from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A caravan (also: caravan ) is a trailer (almost always a rigid drawbar trailer) for motor vehicles in which there is a home furnishings. The main difference to the mobile homes (motorhomes) is the lack of its own drive. Trailer combinations are subject to speed restrictions in most countries (typically 80 to 100 km / h).


An early caravan (horse cart), Scotland, late 19th century

The first "tourist touring cars" were made in Great Britain at the end of the 19th century. Sometimes they were very luxuriously furnished, two-axle vehicles ( horse-drawn wagons or carriages ) that were initially drawn by horses . Shortly after the introduction of the automobile, the first “Caravan Club” was established here in 1908. At the beginning of the Second World War there were several thousand caravans in the British Isles.

The German counterpart to the English "travel car" was invented by Arist Dethleffs (1908–1996) in 1931. The whip and ski pole representative called his vehicle a “caravan” and thus fulfilled the wish of his fiancée, the painter Fridel Edelmann , who, as she writes in a letter to her future husband, “something like a gypsy wagon in which we are together and I could still paint ”, introduced. "Wohnauto" was a misleading term because it was a real (residential) trailer. It was completed by Easter of the following year.

Dethleffs Wohnauto , replica of Germany's first caravan from 1931

The "caravan" became a kind of wedding present. The newlyweds traveled to the republic in the same year and caused a sensation, so that the inventor soon received numerous orders. A short time later, Dethleffs switched to the serial production of his now modified "residential car" and founded the Dethleffs company . Mobile homes and caravans are still manufactured under the brand name.

The caravan spread from the 1950s onwards. In the GDR , the caravan developed into a status symbol and spread widely. In accordance with the possibilities of the available vehicles, these were relatively small single-axle vehicles. In the 1950s, due to the lack of serial cars, various custom-made products were built and discussed


Caravans come in different basic versions:

  • as a folding tent caravan, which is actually a tent that can be folded out from a trailer (example: Faltmeister, Klappfix , Rhön Universal ),
  • as a teardrop trailer , also as a motorcycle trailer .
  • as a folding caravan, which at least has solid side walls, but enables the use of the interior mirror in the towing vehicle while driving and, above all, has aerodynamic advantages (example: the wagons from the French company Esterel),
  • as a caravan with a lifting roof that is slightly lower in height for the duration of the journey than in a residential operation (example: Eriba Touring series from Hymer ),
  • as a classic caravan with fixed walls.

The first three categories are only represented in very small numbers. Lifting roof caravans, which are offered by several manufacturers, are more common. However, the vast majority of caravans fall into the last group of “classic” caravans.

With the classic caravans there is sometimes between

  • Mini caravans,
  • Touring or travel caravan - the most common variant - and
  • Large or luxury caravans that can only be pulled by appropriately large and powerfully motorized towing vehicles,

distinguished. However, there is no binding definition for these distinctions; the boundaries are fluid.

Mobile homes are to be distinguished from caravans , which are only moved with the help of tractors or on flatbed trucks and are not suitable for travel because they do not have a suitable chassis and no brakes.

Structure and equipment

The structure often consists of a frame that is planked on the outside with aluminum sheet and on the inside with plastic or wood cladding, while plastic foam (often polystyrene or polyurethane ) is used for insulation in between. The usual wall thickness is 30 to 40 mm, for high-quality models up to 50 mm. In a few models, the frame is made of metal (example: Eriba Touring), in most cases of wood. A few caravans have a cover made of polyester , which is easier to repair and hardly rot (examples: QEK Junior , Intercamp / Berger Oase, Lander Graziella). Vehicles are also increasingly being manufactured from glass fiber reinforced plastic (GRP); the use of GRP is more for better durability. In particular, weather conditions such as hail are z. B. by a GRP roof, increasingly also GRP walls, better compensated. The base plate is also increasingly being made from GRP materials. This eliminates the problem of wood rotting in the body of caravans due to moisture penetration.

Large (luxury) caravans can be up to 8 m long and 2.50 m wide. Typical travel trailers have a body length of up to 4.50 m and a width of 2.10–2.30 m and offer up to six beds, depending on the interior. Two of the places are mostly only suitable for children, often in the form of bunk beds. Beds can be converted into seating groups during the day; to the opposing seating group (you sit opposite) or U- shaped seating group or rear seating group (you sit around the table on three sides). Travel caravans are also sometimes used as weekend accommodation in so-called permanent camping .

Family caravans with up to seven berths are becoming more and more common on the market . Usually there is a fixed double bed, two to three fixed bunk beds for the children and a seating area that can be converted into a double bed.

