4 Month / Half Oz Trip - Advice requested

Submitted: Thursday, Jan 12, 2012 at 13:38
ThreadID: 91180 Views:2858 Replies:9 FollowUps:11
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Sorry for the log post but my partner and I are planning for a 4 month trip around 1 half of Oz (up the centre and then either the west or east coast)

At this stage I am leaning towards a preference for the the western half.

We do not currently own a caravan or suitable towing vehicle. If we opt for the caravanning option both caravan and tow vehicle will be purchased 2nd hand solely for the trip (and a couple of weekend shakedown trips) and then sold afterwards. Caravan would be purchased with cash and the tow vehicle through finance (hoping for interest only loan options - but need to check with our Bank). Caravan & vehicle budgets at this stage are around $25k each (if I can get an interst only loan then vehicle budget could increase).

Planned departure date is early July and we are planning to stick to sealed roads between major destinations (eg if we do WA we won't be going down the Gibb River Rd) - ie no towing long distances down unsealed roads and we are not looking to typically camp off the beaten track

Also if we do WA I want to go into the Bungle Bungles but we could always hire a 4WD from Kununarra for a few days if need be.

My partner's father is a mechanic and her brother is a diesel mechanic - they have both strongly advised us against Landcruisers or Prados because they reckon they suffer too many mechanical problems when used specifically for towing (but I can't find any evidence on the net to back this up - exact opposite if anything). They are strongly pushing us to get the biggest \ heaviest vehicle we can afford for newbie caravanning safety (which makes sense). They reckon we should optimally look for a 3.0 litre TD Patrol (around '03 to '05) to give us off-road non towing options or alternatives like a BT-50. They even reckon a Territory is an option if we stick to the bitumen. My partner's biggest requirement for vehicle is comfort and she is sold on the Territory for both comfort and also that it falls inside our initial budget. Patrols seems to be mid 30's for the age range I mentioned.

In terms of the type of caravan my partner currently favours the Jayco Discovery Pop-Tops - the 16.52-2 model in particular which has an 18 foot body length. Other makes \ models are prefectly ok - its just that she like the layout of this model the most and we want a pop-top for easier towing.

There are a few items I am trying to figure out.

1) In this scenario do you guys believe purchasing a caravan and tow vehicle and then selling would be more economical then say using our normal touring car ('02 Holden Calais) and stopping in Caravan park cabins with a 2 man tent taken with us when we are in a pinch for accommodation?

2) What type of tow vehicle do you suggest? Can anyone with proper mechanical knowledge dispute the anti-Toyota stance?

3) Am I right in believing that with WA I can stay on sealed road getting between the major holiday parks?
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Reply By: Brian Purdue - Thursday, Jan 12, 2012 at 17:59

Thursday, Jan 12, 2012 at 17:59
How long is a piece of string?
The question you pose is nebulous. What are your interests? What would you like to see? What would you like to do? Bird watching? old and derelect buildings? (A fabourite of mine along with cemeteries. Historical stuff!)
You will be deluged by posts offering al sorts of suggestions. Respectfully, may I suggest you read som of the"Blogs" get some ideas and then put forward a plan. Just about everyone here has the same ideas but different approaches to the application.
I hope you have a nice holiday. LSL?
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Follow Up By: OzNjB - Friday, Jan 13, 2012 at 17:04

Friday, Jan 13, 2012 at 17:04
Yeah I know my questions were a bit open ended in a way sorry - thanks for the comments though.

We love to visit places of natural beauty primarily.

We also love to go for walks (eg looking forward to revisiting Kings Canyon etc) - we want to visit Ningaloo reef for snorkelling etc. I am trying to get into kayaking so if we find rivers, lakes etc without anything that want to eat me for lunch that would be great too.

I wasn't expecting to see any in WA but we also like to see nice architecture etc (eg beautiful old churches).

Good advice on the blogs - will start to read through some of them.

We are taking a combo of AL, LSL and unpaid leave to do the trip - we have busy jobs waiting for us when we get back.
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Reply By: Bigfish - Thursday, Jan 12, 2012 at 19:48

Thursday, Jan 12, 2012 at 19:48
Mate I spent many years working in the outback. Anyone who suggests that Toyotas are not up to the task is talking rubbish. Have a look at what the mining companies, farmers and the indigenous prefer. Toyotas. Yes , they are more expensive than a nissan. I would not use the 3.0 litre turbo nissan diesel for towing. The company I work for has about 25 of em and everyone agrees that when towing the motor struggles. The old nissan 6 cylinder turbo diesel was a ripper. Your budget should see you get a good 80 series turbo toyota or a Nissan turbo 6. The van.....well as someone said..how long is a piece of string.
You can see a huge amount of Oz from the bitumen. In areas where a 4wd is really needed why not hire, if you can? Group tours for a day or night can be organised as well. If your 02 holden is in good condition, why not spend a few bob on it say adding an oil cooler, larger radiator, thorough mechanical inspection and new tyres. Say spend $5,000 on it$30,000 on a comfortable van and spend the rest on enjoting yourselves. Put $5,000 away as an emergency fund that can be quickly accessed in case of a mishap.
At the end of your trip you still have your car ready for daily work and then you can flog the van.
Anyway good luck with whatever you do and even though you only have 4 months..DONT RUSH THE TRIP!

