover. This isn't much of a problem as the water on the top of your caravan tends to be rain water, not road surface water, so it shouldn't be abrasive. You don't want that water to stay there though and if your cover isn't breathable, that's exactly what it will do.
3. Is it easy to fit and remove?
Some towing covers have a multitude of fastenings and some even consist of 3 or 4 separate pieces. It's imperative that your cover will stay firmly in place while you're towing but some methods of fixing are somewhat more advanced than others. If there are an excessive number separate pieces and straps and buckles, fitting and removal can become fiddly and time consuming. All Specialised Covers towing protectors are single piece construction and are designed to hold firmly in place for safe towing.
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Specialised Covers TowPro Lite[/caption]
4. Is it tailored to your caravan?
Not all makes and models of caravan have tailored towing covers available for them and if that's the case, you will have to buy a universal fit cover. Make sure you consider all points in this list before choosing your universal fit cover and choose the one that best suits your needs. If tailored covers are available for your make and model of van, the benefits of choosing to purchase a bespoke product include; a better fit, no long straps to adjust, the ability to show your front lights and customisation options are often available, such as changing the colour and access points.
5. Does it allow access?
It can be a real pain to realise that you're going to have to remove your cover just to get at your locker box. Its also really handy to be able to get to your grab handles, so you can move your van easily with the cover on. If these are features you need from your towing protector, make sure you spec up your cover before you buy. We have a had a few customers, who, with the benefit of hindsight, wished they'd thought about access points before buying a cover.
6. Company reputation
As we have already mentioned, the covers available do differ in fit and quality. Do your research before you outlay any cash for your cover. Check whether the company whose products you are looking at have an established reputation, can you find any customer reviews of the product you are interested in? What problems or benefits have previous customers experienced? Does the manufacturer have any partnerships or endorsements with any of the respected caravan manufacturers? Ask around on some of the caravan forums and take your time before making a decision. Your caravan is a relatively expensive purchase and you shouldn't cut corners when it comes to choosing the protection for it. Get the right one and you will help to maintain the resale value of your purchase, get it wrong and you could well find yourself in a situation where the cover has damaged your caravan and decreased its residual value.
If you bear all these factors in mind when you're shopping around for a towing cover, you will be as well armed as you can be and the choice you make should be the right one for you and your caravan. If you follow the manufacturer's instructions when using your cover, you will be doing all you can to protect the most vulnerable part of your caravan and should prolong the life and resale value of your investment. And lets not forget the look on the faces of other caravanners when you pull up on site and remove your cover to reveal a gleaming white van. Caravanners love a gadget and as well as all the practical considerations, a well made towing cover can be a talking point and enhance the appearance of your caravan.
Please let us know if there are any points we've missed or you have anything else to add from your experiences and we'll happily share your points with others in the market for a towing cover.