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WITH MY HOLDEN Caprice tow vehicle now set up with a towbar, brake controller and transmission cooler, it was time to go caravan shopping.
First things first: how much money did I have left out of my $10k budget? The Caprice cost a total of $6400, including the purchase price, setting up for towing and fixing a few things that were wrong with it. It is a great vehicle, but I underestimated how much repairs would dent in my budget. So out of $10k, I had $3600 to buy a van.
WHERE TO SHOP FOR A CARAVAN
I looked online at the usual suspects such as eBay, Gumtree, caravancampingsales.com.au and the Trading Post. I also looked at a few vans for sale at caravan retailers.
I looked at a very broad spectrum of caravans – everything from a wind-up canvas Topagee to a full-size 28ft Viscount tandem. Everything from a stripped out unregistered shell to an immaculate, ready-to-roll caravan, albeit a tiny, two-berth unit...
I came close to buying a Chesney 18ft tandem with shower/toilet, it looked like it would eventually be the ideal family van. But it needed more than just a lick and a polish. It had been an on-site van, and was cheap – it sold for $2000 on eBay. I bid $800. The photos suggested it was no show pony – mould was growing on the cladding and the interior looked very tired and dirty. The seller said years on the coast was probably why the A-frame had rusted out.
WHAT ABOUT THE BUDGET?
So the hunt continued, and the truth is, my willingness to completely refurbish a van was fading. From the ones I had seen for $2000, it would be a lot of work.
I decided to start looking for a van that may need some work, but would be useable from the start.
I eventually found the perfect van. It was much better than I thought it would be, but also cost a lot more than I had budgeted for. I ended up paying $5700 for a 1985 Windsor Windcheater 18ft tandem on Gumtree.
Yep, I blew the budget. The total spent was $12,100 for vehicle and van. Yet this challenge was never meant to be about going caravanning on the cheap for the sake of it, it was an experiment in seeing what it would take to get a family into caravanning from scratch.
That it took a bit over $12k rather than $10k – well, I’m happy. I got my family caravanning at a fraction of the price of a new rig, and for not much more than I had budgeted.
The Windsor has a front kitchen, middle lounge (that converts to beds for the kids) and an island bed at the rear. It is tidy, if a bit worn. Perfect. It needs work alright – the three-way fridge doesn't work, the cladding sealing is beginning to crack in several places so it will need re-sealing soon, and sections of the flooring are very tired.
On the plus side, it has electric brakes and auxiliary battery provisioning, the bearings seem okay and it tows well.
It's certainly a good start.
Tune in next month to see the finished product, as
Phil Lord hits the road for 10 days with his family, in their new budget rig!
WORDS AND PICS Philip Lord
Written exclusively for Caravan World online
On the road for under $10K: Phil Lord's challenge
Part 1: Choosing a tow vehicle
Part 2: Tow vehicle purchased!
Part 3: Tow vehicle blowout!
Part 4: Tow vehicle, or NOT tow vehicle?
Part 5: Towbar time!