Buying a Camper Trailer (Plenty of Pitfalls)

Submitted: Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 10:17
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I noticed a couple of threads running that involve camper trailers and increasingly there have been others running over the past few months.

The general theme is usually a camper that is not necessarily fit for purpose, passed off as Australian Made and often sold by companies whose after sales service (or lack thereof) has a lot to be desired.

The travel leisure industry is booming as many “baby boomers” and others head off to experience our great country, and even entry level campers and caravans are getting expensive, and all too often we get unscrupulous people looking to cash in...

To anyone looking to purchase a camper take a read of this website from the Australian Manufactured Camper Trailers Guild. I’m not endorsing them in any way, but highlight that they appear to have a standard to which members must adhere to, standards that anyone purchasing a trailer should be looking for...

Australian Manufactured Camper Trailer Guild
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Reply By: Member - ACD 1 - Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 11:13

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 11:13
Top find The Landy

A Good info for those in the process of looking for a good quality camper - well worth a read


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Reply By: Member - John and Val - Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 12:06

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 12:06
Hi Landy,
Lets hope that link helps someone to avoid making a costly and frustrating camper trailer purchase. Im not too optimistic though.

So often on this forum (and doubtless others) we see examples of people who don't seem to have to basic skills to enable them to go bush (let alone outback) safely and with confidence. Looking through threads just from the past week you will see examples that include little knowledge of basic geography or ability to read a road map, and inability or reluctance to do even basic research about travel related matters. Without that basic knowledge and research people are open to exploitation by unscrupulous sellers, aided and abetted by publishers of glossy travel magazines who exist to satisfy their advertisers rather than inform prospective travellers.

It takes time and effort, and often a fair bit of trial and error to get a travel/camping set-up that works in the way that you want it to. It certainly takes consideration of more then just dollars to get a result that works well. There is no substitute for plenty of time and homework before purchasing camping/travel gear, including the big ticket items.



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Reply By: AlanTH - Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 12:50

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 12:50
I'm always a bit dubious of these manufacturers associations believing them to be mostly about protecting their members but there are certainly some horrifying stories there about "Chinese" campers.
We bought a camper from one of the Aussie members of this guild long before the guild itself was started and were mostly pleased with it apart from when one of the wheels nearly fell off after a "complimentary brake and wheel bearing service".
None of the workers at this place were obviously foreigners but none would admit to very bad and dangerous workmanship. Apparently the owner of the workshop redid the bearings himself.
Sold the Pioneer camper after 5 years and many miles with a few faults but only the major one above. Would still buy another Pioneer as it was basically a good product.
Then we bought an "off road" van from a member of the RVMAA and what a crock of crap. Pelmets fell off including the head protector over the door, curtains made of shoddy material and had holes through the lining material which they said were moth eaten (moths which eat in straight lines presumably) but these were changed eventually (cheers to the girls in service at George Day). Tyres wore so badly on the outside edges after just a few kays we made complaints which got nowhere with the manufacturer or retailer.
Point of interest here, this was our 3rd purchase from George Day Caravans WA and second from Goldstream and they treated us like crap.
Many other faults with this van, bad design, lousy wiring which may look to be to Australian standards, just don't look behind the coverings.
Eventually after taking action through Consumer Affairs WA and the minor claims court we got new wheels and a replacement tyre/shocks (George Day (deceased) said buckled wheels were a sign of "inappropriate use" regardless of no signs of damage) and our expences paid.
After this experience of two companies definitely building and selling a product made right here in Oz, we're a tad unexcited by the news of another set up supposedly to protect the consumer.
Thanks for the link though Landy, some interesting reading there.
AnswerID: 520620

Reply By: Ron N - Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 13:46

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 13:46
I've noticed an absolute explosion recently in the number of businesses appearing from out of nowhere, selling campers.
They're all on the same bandwagon. You can get a camper trailer built in China for SFA, compared to what it costs here.
It's a licence to print money for people with a desire to get on to a "top seller" with maximised profits.
Some of the slightly better units get the trailer body fabricated in China and they finish off the build here.

