Purchasing a caravan for the first time

Submitted: Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 at 16:30
ThreadID: 117076 Views:3425 Replies:12 FollowUps:4
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We are buying our first van, and went to a trade show and spoke to numerous sales people, with each one saying theirs was the best. Needless to say we came away confused, is timber frame better than aluminium or vice a versa. So would luv to hear from some seasoned travellers on does and donts that are important when looking for a van.....and any tips that will make our adventures enjoyable!!
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Reply By: Member - Bigred13 - Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 at 17:21

Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 at 17:21
Are you looking at new or 2nd hand?
AnswerID: 550020

Follow Up By: Denise F - Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 at 17:27

Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 at 17:27
New, unless we can get a 2nd hand in really good condition.
FollowupID: 835415

Reply By: Racey - Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 at 17:55

Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 at 17:55
Denise, How long is a piece of string? A few thoughts,

1. what is your budget
2. On road off road
3. size
4. pop-top/ full van

We looked for about 3 years before settling on an Evernew custom made. That was 9 years ago. The reason was they were a long standing family business ( now 50 years) solid van good reputation and timber frame. Would have no hesitation buying another from Evernew. Timber vs aluminium will always start a debate. For me timber doesn't have a fatigue life. Some will say timber is prone to rotting, only if they leak. Like wise aluminium is prone to cracking and corrosion. The bottom line is both frames correctly made will provide good service. Don't focus to much on the layout concentrate on what is underneath the skin and the reputation of the manufacturer. There are so many new brands on the market many with no track record.

Good luck with your search.

AnswerID: 550022

Reply By: Member - John and Lynne - Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 at 20:31

Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 at 20:31
It is important to decide what you really want to do with the van. If you are inexperienced with camping and/or vans you need to start with the basics. People may get carried away with ideas of being a nomad or visiting isolated outback camps but then realise that they really enjoy the social life of caravan parks or fishing camps and really hate driving through dust and camping on their own. Many inexperienced people get talked into a big heavy van they find difficult to tow. There are different vans for different styles of travel. Always remember that salesmen are not your friends - they just want to sell vans whether or not their product really suits your needs!
There are many good vans out there and the reputation of the builder and the warranty they offer is really important. However start by being realistic about your travel needs. If you are unsure try the well proven idea of buying a medium sized van second hand and trying it for size to see what you really enjoy and need to travel comfortably. It is difficult to decide what type of layout or equipment will suit you until you have tried caravanning. You can then upgrade with little or no loss when you can talk more knowledgably to these salesmen. In the mean time you will be out there travelling and having many opportunities to talk to lots of other travellers about their vans and learning a lot as well as having a great time. Lynne
AnswerID: 550030

Follow Up By: Denise F - Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 at 20:50

Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 at 20:50
We have been using a camper trailer for the last 8 years and done a lot of off-road travel. Due to health have decided that we want some more luxury, and intend on doing a lot of travel mainly caravan parks so off road is not necessarily an important feature, though we have been told even if not used for off road they are an overall stronger van. We feel we are comfortable with towing a 21 ft van and a important feature is the bed.....hubby is 6ft 3 so we need a decent size. From experience is there anything we need to be especially focusing on?
FollowupID: 835433

Reply By: Rob J8 - Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 at 22:05

Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 at 22:05
Welcome to the wonderful world of caravanning Denise and family,
I am 66 and my wife is 63 and I recall when I went to the bank in 1987 to borrow the 5 grand odd to buy our first van.
It was an 18ft second hand Roma with double bunks for the last 2 kids.
We joined a caravan club that same year after an Horrific trip from Perth to Sydney and return.
We are on our 4th van, a 21ft Jayco Sterling and are still in our Caravan Club.
Your first van won't be your last as you will want something that the first one didn't have.
This is our second Jayco and would more than likely buy another.
Our other Jayco, a Heritage went around Australia twice and this one has got us as far as Geelong this time and heading back to W A for Easter.
All the best with whatever you choose.

AnswerID: 550036

Reply By: Motherhen - Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 at 22:47

Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 at 22:47
Hi Denise

The quickest way to learn is get a second hand caravan or camper, or hire one to try it out. Talk to everyone with caravans that appeal, and one to one you will hear all the tales which will never get printed on the internet. Most are happy to show their rigs and say what has and hasn't worked for them. We are all different. A sound older trailer will mean you will not lose much when you upgrade to something suitable for the longer term. Somewhat impossible to get it right for you, without trying first.

As part of your early research and learning, you can't go wrong with Caravan Buyers Guide. Written by knowledgeable users rather than salesmen with a vested interests, you can have faith in the content.


