The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Caravan for You
The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Caravan for You
Investing in a caravan is a big decision and the first step to planning an epic road adventure. However, before you can set off on your adventure, buying a caravan is not as simple as walking into a caravan showroom and purchasing the first one you see.
As with any big investment, there is a list of things you should consider and prepare before you choose which caravan is right for you. But just before that, if you’re still on the fence about getting a caravan, let’s consider the following reasons why you should:
- Freedom and learning: The freedom to travel according to your own timing and schedule. You don’t have to worry about reservations or check-out times. If you’re unhappy with a place, you can leave whenever you’d like and find a new destination. It’s also a great way to learn more about the places you visit, by interacting with it on a closer level. Check out our recent interview with Drew and Sal Paas on their new life on the road.
- Cost-effective: While initial costs can be high (caravan, its amenities and fuel etc), over time and the more you utilise it they tend to end up paying for themselves. Campsites and caravan parks often work out cheaper than most hotels or hostels, especially if you’re travelling in large groups or with children. Driving is also cheaper than flights, in comparison.
- Comfort: Today, many caravans come with various amenities that make your trip much more comfortable such as air-conditioners, TV, bathrooms and so on. You might not even miss home at all!
- Safety and convenience: With a caravan, you don’t have to carry your luggage around wherever you go. Simply leave it in the safety of your caravan as you go out to explore. Who knows, life on the road might also teach you that you don’t need too many things to stay comfortable. It’s a win-win!
Convinced of the potential that buying a caravan offers? If so, here are the different types of caravans you will commonly see in the market.
Types of Caravans
- The Classic – This basic/conventional caravan has all the features required to enjoy an outdoor experience without compromising on comfort. It usually includes four solid walls, a full-height roof and one to two axles depending on its length.
- Off-road – As the name suggests, an off-road caravan allows you to travel on roads that are usually inaccessible for basic vans. Built with extra suspension features and a high chassis, ‘off-roaders’ are built to handle the rough conditions of the Australian outback
- Pop-top – These caravans are very similar to conventional caravans, but differ in terms of roof height, additionally requiring it to be popped up. Pop-top caravans, due to their low profiles, make for a very aerodynamic vehicle which is especially beneficial when towing. The only downside to this is lesser storage in comparison to the classic.
- Pop-out – These are similar to the pop-top but instead of the roof popping up, the beds pop out in the front or back. The roof here is of full height and solid, creating extra space within the van while also keeping the overall structure compact for easy towing.
- Wind-up – If you’re looking for a caravan and tent all in one, wind-up caravans are the choice for you. They have solid sides halfway up and a canvas tent-like structure that extends above these walls. Their very low profile also makes for easy towing. However, the only drawback relates to limited storage – not exactly a practical solution if you have a large family.
- Teardrop Campers – These tiny, lightweight vans are perfect for singles or couples who just want something easy to tow. Most teardrop campers have sleeping areas inside the hard walls of the camper with cooking facilities rolling out from the back or sides. So while you’ll sleep protected from the elements, all your cooking will need to be done outdoors.
- Camper Trailers – If you don’t mind roughing it up a bit (while you save up for a full-sized caravan), camper trailers are a good starting point. Camper trailers are similar to wind-up caravans except the base is a solid-sided trailer. The downside – less storage space and no bathroom facilities which isn’t exactly ideal if you’re looking to go free camping.
- Campervans – These are mini motorhomes or vans that have been renovated to offer a more comfortable living space, including a bed for two people, a seating area and also a mini kitchen. Unfortunately, most campervans are not large enough to have their own bathroom facilities.
- Toy Haulers – Caravans that are equipped with additional features to take all your favourite ‘toys’ such as motorbikes, jet skis, mountain bikes and kayaks. Just remember that toy haulers tend to be larger and heavier, so your tow vehicle must be able to handle the extra weight.swanky home on wheels.
- Fifth Wheelers – As the largest caravans available in Australia, fifth wheelers generally require a 4-wheel drive Ute or a small truck to tow them. These caravans offer many comforts of home including full-size furniture, lots of internal space (perfect for large families) and quick and easy set-up. But while the prospect of owning one is enticing, they can be very costly purchases.