Regardless, they're all fly-by-nighters, and you're liable to find the business no longer exists when you go back to complain that the wheels just fell off, or the welds are parting company because the bloke who did the welds was planting rice in a paddy field the week before he built your camper.

The problem is that the Chinese have poor attention to detail at the best of times. They need intensive supervision and instruction to produce products that meet our required standards of durability - and then you have to pay for it.

The Chinese products market is a race to the bottom - as to who can get the lowest price for the product they want. The Chinese cut corners, because they have to, to meet the price level requested.

A large number of so-called "Australian Manufacturers" aren't - it's that simple. Manufacturing is now a global process and woe betide any Australian manufacturer who tries to build a 100% Australian camper trailer.
There would be very few Australian manufacturers left, who are building 100% Australian-built campers.
Those who are, are located in regional areas where land and building costs (or rent costs) and labour costs are lower than the cities.

The demand for campers, and camping equipment, is mind-boggling. A bloke next to my engineer mates workshop runs a house maintenance business.
He sees cheap swags from China advertised a couple of months ago, so he orders 80 of them.
He sells the whole lot in one weekend and the phone is still ringing all the following week.
He's now ordered 200 swags - so that now makes him a "recreational products retailer". [;-)
AnswerID: 520624

Follow Up By: AlanTH - Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 16:18

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 16:18
I have an acquaintance who is heavily involved in a company flogging 4by stuff at up market prices. They've had factories built in Thailand (I think) and then they import the product into Oz but the prices are certainly no less than anything made here.
Thing is, he has the cheek to say anyone buying off the internet is doing young Australians out of work.
Now if that ain't the tops in hypocrisy I don't know what is. Forgot to say he's also a bible puncher so I hope he gets forgiven every week.:-)
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Follow Up By: Ron N - Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 17:17

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 17:17
Alan - Yes, it doesn't take long to find people with a severe religious bent who actually worship the Almighty Dollar, rather than the Almighty Lord.
One particular group come to mind - their religions name starts with M, and their adherents regularly call themselves "Elder" - even when they're just out of high school. [;-)

In my extensive business experience, these people are the greediest, most money-grubbing people, I have ever had the misfortune to deal with. Worship of a Diety takes a very low priority in their religion, as compared to gathering up large amounts of money.

Getting back to the camper problem, I wish AMCTG good luck with their promoted aim, but I fear they will be a toothless tiger with little enforcing ability and even less ability to guarantee a top-class product to any purchaser from an "AMCTG group member".

There are vast amounts of variables in construction and engineering, and none more so than when fasteners are involved. Now, I'm referring to screws and nuts and bolts here - and Chinese-origin fasteners comprise by far, the biggest amount of fasteners used in much everyday Australian construction and engineeering now - unless the manufacturer/builder particularly specifies top quality name-brand or specific-grade fasteners.

I regularly encounter, on an almost daily basis, Chinese fasteners that are utter, pure crap, for want of more descriptive words.
I could use more descriptive words, but they'd probably be moderated as being unsuitable for the forum.

Chinese self-tappers (and about 98% of the self-tappers you try to buy are Chinese origin) are pure garbage, with apparently no QC whatsoever. You can regularly twist off Chinese self-tappers or strip the threads on them. You will almost always have a Chinese self tapper strip or screw off if you try to install it in Stainless Steel.

The average Chinese bolt quality makes the old mild-steel whitworth bolts look positively high grade in comparison. I have yet to find more than about 5% of Chinese bolts with a grade marking - and out of that amount, the highest grade I've seen marked is 4.8.
This a metric grade and is only a little over half the strength of a standard "high tensile" metric bolt at grade 8.8.

To ensure decent high-grade strength in fasteners, you need to go to Grade 8 (Imperial) or Grade 10,9 (metric equivalent to Grade 8).

Grade 8 and Grade 10,9 are low-alloy steel, heat-treated fasteners with a tensile strength of 150,000 psi or 1035mPa, and they must be used in positions where durability is critical.

