When assessing multiple caravans, it’s rarely an apples-with-apples comparison.
Whether it’s at a caravan show, a dealership or even a caravan park, a quick glance will tell you that no two caravans are created equally.
Sure, many manufacturers employ the same (or very similar) constructions methods and use more or less the same materials – a meranti frame, aluminium cladding, and chassis and suspension by one of the main suppliers – but some do it better than others. And there will always be differences between layouts and standard features that appeal to different people.
Personally, I prefer vans that are, first and foremost, practical. Sometimes, this means the rig I have hitched up is a little smaller and lighter, depending on my tow vehicle. It might be missing a bathroom and some other features. But it’s nonetheless a comfortable, well-priced place to hang my hat while I’m on the road.
Other vans will be long, lovely and luxurious, while others might have a bed that folds down from a wall, therefore opening up the living space during the day.
Ultimately, it’s about determining if the van will live up to its promise before you’ve signed on the dotted line. For example, if it’s classified as a genuine offroader, has the internal cabinetry been reinforced to withstand bone-shattering corrugations? If not, then you can safely determine it’s not a practical option and move on to the next van.
This is what Best Aussie Vans – an annual event showcasing 16 vans by some of Australia’s best manufacturers – is all about.
We assembled the rigs in Eildon, Vic, for last year’s inaugural event. This year, however, we converged on Anglesea, a seaside hamlet on the doorstep of the Great Ocean Road.
We’re focusing on two categories: Pop-Tops and Caravans $50-$65K. Next month, we’ll turn our attention to the remaining two categories: Caravans $65-$80K; and $80K-plus. I’ll tell you now, however, that there are some surprising results in store.
But the highlight was seeing everybody pitch in to ensure this seven-day field test ran as smoothly as possible. Filming, photographing and testing caravans by day. Sharing a laugh and a beer in the camp kitchen by night. Not a bad week at the office, in truth.
Oh, and a final word about our base camp, Anglesea Beachfront Family Caravan Park. Not only was the management unendingly patient, the facilities are second to none. Its location – right on the beach and an inlet – make it a joy for families. My own kids joined me for a couple of nights and I don’t think I’ve seen them happier.
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The full tests appear in Caravan World #533, January and #534, February 2015. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!