Family Van? I'm confused

Submitted: Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 22:35
ThreadID: 54251 Views:7977 Replies:14 FollowUps:5
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My husband and I will be travelling around oz for 1-2 years with our now 18mth old and near 3 yr old. We will be leaving in June.

We are really confused about what sort of van to buy? We have done a lot of research and changed our minds many times, and have gone from a 24ft full-size offroad chassis van with toilet/shower to a Jayco expanda-van without toilet shower and now back to considering a van but not one quite so big.

We liked the expanda vans because of the actual living space, but have heard a few people say that the canvas beds can become cold, and also you feel a little out there and insecure because there is only canvas between you and the outside world.

We obviously like the comfort of the full-size van, but don't like the fuel economy it will lack, and the places we will be able to take it, as opposed to an expanda van.

Can anyone give us any hints on how to find the right van for us? What have you used to 'house' your families on the road, and how did you finally make your decisions? Any hints on how to make a final selection would be great.

We will be towing it with an 80series Toyota landcruiser, so generally we can tow anything upto 3ton, but don't really want to
because of the fuel consumption.

Thanks in advance for your replies.
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Reply By: Notso - Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 22:43

Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 22:43

The expanda type vans are great for the room and you are right they can get cold and hot as well.

If you like something a bit more secure you can get hard sided expanding type vans other than the Jayco. I have seen them around but can't think of the name.

You will find that most "Off Road" vans are really just a standard van with "Off Road" wheels and suspensions. That is unless you invest in one of the higher end products.
AnswerID: 285677

Reply By: CumulusClimber - Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 23:13

Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 23:13

comfort versus size and weight are tradeoffs that you will need to find a happy medium. A shower/toilet van will provide some security, although you will probably escort your kids to the toilet blocks etc at that age.

Expanders do take some time to setup. Not long, but it can be a factor for some people. Some people also feel less secure in general with the canvass ends.

If your really worried about fuel consumption, then a caravan may not be the answer, as all family vans with the fruit are on the large/heavy side. I'd be giving some thought as how you will feel towing on long inclines - I'm more worried about holding everyone up than fuel consumption.

Also in some states if the caravan is over 2tons it needs brakes on all wheels and a break-away system. So perhaps you should look for vans under 2tons.

My preference would be for full van from a maker with a good reputation.
AnswerID: 285687

Follow Up By: Doggy Tease - Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 23:38

Monday, Feb 04, 2008 at 23:38
Also in some states if the caravan is over 2tons it needs brakes on all wheels and a break-away system. So perhaps you should look for vans under 2tons.

just to clarify this point.
If it weighs more than 750kg it MUST have brakes fitted
FollowupID: 550686

Reply By: Dunco (NSW) - Tuesday, Feb 05, 2008 at 00:55

Tuesday, Feb 05, 2008 at 00:55
If you can wait to have a look, and depending on where you are, the Sydney Caravan Show is on at the end of March. Sorry if you are in another State.

My opinion is that you won't need anything too big...plenty out there to look at and I would advise to go look at them in van yards and talk about each one together for pro's and con's and what you need and don't need. Once you have a bit of an idea, ask the gang here if your selected van is OK...although you will get heaps of different replies.

I travel solo and found a van with what I needed and love it !!!

AnswerID: 285700

Follow Up By: Member - Willie , Sydney. - Tuesday, Feb 05, 2008 at 07:26

Tuesday, Feb 05, 2008 at 07:26
Yes , I agree , try to keep it as small as possible .

It will put much less strain on the old Cruiser and you will be able to get into many more "out of the way" camping spots .

Often the difference between a great spot and a crummy one is 50 metres - and you can get an 18 foot in but not a giant 21 ft .

If you are thinking of staying in camping parks , this will not be a problem .

Remember , you do have the big roll out awning as well for a verandah .

Willie .
FollowupID: 550706

Reply By: Member Boroma 604 - Tuesday, Feb 05, 2008 at 01:08

Tuesday, Feb 05, 2008 at 01:08
For length of time on the road I would think carefully, a year is a long time setting up & taking down at each stop. We started off with a Pop Top in 2000 & when it came to the end of the day it became a real chore.
Disadvantages of cold & hot have been advised, also in windy conditions it can keep you awake.
We went to a Hard top (full caravan) after that, have never regretted it . Now have a 21 Ft with bathroom accross the rear centre side kithen, Pop Top was 16ft 6", next was 17ft 6in lived in for 1-1/2 years. Found 21 ft to be ideal size for us.
If you are too worried about fuel consumption I think you need to be realistic as that is the cheaper part of your venture. Think also about entrance fees to the many places you wish to see. If you go to a decent size caravan with bathroom & a couple of solar panels you can offset your fuel bill by bush camping for a few nights a week. You can always take a tent for out of the way places.

