What I learnt as a judge of the 2021 Caravan Design Awards Buyers’ Guide

Interior of the Adria Alpina Colorado

Like everything in the time of coronavirus, the 2021 Caravan Design Awards was different this year. Instead of systematically walking around the stands at the NEC’s Caravan, Camping & Motorhome Show, the judges had to assess each applicant remotely.

This was in no means an easy task, consisting of three weeks of intensive research into technical specifications, design innovations, use of space and usability reviews. The result was well worth it as the 2021 Caravan Design Awards Buyers’ Guide is essential reading for anyone looking to purchase a caravan, motorhome, campervan or van conversion in the near future.

Judging in the age of coronavirus

CaravanTimes’ very own Dan Cartwright was on the judging panel and we asked him for a little more insight into this year’s process and how it differed from previous years. After 12 years in the industry, Dan was given the privilege of being asked to be a judge and has carried out the role for three or four years.

He said that this year was very different to trailing round the NEC and scoring each of the vans in the flesh. It took a lot longer, because the leisure vehicles aren’t available, but each judge was still able to evaluate their areas of expertise, as well as the overall features. Each vehicle still got scored in exactly the same way, even if the process was different.

116 leisure vehicles to judge

The caravans, motorhomes and campervans scored by Dan and his fellow judges are all fairly new to the market and had been specifically put forward. They totalled 116 vehicles, ranging from two-berth campervans to six-plus berth motorhomes, demonstrating there really is something for everyone on the market.

Just because the judges couldn’t visit the vehicles in person, this doesn’t mean they didn’t go into in-depth detail for each and every model. They had manufacturer-specific information that can’t be found on websites, scrutinised handbooks and scoured all the available paperwork for each motorhome to do the level of research that most prospective buyers simply don’t have time for.

Dan summarised: “It’s an excellent resource for anyone who wants to buy a new motorhome, caravan, campervan or van conversion.”

Learnings from the 2021 Caravan Design Awards Buyers’ Guide

Something for everyone

Dan said: “The number of different entries and the different classes that are there is huge and what’s really obvious is that in each and every class, there’s something for someone. Not everybody holidays the same; not everybody takes the same stuff with them; not everyone spends time inside or outside of a motorhome in the same way as everybody else, so the level of variation in layouts is huge.”

For example, if you take four-berth coach-built motorhomes, there were 19 different entries. Some of them have two loungers; some of them have fixed beds; some of them have massive garages; some of them have double drop-down beds. It’s up to the individual buyer to decide what best suits them and make their purchase accordingly.

An influx of European motorhomes

Among the things Dan noticed this year as opposed to other years judging the Caravan Design Awards was the number of European motorhomes coming in. He said that this has broadened the scope for anyone looking to spend as much time outside as possible on their holidays . It’s also worth noting that the majority of those assessed were built to a UK standard and not converted from European into a UK van.

Dan reassured anyone looking to buy a European motorhome that Brexit would not be an impediment to this. He said that “by the time that you’re on a dealer forecourt all that has been taken care of”.

Not judged by price

The judges assessed the vehicles without knowing their price points, meaning the scoring was only moderated according to their price after all the vans had been judged. This allowed them to evaluate like for like regardless of cost. Dan highlighted that it’s usually the case that “the most expensive ones aren’t the best and the cheapest ones aren’t the worst”.

He said that what was really evident from the scoring was that it’s all about finding the right one for you. That means a caravan or motorhome that suits your lifestyle, as opposed to a preconceived idea about price or brand.

More information needs to be made publicly available

It became very apparent throughout the judging process that the caravan and motorhome industry needs to adapt to online shopping in the current climate. Dan pointed out that whether you use handbooks, logbooks or websites, there’s a lack of comprehensive information that will actually tell you important things like the size of the water tank and how many plug sockets a leisure vehicle has.

Dan said: “As we move into a Covid-style world and everyone’s doing more shopping online, you need to be able to get a full understanding of that motorhome or campervan from the literature that they have. Big companies don’t really have any excuse for not doing it and should provide more information online.”


Image of the Adria Alpina Colorado reproduced with kind permission from Adria