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AnswerID: 550039

Reply By: mudbro2 - Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 at 23:00

Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 at 23:00
Hi Denise, You could also consider joining Caravaners Forum and ask your questions there as the entire forum members are caravaners.
AnswerID: 550040

Reply By: 671 - Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 at 23:39

Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 at 23:39
The question about wood verses aluminium was discussed at length in a one of the caravan magazines a few year ago. Their conclusion was a good quality wood frame is as good as a good quality aluminium but they said there are plenty of poor quality examples of both running around the streets.

For anyone new to caravans, these couple of articles are always worth reading.


Make sure you are sitting down when you read this link. You are not going to believe your eyes when you look at the photos.

AnswerID: 550043

Follow Up By: Member - Outback Gazz - Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 08:52

Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 08:52
G'day 671

I'm not into caravans ( yet ) but there is some very interesting reading in those links you put up - 3 very good articles !


FollowupID: 835458

Reply By: Sand Man (SA) - Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 07:32

Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 07:32

Another issue to consider is whether you require an on-board toilet and shower, which will convenient, takes up valuable floor space.

We have recently purchased a Van, after having a couple of camper trailers before.
We opted for a wind up Camper Van, which will taking a little time to set up, gives us a large living area inside, once the beds have been extended out.
Having said that, we normally spend the majority of time outdoors and a good awning and sun block shades are a great addition.

We are not the type that pulls up at a caravan park, erects the TV antenna and spends the majority of time inside the van. We prefer the outdoors and a sizable portion of the left side of the van rolls up to let the outside in. We choose to bush camp whenever possible, so we have the flexibility of "stand alone" camping, or a powered site at a caravan park, somewhere in the great outdoors.
Ours is an off-road Goldstream Storm RL Vacationer van with independent suspension and the low profile when closed up makes towing a breeze. That is the compromise we chose for our current lifestyle.

You must consider the important issues and features you require for your style of camping and only self experience will give you that knowledge. You will always compromise in some form or other.
A super dooper large caravan will give you extreme home away from home living (even replacing the home) but it won't get you to all the places one would like to visit, if you prefer the more remote areas of our Country.
A van such as ours, will get you anywhere you choose with easy towing, but will take a little time to set up camp. This is not important to us as we are not in a hurry when we go on holidays.
It takes about 15 minutes to wind up the van, pull the bed sections out and secure them. Anything else takes the same time as any other van to setup, such as uncoupling, leveling, put out the awning, camp chairs, outdoor cooking facilities, etc.

I agree with others statements. If you can hire a van for the first trip or so, it will give you some knowledge of what to expect and what other features you may require, such as air conditioning, or whatever.

Good luck with your venture. It will be exciting!


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AnswerID: 550045

Reply By: Member - Alan H (QLD) - Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 08:29

Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 08:29
You might find value for money here (all aluminium framed)

Secondhand vans for sale

Hope you find what you are looking for

AnswerID: 550046

Follow Up By: Member - Alan H (QLD) - Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 08:33

Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 08:33
To handle 6'3" you will find Bushtracker tailor makes all vans (there is no standard van) and can easily allow for longer bed and higher head clearance as well.

Would recommend talk to BT as nothing worse than not fitting in the bed or having to duck all the time.

FollowupID: 835455

Reply By: Villatranquilla - Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 12:34

Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 12:34
more importantly what is the towing capacity of your vehicle- (and tow bar ball weight capacity) and get any prospective purchase weighed to ensure it fits within this range.
AnswerID: 550059

Reply By: Dennis Ellery - Tuesday, Mar 17, 2015 at 15:59

Tuesday, Mar 17, 2015 at 15:59
Hi Denise
Don’t put an electric awning on a large van.
Nothing but trouble – we had a replacement arm and 2 replacement motors in 7 years. Last November the gear box died and I spat the dummy - cut it off and replaced with an old fashioned manual one.

The caravan repairer commented that a lot of owners were replacing them.
AnswerID: 551116

Reply By: gelatr - Wednesday, Mar 18, 2015 at 22:34

Wednesday, Mar 18, 2015 at 22:34
Hi Denise,

We recently had the same dilemma about buying a van. We have been thinking for a while about replacing our Tambo camper trailer which we still love with a van. In the end we've kept our Tambo and bought a you beaut 1989 Viscount Sea Breeze as an experiment into vanning. So far we really love it. Light to tow, easy to set up and great for quick weekends away. At this stage in my life I'm not really interested in towing condovans. Maybe as I mature that might change.

We will definitely upgrade our viscount with something a bit more modern in a couple years. But the great thing about our arrangement is if we change our mind we haven't got much skin in the game.

As for the wood vs aluminium frame debate. When they start using wooden frames in modern cars and planes I'll consider a new van made with a wooden frame. If I was purchasing a new van there are only 2 manufacturers I'd consider and both use aluminium frames. The 2 are one Bush Tracker because in my opinion they are the best made van in Australia and two Jayco because whilst they may not make the best van they back it up. Both are poles apart in terms of their target market but in my opinion you can buy them with confidence and both have a good track record for resale.

AnswerID: 551189

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