Single or double axle caravans

I am planning to do the loop and have found the pros and cons of a single or twin xl confusing. There seem to be more twins on the road and the magazines are full of them and seldom cover single xl. I will be towing with a LC100 but am not really concerned with capacity aspects and a 16-17 feet will be adequate for our needs in terms of space. Towing cost is an issue for me and have no experience with van towing. Is there anywhere I can find out about a balanced and unbiased view that could help me decide.
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Reply By: Matt(WA) - Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 19:23

Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 19:23
Hi Shameem,
I am planning on doing the same trip. I have a 80 series and ended up buying a 17 foot single axle. It it nice and light(1100kg's unlaiden) and tows extremely well. I also looked at tandem's but settled on a single as it was lighter, cheaper and we found the van layout for the price we could afford(secondhand). It did take us nearlly 12 months to find the right van and ended up being only 600m from home. The van I bought is a coramal seka and has a slightly bigger pop up top than normal. This brings the van down to the same height as the 80(2" lift and roof rack) which I thought would help.
Hope this helps
Matt

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Follow Up By: shameem - Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 21:14

Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 21:14
Hi Matt,
I like the idea of 1100kg. No need to pull unneccessary weight! I have been looking at the Coramal as well...cos they look and feel good! Although I have no experience, it seems to me that with twin there will be a lot more drag...or is that a function of the tow vehicle? When are you planning to head off? Looks like you have been planning this for a while. We have been researching for about six months. I am also going for a secondhand van.....don't want to spend heaps of money on something new when I don't have much experience.
Regards
shameem (Vic)
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Follow Up By:- Sunday, Sep 02, 2007 at 17:21

Sunday, Sep 02, 2007 at 17:21
G'Day Matt and Shameem,

We have a Seka off road 16'16" Coromal.

Like the larger roof but have found problems with warping and water entry, need to keep an eye on this.

Also, don't know how accurate their compliance plate is. Ours says 1450kg TARE but when I take everything out and checked it is still almost 1600kg's. Remember that TARE does not include gas tanks, full water tanks or any extras apart from the base model if that is the way the manufacture measures it.

Put it on a weigh bridge to double check

Regards

Rolande
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Follow Up By: kend88 - Sunday, Sep 02, 2007 at 22:09

Sunday, Sep 02, 2007 at 22:09
My Coromal 17' pop top was plated as 1200 tare but was actually 1440, and apparently this is the norm for Coromals. Very happy with the van, and would recommend them to anyone, mine is a tandem, and tows exceptionally well. Just don't rely on the plate for the weight. Had to have mine replated, otherwise I could only carry 60kg.
Ken D
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Follow Up By: shameem - Monday, Sep 03, 2007 at 09:44

Monday, Sep 03, 2007 at 09:44
Hello Ken & Rolande, If the tare weight is, say 1500kg and if you add the gas, water and other essentials, what would be the average additions. Ken what do you mean you had to have your van replated? ...is that like having the correct weight displayed. Is there a list somewhere online that lists all the items a couple might need to carry on a six month trip...or is that a stupid question...or am I sounding like a baby boomer taking planning to the n th degree! Regards, shameem
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Follow Up By:- Monday, Sep 03, 2007 at 19:34

Monday, Sep 03, 2007 at 19:34
G'Day Ken and Shameem,

Ken - Like Shameem interested in the process and cost of getting updated compliance plate for van, very important for insurance if you ever have to make a claim

Shameem - I filled the gas / water, etc and took away enough food / clothes to last about 1 week. The van certainly was not full, still plenty of room in cupboards and under the seats. Put van on weigh bridge at work, 1820kg's! There is no way what I put in the van totals 370kg. For reference, it has 160 litres of water, so 2 X 9kg cylinders and my other bits supposedly weigh 210kg's

Regards

Rolande
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Follow Up By: shameem - Monday, Sep 03, 2007 at 21:49

Monday, Sep 03, 2007 at 21:49
Hello gents,
I have learnt heaps here over the last few days and feel almost up to speed on a range of issues to at least sound intelligent when I actually start the shopping process. There are a couple of good vans in the tradingpost which I shall follow up. Will let you know what I end up getting ...now that I am so well informed.

