A beginner looking for advice on buying 1st pop top van

Submitted: Sunday, Oct 07, 2012 at 13:16
ThreadID: 98417 Views:1994 Replies:4 FollowUps:6
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We're looking at buying a new pop top van next year, which'll be our first van. It'll be mostly for my wife and I, and if one or two of the teenage sons came along, they'd bunk in an attached annexe.

Done a bit of reading and internet research on the topic, and went to Melb Leisurefest yesterday. Now we're hoping for some unbiased advice from other members.

At the moment we're looking at around 16' size, with no shwr or toilet as we'll pretty much be using it in parks as a weekend on-siter/base camp; plus we're planning some bigger trips in the next couple of years (Flinders Ranges/Birdsville Track, NT, Kimberleys, Nth Qld, etc); and 1 QS bed (not Dbl) and a back up single bed on a couch.

The pop top appeals as easier to tow, and easily kept in the car port at home.

Some questions to hand that'll refine what makes/models we start to short list are:
*Aluminium frame vs timber frame? (i'm already pretty much sold on aluminium) *What's robust enough to handle corrugated roads(e.g. Tanami Track), without going to the full on off road models.
* Single axle or double axle for safer on-road handling vs the supposed manouvreability of the single axle?

Any advice would be appreciated, both on the general specs above, and on makes to pursue further or to avoid.

Thanks, Tony.

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Reply By: Motherhen - Sunday, Oct 07, 2012 at 14:29

Sunday, Oct 07, 2012 at 14:29
Hi Tony

My best advice is to buy a second hand one cheaply, use it and see what is good and bad about it. While holidaying, look at and ask others about the rigs that appeal to you. Most go through two or three different vans before deciding they have the right one for them.

If you are considering long stretches on roads such as the Tanami, get an off road camper trailer.

I prefer tandem over single for stability and safety (eg in case of a blow-out or lost wheel).


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Follow Up By: Member - Bruce C (NSW) - Sunday, Oct 07, 2012 at 15:50

Sunday, Oct 07, 2012 at 15:50
I agree Motherhen, on all points.

Tony buying a cheap unit first up is not a problem as they hold their value so you will be able to off load when the time comes fairly easily.

Don't hesitate to walk up to anybody towing a van of the type you are interested in which passes your way. people on the road are usually only to happy to talk to interested parties and you will get "no bull" answers.
I always find it very enlightening.

Cheers, Bruce.
At home and at ease on a track that I know not and
restless and lost on a track that I know. HL.

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Follow Up By: tony h9 - Sunday, Oct 07, 2012 at 16:11

Sunday, Oct 07, 2012 at 16:11
Thks Motherhen & Bruce
FollowupID: 771942

Reply By: ozjohn0 - Sunday, Oct 07, 2012 at 15:40

Sunday, Oct 07, 2012 at 15:40
Hiya Tony,
I'm more than happy to give unbiased no B.S. advise, but don't wish to post my email address on an open forum.
You could email Oz Parks and ask them to foward an email to me so that I can reply direct to you.
Cheers, ozjohn.
AnswerID: 496262

Follow Up By: tony h9 - Sunday, Oct 07, 2012 at 16:13

Sunday, Oct 07, 2012 at 16:13
G'day OzJohn. I'll drop you a line. Cheers.
FollowupID: 771943

Reply By: Steve M1 (NSW) - Sunday, Oct 07, 2012 at 15:48

Sunday, Oct 07, 2012 at 15:48
yep, as MH said, although you'd want to be happy with your 1st van, don't stress too much because no matter what, you'll almost certainly be changing it once you get a feel for vanning and it's very difficult to know without going through the experience. For instance, we would never bother with an annexe again and we have 2 x teen boys. Use a tent for them: easier and less expensive than an annexe - they still get to use the van in other ways.

Timber/alum? Some of the very best vans on the market have either. Personal choice.

You've basically answered your own question on dual/single axle.

Don't attempt the Tanami unless the van is of Bushtracker/Kedron/Trakmaster etc standard and even then, you'll probably cop some damage esp if you aren't that experienced. The other tracks you mention, without being specific should be ok.

Regarding brands? phew...how much have you got to spend and even then it's more shades of grey than black and white. Maybe I'm wrong but I doubt you'll still have your first van for say, more than three years because you'll have discovered it's shortcomings and be looking at options and upgrades by then. You have to go through the processes of discovery through experience. Still, I'm sure there'll be plenty of recommendations. Also, try here: http://caravanersforum.com/index.php?sid=ee7c153421934edbb1ee2ac347ec36ac plenty to keep you busy.
AnswerID: 496263

Follow Up By: tony h9 - Sunday, Oct 07, 2012 at 16:22

Sunday, Oct 07, 2012 at 16:22
Thks Steve. As with the other folks offering assistance above, you've got me thinking. It seems to be consensus that your first van is a 'try out' venture, which makes the 2nd hand van purchase a good way to start out without going whole hog from the $ perspective.
FollowupID: 771945

Reply By: ed c1 - Sunday, Oct 07, 2012 at 17:37

Sunday, Oct 07, 2012 at 17:37
hi tony,,,,the other guys seem to have you covered on most of your questions,but you seem to have missed the most important item in your van and that is the fridge.
most vans have a three way fridge which is ok for the trips you have mentioned.
the thing to remember is that three way fridges have a climate rating eg.
sn = sub normal n = normal st = sub tropical t = tropical
if you like a cold beer at the end of the day dont settle for anything less than a sub tropical or tropical rated fridge or maybe a two way fridge.
a two way fridge (12v / 240v ) would require a solar panel/s plus an extra battery for bush camping
best of luck travel safe
ps half the fun is setting up your rig enjoy
AnswerID: 496270

Follow Up By: tony h9 - Sunday, Oct 07, 2012 at 19:26

Sunday, Oct 07, 2012 at 19:26
Thks Ed,

I'd only just found out that a three way fridge was 240V/12V/gas. I haven't heard about 2 way until your mention of it now. There's alot more research ahead of me I can see, including solar power and batteries.

As I've often said, a person needs a project!

FollowupID: 771950

Follow Up By: ed c1 - Sunday, Oct 07, 2012 at 19:56

Sunday, Oct 07, 2012 at 19:56
HI tony,,
yes every man should have a shed,a project, and a dream
keeps us young
travel safe
FollowupID: 771953

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