Deciding that you are going to purchase a caravan as your travelling home, is a really big decision. There are so many factors to take into consideration. There are literally hundreds of different brands and styles of caravans available here in Australia, which can make choosing the right caravan for you a little bit daunting. This is especially true if you are caravan novices.
Firstly, you will most likely want to determine how many beds you need. Is it just you and your partner travelling or will you need room for your kids? Something else to consider is whether you should get an on-road or an off-road van. Are you going to be sticking to major roads or is there a chance that your van will see some rough, dirt roads? Another factor to consider is whether you should get a full size van or something more compact like a pop top.
CHOOSING A TOW VEHICLE
Another very important thing to consider before you purchase a van, is what type of vehicle you will need to tow it with. Most vans these days will require a large four-wheel drive to tow them with. You need to understand what the towing capacity of your vehicle is and what the GCM – Gross Combination Mass – of your vehicle is as well. If you are not sure what these mean, check out our post on Weight Abbreviations and there meanings.
NEW OR SECOND-HAND?
Finally, for many people the biggest decision may well be whether to purchase a new van or a second-hand van.
There is no doubt that budget is a major consideration for most people, so with that in mind a second-hand van may well be the most affordable option.
We initially looked at purchasing a pre-loved van and looked at quite a few, before deciding to buy new.
PRIVATE OR DEALER
Buying from a reputable dealer, should give you peace of mind that the van has been given the once over and is in good condition and repair.
You may also be eligible for some statutory warranty if anything does need repairing after purchase.
If you decide to buy a van privately, it might be a good idea to have it inspected. Also the seller will need to provide certificates for the gas and electrical.
CHECKING FOR PROBLEMS
So how do you know what to look for when choosing a van to ensure that what you purchase is exactly what you want and not riddled with problems?
We have put together a list of some things that we think you should look for when checking out potential candidates for your new travelling home.
- Electric and gas system tested
- Any sign of rust on chassis
- Tyres in good condition, including spare
- Does it have water tanks
- Size of water tanks
- Type of brake system
- Does it have a battery system fitted
- Outside hatches open easily and seals in good condition
- Gas bottles correctly fitted
- Awning opens/closes easily. No sign of mould.
- Visual damage ie. Dents, major scratches, previous poor repairs
- What are the weights of the van?
- What kind of vehicle can legally tow it?
- Length/size of bed
- Type of mattress – foam/inner spring
- Check inside cupboard for signs of water damage eg. Stains, musty smells, ants
- Cupboard doors open/lock properly
- Roof hatches/vents open and close properly
- Windows open/lock properly
- Air Con works
- Appliances work
- Type of fridge
- Did you notice any strange smells when you opened the door
- Gas struts on pop top in good condition
- Canvas in good condition. No sign of mould
I have put together a short checklist which you can DOWNLOAD and print out when you go to look at vans. You may have other things that you want to look for but we think the above list is a great starting point when you do go looking.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you do go looking, and whilst there are lots of forums on the internet where you can read reviews on vans, not every van is the same and not everyone’s experience will be the same. You will often see one person making a negative comment about a particular brand of van and then have ten people saying it’s the best van they’ve ever owned.
So be realistic in your expectations and buy the van that is going to best suit your needs, no matter what brand it is.