The usual equipment (except for very small caravans) nowadays is a kitchen block with a two- or three-burner gas cooker, a refrigerator (standard approx. 70-90 l; but also up to 150 l - these large refrigerators can be used as an absorber version while driving cannot be operated with the 12 V power supply of the towing vehicle) and a sink. Most refrigerators are absorption refrigerators that can be operated with 230  volts alternating voltage , with 12 volts direct voltage or with liquid gas (propane or butane gas). These devices work completely silently. Compressor refrigerators have a higher cooling capacity with lower power consumption, but are mainly designed for only one power supply (e.g. 12/24 V, more rarely also optionally 230 V). Their operation is not silent. Dometic (formerly Electrolux ) is the market leader for caravan refrigerators . Thetford also offers them .

Small 5 kg or 11 kg gas bottles can be accommodated in the gas bottle locker (formerly the drawbar locker ) .

The water is supplied from portable canisters or permanently installed tanks with a capacity of 10 to 70 l. The wastewater is usually fed into a bucket, canister or a closed wastewater container (various types, regulations in some countries). Fresh water and waste water can be permanently connected to suitably equipped campsites, and sometimes gas.

The water is pumped from the storage tank in the caravan to the tap and toilet and shower. The electric pump is controlled by contacts on the taps or a pressure switch in the water system. There used to be foot switches that you had to operate to draw off water. In order to prevent contamination of the water in the tank and in case of doubtful water quality, the addition of commercially available disinfectants, for example based on silver ions or chlorine, is recommended.

Small electric boilers for hot water preparation (e.g. Truma-Therme with 5 l capacity) supply the bathroom and kitchen. Gas boilers with a capacity of 10–14 l are also installed for hot water preparation.

Wet rooms with wash basins, usually also with cassette toilets, are usually part of the basic equipment. The holding tank can be removed for disposal through a service flap. Larger caravans in particular can also have a shower. The shower tray often serves as a wet cell floor and is connected to the gray water tank. Gray water tanks are emptied separately, fresh water tanks are filled from the outside.

Almost all caravans have gas heating for winter camping ; one of the leading manufacturers is the Truma company . An even temperature distribution is achieved with a hot air distribution system. Winter backrests with spacers between the upholstery and the outer walls allow rear ventilation to prevent condensation. Underfloor heating and heating systems with hot water are also offered. When driving, the gas system must be switched off if it is not approved for operation while driving.

The trade offers an automatic, pressure-controlled switchover that switches to a second gas bottle as soon as the gas supply of the first gas bottle is used up. A surprising manual bottle change is thus avoided.

The chassis of most of the caravans come from the manufacturers AL-KO , BPW Bergischeachsen or Knott GmbH . The models are braked by means of an overrun brake. If the towing vehicle brakes, the caravan initially runs into the towing vehicle from behind. The pressure of the drawbar to the ball hitch of the trailer hitch is now the braking system of the trailer, basically it is a drum brake actuated. A strong bevel of the jaw actuation creates a servo effect on the one hand, and enables problem-free reversing on the other hand because only a very small, negligible braking effect occurs when rolling backwards. Up until around the 1970s, older caravans still had a manual reversing lock on the drawbar, which overruled the overrun brake mechanism for reversing.

A caravan that has been uncoupled from the towing vehicle can usually be maneuvered by hand; remote-controlled electrical maneuvering aids make maneuvering easier.

Most campers use an awning or a canopy in front of the caravan. This greatly increases the usable area. The awning is used as a vestibule or weather protection, to place objects or to dry clothes. Cooking is also common here.

New models and accessories are presented at camping and leisure fairs. In the German-speaking countries (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) over 20 specialist and numerous other in-house exhibitions for dealers are held every year. The Caravan Salon in Düsseldorf, the in Munich, or the CMT in Stuttgart.


Driving license

For trailers with a gross vehicle weight of more than 750 kg, an additional trailer driver's license (class BE) must be acquired in accordance with EU law if limit values ​​are exceeded (e.g. total mass of vehicle and trailer together greater than 3.5 t) , unless , the authorization has already been granted under former national law. By attending a driving school course consisting of theoretical and practical elements without an examination, the code number 96 for driving license class B can be acquired, which entitles the driver to drive combinations of up to 4.25 t total weight.


As a rule, additional side mirrors are required on the towing vehicle in order to ensure the rear view required in accordance with Section 56 (1) StVZO.

In most European countries, caravans - like other trailers - are subject to a speed limit.

There are additional aids such as anti-roll clutches to improve driving stability .

Legal situation in Germany

Connection from caravan to car, model with roll damper

When attaching a caravan to a car, the permissible trailer load of the car and the permissible total weight of the combination must be observed (see registration certificate Part I under O.1 / O.2; Numbers 28/29 in the old German vehicle registration document). The actual mass of the trailer without vertical load counts, not its permissible total mass.

