Buying a caravan - Help!!!

Hi there,
we are about to embark on our first trip around Oz and are wanting to know if any one can recommend or advise us on the top 5 Off road caravans or advise us as to what Off road caravan is best value for money.There seems to be an overwhelming amount of information on caravans and we are hoping to narrow our search .Our tow vehicle is not an issue but maximum tow weight would be around 2 1/2 ton.
Also are there any Off road caravans that you would suggest that we stay clear of.
Look forward to hearing your replies.
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Reply By: Frances - Thursday, Apr 12, 2012 at 21:05

Thursday, Apr 12, 2012 at 21:05
That's a very hard question to answer easily! Perhaps if you tell us what your budget is because you can spend very little or you can spend as much as if you were buying a new home!
AnswerID: 482897

Follow Up By: Sue vw - Thursday, Apr 12, 2012 at 22:38

Thursday, Apr 12, 2012 at 22:38
Hi Frances,
your right its not an easy question to answer but our budget is between $60 -$80,000.
We are looking at a tandem approximately 20ft and which suspension would you suggest.

FollowupID: 758162

Reply By: racinrob - Thursday, Apr 12, 2012 at 21:55

Thursday, Apr 12, 2012 at 21:55
Just because a caravan builder calls his product "Off Road" don't take that as gospel , some of them would have trouble negotiating your driveway. There are some good makes around, Kedron, Bushtracker, Trakmaster and Supreme Getaway spring to mind as well as many other smaller builders but they all have their faults and none of them are unbreakable.
Let others tell you the ones to avoid, there are plenty of them.

AnswerID: 482906

Reply By: Motherhen - Thursday, Apr 12, 2012 at 22:35

Thursday, Apr 12, 2012 at 22:35
Hi Sue

If you are considering those vans you can confidently take on the long outback dirt roads, they will weigh more than 2.5 tonne laden. Ours weighs near that empty and it is not big and is an early very basic no frills model. If you are looking for one that can travel on well maintained rural gravel roads only, you will not need to consider a dedicated off road make.


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AnswerID: 482911

Reply By: Member - Wamuranman - Friday, Apr 13, 2012 at 06:50

Friday, Apr 13, 2012 at 06:50
HI Sue,

If you are seeking a van that is a genuine off-road one there are about 8 brands that come to mind - Kedron, Bushtracker, Sunland, Spinifex, Phoenix, ExplorEx, On the Move, and Kimberley.
However except for Kimberley all of these would have a ATM greater than you specified (2.5 tonnes).
The caravan market is a very fragmented one with approximately 195 brands of caravans and camper trailers availabe in Australia. Many will say their vans are off-road or "outback" models but the reality is many would NOT last the distance if used on heavily corrugated roads that can be relentless in the true outback.
Manufacturing techniques are changing as well - with a swing back to fibreglass becoming more common because of its inherent benefits of strength, hail resistence etc and also the use of fibreglass sandwich panels is starting to gain acceptance. These end up being lighter as no framing is required. Have a look at Gemhunter vans if you want a larger van but one that keeps the weight down.
Over the past 9 months we have researched off-road vans extensively in order to make a choice for ourselves. If you want some more personal advice please PM me.
Best of luck and happy caravanning in whatever you get.
AnswerID: 482931

Follow Up By: wendys - Friday, Apr 13, 2012 at 16:36

Friday, Apr 13, 2012 at 16:36
Also Trakmaster.
FollowupID: 758215

Reply By: The Bantam - Friday, Apr 13, 2012 at 08:05

Friday, Apr 13, 2012 at 08:05
One thing and above all.
Please DO NOT max out your towing capacity.

If you expect any sort of off road capability you need to keep well under the rated GVM of the vehicle and well under the towing capacity.

Even if you don't want to go "off road" proper, keeping well under your GVM and towing capacity, will allow respectable highway performance and far better fuel economy.

Remember the rated maximum towing capacities are just that and are in truth only fit for a short low speed trip to the local tip or boat ramp and on smooth paved surfaces.

There are any number of stories and pictures of vehicle rear chasis failures when towing off road and nowhere near rated towing capacity.