AnswerID: 474760

Follow Up By: Member - Tony H (touring oz) - Thursday, Jan 12, 2012 at 20:50

Thursday, Jan 12, 2012 at 20:50
Ditto to Bigfish....agree with every word!
No disrespect to your inlaws ........ But..........
Insanity doesnt run in my family.... it gallops!

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Follow Up By: OzNjB - Friday, Jan 13, 2012 at 17:12

Friday, Jan 13, 2012 at 17:12
Thanks - Calais was initially ruled out because of comments from the out-laws. They thought that distance might combined with inexperienced might be a safety \ machanical issue waiting to happen. I'll talk to them again to clarify because I do like the financial sense of it.

The Calais is the better half's pride and joy and she isn't keen to do any undue harm to it. I drive a work car that isn't an option either unfortunately. Maybe I just have to promise to cover mechnical costs for her or something

I need to speak to the out-laws about the whole Toyota issue again. The weight of evidence appears to be on your side (I simply can't find any wide spread concerns about Toyotas and from what I hear most people are towing with them!). i'll look into the models you suggested thanks.
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Reply By: MAVERICK(WA) - Thursday, Jan 12, 2012 at 20:23

Thursday, Jan 12, 2012 at 20:23
$50,000 on a vehicle and van specifically for a 4 month trip is very expensive especially as you already have a capable vehicle in the Calais. As above spend some money on getting the Calais up to scratch a bit on some camping gear and enjoy the cabins and motels and whatever. BUT - and it's a big BUT.......you need to be aware that accommodation in WA is scarce - very scarce during the dry season because of all the others doing as you are and also with the mining going on. Be prepared for that and take your time and you will get to see plenty and have a good time doing it. Some of the best value tours going are out of Alice Springs for a couple of days to the Rock for little money and also out of Darwin into Kakadu (not all that impressive unless you have a 4WD or aircraft) or Litchfield. If you go down the 4WD and van option then the lowest km 4WD and van are what you are after - if not going off the black top then the Territory is ok BUT - there it is again - be ready for some pretty impressive fuel bills especially when the SE winds get going during the dry. If you are going to get adventurous - and you will - look at the Prado, 100 or early 200 and if you can find one an 80 or 4.2 Patrol but they would need to be pretty good. The 3.0l Patrol will most probably do the job and no doubt people will tell you they have towed 50' vans for 1million kms without any problems but like some other 4WDs around you just never never know when they will go BANG - a pity as apart from the engine they are still the pick of 4WDs. I can't offer anything on vans - I do the swag bit so I guess as long as it is comfortable then that's ok. Just make sure you don't try to cram in all of WA in 4mths - you just won't do it. rgds
Slow down and relax......

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Follow Up By: OzNjB - Friday, Jan 13, 2012 at 17:18

Friday, Jan 13, 2012 at 17:18
Hmm - good point about mining - I imagine they might eat up the cabins in the mining areas. We were definitely planning to do some day tours but hadn't thought about overnighters because of the cost - but on your advice I'll look into it more.

I know the Territoty is bad on fuel but our logic is that they are more than $10k less than Patrols of similar vintage and I have assumed initially that the extra fuel bill will be around $1k - $2k.

At the end of the day I will do a proper estimate of costs for all the main scenarios including fuel bills, accom, depreciation, stamp duty etc etc etc and try to pick a winner from there.
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Reply By: Motherhen - Thursday, Jan 12, 2012 at 21:50

Thursday, Jan 12, 2012 at 21:50
Hi OzNjB

If you are expecting to be travelling in mainly fine weather, consider a canvas type camper trailer. You could get into that much cheaper than a caravan, and they are quite roomy. Then you could put the difference to the tow vehicle and maybe reduce the need for the size of loan. We have met people travelling full time with their home being their camper trailer.

Choice of vehicle depends very much where you want to go - many of the good places are accessed by dirt roads, but many can be travelled with a sedan. When we are going so far, we want the ability to get out into all the different interesting places so choose 4wd.