In the area of ​​application of the German road traffic regulations, the maximum speed for (caravan) combinations is generally limited to 80 km / h. A speed of 100 km / h can be driven on motorways (sign 330.1) and motorways (sign 331.1) if the following requirements are met:

  • The towing vehicle is equipped with an anti-lock braking system (ABS).
  • The permissible total mass of a towing vehicle must not exceed 3.5 t.
  • The caravan must have hydraulic shock absorbers.
  • The maximum permissible mass of the caravan may not exceed 80% of the empty mass of the towing vehicle; 100% if the trailer has a stabilization device in accordance with ISO 11555-1 of the version of July 1, 2003 or with another technical device for which a certificate (ABE or operating permit) is available, which allows safe operation of the combination up to 120 km / h confirmed, equipped or the towing vehicle is equipped with a special electronic, dynamic stability system for trailer operation, which has been confirmed by the manufacturer and which is entered in the vehicle documents.
  • The caravan tires must be less than six years old ( date of manufacture according to DOT number ) and at least correspond to the speed category L (= 120 km / h).
  • The vertical load of the combination must be based on the highest possible vertical load of the towing vehicle or trailer, with the lower value being the upper limit.

The current Tempo 100 regulation for caravan combinations enables around 80 percent of caravan owners to drive 100 km / h on motorways and motorways (sign 331.1). There is a specific overtaking ban for trailers on around 10% of the German motorways. If the requirements are no longer met (e.g. change to a lighter towing vehicle or tire age over six years), the combination may only be driven at a maximum of 80 km / h.

If higher speeds are permitted abroad (e.g. France, maximum speed on motorways 130 km / h), the maximum speed of the trailer based on the type of construction is decisive. The operating permit of a caravan specifies the maximum speed. An accident at higher speeds can therefore lead to the loss of insurance benefits.


The regulations for parking caravans are not uniform in the EU. In Germany, caravans, like other motor vehicle trailers, may not be parked on the roadside or in public parking lots without a towing vehicle attached. This does not apply to specially marked parking spaces. Contrary to popular belief, moving the caravan a few meters or briefly removing it and then parking it again does not legalize a longer parking period. Instead, it is only more difficult for the regulatory authorities to prove the parking violation. The parking process must be effectively interrupted so that the two-week maximum parking period begins again. According to a ruling by the Frankfurt Higher Regional Court, driving around for 30 minutes is not enough.

Driving physics, speed, stability, peculiarities

The caravan can cause accidents

Driving a caravan team safely and quickly usually requires a considerable change in driving habits. Even the larger width of a team and turning in tight corners require getting used to.

The drive train of a car is subject to additional stress when using a caravan. Motors that have a high torque even at low speeds are therefore advantageous for trailer operation. These are primarily modern diesel and gasoline engines with supercharging and direct injection or large-volume six- or multi-cylinder engines.

It is also true for teams that swimming in flowing traffic is the most economical and safest way of driving. This reduces overtaking to a minimum.

The brakes of a car are subjected to higher loads despite the caravan overrun brake . On long pass descents, the braking performance can noticeably decrease due to overheating (fading) .

A trailer team tends to vibrate. Unevenness in the road surface is perceived more clearly than in solo operation (nodding). At higher speeds, combinations tend to swing sideways, especially if they are incorrectly loaded (rear-heaviness). There is an aerodynamic interaction when overtaking. The greatest possible lateral distance is to be aimed for, because there is an area of ​​lateral "sucking in" and "pushing away" in rapid alternation. Large and fast passing vehicles (e.g. vans and buses ) can cause the team to lurch. Dangerous commuting can be counteracted by braking hard.

Common measures to ensure the driving stability of a combination are:

  • Equip the combination with a stabilization device - then make sure that the coupling head is free of grease
  • Equipping the towing vehicle with stronger springs or automatic level compensation, intact shock absorbers, adequate tire pressure
  • Check the permissible vertical load using the vertical load scale
  • be prepared for crosswind situations (overtaking trucks, bridges, valleys)
  • observe the maximum speed
  • Strive for a high weight of the towing vehicle and transport heavy objects in the towing vehicle
  • do not exceed the permissible axle load
  • Stow or lash anything heavy in the caravan as deep as possible and as close as possible to the axle, so no heavy objects in the upper compartments
  • no overloading of the towing vehicle or caravan
  • Fold the satellite antenna down flat