I am doing a bit of reading on battery system and electric brakes ( will need a controller!). The weight information was really interesting ...fancy that a litre of water is 1 kg. Just that it never really mattered in the fast. Amazing that they still measure caravans in feet (which suits me just fine). My son who alerted me about the weight of water, went on to explain why they still measure vans in feet.....cos its for old people only!! Regards, S
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Follow Up By:- Tuesday, Sep 04, 2007 at 18:44

Tuesday, Sep 04, 2007 at 18:44
G'Day Shameem,

As far as caravans go there are "feet" and then there are "feet"

Best take your tape measure

Some measure chassis length
Some measure from outsdie front to outside rear
Some measure inside front to inside rear

Have fun!

Regards

Rolande
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Reply By: Motherhen - Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 19:53

Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 19:53
My Rooster insisted on this one.

Our previous van was a small single axled wind-up.

Advantage - could spin it round by hand if stuck in a tight spot.

Disadvantages; stuff was tossed from one side of the cupboards to the other (we travel off the bitumen frequently), damage to fittings, milk bottles and cartons leaking from the bottom from the bouncing. I wouldn't even try and take eggs! His reasoning had more to do with safety in case of a blowout or losing a wheel, and general stability of the unit. There is also less thrust up and down on your tow hitch with the van stable on dual axles.

We now have a tandem axled caravan, and everything rides smooth. I am well and truly convinced.
Motherhen

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Follow Up By: TD100 - Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 20:03

Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 20:03
But you have to agree with him,i just went thru the same predicament and settled on a tandem axled pop top,it tows much better than the old single axle,balanced better and tows better in every way.cheers Paul
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Reply By: Dianne - Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 20:03

Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 20:03
I bought a tandem axle Concept Belmont pop top van a couple of months ago while on a holiday about 600km from home - hubby and I had been looking but this one came up while I was on my own. I towed it home by myself and hardly knew I had the van on the back of my car (Prado). It's 18' with a Tare weight of 1500Kgs. I had towed a single anxle of a similar size for a friend and from a woman's point of view - definitely the double. Also once towed a horse float (double axle) and had a flat tyre in a place where it was impossible to pull over, the double axle was a god send for about 10 kms until I could find a place to off-load the horses and change the tyre.
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Follow Up By: shameem - Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 21:23

Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 21:23
Thanks Dianne, I appreciate the female view. My mrs appears to be of a similar view.....as does Motherhen (who responded also - thanks). Stability on the road is important especially with 1.5 ton attached to you. Good point about the flat tyre.
Shameem
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Reply By: Member - Doug T (Qld) - Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 20:13

Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 20:13
Check my post from last year re broken Spring
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Also a Tandem Axle will give a better ride , more stability
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Follow Up By: shameem - Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 21:34

Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 21:34
Hey Doug...man you trying to scare me!! I checked that thread and read with interest. How lucky were the people ...imagine that happening on a single axle! ...and after all that it happened to someone else as well!.....dangerous caper this caravaning!!
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Reply By: disco1942 - Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 20:18

Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 20:18
Some people think dual axle vans are more stable than single axle models. They are definitely harder to maneuver at low speeds. However, at speeds of over 20-30 km/h the fore and aft wheels are too close to provide any directional stability. Both a friend and I have had single & twin axle vans of similar size - neither of us have noticed any difference in towing stability.

PeterD
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Reply By: Member - Willie , Epping .Syd. - Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 20:30

Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 20:30
I am about to order the smallest van I can get in dual axle - 15 feet . I want a dual axle because if I have a blow-out on the van , it does not "do me in" and because it will be more stable at rest.

The biggest downside for me is that the wheel arches will take up more space from the interior , which is a problem in a little van like this .

Cheers ,

Willie .
AnswerID: 259904

Follow Up By: shameem - Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 21:03

Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 21:03
Hi Willie, If you are going for a smallish 15ft van with a twin then I presume you must be convinced about its advantages. Most people seem to be concerned about blowouts, which indicates to me that this must be happening at a rate which is of concern. It's just that I have never heard that happening. Wonder if there is anyone out there that has experienced this (and lived!!) or withnessed or heard this happen to others.
Thanks for your comments..by the way.
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Follow Up By: Member - Willie , Epping .Syd. - Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 21:52

Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 21:52
In June this year I drove Sydney to Kununurra in 4 days . I was driving fast on the dirt roads through the Gregory NP when I blew the entire side out of a new Cooper A/T .