I'm a little underwhelmed by AMCTG's claims about "100% Australian built", because I don't believe such a thing is possible in todays global supply world.
Even a dedicated, honest camper trailer builder here would be getting supplied with large amounts of consumables, such as screws, washers, nuts, bolts, welding consumables, and 100 other items - that would all be of Chinese origin (as he wouldn't be querying every single one of his suppliers, would he?) - and all this is going into a "100% Australian" camper??

Cheers, Ron.
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Follow Up By: The Landy - Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 17:40

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 17:40
Hi Ron

I’ll let the Guild speak for themselves, but the point of highlighting the stated aims of the Guild is that at least they recognise there is an issue with quality control in many of the compay’s offering camper trailers for sale and are eneavouring to set themselves aprts from them.

Guilds were always establsihed to protect members, but there is nothing wrong with trying to establish “Standards”.

Of interest, I understand the “Australian Made” people are also going to be lobbying the new federal government to get action on cleaning up the issue of fully imported trailers being badged as “Australian Made” on the basis they were screwed together in a warehouse and sold on Ebay.

And I get it that can’t it all be Australian made, but I’m figuring there is a big difference between say Track Trailers (for example) using foreign sourced product in their campers versus Dodgy Joe’s bring in a complete camper trailer as a flat pack and “making” it here.

Not everyone can afford the upmarket version of camper trailers, and this has provided an opportunity for budget manufacturers to fill this sector of the market, and there are some decent Australian outfits doing this, the problem is that a lot of the budget offering is outright dangerous and the imports uncontrolled, which ultimately has implications for not only the person buying the product, but potentially for all road users....
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Follow Up By: Ron N - Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 18:15

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 18:15
Landy, I concur fully with what you say, and I have to agree, the AMCTG aim is admirable.

What I would like to see is compulsory labelling of consumables, parts, and components as to "source of origin", as the AMCTG webmaster touches on.

There are now many "name brand" manufacturers who source their products from China. In many cases, the "name brand" company has little input into the manufacture or QC of the product, and they're entirely happy to deflect that ball into the Chinese manufacturers court.

Typical examples I've encountered in recent times.

1. Snap-On produced a floor jack that was built in China. It was sold as a high quality product with the backing of the companys highly-regarded name. These jacks were fitted with cheap hard plastic seals and cheap rubber o-rings instead of proper high quality nylon, butyl rubber, silicone and viton seals. The jacks all failed under warranty and it cost Snap-On a fortune to rectify the poor quality construction. Another classic example of Chinese "quality fade".

2. I bought some "American Vermont" cobalt drills. These came in a blister packet with the highly-respected "American Vermont" name, "U.S.A", and the Stars and Stripes emblazoned across the pack.
When I started to use them, I came to the prompt conclusion that they were pretty poor quality. Close inspection of the packet retrieved from the waste bin saw the exceptionally fine print across the bottom - "packet made in the U.S.A - contents made in China"!!

3. Joe, my workshop mechanic neighbour, has sworn off Koyo bearings since he had to rebuild (under warranty), two Landcruiser gearboxes he rebuilt. Both failed within 10,000kms and in both cases it was a specific Koyo bearing that failed. Further enquiries have found that Koyo is sourcing bearings from China. Nothing is stated on the Koyo boxes where the bearings originate from.

There was a celebrated case in the U.S. where a supplier of lifting equipment supplied lifting products (shackles, hooks) that were sourced from China. Several of these lifting items failed in use, when under loadings that were well within their recommended SWL range.

Subsequent investigation found failures in the steel quality of the Chinese lifting products to meet specifications, as well as failures in the heat treatment of the products. The U.S. supplier was forced to recall every Chinese lifting product he'd sold, as a national safety measure.
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Reply By: MEMBER - Darian, SA - Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 14:03

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 14:03
I met a bloke camping in Central Oz a couple of months back - he had bought a new "offroad' Chinese camper for very few $ - he had done quite a bit of rebuilding on the HD aspects of the construction, just to make sure it could take it where he wanted to go....(HE had to make it fit for purpose in fact). Thing is.... he wasn't sour on the deal .... cheap as, he had the skills for the reworking...and with the trips done to date, it owed him next to nothing. BTW - the canvas work (awnings and sides included) looked quite good. Wouldn't suit my thinking, but hey.....
AnswerID: 520625

Follow Up By: KevinE - Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 17:10

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 17:10
I have one too & no real complaints here either.

