There’s no denying that awnings are pricey, so you might think you could easily save money by buying a used one, whether online or via a private sale. You certainly can, but you will also need to take a few precautions before deciding to shell out your hard-earned cash – here are our tips on finding the right used awning for you.
If you’d like to see some of the latest releases instead, our guide to the best motorhome awnings is worth a look. Alternatively, if you’re after an inflatable option, our best air awnings for a motorhome guide will help you find the one for you.
1 Style matters
Motorhome awnings are available in a range of styles. First, there’s the canopy – this is the wind-out unit that is permanently attached to the side of your ’van at roof level. You might already have one of these fitted.
Then there’s a drive-away – these are tent-like units that can be attached to the side of your vehicle, but can also be left freestanding. As the name suggests, these do indeed allow you to drive away, leaving the awning in place, and are a good way of expanding your living space and reserving your pitch while you are off-site.
Another option might be the front-and-sides arrangement for a canopy awning, which is usually referred to as a safari room.
These are fine if you are planning to stay pitched in one place for a good while, but bear in mind that they can involve a fair bit of time to take down if you are frequently moving on.
Whichever type you choose, you’ll need to make sure it offers enough space for your needs. Porch-style drive-away awnings might be as small as one to two metres wide – providing an ‘airlock’ to stop the weather getting straight into the ’van when the door is open, and a boot room – or as large as a few metres or so of flexible space, for living, dining, storage or sleeping.
2 Weigh it up
Think about the weight of the awning, and how much space you have available in your motorhome.
Awnings are heavy, so you’ll need to make sure you have plenty of payload in your vehicle; you’ll also need room to store it on the ’van floor, ideally towards the front, where the weight is most safely positioned.
Ask the seller to give you the dimensions of the bag, if they aren’t available in the listing, to allow you to double-check that you have adequate space for storing it in the ’van.
3 Stay safe online
If you’re planning to buy your awning online, check as carefully as you can that the seller seems reputable – on eBay, for example, look at all of the seller feedback.
Be sure to pay via a service such as Paypal, and never send your money directly by bank transfer or similar as a deposit or more – ensure your cash is protected.
If you’re buying privately, ask to meet the seller at their house. And remember: if it seems too good to be true, it almost certainly is!
4 Do your research
Always check around for the price of similar awnings before handing over your cash. You might feel that one you’ve spotted is good value, but do a quick check for sold prices on eBay and similar sites.
On a related note, going for the cheapest awning you can find might not pay dividends if it’s a relatively unknown brand – a better known (potentially more expensive) product could increase the amount of parts available in future if needed.
5 Go to a dealer
For the greatest peace of mind, buy from a reputable dealer. You might end up paying a bit more, but you’ll know that you’re buying from a company with a reputation to protect.
Dealers normally inspect what they are selling and know exactly where any faults are, and whether there are any missing components – which they will usually be able to put right.
6 Be happy with it, or just walk away
We’d strongly recommend carefully inspecting the awning that you’re planning to purchase, whether from a dealer or private seller. This is particularly important if you’re buying via classified ads, away from the safety of the likes of eBay.
Never hand over any cash until you’re completely happy with what you are buying – and don’t be afraid to walk away from the deal if you’re not.
7 Start your inspection
So you’ve decided which awning to look at, and made an appointment with the seller to see it. Excellent! Now here’s what you need to know when viewing your potential buy…
If you can, and they are happy to oblige, ask to see the awning erected – it will help you view it more easily.
No matter what, start by inspecting it thoroughly all over for any damage; this means checking not only the main fabric, but also the windows, and any skirts or groundsheet.
8 Use your nose
Keep a close eye out for any evidence of damp and perhaps more importantly, use your nose to try to detect it, too. This could indicate a leak that hasn’t been properly repaired and might result in long-term damage or weak points in the awning.
9 Continue your close inspection
Be sure to check that all of the zips run up and down properly, and any mudflaps are available and in good condition.
Carefully inspect all of the stitching to check that it’s intact. And take a look at all of the pegging points, too – are they ripped or torn? You’ll need to factor in the cost of repair if they are.
10 Be realistic
You’re buying a pre-owned product, so you’re unlikely to get perfection – but bear in mind that a couple of small faults won’t mean the awning is unusable.
But do assess what they are – a bit of sun fading or discoloration in the fabric isn’t the end of the world, but a broken zip might be too costly to repair to make buying the awning worthwhile.
11 Check the poles
If you’re buying a framed awning, check that all the poles are there and that none is bent or damaged. If you’re buying an air awning, ask to pump up the poles to their full capacity.
In either case, check whether the seller still has the instructions, which are always useful, and find out whether the bag is included in the sale.
12 Waterproof at home
Once you get your bargain home, give your new-to-you awning a thorough coating with a waterproofing spray – you’ll find plenty of these products available relatively cheaply online.
After more ideas for accessories to buy? Then why not take a look at these:
- We take a look at the best motorhome vacuum cleaners
- We share our pick of the best motorhome accessories
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