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Follow Up By: OzNjB - Friday, Jan 13, 2012 at 17:25

Friday, Jan 13, 2012 at 17:25
Thanks - We looked into the camper trailer options and whilst I love the thought of them for weekenders I think I would go batty after setting it up 30-40 odd times on the trip. We also ruled out the older caravans like the Jayco Expander because the canvas extensions look a bit vulnerable to getting mouldy if they get wet for too long.

We are quite happy to drive distances down graded dirt roads without the caravan if we get a Territory or virtually any road if we get a 4WD. Really nervous about doing it with a caravan because we are first timers. I personally really want a 4WD but the other half is hesitant (cost primarily)

I know we won't see everything but I am hopeful of still seeing a lot of good places and it might just tempt us to go further off the beaten track in the future.
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Friday, Jan 13, 2012 at 17:39

Friday, Jan 13, 2012 at 17:39
Hi OzNjB - While the full caravan has its advantages when setting up time comes, we have had campground neighbours show us how easy their camper is to unfold and fold. Some are just really a flip-over and little more, with an annex that can be erected for longer stays (no different to a caravan there).


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Reply By: Member - Oldbaz. NSW. - Friday, Jan 13, 2012 at 08:55

Friday, Jan 13, 2012 at 08:55
Wow, a lot of questions here. I would put a $15-20k Poptop.. behind your
Calais & go. The $$ saved will pay your costs & you wont travel more comfortably
than in the Calais. Hire a 4wd when required.
Another option is to go car only...Accom would cost less than the caravan but may
not always be freely available.
To outlay $50 k would appear to be a very expensive way to go about the trip.
Good luck with it.....oldbaz.
AnswerID: 474797

Follow Up By: OzNjB - Friday, Jan 13, 2012 at 17:27

Friday, Jan 13, 2012 at 17:27
Yeah tempting - currently we are thinking a $25k budget but have seen reasonable ones for the $20k mark that experienced a fair bit of TLC.

You are correct that a $50k outlay is a lot but I prefer to look at the final cost ant the end of the day after resale - that is what will scare or reassure me :)
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Reply By: kend88 - Friday, Jan 13, 2012 at 09:45

Friday, Jan 13, 2012 at 09:45
There are not that many places that you won't find accomadation so I would be doing it with the car you have and putting a 3 man tent in the boot for the times accomodation is a problem.
The fuel savings from not towing a van will just about pay for caravan park cabins or hotels/motels, considering it would cost you between between $25 and $35 most places for a night in a caravan park. I think 50-60% extra fuel use when towing is about average
If you were going to keep the van and use it regularly that would be different, but for occasional users tent and cabin are probably a better option.
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Follow Up By: OzNjB - Friday, Jan 13, 2012 at 17:29

Friday, Jan 13, 2012 at 17:29
True - but somone pointed out today that if we just used the calais then we wouldn't have room in the the boot for tent + everything else. If we did the non-caravan option we would still need a bigger car to take everything
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Reply By: timothy - Friday, Jan 13, 2012 at 10:47

Friday, Jan 13, 2012 at 10:47
Before you start on your big trip I'd decide if I could live with caravanning for 4 months. Hire a caravan, even if only for a week and travel with it, do some bush camping and stay in a couple of parks, living in a van is much different to living in a house. Living out of your car and staying in accomodation is also a big change, have you done this kind of thing before? I think your vehicle will depend on where you plan to go and what you plan to see, in my opinion the best bits are when you're camping as far from town as you can go.

I would be inclined to spend more on the tow vehicle than the van, and would probably buy a 4x4 and a cheaper 2nd hand van. I'd avoid finance especially if you haven't got a guarenteed job when you get back. If you decide on caravanning I'd look at a4x4 dual cab turbo diesel ute, probably a 2003-2005 Holden Rodeo or similar and a late 80s/early 90s van. This way you can spend the majority of your time with the van and use it as your base camp, if you choose to go offroad (such as into the bungle bungles) you can leave the van and just take the vehicle.

If you decide caravanning is not for you, I'd buy a 4x4 station wagon such as a turbo diesel Prado or turbo diesel dual cab ute with a canopy. This will give you plenty of covered space for your gear and the ability to go off the tar if you choose.

My wife and I decided to tour in our 20s so we bought a 1997 Jeep Cherokee and a 1985 Viscount Grand Tourer for a combined cost of $9000 in 2006 and did the big lap for 4 months in 2007 after a couple of test trip to iron out the issues. The trip cost us around $16,000 in fuel, accomodation (camping fees etc), vehicle servicing and tours, and we did about 20,000km. We ended up keeping both the Jeep and caravan as we're hoping to get out there again for more than 4 weeks at a time.
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Follow Up By: OzNjB - Friday, Jan 13, 2012 at 17:39

Friday, Jan 13, 2012 at 17:39
It will definitely be a change but we love to travel in the last 5 years we have done Europe, Canada, Thailand, Fiji & Vanuatu - some off a little off the beaten track but caravanning will be new to us and we want to see our own country.