I didn't really have to do any re-building, but I did have to make some modifications to the trailer - all small stuff really & the sort of things I expected to have to deal with when I bought it.

We bought it new in January 2012 & did a couple of shakedown trips with it to see what needed improving; I ripped the swing out kitchen on the tailgate off, as we never used it! I modified the Jerry Can holders so that they could be used more effectively, I modified the tie-downs, so they hitched to breeching staples on the trailer rather than across the top, replaced the bolts on the hitch with high tensile ones, sealed the floor of the trailer with silicone to keep the dust out - as it was only spot welded, replaced the jockey wheel with a pneumatic one, stuck spirit levels on, replaced the foam mattress with an inner-sprung one, reinforced the stone guard frame.

It has now been to Mt. Dare, Innamincka, Gawler Ranges, on the Oodnadatta Track, Old Ghan track, Warri Gate Road, Flinders Ranges (x3), Cameron Corner, Mereenie Loop Road, Tibooburra, on the track through Omicron & Epsilon Stations, Strzelecki Track, Dig Tree, Dalhousie, Chambers Pillar............... and lots & lots of black top too, including the Stuart Hwy Adelaide to Alice Springs & back, plus around the Natural Sciences Loop in Qld.

Interestingly, the 2 items that I was concerned about when I bought it; tyres & wheel bearings, are still fine! The tyres are yet to have a puncture!

In fact, nothing has failed on it to date & it has seen more rough roads in the last year than most of the camper trailers sold will see in their lifetime.

I'm not saying its the best out there, its not! There is no doubt that a lot of Aust made trailers are better than the Chinese ones. But this one is doing OK by me :)
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Follow Up By: Gronk - Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 17:54

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 17:54
Kevin, you no doubt have a trailer that is doing the job for you.....but for others buying cheaper type trailers ( doesn't have to be chinese ), and who can't do things on it to make it fit for purpose, it would be a shame to see them get into the outback and have a major failure that wrecks their holiday....or even worse a breakdown that affects their safety..
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Follow Up By: KevinE - Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 18:48

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 18:48
No argument from me about people who can't do basic stuff not buying one - or any other CT or a caravan either come to think of it.

But, I'm yet to see one broken down on the side of the road in all of my travels ;)

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Reply By: The Rambler( W.A.) - Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 15:06

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 15:06
I remember a few years ago I went with a friend to inspect a camper he was interested in that was imported from China---no names mentioned but it was at a factory here in Perth.Well it looked good from about 200m. away but having a close look I don't think it would have even lasted to get me up to the N.Territory--- total rubbish.Even Aussie made remember you get what you paid for.
AnswerID: 520628

Follow Up By: Ron N - Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 16:41

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 16:41
Rambler, never were truer words spoken than your last sentence.

The problem is that so few people have little idea of what is a durable design and what isn't.
One learns by many years of practical use, and much dearly-bought experience.
The younger people are essentially learning as they go, and the younger population coming on are always green as grass, and prime pickings for sellers with a "fabulously-priced deal"!
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Follow Up By: Member - Chris_K - Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 17:11

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 17:11

Absolutely agree - the other phase applicable here is "buyer beware"...

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Reply By: Sand Man (SA) - Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 19:13

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 19:13
There appears to be a bit of Chinese manufacturing bashing here, which is a little unfair in many cases.

The fact is, many Australian products previously made here are now made in China.
How good they are defends largely on the accepted standards of the Australian "importer".

One well known brand of camper trailer that I know of that is now made in China is the Trak Shak. Some people may argue that they are not as good as they used to be but plenty are still sold and it is up to the Australian Company what quality standard is acceptable.

I wouldn't mind betting that more of the top range of Campers will eventually be made offshore, as the cost of manufacturing in Australia continues to escalate and the Australian Company is looking at ways to maintain a reasonable profit margin.

I am not a knocker of the "made in Australia" principal but it is becoming less likely as time goes by in all forms of the manufacturing industry.