- Motorhomes – As the true ‘home on wheels’, motorhomes have all the space and conveniences of a classic caravan – without the need for a separate vehicle to tow it. Motorhomes are usually preferred by older couples or even singles as you don’t have to tow anything. Its greatest drawback, though, is that everytime you want to go sightseeing or simply need to pick up something from the shops, you’re ‘home’ comes along with you.
Now that you have an idea of the different types of caravans, here are a few things to keep in mind before you buy your new swanky home on wheels.
Ask Yourself the Right Questions
Before you set out to buy a caravan, you need to consider different factors and aspects of your travel, such as:
- Where are you travelling to?
- How long will you be travelling – few days, weeks or months?
- Will you be driving more off-road or on highways?
- Will it be a solo trip, with friends or family?
- Will the places you travel to have caravan accommodations?
Start by asking yourself these basic questions to help you decide on what size, layout and type of caravan you should invest in. Answering these can give you a better idea on what you might be looking for instead of going in completely blind.
Set A Budget
As with any travel adventure, you need to decide on how much you’re willing to spend. Caravans come in varying sizes, layouts and facilities, which will affect price accordingly. So it will be helpful to set the maximum you’re willing to spend on a caravan.
Will you be able to afford a new one, or would a second-hand caravan be sufficient? Of course, if you decide on a second-hand caravan, you should also consider the possibility of having to fix up any pre-existing issues the caravan might have had.
Some caravans also come with many utilities included, while with others, you might have to purchase them as separate add-ons. Some add-ons we recommend:
- Fridge, freezer and room temperature
- No matter what sized caravan you’re travelling in, keeping your ride, passengers and groceries comfortable and intact will always be important. From preventing mould build-up in your fridge/freezer to maintaining a comfortable room temperature, there are many benefits to upgrading your second-hand caravan with a temperature sensor.
- Water tank levels
- RV gas bottle levels
- When on the road, maintaining your gas bottle levels makes up one (yet important) part of a comfortable adventure. It fuels (no pun intended) everything from when you need to cook, clean, shower and even sleep comfortably. However, it can be tricky to tell when you’re running low on this resource. Using Bluetooth gas bottle sensors helps take the guesswork out to ensure you keep tabs on your fuel levels at all times so that you never run out.
- Battery voltage
- Efficiency is key to a comfortable and safe travel adventure in your newly purchased caravan. Having a battery management system that will maintain optimal battery health, the charging/discharging state, battery chemistry, active power sources etc. – offers reliability, cost efficiencies and comfort to empower you to go further and last longer.
- Tyre pressure sensor
If you plan on selling your caravan at a later stage, having extra utilities will also help improve its resell value significantly.
Consider Weight and Tow Capacity
The weight and tow capacity mainly depend on whether you’re investing in caravans that need to be towed by another vehicle.
You’ll have to ensure that the vehicle you use to tug the caravan will be able to handle the weight of the caravan along with the items you’ve packed for the trip – especially if it’s for a long-term trip.
Will the vehicle also be able to handle different terrains? Most often, bigger vehicles like SUVs and pick-up trucks are ideal as towing vehicles. You might also have to invest in extra accessories for towing a caravan, such as the towing system, towing mirror, reversing camera and so on – extra things to add to your budget as well.
Check For Safety Hazards
Once you’ve narrowed down the type of caravan you want, you need to inspect the caravan thoroughly, especially with its utility connections. Are water, electricity and gas connections all working well or are they damaged or ill-fitted? This is extremely important if you’re buying a second-hand caravan. Talk to the previous owner beforehand to get a good idea of the caravan’s history so you’ll be prepared to handle anything that might happen.
While choosing the right caravan or RV can be a little intimidating at first, don’t hold back on research. Window shopping at caravan yards and camping shows are a great way to give you an idea of what you might be looking for. It will also help you create a list of ‘must haves’ and ‘deal breakers’ to help you stay focused on what’s important for your trip. Don’t be discouraged if it takes some time to find the right caravan. What’s important is to get out there and start looking so that your dream adventure becomes a reality soon.
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