AS FAR AS NEW Year’s resolutions go, I have a drastic one: I want to set up a vehicle-plus-caravan rig from scratch for under $10,000.
Who am I kidding?
Caravanning is expensive. A new family caravan costs about $45,000 and a new tow vehicle costs about the same. If you’re like me, with a young family and a mortgage, you’ll know how hard this cost is to justify, even if you managed to get the funds together.
So, if you can’t afford new, how much is "affordable"?
DECIDING ON A BUDGET
I’m not proposing to set up the cheapest rig possible for some hardship prize. Instead, I want a rig that my family would be happy to travel in, more than once.
With $1500, you can buy an old, registered clunker with a towbar, and a rough, flapping canvas pop-top for about the same. So, technically, you could go caravanning for $3000 if you wanted to. But would you?
I reckon $10,000 will do it. It isn’t beer money but it’s still a budget within reach for many families. This doesn’t include ongoing maintenance and registration costs, but does include everything that is needed to get set up. I figure the initial outlay will pay for itself – considering the low cost of caravanning, compared to package deals – within three years of annual holidays. I think the ease of getting on the road with a good rig will be enough encouragement to use it more than just once a year, too.
CHEAP AND NASTY, OR NEAT AND TIDY?
With $10,000 you’re clearly going to get something a little ‘shop worn’. It follows, then, that you’ll have to do your research. Consider the time and effort people spend buying a new rig – a similar effort for a used rig should find you something tidy, or at least something that could be tidy with a bit of handyman effort.
If I find a really good tow tug and a really good family van for $10,000 straight up, then don’t expect to hear from me for a while. I’ll be out touring. More than likely, though, I’ll have to get stuck in and fix a few things, and maybe farm out some work.
HOW MUCH TO SPEND?
I reckon I’ll need $4000 for a sound 1990s-model tow vehicle and up to $2000 for a 20-25ft tandem caravan, of 1970s to 1980s vintage.
I think spending more to get a better tow vehicle will save time and money in the long run. After all, it’s more complicated and expensive to fix a tired tow vehicle than to fix a van. That said, even $4K won’t buy something perfect, so I’ll allow another $1000 to get the vehicle into shape.
The estimated $2000 caravan will require a sound chassis, frame and sheeting at the least to be a worthwhile proposition. But at that price, I’m betting it'll need an interior re-fit, given that it’ll probably smell like an old shoe. With $7000 already spent so far, I guess the remaining $3000 or so will cover the cost of sprucing up inside the van.
Ambitious? Probably, but let’s see. If you have average handyman skills and, even better, a mate to help you, setting up the combination shouldn’t be much harder than setting up flat-pack shelves.
Every unexpected cost will suck precious funds out of the very limited renovation pool. I know it’s a tall order, and I might fail. At least I have a comfy swag…
Check out Part 1: Choosing a tow vehicle
WORDS AND PICS Philip Lord
Written exclusively for Caravan World Online