Caravans: A Buyers’ Guide

Caravanning has come into its own in the new millennium. The range and quality has never been better, with makers offering luxury, convenience and the portability of home comforts.

Recently, there has been huge demand for caravans, and competition is fierce among traders and manufacturers. Caravans have entered an exciting new era, progressing from orange Laminex cupboards on wheels to rooms of sheer comfort, practicality and class, with features and inclusions limited only by the imagination.

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Before you buy a caravan

Before buying a new or used caravan, talk to a few dealers to get a sense of what’s around. It is important to consider the type of car you drive, its capacity and suitability to tow a caravan. If you need to buy another car take this into consideration and factor it into your overall budget.
There are many different caravan models available. The number of beds you require is an important factor, because if you don’t need five or six you may have the option of looking for a different van designed for lounge comfort or entertaining.

Caravan styles

There are three basic types of caravans, each with its unique qualities: on-road, off-road and on-site.

On-road caravans

On-road caravans are designed and built for just that: on-road conditions. They are not generally built to withstand the rigors of the rough outback or even gravel roads, which may place too much stress on the chassis and suspension.

Off-road caravans

Off-road caravans are readily identified because they have higher clearance, and their heavy duty chassis and suspension makes them ideal for the outback. However, if you go on a rugged adventure you will need to carry more water, petrol cans, spare wheels and extra gas bottles. These requirements take up space that may otherwise have been used for extra comforts and amenities.

On-site caravans

On-site caravans should be chosen with three major considerations in mind: comfort, comfort and comfort. When you leave your van in one place because you love the surrounds, the last thing you want is to be packed in like sardines living without luxuries. Your on-site van should have space for the kids to play games on a rainy day, or to set up outside in the cool of the night.

Other caravan styles

Of course, standard caravans are just one ace in the pack — there are pop-tops, full caravans, fifth-wheel caravans and relocatable vans. There are new ones and the pre-loved variety, all with their own advantages and disadvantages.

Pop-top caravans

Pop-tops are great if you don’t have a big towing vehicle. They have less wind resistance compared with standard caravans, are easier to manoeuvre, have greater stability and higher ceilings. There are restraints with cupboard space and they take longer to set up, but they’re great fun – a terrific option if towing a big van is beyond the capability of your car.

Full caravans

Full caravans are generally made with greater strength, and fit into the mould of a ‘home on wheels’. They offer space and comfort, and take nothing to set up. There is greater wind resistance when towing, but you get used to this.

Fifth-wheel caravans

Fifth-wheel caravans are luxury on wheels. They have the qualities of a full van, but come with more space to enable you to lounge about. We are getting into the ‘big boy’ category here, so sell the VW Beetle and buy a four-wheel drive. Fantastic holidays are ahead.

Relocatable vans

Relocatable vans are also known as park vans because that’s their style – plenty of room for comfort and tall people don’t have to duck. Some come with the ultimate comfort packs and you may never want to go home. However, they can be very cumbersome when it comes to towing and are not the vans to take trekking across Australia.

The world of caravans, camper vans, and good old tent cities is a great way of life. They bring their special moments, and are always remembered by families. Consider the many options, talk to the experts, base your decision on your personal needs and means, and enjoy! [tradingpost.com.au/…/LandingPage]

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