You don't mention your buying budget, but you can get some great deals by buying a good second hand unit if you look around, local paper, internet, etc. Very often people have to sell due to illness, incompatbility, (with each other), or been there done that.
If you haven't been there, Caravaners forum can be a great help, costs nothing to join & if you find something you like ask for opinions on there and you will get some very honest advice.
AnswerID: 285702

Follow Up By: Col_and_Jan - Tuesday, Feb 05, 2008 at 04:57

Tuesday, Feb 05, 2008 at 04:57
Hello Boroma604,
I have a similar sized van as yours. I was interested to know where you carry the generator. We also have the Yamaha, and carry it in the Landcruiser, but am considering different options to carry and use it. Namely on the rear bumper. The A frame is not an option mainly because of ball weight.
FollowupID: 550699

Reply By: time waster - Tuesday, Feb 05, 2008 at 09:32

Tuesday, Feb 05, 2008 at 09:32
We have done lots of traveling with the kids started with tent then cavaliar style camper with our first kid lots of small trips in it with two 6 weeks stints, great camper as would go anywhere car would,googs,big and little deserts birdsvile old gahn and so on, bad points need 2 people to set up pack up, always on display for everyone to see what you are having for tea, cold and hot, always dirty when packing up always crap on the floor of camper,clothes etc. we sold that one just before our 2 child and went for and eagle outback wind up camper and what a difference great comfort, off the ground fridge for food table inside and a couch to sit on and best of all the kids (only the older one at that stage) could sleep on the other pull out bed after making a higher kid restraint the other one was still in a porta cot but that was fine as we used to put her in the cot up on our bed with the curtains closed until we were ready for bed then we dropped the table down and put her there at the end of 06 we did a 9week trip from sa along grr,cape leveque,broome,tamani and gawler rangers with the 3month and 2year and they where fine apart from the heat, the camper in the heat was good as the roof was well insulated and had great ventilation with all the windows down it was no hotter inside than out and never found the beds out the ends to be cold.
Bad points , pain in the but for lunch stops crawling into the camper to fridge,all the roll up awnings,can't do any packing till the missus is totally finished inside because the beds push in,big canvas sides that are affected by the wind, low benches,no screen door and we were always worried about the height of the kids bed inside as it was a fair drop to the floor and near the stove .
So we have just sold that after having that for two years and now are awaiting delivery of an outback expanda 16.49-3 bad points we can see with this one is we won't be able to take as many places as we did with the other camper more fuel to tow we have to put a bigger shed at home to store, dearer to buy we have set the car up with drawers fridge and water tank so we can leave the van somewhere for a while and head off in the tent like we are doing this year we have 3 months doing the east coast leaving august and want to go to fraser and so on.Good points we are going to love, roll out side awning,can access the van at anytime as the beds fold, up NO VELCRO rip in the morning lower beds,bigger fridge, higher benches, good size couch ,screen door less mozzys, solid sides less wind affected and no more shower tent set as it has shower toilet which will be great for the two girls not having to worry about them going off to the toilets and good for the youngest as we are starting the toilet training stage and easier for mum at night to chuck em in the shower inside pull em out and put the jarmies on, and I enjoy a shower too also no boiling of water constantly on the stove as it has a hot water service.
It has an a/c also not sure how affective during the day it will be but not usually in the van in the day but should be good for at night on those hot still nights to help sleep and has a microwave bit late now as the bottle stage has gone so hope this helps was only going to give a couple of lines but once I get started oh and the two previous campers we had we bought both new and them each for two years and used them well and sold the both for more than we paid, people say jayco's crap which in some areas you think how did you get away with that but if you go from front to back when you get it and reglued all the screws to drawers and cupboards and had no probs and they hold there money.
When do you head off and which way are you going?
A link of our eagle



AnswerID: 285727

Reply By: Member Boroma 604 - Tuesday, Feb 05, 2008 at 09:33

Tuesday, Feb 05, 2008 at 09:33
Have Yamaha 2.4Kva, carry it on slideout on A frame of drawbar, Alum box is divided in centre, carry 2 4.5Kg gas bottles in right(drivers side), lift up lockable lid & vented, Generator on the near (kerb) side, side hinged lockable door.If you are worried about extra weight go to a weighbridge with caravan attached, add 32Kg or whatever size you contemplate and see how much extra is transferred to the ball, don't think it will be the total weight of the generator.
Worth a try.
Boroma 604
AnswerID: 285728

Follow Up By: Col_and_Jan - Tuesday, Feb 05, 2008 at 18:14

Tuesday, Feb 05, 2008 at 18:14
Great idea with the aluminium box. Do you have any photos of the setup, as Im very interested in doing the same. Was this supplied by Boroma?
FollowupID: 550799

Reply By: Wizard1 - Tuesday, Feb 05, 2008 at 14:25

Tuesday, Feb 05, 2008 at 14:25
"Can anyone give us any hints on how to find the right van for us?"

Only you can do that. Everyones needs and budget are different. What might have suited one person probably won't be for you.
AnswerID: 285760

Reply By: jomah - Tuesday, Feb 05, 2008 at 18:08

Tuesday, Feb 05, 2008 at 18:08
Jackie; you really need to visit a caravan show to appreciate the huge variety available. with a two year treck in mind the right choice could make all the difference in regards to how much you enjoy it and also how much it ends up costing. From what you have told me the most suitable I could imagine would be a Jayco expanda hardtop 18 foot with one queen plus twin bunks, combo shower toilet,A/C, simplicity suspension & as you say lots of room. 2000kg empty plus largest service network in Aus..All for about 43K.
AnswerID: 285797

Reply By: Himble - Tuesday, Feb 05, 2008 at 19:02

Tuesday, Feb 05, 2008 at 19:02
Hi Jackie,

As others have said, if you have the opportunity, visit a caravan show or alternately go to some caravan dealers in your area - contrary to some reports they're not ALL dumbos - you might find someone there who can help.

