With show season in full swing, it’s one of the best times to see a mass of RVs side-by-side, to help narrow the choices if you’re looking to buy.
But there are a few things to consider before you put in the legwork at the shows. I like to start off with a wishlist to address my key requirements; things such as internal or external ensuite, island or east-west bed, headroom and the like. Give consideration to storage, as length and height may compromise your choices.
POP-TOP OR FULL-HEIGHT?
Pop-tops and hybrids are generally smaller and less expensive than full-height vans and, with a reduced front area, they are easier to tow and with better economy. Being physically smaller, storage is also easier.
The mechanism to lift the roof varies across manufacturers and some may be more difficult than others, particularly with the weight of added solar panels. Make sure you test the roof lifting and setup process, as some may be more difficult than they appear.
WHERE ARE YOU GOING?
Are you planning to head off the beaten track, on gravel or dirt roads, or just sticking to the bitumen? These are all things to consider. Will the van be used for long extended trips or just weekend getaways? Is it just for you and/or your partner or will there be kids and grandkids in tow? Or will it be your home, living on the road, exploring Australia full-time?
All these factors will determine the size, the layout, even suspension.
DOES SIZE MATTER?
Thinking of single or tandem-axle; on-road, rough-road or full-offroad? Whatever you choose will have a bearing on the ease of towing both for you and your vehicle. Offroad vans are built tough and can weigh significantly more.
An ensuite adds additional travelling length so consider an external unit if you want to keep it compact. Also the shape of the tail – an upswept tail will give more ground clearance but impacts on the internal storage. It all comes back to that wishlist about where you want to go and what compromises you are prepared to make.
WHAT WILL YOU TOW IT WITH?
Do you currently have a vehicle that can tow a caravan, or will you be looking at stepping into something new? Check the compliance plate of your vehicle and the van you wish to purchase to confirm your vehicle makes a suitable tow tug.
You need to consider the weight of a loaded van, with water, jerry cans, food and belongings and not just the dry (Tare) weight. If in doubt, consult the caravan manufacturer, the caravan body in your state or the Caravan Industry Association of Australia.
NEW OR USED?
If buying used, it’s a bit like buying an established home – you’re purchasing someone else’s dream and design. Buying new gives you some input into the layout, fittings and finishes to suit your needs.
These days, you’ll find new glossy laminate finishes, fittings, and a range of vibrant colours.
If buying new, you want to be comfortable dealing with the manufacturer or salesperson, so you can put as much input to your design as possible. If they don’t seem responsive find someone who is.
Used vans also come with the risk of problems to be fixed at your expense, as many will be out of warranty.
Talking to other owners is a great resource to help with your decision making. Were there any warranty issues and were they fixed promptly and effectively? Don’t rely on just one customer’s experience. Talk to as many as you can to get a cross section of feedback.
It’s your hard-earned money, so don’t settle for good enough.