It was exciting for a few seconds and I destroyed the wheel as well as the tyre.

I would not risk this happening to a van I was towing . It would be a lot bigger problem than a blowout on the car .

Cheers ,

Willie .
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Follow Up By: disco1942 - Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 22:32

Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 22:32
Very few vans have a tyre blow out. Most of the ones that do have tyres older than 5 years old. Are you wanting a dual axle van so you can run old dangerous tyres???

A blown tyre can cause just as much damage to the body of a dual axle van as a single. With dual axle vans you have twice the chance of blowing a tyre. If you keep your speed down to reasonable speeds you rarely blow tyres. Sounds like the way you were driving through Gregory NP you were inviting a tyre to blow.

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Follow Up By: Graham & Ann - Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 23:23

Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 23:23
Have towed vans both single qand tandem over most of this grat land, ...Duel axle is also around 100-150kg heavier..so needs more fuel to toww..on a 15ft tandem is overkill... for the best stability you an get in an unexpected adverse situation always use a sway control unit as wellas a weight distribution hitch. We use the Hayman Reese Friction Sway control and it works a treat, blow outs on single axle not a problem.. url=http://www.hardingscaravans.com.au/towing5.htm]Friction Sway Control[/url]
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Follow Up By: Member - Willie , Epping .Syd. - Sunday, Sep 02, 2007 at 06:36

Sunday, Sep 02, 2007 at 06:36
Disco ,

Blow outs in cars are uncommon too , but they happen .

I am not concerned about body damage , I am concerned about having a one wheel van behind my car , at speed , on a dirt road .

I love your statement that with dual wheels I have twice the chance of blowing a tyre . Good thinking . Gosh , those eighteen wheeler semi trailers must be dangerous things to drive .

Willie .

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Reply By: Fazz - Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 20:40

Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 20:40
My experiences have been in very rough conditions the Dual axle set up can actually be worse, depending on which set up you have.
Rocker axle set up can , when hitting a large hole or bump, actually force the second axle harder into the obstacle & often causing axle failure. (single axle just rides each obstacle)
A round Australian trip we did some years ago we encounter some 5 dual axle vans with broken axles as against single Nil.
(But suspension set ups have change since then)
For what it's worth,
Fazz
AnswerID: 259905

Reply By: Wandering Wobberly - Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 21:00

Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 21:00
Hi Shameem!
We have recently upgraded from a single to a tandem, bought second hand but in VG condition. Recently did +3,000km as a 'test run' before doing another 'biggie' next year. Fuel costs were very similar to towing the Jayco Penguin Outback (single), but stability when towing the Windsor Outback (tandem) was quite a deal better, and the van contents were not shaken around nearly as much. As said previously, manoeuvring at very low speeds is easier with a single axle van, but +99% of the time we are all going forward, and at slightly more than 2kph! To date, definitely the tandem for us. Good luck! WW
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Follow Up By: shameem - Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 21:47

Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 21:47
Thanks WW,
Looks like tandem may be the way to go. I like the idea of more stability. Just curious about the size and weight of the upgrade from the Penguin to the Windsor. Would it be right to assume that the weight would have a lot to do with stability rather than the axle? What role would the tow vehicle play. Interested to know what you are towing with. When are you heading off on the big one and for how long? I expect to be doing little "test runs" in the first year to build up experience! sa
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Follow Up By: disco1942 - Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 23:06

Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 23:06
Shameem

"Would it be right to assume that the weight would have a lot to do with stability rather than the axle?"

You hit the nail on the head with that statement. Most of the respondents that posted above are comparing large vans with smaller rather than comparing the stability of various layout and sizes.

I was composing my first message whilst the ones above were posting (slow typist with interruptions) so I will expand.

A college of mine replaced an 18' dual axle Future Systems twin axle van with a similar one with a single axle model. The suspension was independent non-load sharing type. The replacement one was a smidgen smaller, the main difference was that a cupboard was reduced in height to extend the kitchen counter top. My van was a Spaceland 18'6” twin axle pop-top. The suspension was a beam axle load sharing setup. The present single axle model differs in that it has a tunnel boot and the rear corner dinette was replaced with a café dinette.

Neither of us find any significant difference in handling between our former and present vans. There are no more items that fall off seats on rough roads than in the previous models. Most of the shaking up in vans comes from roads that rock the vans from side to side rather than up and down.