Do you have any friends/acquaintances who have van + toddlers? Go visit them too!! ;-)

AnswerID: 285805

Reply By: garryk - Tuesday, Feb 05, 2008 at 19:52

Tuesday, Feb 05, 2008 at 19:52
We bought a Paramount Duet , which is an expanding style van , still canvas sides but has hard lid over bed and in addition a narrow but high boot in the bed end
Had in our opinion a far better use of space than others
and tows great
Very quick to set up , just an extra step in addition to the normal unhitch , water and power , legs down , awning up ect routine
and so far we like it but early days yet

We looked at the hard side versions from
Roadstar ( good quality but poor layouts and use of space )
Roma ( good based on very limited info but we chose not to buy sight unseen )
A Van ( We hated it on sight )

Limited storage area at home was main reason we went this way

AnswerID: 285817

Follow Up By: garryk - Tuesday, Feb 05, 2008 at 19:56

Tuesday, Feb 05, 2008 at 19:56
The A-Van I mentioned in above post was the A-van Ray
not the orignal A profile rigs , they were just too small for us
FollowupID: 550816

Reply By: Trevor R (QLD) - Tuesday, Feb 05, 2008 at 21:13

Tuesday, Feb 05, 2008 at 21:13
Hi Jackie,

My wife and I lived, worked and toured in a couple of caravans for 5 or 6 years until our first son came along, then it was back to the occasional trek in the last caravan which we still have today. We chose a small pop-top type caravan to start out with as there was only two of us, then progressed to the 16'6" offroader (still pop-top) that we have had since 2000. The difference in fuel economy between the two vans has been negligible so to me this is really a non-issue. I would suggest that your van choice will depend on two situations: A) how comfortable you and your husband are at towing large rigs and B) how comfortable the passenger is in trusting the driver in taking that rig where ever it is you are going.

If you answer "not very" to either question you should look at a smaller van until you can say "very". Otherwise, I would say go as big as you want (and probably full size due to the length of trip you are embarking on) because to me, once you get over about 14ft you are out of the size of van where you can take them where camper trailers would go and you may as well get a van 20ft long as it will still go to the same places as a 16ft would go only giving you more room when you are stationary. My only suggestion would be if you intend to go "offroad" get a "real offroad" van. The suspension is critical if you intend on travelling many outback dirt roads, the better it is, the less the van is likely to shake apart but conversely the more expensive this will make the van (worth the extra initial outlay in my opinion, if you are heading in to dirt road country regularly).

Internal shower and toilet vans often get that space wasted as you often shower in amenity blocks, with children you still want the convenience of a shower on-board for when you are not in a van park. An external shower is often enough for many people and if you and hubby can live with this, it will give you plenty more room inside an equivalent size van but still give convenience when it is required.

I hope which ever way you go, you have a most memorable trip for all the right reasons.

Hope this helps in some way.
Regards, Trevor.
AnswerID: 285839

Reply By: Eric Experience - Tuesday, Feb 05, 2008 at 21:42

Tuesday, Feb 05, 2008 at 21:42
On a 2-3 year trip you will have problems with the 80 series unless it is very low k's. We have travelled for years and the only way to do it stress free is with a mobile home. Some think that mobile homes are only for old farts, its more wisdom than age that gets you into a mobile home. They cost a bit more up front but are cheaper to run than a 4x4 with a big van fuel wise but more importantly because they are built on a truck chassis you can drive for years without any repairs, that is a huge saving. If you get a unit that has walk through from the cabin you can get a drink or a hole meal without stopping, also in a situation where you don't like what is happening outside you can just drive of without having to go outside. The way the prices of mobile homes are going you can sell it for more than you payed for it when you are finished. Eric.
AnswerID: 285858

Reply By: Member Boroma 604 - Wednesday, Feb 06, 2008 at 00:04

Wednesday, Feb 06, 2008 at 00:04
Gooday Col_Jan,
Yes was done at Boroma, outside contractor, unable to give you photos at present, am in New York for another 2 weeks.
Perhaps if contact me on address in profile with contact address I can give you a couple of photos on return to Oz.
AnswerID: 285900

Reply By: swampy460 - Wednesday, Feb 06, 2008 at 03:01

Wednesday, Feb 06, 2008 at 03:01
I really cant believe that you are planning such a trip in only 4 months time and have no idea on what you want or need.

As you can see by most of the responses that the choice of vans is an evolutionary thing that can take years to get the "ideal rig".And even longer to refine what is needed to be taken on such a trip, so as not to overload your van.

Sure you can learn as you go but a few shake down trips would be advisable.

Goodluck with your choice
AnswerID: 285909

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