Take vehicle manufacturing as an example. Ford are winding up manufacturing from 2016 and my guess is, the General is not all that far behind.
Holden are ceasing manufacture of the Holden Ute as virtually all sales are now for the chassis cab style vehicle such as the Toyota Hilux, Mitsubishi Triton, Holden Colorado, Izusu DMax, Mazda BT50 and Ford Ranger. (Who have I left out)

All these vehicles are made offshore, mainly in Thailand where the salary costs are one fifth of the Australian wage.

I seem to remember that the Pioneer Camper now has an off shore manufacturing content? (Please correct me if I am wrong)
I wonder how much longer the Kimberley, Australian Off Road, and Adventure brands of camper trailer will be made here from scratch, rather than assembled here from imported products.


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Follow Up By: Sand Man (SA) - Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 20:00

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 20:00
In relation to my comments above, I have since noticed from the Landy's Australian Manufactured Camper Trailer Guild (AMCTG) link that Pioneer are listed as Australian Manufacturers so that probably answers the point I made about them.

Interestingly though, I also noticed Kimberley Campers are not listed.
Is this because their products are not made in Australia (unlikely) or simply the fact that they have chosen not to be a member of the AMCTG.


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Reply By: The Landy - Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 20:46

Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 at 20:46
If I could make a point on the intent of the post…

This isn’t about bagging budget camper trailers or Chinese imports. It is about highlighting that increasingly it appears there are many disgruntled camper trailer buyers out there…

But it concerns me that your average Australian family, keen to get out and about, to show their kids this great country of ours, are taken down by people who could not give a toss about them or their safety…

For the main, the issues appear to revolve around camper trailers not being fit for the purpose the sales brochures have eluded to, and importantly that many of the “budget” sellers don’t want to know you once you and the money has parted company.

This market appears to be coming overheated as more and more people take to the roads, and it is attracting its fair share of unscrupulous vendors….

I know little about this particular Guild, but they do highlight some excellent points for those in the market for a camper trailer, whether the high end, or low end…

It certainly wouldn’t do any harm to read and consider….

I read a quote that summed the budget camper trailer market up perfectly when it highlighted… You tend to get what you pay for, but no matter what the price tag is, whether high, or low, you shouldn’t be paying for bad service and poor workmanship!
AnswerID: 520647

Reply By: Member - Alastair D (NSW) - Thursday, Oct 31, 2013 at 07:35

Thursday, Oct 31, 2013 at 07:35
Over the last year I have attended the penrith, eastern ck & rosehill shows and been amazed at the increase in the number of camper trailers on display. I am not in the market for one, already have one, but just like snooping about and seeing how things are built.

Have to say that whilst some looked ok most of them had building practices evident when you looked underneath that I would be embarrassed to use. Some of the low priced ones offer amazing packages for the price but I wonder what corners have been cut. As said above caveat emptor but I could see few people looking behind or underneath even though some were obviously serious potential purchasers.

One unit had the gas cylinders in a side locker and I could not see a vent anywhere. The sales guy saw me snooping and asked if I had any questions. I noted the approval stickers and asked where the vents were. He shrugged and looked and said they must be somewhere. When I walked past later in the day the locker was shut and locked.

Pride in one's workmanship seems to have largely gone and replaced by the chase for the $. Still it does seem that is what the punters want. Just look at the build quality of many of the new caravans.

AnswerID: 520659

Reply By: The Landy - Thursday, Nov 07, 2013 at 09:23

Thursday, Nov 07, 2013 at 09:23
I see the RV industry is also concerned about the quality of RV imports...

Worried RV industry compiles dossier on rogue imports

AnswerID: 521013

Reply By: Shaker - Thursday, Nov 07, 2013 at 09:35

Thursday, Nov 07, 2013 at 09:35
I bought a new top of the range camper from of the manufacturers listed on the AMCTG web site, (3rd from the bottom) & the quality & finish was so poor that I couldn't subject myself to the embarrassment of owning it or even being seen using it, which I never did!
For the first time in my life I ended up in VCAT.

AnswerID: 521015

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