Buying a Caravan. Entry Level or Top of the Range?




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Selecting which caravan to buy is a difficult process. There’s many things to be concerned about. Damp is a major worry for many caravan buyers.

However, before viewing any potential purchases there are many things to consider.

  • Layout
  • Manufacturer
  • Single or Twin Axle
  • Budget

They are a few areas that need thinking about. However, if you know the layout, manufacturer and budget, what else? Well, assuming you have the budget for the top of the range of whatever manufacturer you’re looking at, should you automatically just buy that because it’s “better”?

Let’s have a look at what makes it “better” and what the extra cost buys you.

In this article, we’ll have a look at two Bailey caravans. The Phoenix 640 and the Unicon Cabrera. Both have very similar layouts and sizes. But here’s the thing. The Unicorn is £5,500 more expensive and that’s a lot of money. In fact, it’s more than many people spend on their first caravan!


Phoenix 640

Unicorn Cabrera

On the face of it, they are very similar. You’ll notice on the bottom one (the Unicorn) if you look closely, you’ll see extra plug sockets and different shape sinks. But that’s not £5,500’s worth.

Specification Differences

As you’d expect, the Unicorn has more “stuff”. But, it might not be things you’re willing to pay extra for. Here’s a list of what makes the Unicorn Cabrera different (more expensive) than the Phoenix 640, taken from Bailey’s website.

  • Single piece highline front impact resistant bumper with integral grab handles
  • Single piece highline rear impact resistant bumper with full width grab rail
  • Remis pleated flyscreen and blinds to principal windows (show photos of different blinds)
  • Step up a-frame fairing
  • waste bin & dustpan and brush
  • Exterior 230v socket
  • External satellite connection point
  • Truma gas BBQ point
  • Body width of 2.28m (7’6”)
  • domestic soft close metal hinges
  • Structural locker dividers with greater load bearing capacity
  • Soft close kitchen drawers with cutlery tray partition
  • Built-in kitchen wine storage cabinet
  • In-shower hanging toiletry storage caddy
  • Ceiling mounted pull down hanging rail on shower hood
  • Easy access linen basket in washroom (model specific)
  • Recessed toilet roll storage shelf (model specific)
  • Front corner wall-mounted storage pouches
  • Truma 100 watt solar panel
  • Up to four USB sockets
  • TV station with 230v, 12v and two aerial sockets
  • 12v internal lighting system including LED down-lighters and directional spotlights plus ambient over locker and floor level lighting
  • Alde Hydronic Compact 3020 programmable radiator heating system with combined water heating
  •   –  Alde 3020 boiler for improved fuel economy
  •   –  Dual fuel 6.4kw gas and up to 3.15kw electric power sources
  •   –  Alde touch screen user-friendly control panel with back up battery for uninterrupted programming
  •   –  Washroom panel radiator
  • Thetford dual fuel hob with electric hotplate and 3 gas burners
  • Remis splash proof roller blind to kitchen window
  • Branded DAB Radio/CD/MP3 player with USB connection point & Bluetooth capability
  • AL-KO ATC trailer control system
  • AL-KO shock absorbers
  • TyrePal Tyre Pressure Monitor System (TPMS)
  • Wind down floor mounted spare wheel carrier and spare wheel (steel spare wheel)
  • AL-KO caravan jack
  • AL-KO Secure portable wheel lock (two for twin axle models)
  • TRACKER Monitor Thatcham CAT 7 approved Stolen Vehicle Recovery System (including first 3 months subscription fee)
  • TRACKER PIR activated intruder alarm featuring a tilt sensor and key fob operation

Why Did We Buy the Unicorn?

It’s a personal choice, not everyone is the same, not everyone wants to spend an additional £5,500. I’m not going to justify why we spend more, however, we caravan throughout the year, it’s our only form of holidaying and we’ll have it for several years. ( Sounded like me justifying it! )

From the list above, I’ll pick out the key things for us, that added value. I’ll head straight to Alde Heating. We’ve had blown air in 2 caravans now and were never happy with it. For us, it was either too hot or too cold. We could never get the rear of the caravan warm. Now, for you, it could be perfectly ok, I’m not trying to convince you to get a Unicorn. Alde Heating offers an even and consistent heat throughout the caravan, we feel comfortable leaving it on during the day when we’re not there, just like you would at home. As caravans are well insulated these days, it’s worth leaving it on, as the caravan doesn’t loose much it, it just keeps the temperature topped up to whatever you set it too. In fairness, I’m not comparing Alde with modern blown air heating systems, just using my experience.

ATC was an important factor, although for £425 a dealer can retrofit this.

Extra security, such as tractor and wheel locks, but again retrofit is possible.

We prefer the blinds offered in the Unicorn, and I guess you could retrofit, but by this time the costs will have started to mount up.


Our main consideration would be around Alde heating, for us, it’s a game-changer. Most of the other items you could either do without or retrofit. It’s a very personal choice and where I might consider it good value, you might consider it expensive, I respect your choice. It’s good in some ways we have a choice. It would be good to work out how much the additional items would actually cost. That way, although the Unicorn is £5k more, it might actually be better value.

It’s your choice, you get what you pay for in many ways, you just might have a different view to me.

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