Buying a caravan is a big decision. Whether it is a new or used caravan it is likely to be one of the larger investment decisions you will make in your lifetime.  It can be a very daunting purchase as there are many factors to consider. It can be a steep learning curve, so we have put together some helpful tips to consider when purchasing a caravan.

1. What is the Gross Combination Mass (GCM) of your tow vehicle?

The GCM vehicle rating is a good place to start when looking to purchase a caravan. This figure will set the maximum combined weight of vehicle, caravan and luggage, etc.

Many later model vehicles have 6000kg+ GCM these days, but if your towing vehicle is older you may find this figure is significantly lower. This may mean you look for smaller and lighter caravans or look to upgrade the towing vehicle first.

2. Size really does matter. What size caravan do you need?

A small pop up caravan may be the perfect solution if you are single and like to live outside.

If you have just retired and plan to travel a lot then having a slightly bigger caravan will give you more home comforts, but not too large as to keep the towing easy.

If you have a larger family then opting for a more sizable caravan with extra bunks may be the best plan. Keep in mind though, the bigger the caravan the harder it will be to manoeuvre and it will be heavier and cost more to tow as well.

3. Do you need an off-road caravan, a semi- off-road caravan or planning to stick to sealed bitumen roads only in your travel adventures?

This is very much a personal decision with each family and what they intend to do with their caravan.

A family with young children may prefer the comforts that caravan parks offer including BBQ areas and lovely play areas for the kids. If you are planning to travel only a few times a year, within  a few hours from home, and stay for a week or two at a time on school holidays to unwind with the family, then choosing an on-road caravan could be a good option to meet your needs.

If you plan to travel further afield and take in most of Australia, which will mean travelling some dirt highways and a creek crossing or three then you may require a semi-off-road caravan with better suspension to handle the extra stresses for that type of use.

A full-off-road caravan will have the best suspension, better quality chassis, and improved under and side protection. This equates to extra dollars and also extra weight of the caravan. If you are not planning to use the caravan for off-road adventures do you really need to spend the extra money and tow the extra weight around?

4. How many people will be travelling in the caravan?

Who will you be travelling with most of the time? How many people are in this travel party? If you are young and single it may be you and a friend or two escaping on awesome adventures together. If you are recently retired you could be planning to hit the road with your partner in crime. You may be a young couple planning to start a family, or already have children and looking at quality family time away together in the future. Or you might be travelling solo, but with your fur-babies.

The number of people in your travel party will help to decide the inside layout of the caravan. Teenagers and older kids may prefer to sleep in an awning attached to the caravan. Younger children may be better in bunks or using fold up tables for the beds and play areas. If you experience terrible weather while on holiday you want to ensure that you have space to live and be comfortable if you are all inside.

5. What size caravan do you need to live comfortably?

Are you planning to live in the caravan permanently, travelling or staying put? If so bigger may be better to have plenty of storage, separate shower/toilet, comfortable seating, etc. But are you planning to spend most of the time in the caravan itself or outside? You may prefer the fresh air and spending a lot of time in the awning attached to the caravan. You might use the awning for cooking, eating and relaxing and just using the caravan for sleeping and showering.

The caravan length may limit the places to stay and also restrict access to get to some locations. The shorter the length of the caravan, the easier it is to tow and manoeuvre. Space utilization is amazing in caravans these days. You don’t need to have a huge caravan to still have the comforts you want when away from home.

If you are planning to escape in your caravan only a few times a year, then the smaller caravan may be the best option. It will be less expensive to purchase, cheaper to tow, easier to manoeuvre and still give you the escape that you want with a lot less stress involved.

6. Research, research, research! Ask lots of questions.

Caravan shows are a good starting point to being your research. Have a good idea of what you are looking for in a caravan before you go or it will end up being a very overwhelming day. If you have a good idea of key points you are looking for you can skip a lot of caravans that do not meet that criteria. Visiting a caravan show lets you see and feel the caravan in person. It allows you to step inside and then you can see if it feels comfortable or claustrophobic. This is a good way to have a short list of preferred sizes, brands and models.

Armchair research using the internet can be good to look for reviews and recommendations. Join social media groups and ask for their suggestions.

Ask lots of questions at caravan shows, on social media groups, to dealers and private sellers. Don’t rely on your memory, keep notes that you can refer back to.

Buying a caravan is a substantial investment decision and shouldn’t be rushed.

7. Where are you likely to be staying when travelling?

Do you prefer the comfort of caravan parks or prefer to free camp? Maybe a combination of both?

It is more expensive and can be difficult to retrofit things after a caravan is built, so you want to ensure the caravan you purchase has the things you need and want installed.

If you only plan to stay in caravan parks where you can hook up to water and power then you need only a basic set up. The weight and price of the caravan will be less than caravans set up for off the grid living.

If you plan on having the odd night between caravan park destinations then you need to consider a toilet, fresh water tank, grey water tank, battery system and charging setup.

If you plan to be off-grid for days at a time then you need a more serious set up. Large water tanks, battery bank and solar set up, shower and toilet, rubbish bins, inverter to power appliances (many areas have now banned generators). Having a set up like this will mean a larger caravan, a heavier caravan and a more expensive caravan.

8. What will the caravan be used for?

Will it be used as your travelling home or just for some short holidays throughout the year?

The answer to this question will help answer questions about the storage space needed, size and type of fridge, water capacity, filtration, shower over the toilet or separate shower, washing machine, bed configuration, heating and/or air-conditioning, cooking inside or outside and what appliances and utensils needed.

9. Questions to ask the seller (dealer or private)

When you have started looking at specific caravans you should ask questions before purchasing.

  • How old is the caravan?
  • How often has it been used?
  • What trips has it been on?
  • Where has it been stored when not in use?
  • Can you see a record of caravan history and maintenance?
  • When was caravan last serviced?
  • Do you know of any problems that need fixing?

10. When looking to purchase a caravan check the following.

  • Exterior – If the exterior is poorly maintained it is likely to lead to expensive problems in the future. Check for leaks, large scrapes, damage to walls. If you notice any that caravan may have been in an accident or not maintained and cared for properly.
  • Interior – Check the corresponding part of the caravan interior if you found any issues with the exterior check. Take your time and use all bodily senses. It is better to find problems or potential issues now – use this to negotiate needed repairs in the purchase price.

FreezeTec can look over a caravan before purchase to advise you of any potential problems and work that may be required in the future.

11. Finally, take the caravan out for a tow test.

To see how the caravan is going to perform on the road you need to take it out for a test drive. This is best done behind the vehicle you will be using to tow the caravan. It is a very important final test in purchasing a caravan. During the test drive you may feel or see issues that you could not detect while the caravan was static.

Found the perfect caravan, what’s next?

Hopefully, you have found these tips useful when looking for your perfect caravan.

If you like in SE QLD bring it into FreezeTec for a complete service or any repairs before your head off on your first adventure.

And if you do need some extras added to complete the caravan we can help you create the caravan you have dreamed of.