Even though we are both very quiet people we like the social aspect of caravanning and the thought of the people we might meet.

Employment is a not a concern we have safe jobs (as safe as anyone can be nowadays) to come back to.

Holden Rodeos are definitely in the mix. If her Dad's '05 Rodeo wasn't a manual we would have asked to borrow that! We decided that as caravan newbies we should stick to autos even though we both have owned manual cars in the past.

The only thing that turns me off caravanning is the thought of communal dunnies for 4 months but I'll get over it soon enough (too many blokes in this world were never tought about aim or flushing the results of last night's vindaloo).

Appreciate the rough costs you gave me - always handy to know
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Reply By: ao767brad - Friday, Jan 13, 2012 at 11:09

Friday, Jan 13, 2012 at 11:09
We did the 1/2 lap in April-July 2011and had updated vehicle and van for the occasion but were caravaners prior and continue to use at least once a month since returning. The $50,000 is realistic if you go down that path but as others suggest what about a poptop or even camper trailer (Jayco or Goldstream style) behind the Calais. For the $25,000 budget in a recent model 4x4 you will get a Kia Sorento/Hyundai santa fe/Great Wall/Ssangyong and other less popular imports, they all go very cheap at the auctions as the resale market is fairly small, may also affect the resale when you return though. We bought a 2008 Kia Sorento diesel for $18500 at the auctions 12 months old with 35,000km that had been repossed by Commenwealth Bank. It never let us down including 5000km dirt towing and 4x4 tracks through the Flinders.

The van can certainly be done for the $25k you have, there are plenty of camper trailers and poptops in this price range with a number of new trailers around the $20k mark that would sell for close to new price on return. There are plenty of people spending a fortune but you need not to enjoy the same sights that they see (remote areas excluded). Any car/van combination in roadworthy condition can see the parts of Aust that are serviced by tar roads, the biggest thing to overcome is the putting it off til more money/time/newer car/better van and then you never go.
AnswerID: 474815

Follow Up By: OzNjB - Friday, Jan 13, 2012 at 17:42

Friday, Jan 13, 2012 at 17:42
Personally I don't mind the thought of some of those asian 4WDs \ SUVs - they might not be proven like a Landcruiser but that doesn't mean that they are bad - especially if we can afford to get one under warranty still!

Also totally agree with you last sentiment!
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Reply By: lesterb - Friday, Jan 13, 2012 at 14:12

Friday, Jan 13, 2012 at 14:12
We're about to do the same. We had a 2L 4 cyl Hyundai Tucson and a 12'9" poptop caravan and made trips from Brisbane to Adelaide, Eden, Sydney, Bundaberg, Hervey Bay and Coffs Harbour in the past 18 months. The only time it struggled on those trips was on the steep climb coming up from Goulburn to Oberon but we made it without incident.
Now we have the bug and have bought an 2003 Avan Rhys 17'3" and a 2007 Falcon Wagon LPG only. In July we intend to travel from Brisbane to Darwin, down the west coast to Perth, across the Nullabor to Adelaide and back to Brisbane via the Riverland, Hay Plain and Newell Highway.
We'll be sticking to the bitumen all the way and unfortunately leave around the same time as you so we won't be able to report on our trip before you leave.
What size van are you thinking of getting? Will the Calais tow the weight legally?
If so, why get another car if you're not going off road?
My wife does dog obedience training and trialling so we'll be taking two setters with us and entering the obedience trials at the Darwin and Perth Royal Shows and another trial in Geraldton. Can't wait for July to get here.
In the mean time we are off to Bermagui, NSW in a few weeks, again for obedience trials, for the first long stay trip with the new rig.
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Follow Up By: OzNjB - Friday, Jan 13, 2012 at 17:47

Friday, Jan 13, 2012 at 17:47
Hey maybe we will cross paths on the trip!

We are looking at something in size similar to a Jayco Discovery 16.52 (about 17.5" external length from memory) - more than enough when you don't have onboard toilet \ shower

As for the Calais - if we did go with it we would ask the out-laws to get the correct tow-pack on it and make sure it was all legal and safe. We want another car to not "hurt" her much loved car but also to get some extra weight to make towing much safer (due to our inexperience) and improve off-road optios - even a pretend car like a Terriroty has better off road capabilities with its increased clearance.

There are plenty of day trips down dirt roads we probably will want to do.

Anyway - good luck on your trip!
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