Your Guide to Buying a Caravan
Posted on June 15, 2017
Motorhomes and caravans are a great solution if you want to travel in comfort and have the freedom to stop whenever you find a nice spot. A home away from home, it will save you from sleeping on the ground, communal showers and having to cross the whole camping site in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom!
If you are considering buying one, the range of options on offer can be confusing. What size do you need? What should you think about? Caravans are not cheap so you certainly don’t want to make the wrong decision. We have put together some information to help you decide.
How do you intend to use your caravan?
If you intend to use your caravan for weekend getaways, you may be more flexible in terms of comfort and equipment than if it is to be your home for longer periods of time, like taking an extended road trip. Likewise, your family circumstances will influence your options. Are you going to travel with children? Is your family likely to grow and do you need to buy a bigger caravan than for your current needs?
It is useful, in that planning stage, to make a list of features you would like your caravan to have and classify them into ‘must-haves’ and “nice-to-have’. It is also a good idea to estimate how many trips you may take with your caravan for the following couple of years, and their total distance.
Also consider where you will store the caravan when you are not using it.
Which vehicle will tow the caravan?
Buying a caravan is all very well, but you have to be able to tow it! Before making any purchase, it is therefore crucial to check the maximum weight your vehicle can tow.
What size of caravan do you need?
The size you should purchase will obviously depend on the number of people using it at any one time, but also on what you feel confident driving. The larger the caravan, the more comfortable it will be but also the longer, meaning that it will bring with it challenges when it comes to driving it. Its height could also restrict the roads you are allowed on.
Luckily, today’s caravans are much lighter than their cumbersome predecessors, but as we saw above, how big you can go will depend on how much weight your car can tow.
The array of internal features on offer will make your head spin!
The most popular caravan layout nowadays is a 15-16ft space with kitchen at the front, a double-bed island at the back and an L-shaped dining area with a lounge opposite. You will find it at every dealer and from every make, but there are also plenty of other choices. If you are buying new, some customisation is also possible to make your caravan suit your needs.
A point to seriously consider is whether you want double or single beds. Although the prospect of single beds may not sound conducive to romance, it is worth remembering that caravans’ double beds are much smaller than your bedroom’s and could turn your holiday into a sleepless affair. Single beds can be a more comfortable solution and it will also give you more usable living space.
What suspension should you choose?
There are two types of suspensions available these days: independent suspension or solid axle and leaf spring.
Independent suspension uses a rubberised cam system with shock absorbers and is virtually maintenance free. Caravans fitted with it can be used for some off-road driving conditions, but don’t overdo it as repairing it en route isn’t easy.
The axle and leaf spring system is technically simple which means it will need less maintenance and will cost less than independent suspension. There is less risk of anything going wrong and nowadays’ springs are resilient, needing replacement only every 50,000 km or so.
How about off-road caravans?
If you are planning on getting away from it all and going off road, you have to make sure that your caravan is up to it, regardless of your towing vehicle.
Standard caravans will cope with some rough terrain but couldn’t be called ‘off-road’. For the intrepid, you need to look for proper ‘outback’ caravans. While they will offer pretty much the same layout options, their design has been modified to handle rough terrain. Their chassis are strengthened, water tanks have additional under-van protection and bumper bars extend underneath the vehicle for protection when driving through washways. Some of them also have dust-proofing and externally-mounted jerry cans.
If you are planning on towing your caravan with a 4WD, make sure that the model you are considering does have a warranty covering 4WD towing.
Should you buy new or second-hand?
Buying a caravan is not a small investment, so you may be hesitating between buying second-hand or new.
While new caravans will obviously be more expensive, they also offer the latest design and safety advances. Even if you are not particularly interested in the latest gizmos, the ‘latest’ can mean lighter construction materials, which will translate into being able to tow a larger caravan, more durable suspension or internal space better utilised.
In addition, purchasing a new caravan will give you the option to customise it so that its layout and features fit your needs to perfection.
If you decide to buy a second-hand caravan, always buy from a licenced dealer as they do exhaustive checks to ensure that the caravans they are selling aren’t stolen and don’t have any finances left on them.
In either case, if you are looking for a bargain, caravan and camping shows are usually a good place to find one as manufacturers and dealers will often offer generous discounts.
If you are looking for an international shipping company to transport your caravan or motorhome, give us a ring on +64 9 309 1163, use our contact form or request a quote online.