Driving on the great open road is the Australian dream. You pack up the house and the car and set off on the journey of a life time. But before you go, there’s one major consideration: what type of caravan should you buy?
The options are many, and the prices differ greatly. Then there’s whether to buy new or used!
So we’ve got some easy to follow tips for shopping around for a caravan.
1. Ask yourself: what are you going to do with your caravan?
It’s all well and good to think about your first trip in your caravan, but you’ll want your caravan to last you for years – otherwise just rent one! Consider weekend trips, long holidays, family getaways and everything in between. The amount of travel will determine how important features such as off-road capability will be to your new caravan.
2. How will you tow it?
You may already have the perfect car to tow your caravan but not every car can handle towing something of that weight. Check the manual. If it can’t tow the weight of your new caravan, you may need to consider another vehicle.
3. Pop-top or camper trailer?
If you want complete independence and you’re OK with towing a long caravan, then a large caravan with separate bedroom, shower and toilet is a good option. But if you prefer the idea of travelling light, the convenience of towing a small caravan without the luxuries could be a good option for you.
Pop-tops are one of the best types of small to medium size caravan styles and are ideal if you want to store your caravan in your garage when not in use.
An alternative is a camper trailer with extendable sleeping accommodation on each side – especially if you’re going travelling with the family.
When you go to buy your caravan, the dealer will want to add on some fittings. There’s no right or wrong answer, but be sure to only add on extras if you can manage it in your budget.
5. Pre-buying checklist
Before you set off to the showroom, take time to answer these questions:
- List everything you want vs need in the caravan
- Where do you plan to go in your caravan in the next two years?
- Where will you store the caravan?
- What is the towing capacity of your car?
- How much space do you need inside?
- What is more important: the comforts of home or economy of light travel?
6. New vs Used
New caravans offer all the benefits, safety features and comforts, and if you have the budget, you can custom build. As for used, make sure you always buy from a licensed dealer who offers safety checks and a warranty.
7. Checklist for used caravan
There’s some more considerations that need to be made if you’re buying used:
- Is it up to the conditions you will be driving in?
- Check the construction and seals – will it leak?
- Is there enough storage?
- Do the cupboards and windows close properly?
- What is the ownership history (if known)?
- Where has the caravan been kept and where has it been
- What documentation is provided with the caravan?
- Overall condition: is condition consistent with age?
- Any signs of repairs, scratches, dents, hail damage, bowing, repainting?
- Any sealant around windows and ventilation hatches damaged?
- Under the caravan: check water tanks, wiring, piping and general underfloor condition. Does the
- Do the tyres have good tread? How old are they? Are the correct tyres fitted (refer to compliance plate)? Is there a spare tyre?
- A-Frame: Is tow hitch in good condition?
- Roof: If possible and safe, conduct roof inspection checking for damage, leaks, tree/branch damage, solar panel and TV aerial damage
- Electrics: check battery condition, charger, lights and all appliances
- Gas: check condition of gas bottles, regulator and piping
- Walls, ceiling and benchtops: check carefully
- Beds: check for any damage to bed, storage area or mattress
- Kitchen: is hob/grill/oven/microwave/fridge clean and working?
- Ensuite: is ensuite in good condition? Is toilet/shower/hot water working? Any signs of leaking, mould or poor ventilation?
- Pop tops: check roof can be raised and lowered easily
- Door: does it open and close and lock?
- Awning: check that awning opens and closes properly and is in good condition
- Is smoke alarm and fire extinguisher fitted? Do they work?