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Start from scratch and find the caravan most like your dreams  

April 30, 2007
Start from scratch and find the caravan most like your dreams

Graham and his wife Fran are going to buy a secondhand caravan around 19 or 20 ft. They will tow with a Ford Explorer V8 rated at 2500kg towing capacity. They need a shower/toilet, island bed, large fridge annex and battery pack.

As first time buyers they asked for help on things to check while they are looking. They plan shorter trips to start with as they have two maltese dogs and they appreciate there will be some adjusting to do. Their budget is about $30,000.00. Here is what we think:

Quality caravans hold their value so secondhand prices are often not far off new.

Have a look at our For Sale, fourth down on the left hand side of the Home Page and that will give you feel for prices.

Don't be penny wise pound foolish. Cheap is not quality. Decide now if you will keep the caravan for life or will turn it over every three years to keep value in the investment. Either way popular brands hold their value.

Look for the lightest weight, best built caravan you can find.

Keep your shower and toilet separate. Educate yourself on current industry best practice. Look at the circular shower design Jayco has come up with this season. We saw a clever example at the Sydney Caravan and Camping show.

Understand how the hot water system works and how much capacity it has. Your lady will thank you. There are other great designs out now with an ensuite across the back of the caravan. Golf is one example. Geist and Adria another.

Jayco Sterling clever circular shower
Jayco Sterling clever circular shower

Established brands like Windsor, Coromal, Compass and Roadstar have sound quality approaches based in a lot of experience. Coromal and Geist have original design in their suspensions and towing systems.

Some custom built caravans have a dressing area too. With custom built (new) you will get what you want but you will pay for it.

Make an honest decision now on whether you want a double bed or two singles. Do the dogs sleep with you? If so allow space for them too. Or decide where their sleeping area is to be and make certain there is enough space.

Two singles with quality inner spring matresses work better in terms of both space and comfort in most cases.

If you go for a double be certain it is wide enough and has a slide out section at the bottom to give you more leg room. It must have a quality inner-spring mattress. Aim to be as comfortable in the caravan as you are in your own home.

Check that with the bed made and the bed extended you can move around it and the caravan. Many caravans have the wheel arches just where you want to walk.

Toilet  in Jayco Sterling ensuite plus washer
Toilet in Jayco Sterling ensuite plus washer

Look for at least one locker/cupboard which allows a long dress to be hung. Two full-depth cupboards are better. You must have plenty of deep locking draws and overhead lockers. Keep the toilet away from the cooking area.

Insist on plenty of bench space and a real, deep sink. You need a good stove with an oven and grill.

You need a good size fridge. A base test is can meat be kept away from all other food in the fridge and will a long neck wine bottle stand up in the fridge door.

Aim for two batteries. One for The House and the other for backup. You will have break-away brakes of one design or another. Understand how they work, if they are electric there will be a backup battery.

Ask to be shown how it all works and how you keep the system live. If the system is mechanical get a run down on that too. New players in the Australasian market Geist and Adria are mechanically braked.

A must have in any Receational Vehicle is roof vents, plus insect screens and windows which give full air flow. At night you need drapes which keep out the light.

You need the best heating and cooling you can get. Don't waste money on small aircons. Have a look at diesel heating options

Golf front lounge folds to full inner spring single bed
Golf front lounge folds to full inner spring single bed

When you narrow down your choice ask for a test tow. Hook it up with all the gear and try and park it on your own property. If the dealer won't help out. Go somewhere where they are more interested in meeting your needs and keeping your business.

Another test is to decide what you like and hire the brand and try it on a short holiday.

Our Forums are loaded with practical experience from people out on the road so take time to read them too. You will get the message wharts and all.

Read our caravan set-up feature. Just knock towing or caravan into the Multi-Search box on the top right of the Home Page and click Search.

Remember that all Recreational Vehicles are a compromise. You will not get exactly what you want.

Be pragmatic about cost and value. I think the most annoying people we deal with in the Forums we monitor are those who buy on price alone and then complain endlessly that they did not get a Porsche.

A quality outcome is about you being happy that you got a good deal on a good caravan which does most of the things you need.

Golf gas bottles have have easy lock and release levers
Golf gas bottles have have easy lock and release levers