PeterD
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Follow Up By: shameem - Sunday, Sep 02, 2007 at 08:54

Sunday, Sep 02, 2007 at 08:54
Hi PD, Nice explanation..thanks. I have hearing, mainly second-hand, that experienced caravaners are downsizing to single axle. One of the response was from the caravan club and he spoke about the need to appropriate hitch etc to balance things and avoid sway. From the discussion I gather that with a single the additional equipment would be essential.
Its always good to hear from someone who has had experience with both types. Fuel cost will become a bigger and bigger issue and I don't like the idea of pulling excess weight. With two vans the same size and content, one on single and the other on twin, what weight difference could one expect?...just curious. Send me an email sometime if you have interest information at shameem.ali@vu.edu.au.
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Follow Up By: Wandering Wobberly - Sunday, Sep 02, 2007 at 11:55

Sunday, Sep 02, 2007 at 11:55
Hi Shameem,
A lot of what PD says is correct. It really comes down to personal preferences, as no single van of any complexion will do everything for you. We have 'vanned for 15 years and are on our 4th unit with the Windsor. EACH van did what was required of it at that time. The Windsor is our first full-height unit, but still able to go 'outback' to a good degree. Our previous Jayco Outback also did what it was designed (by us) to do from new, doing over 25,000km around the country last year alone, with full solar, satTV, additional suspension etc etc. This time we will be travelling extensively again but with 2 dogs, and need a little more space, hence the Windsor Outback, with independant suspension, solar etc. Yes, the Windsor is heavier - no it does not cost meaningfully more to tow around. Yes, a lighter unit MAY be easier in sand and mud - no, we plan extensively to visit those particular areas in appropriate weather and conditions, and with good safety and recovery gear. Similarly, our Patrol has been magnificent for us, but we know many 'Cruiser friends who are just as pleased with their units. Whatever your personal likes and decisions, I would only suggest that your 4WD tow vehicle (not AWD) be MORE THAN capable of whatever load you will have in/on it, and you plan extensively. Once again, personal preferences. Good luck! WW
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Follow Up By: shameem - Sunday, Sep 02, 2007 at 20:54

Sunday, Sep 02, 2007 at 20:54
Thanks WW, A voice of experience I see. Do you mind sending me an email. I would like to keep you as a contact in case I need some travelling advise. Always willing to learn from those who have been there and done it. You and PD seem to have clocked up a lot to Kms. You must be well averse with the dos and don'ts by now. I bet you can write a book on it. Regards, S
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Reply By: Member - Dunworkin (WA) - Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 22:20

Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 22:20
Tandem here for us as well. The advantages outway the disadvantages, well at least for us.

Cheers

D


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Reply By: Motherhen - Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 22:53

Saturday, Sep 01, 2007 at 22:53
We have needed to maneuvre out of some tight spots and have turned (3 plus point turns) with the 18' dual axle and turned in near as small a spot as the tiny single axle wind-up.

From time to time we read about caravans losing a wheel, and in one case with a single axle, it wrote off the van.

We had a 4 wheel trailer, and once we got a flat with a load of goats on board. We usually had the trailer wheels matched to the vehicle, but not on this occasion and we had no spare. Just took off the flat and continued the journey with three wheels.

As you say you are new to caravanning, before you take on the big trip, try a few short trips with different types of rigs - hire if you can.
Motherhen

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Reply By: Member - Charlie M (SA) - Sunday, Sep 02, 2007 at 00:54

Sunday, Sep 02, 2007 at 00:54
Hi
shameem
Had both single and double axle poptops, when going from single to first double had a petrol pathfinder and used a extra 2 lts per 100kms. Had a 17ft tandem Windsor wincheater that tare`s at 1100kgs. By the time you load a caravan with gear on single axle every thing will be near max weight, which asks for trouble at some stage.
Cheers
Chass
AnswerID: 259920

Reply By: MEMBER - Darian (SA) - Sunday, Sep 02, 2007 at 10:52

Sunday, Sep 02, 2007 at 10:52
According to my research on rough-road capable vans over the last year (will order something in the next 12 months) it seems that 4 wheels are better than 2, for both braking and stability (especially in the case of tyre failure). As soon as you get over a certain length and weight, the manufacturers switch to tandems anyway. If I was in that "middle" area, I'd go the tandem, because I'm a conservative, cautious old baby boomer (that's what we do :-o).
AnswerID: 259942

