Choosing a new caravan is hugely exciting – and extremely daunting at the same time! There are so many factors to consider: size, cost, extra inclusions, on-road or off-road, colours, etc. and that’s before you even get to deciding on a manufacturer to help build your dream!
Some of the things we considered were the following:
- Where? While we’re not the sort of people to “bush bash”, we do know there will be times when we won’t be staying in caravan parks, where we will want to explore down dirt tracks, and we will free camp in places that have no power and are harder to reach. With that in mind, we knew we had to at least go a semi-off road van, with cost really the only factor preventing us from going full off-road.
- How often? Up until now our use has been limited to long weekends, Christmas/New Year and the occasional week’s break in between. Travelling around Australia with this as our home away from home is a bit different! More space, more clothes storage, an oven to cook with, bigger and more comfy bed! These are all things to consider when you’re planning longer stays in your van.
- How many people? Well at this point in time there’s just the two of us! But if things were a little different, you might need to consider bunk beds or convertible lounges, and then how that impacts on the size and cost of your van.
- Tow vehicle: With our new VW Amarok getting equipped as we speak (or write!), our towing issues are none! But, this was something we definitely had to consider when choosing our tow vehicle. Consider the following: GCM (Gross Combination Mass, or the maximum loaded mass of the motor vehicle and any trailers or vehicles being towed), ATM (Aggregate Trailer Mass, or total mass of the trailer when carrying the maximum manufacturer’s load) and GTM (Gross Trailer Mass, or the maximum loaded mass transmitted to the ground by the axle/s of the trailer when coupled to a tow vehicle).
- Price: Don’t be fooled by some cheaper vans. If you have a budget, still shop around and compare the quality of a number of manufacturers. Always check the warranty period, and if possible ask to view their manufacturing HQ. Having a cheaper budget is ok, as long as you know and understand exactly what you are buying – and are prepared for any issues that may come up.
- Reviews: Google is not just for shopping and comparing prices! Visit caravan forums, ask your local clubs, read travel magazines and online blogs. You can’t always rely on the word of the manufacturers (most of whom will say every other manufacturer doesn’t do something right anyway!), but the word of the customers – the ones who have actually used the vans – can be extremely valuable!
After shopping around for some time, visiting a number of sales yards, reading online forums and reviews, and relying on our own experiences from our previous four caravans, we had a few manufacturers in mind. Thankfully for us, the Brisbane Caravan and Camping Show proved mighty convenient! After a full day of walking around and visiting virtually every stand there, by the end of the day we knew exactly what we wanted.
It’s a bit like buying a house, we figure – if you don’t fall in love when you open the door for the first time, your odds probably aren’t going to increase over time! So it really needs to be a case of love at first sight. It was the little things that really mattered with the van we loved, and some things you will want to consider are: the size of the bed (most caravan Queen size beds are shorter in length); colour scheme (make sure it’s not too modern or something that will go out of fashion quickly); an isolator switch by the entry step to turn everything off at the one point is a great idea; something that’s also mighty handy in the middle of the night when you need to find your way to the bathroom is a switch that turns the bathroom light on and off from the comfort of your bed. And a big feature we loved – the long strip of LED party lights under the rollout awning! It was a nice feature we decided we had to have, complete with remote control.