Beginners' guide to buying a new or second-hand caravan
Want to give the mobile-home holiday a go? Here’s all you need to know about buying a caravan.
With the COVID-19 pulling the plug on international travel, Victorians are buying a caravan and hitting the road in search of regional and remote locations for their getaway.
Contrary to the stereotype, caravans aren’t the sole domain of so-called grey nomads – the average caravan owner in Australia is 33 years old, according to research by the Caravan Industry Association of Australia (CIAA).
With the demise of most travel restrictions (excluding Western Australia), domestic tourism is booming.
RACV Cobram resort manager Gary Hunt says caravan parks across the country, including his own by the banks of the Murray, are experiencing huge demand with an influx of bookings.
“People who traditionally might have spent money on an overseas holiday are realising that might not be possible for some time, and many are using the money to invest in a caravan that they can use for many years to come,” he says.
Even before COVID struck, registrations for recreational vehicles were at a record high.
More than 20,000 caravans are built in Melbourne annually, representing around 90 per cent of Australia’s domestic production.
The sector employs around 7,400 staff in Victoria and the boom in popularity has led to a corresponding rise in demand for jobs.
Sales on the rise
The Department of Transport says Victorian caravan registrations have increased steadily over the past three calendar years.
In 2021 there were 179,401 caravans registered in Victoria, representing an increase of 7612 from the previous year.
VicRoads also notes that a caravan can only be towed on the road if it is roadworthy and suggests owners regularly check their van to ensure critical safety features are operable, including coupling and safety chains, brakes and external lights, wheels, bearings and tyres.
For those considering buying a caravan, it is a substantial financial investment.
Prices for basic entry-level vans start at around $50,000 up to more than $120,000 for deluxe models fitted with all the comforts of home.
The demand has seen the prices of second-hand vans climb as well, with decent examples costing well over $25,000.
There’s a bewildering range of sizes, styles, layouts and construction materials on the market, so you need to do your homework.
Those wanting to take the kids for weekend trips are in the market for a totally different style of van to those who intended to tow their caravan up serious 4WD tracks, where ride height and the ability of the sides to withstand repeated scrapes from trees and bushes has to be factored in.
Here are some top tips to help you make the right choice if you’re buying your first van.