Also note that many of the currently marketed vans are designed to be the biggest thing you can possibly tow with a particular catagory of vehicle.

As has been discussed on this forum and others, many of these "big as you can" caravans have to be managed very very diligently to keep them within the legal specs

One of the first things you should look at is the ATM of the van and its tare weight.....that will give you the payload....some of these vans have less than 300Kg of payload and that disapers very quickly when you start adding accessories and putting stuff in a big van.

Then look how the specified drawbar weight of the van and the rated maximum drawbar weight of the vehicle compare.

Its not what people want to hear, but that is how it is.

What is safe, comfortable and reasonable to tow is far smaller than most people want to know.

If you want any sort of off road performance and that includes reliability from not breaking stuff, ya need to keep any vehicle to under 2/3 of its GVM and half of its towing capacity.

AnswerID: 482938

Follow Up By: Member - Redbakk (WA) - Friday, Apr 13, 2012 at 09:08

Friday, Apr 13, 2012 at 09:08
Excellent advice........also add Kedron to your list.

Going off road also means that your caravan gets covered in dirt as well (especially red dirt) and is subject to some damage and so after a while it starts to look that way.

And so you really need to ask yourself...." what do I really mean by off road?"

Some people, like myself, have an ordinary road van with what they call a "dirt pack" which while we stick mainly to the black top, it allows us to tackle some dirt sections that are reasonable AS long as you take it carefully and so we can still some "offroad" without punishing our vans too much BUT in time even this will take it's toll.

Hope this helps.

FollowupID: 758179

Reply By: Frances - Friday, Apr 13, 2012 at 09:18

Friday, Apr 13, 2012 at 09:18
Get a Kimberley Karavan. They're amazing!
AnswerID: 482957

Reply By: energy marty - Friday, Apr 13, 2012 at 09:19

Friday, Apr 13, 2012 at 09:19
Spinifex in Deception Bay (QLD) do excellent off-road caravans - but weight may be an issue.

For a lightweight true oofroad caravan try Free Spirit Caravans on the Sunshine Coast

AnswerID: 482958

Reply By: GT Campers - Friday, Apr 13, 2012 at 11:32

Friday, Apr 13, 2012 at 11:32
Hi sue vw, do you have any dirt-road or off-road driving experience?
AnswerID: 482979

Follow Up By: Sue vw - Friday, Apr 13, 2012 at 22:28

Friday, Apr 13, 2012 at 22:28
Hi GT campers,
we have a little experience with off road driving and we are planning to take it very slowly.
Sue vw
FollowupID: 758251

Reply By: Member - Lisa M (NSW) - Friday, Apr 13, 2012 at 11:42

Friday, Apr 13, 2012 at 11:42
Hi Sue

For a much lighter and more compact option, it may be worth your while to take a look at the compact units built in south africa. We have looked at the Conqueror UEV490 and the Echo4x4 Kavango, both seem good bits of gear but may be too small for you.... Just a thought.

Good luck with your looking, I'm sure you will have a fantastic trip.
AnswerID: 482982

Reply By: Grumblebum and the Dragon - Friday, Apr 13, 2012 at 13:28

Friday, Apr 13, 2012 at 13:28
For the unitiated - buying a caravan, new or secondhand is fraught with risk. You will need to look well beyond the glossy finish. You will also need to have a serious think about where you will travel and whether you will mainly use Caravan parks with the occassional overnight camping independently or whether the latter will be your normal mode of travel.

You may want to consider purchasing my CD "Planning Your First Caravan Purchase" the advert is in the classiied section.

I have owned a Bushtracker from new for over seven years and spend most of our time well off the beaten route. No problems at all. I thought at the time it was expenses but after the places we have been is is cheap.

We did the Gunbarrel Highway from Carnegie Stn in WA to Warburton through the Gibson desert. It was last graded in 1986 and is a fine test of a vans off-road performance.

The Bushtracker Hybrid-Lite may be of interest to you and would suit your tow rating I think. Have a chat to the boss Steve Gibbs aka "Cowboy"

Cheers John

AnswerID: 482990

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