Brands and Manufacturers

  • Adriatic Sea , Slovenia
  • ABI , UK manufactured caravans in the 1980s and 1990s, now focuses on mobile homes
  • Airstream
  • Bastei caravan DDR Karosseriewerke Dresden
  • Beisl
  • Beyerland temporarily produced caravans of the companies ABI or Cristall under license, today no longer represented on the market. Rights are held by the company KIP
  • Biod , Dutch manufacturer
  • Bürstner is part of the Hymer Group
  • Cabby , a Swedish manufacturer, primarily produces caravans that are suitable for winter
  • Carado , manufactured in the joint venture of Hymer & Dethleffs: Capron (Neustadt i. Sachsen), since 2006, production stop for caravans and concentration on mobile homes since summer 2016
  • Caravelair (together with Sterckeman belongs to the French Trigano group)
  • Corsar, former manufacturer from Marl / NRW
  • With the bankruptcy of the Dutch group Tirus, Cristall is no longer on the German market
  • Dethleffs is part of the Hymer Group
  • Eifelland, former brand of Knaus Tabbert
  • Eura Mobil , nowadays only produces motorhomes, no longer caravans
  • Eriba , the name is derived from Erwin Hymer and Erich Bachem (= ERIch BAchem; nickname from student days), since 1957
  • Fendt is part of the Hobby Group
  • Hobby is currently one of the largest manufacturers with around 25% of the total
  • Hymer
  • Intercamp , a former manufacturer from the GDR , fully insulated polyester caravans
  • Kabe, Swedish manufacturer, is known for caravans that are particularly suitable for winter
  • Kip , Dutch manufacturer, known for compact touring caravans
  • Knaus, brand of Knaus Tabbert
  • Lander Italy, produced the Graziella model from 1973 to 1984.
  • LMC , brand of the Hymer Group
  • Niewiadow Poland, has been producing the original N126 caravan models with a lifting roof since 2010.
  • Polar, a Swedish manufacturer, primarily produces caravans that are suitable for winter
  • QEK ( VEB Qualitäts- und Edelstahlkombinat ), caravan brand from the GDR ( QEK Junior , QEK Aero , QEK 325 )
  • SEALANDER floating caravan , presented for the first time at the Caravan Salon 2011 in Düsseldorf
  • Solifer , a Swedish manufacturer, primarily produces caravans suitable for winter
  • Sterckeman (together with Caravelair belongs to the French Trigano group)
  • Sunlight , manufactured in the joint venture of Hymer & Dethleffs: Capron (Neustadt i. Sachsen), since 2006, production stop for caravans and concentration on mobile homes since summer 2016
  • Tabbert, brand of Knaus Tabbert
  • TEC , brand of the Hymer Group
  • T @ B, brand of Knaus Tabbert , compact caravan in retro design
  • Ascheberg teardrop caravan
  • Weferlinger Heimstolz , a caravan brand from the GDR
  • Weinsberg , today a brand of Knaus Tabbert
  • Weippert
  • Winnebago , US manufacturer, not on the market in Europe
  • Worthy (Dübener Ei) , caravan from the GDR
  • Wilk, brand of the Knaus Tabbert Group, production has been discontinued in the meantime

Registration numbers

As of January 1, 2017, 634,183 caravans and 450,167 mobile homes were registered in Germany according to the CIVD. Not registered caravans (long-term campers) and mobile homes, which z. B. are approved as a truck. In 2017, the trend that new motorhome registrations achieve higher rates of increase than new caravan registrations continued (new registrations Feb. 2017 to Jan. 2018 compared to previous year: caravans + 15.3%, motorhomes + 17.1%).

Special elements

Similar vehicles


  • DIN VDE 0100-721 (VDE 0100-721): 2010-02 Construction of low-voltage systems - Part 7-721: Requirements for operating facilities, rooms and special types of systems - Electrical systems for caravans and motorhomes - (IEC 60364-7-721: 2007 , modified); German takeover HD 60364-7-721: 2009 , VDE-Verlag , Berlin

Web links

Commons : Caravan  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Caravan  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. History of the caravan (in English)
  2. Milestones in Dethleffs history . Dethleffs GmbH & Co. KG, accessed on July 30, 2018.
  3. For the coming camping season . In: Motor Vehicle Technology 12/1957, pp. 467–468.
  4. Camping trailers for light cars. In: Motor Vehicle Technology 4/1958, pp. 153–154.
  5. For travel and camping . In: Motor vehicle technology 5/1959, p. 210
  6. prospectus of the folding caravan Bummelant
  7. 9. Exemption Ordinance to the Road Traffic Regulations
  8. Overview of overtaking bans for trailers on German highways
  9. Article on the parking situation in the EU , Die Welt , accessed on March 14, 2016.
  10. § 12 paragraph 3b StVO
  11. OLG Frankfurt, Az .: 12 Ws B 563/92 Owig
  12. CIVD Statistics - accessed February 13, 2018