Follow Up By: shameem - Sunday, Sep 02, 2007 at 12:11

Sunday, Sep 02, 2007 at 12:11
Thanks Darian,
I just don't want to fall into the baby-boomer trap...bigger the better...four is better than the two! I think it's a legal requirement to go tandem after 17 feet. PeterD (above) has put forward a strong case for singles and made the point that the combined unit (type of tow vehicle, weight, etc) needs to considered. Unit stability in singles would be enhanced by the anti-sway equipment. It's always wise to listen to wisdom...but it can be confusing. Emotions may need to have a greater say than rationality!! - very un-baby boomer trait!! Must be a cultural thing with me...the older the advice source the wiser!
Regards
s
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Sunday, Sep 02, 2007 at 18:10

Sunday, Sep 02, 2007 at 18:10
Well, older meant wiser in the case of my old rooster and this topic. I thought single axle was OK when we were setting our priorities, but having had both, it was easy to see that the older one of this pair was right.
Motherhen

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Reply By: Dion - Tuesday, Sep 04, 2007 at 10:32

Tuesday, Sep 04, 2007 at 10:32
Another thing to consider with the single axle vs. tandem axle debate.
When I last lived in Sydney, there was a difference in the toll fee on some of the toll roads depending upon the axle configuration of the towed item. A single axle trailer attracted the minimum fee, same as if it was a two axle car only. A tandem trailer attracted a higher toll/fee. Once, a sympathetic (rare) toll attendent only charged me the minimum fee when I towed me 7'x4' tandem through an attended tollgate. When using an automatic toll gate, the sensors in the road do detect that I had in excess of three axles, and charged the (correct) higher fee.
In a further experiment, I removed the wheels from the front axle of the trailer and drove through the automatic toll gate, it obviously only detected one axle from the trailer and I was accordingly only charged the lower fee. However for the purpose of duping a toll gate, it is not worth the efffort in removing two wheels from your caravan.
I don't know wether this is still the case in Sydney, I have not driven on Sydney toll roads since permanately leaving there in mid 1995. I also don't know wether a similar sliding scale for tolls on towed items apply on all Sydeny toll roads, and indeed other states that have toll roads.
Now the above should not be the deciding factor on wether to purchase a single or a tandem axled caravan, but something to be prepared for if you tow on toll roads.
Can someone residing in Sydney confirm wether this is still the case. This was on a relatively new tollway (for the mid 90's) that lead West through Penrith into the Blue Mountains out of Sydney.

Cheers,
Dion.
AnswerID: 260267

Reply By: Member - Norm C (QLD) - Tuesday, Sep 04, 2007 at 20:00

Tuesday, Sep 04, 2007 at 20:00
Well, I don't have a caravan so I should not fall into the 'I have one of these so it must be best' trap. But I do have some experience with towing a variety of trailers of different sizes and configurations.

In my experience tandems are more stable to tow and have less tendency to sway. Four brakes is generally better than two. IIN a panic stop, or if a tyre is blown, I'd feel much better with four wheels.

Weight is distributed over four wheels rather than two, so less weight on each tyre. An example of this. My Hilux has a GVM of 2780. That's an average of 695 KG per wheel. The Hilux needs 112 load rated tyres (from memory). If you have a caravan with a quoted TARE of 1400KG, it is more likely to be 1500kg or more in reality (see above). Add all your stuff and you will be towing at least 1700KG and probably more. With 2 wheels, thats at least 850 KG per wheel (probably more). That's a lot of weight. I'd be looking to get that down to not more than 750KG if possible.

And finally, a dual axle caravan or trailer is much easier to load. With a single axle, load balancing can be difficult and changes during a trip can be hard to manage. For example emptying water tanks can change the tow characteristics quite a bit. This is much less of a problem with a dual axle.

Of course, there is a size point at which a dual axle will not offer enough advantages to make the cost worth while. People with more knowledge than me can debate the finer points of that one, but when I get a van, it will be around 17 or 18 ft and it will certainly be a tandem. 15 ft and below, single is probably fine, but dual still might have some advantages (I have an 8ft long 2 tonne box trailer which is tandem after all). Anything in between is a matter of judgment.
That's my view anyway.
Norm C
AnswerID: 260358

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