Caravan Buying Guide

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    Deciding which caravan is right for you

    Buying a caravan looks a lot like buying a car, but there are several key differences that you need to keep in mind. If you’re buying a caravan for the first time, you want to make sure you have all the facts before you begin. This caravan buying guide will take you through the process from start to finish and give you numerous pointers along the way.

    Whether you’re a first-time buyer or you’re upgrading an existing ride, there are a few questions you have to ask yourself before you start the process.

    • Will you be using the caravan for overnight outings, longer trips, or as a residence?
    • Will you be in off-road remote areas or sticking to caravan parks with lots of infrastructure?
    • How many people will be in the RV at a time?
    • What is the towing capacity of your current vehicle?

    Types of caravans

    Keeping the above considerations in mind, you can begin exploring the world of options for your purchase. Caravans, campers, motorhomes, and trailers might sometimes be used interchangeably, but in reality they all describe slightly different vehicles with different functions and features.

    • Classic model caravans: These are the most popular recreational vehicles on the Australian market. They are essentially a small apartment that can go on the road, and come with a bed, kitchenette, lounge area, and bathroom.
    • Pop-tops: These vehicles have similar floor plans to a classic caravan, but the main difference is their “pop-top” canvas roof that expands upward. During transport, the roof is folded up, making the vehicle easier to tow.
    • Camper trailers: These are similar to pop-tops, but are usually less expensive since they’re smaller and have simpler floor plans. They may also be able to expand outwards and not just upwards. They are great for families with kids.
    • Motorhomes: These vehicles avoid towing troubles by having the truck and trailer all in one. Motorhomes include all of the amenities from a classic caravan and usually have additional storage and living space for your enjoyment.
    • Campervans: These are typically built by removing the seats from a van and replacing them with a mattress and storage space. They are an easy and affordable way to get around, but lack kitchen or bathroom facilities.
    • Toy haulers: These vehicles go the extra mile by including a large storage space in the back that can fit a motorbike or a jetski. This way you can enjoy the full use of your smaller vehicles while on the trip, and they’ll be safer than on a flatbed.

    Caravan storage options

    • Garage or shed

      If you have your own covered space at home, that can be an easy storage solution as long as you have the sufficient clearance height.

    • Street parking

      If your local government and HOA allow you to, you could leave large vehicles parked on the street in front of your house or apartment.

    • Storage yard

      If at-home storage won’t work, you can always pay to keep the vehicle at a storage yard, but this can be pricey depending on the facility.

    Deciding between new and used caravans

    New and used caravans each have a number of advantages to offer, so when deciding, you’ll want to consider your main goals and priorities for the caravan.

    Reasons to buy a new caravan

    • Peace of mind: A new vehicle will have recently completed a full inspection and certification from both the manufacturer and the dealer. You will also get to enjoy warranty protections and robust after-sales support for any issues.

    • Custom features: When buying new, you can pick out the exact make, model, and design that you crave. You will be able to select from just about every possible option, and you can make sure that it’s exactly what you want.

    • Better technology: The latest caravans will come with the best luxury features to make your experience as pleasant as possible. However, this can be a double-edged sword: don’t overpay for unnecessary bells and whistles.

    Reasons to buy a used caravan

    • Cost savings: A used vehicle will have a substantially lower upfront price and can still be functionally similar to new models. You also face lower depreciation.

    • Beginner-friendly: If you’re new to the caravan lifestyle, it makes sense to start out with a used vehicle at a lower cost and get a feel for the experience. This way you can learn what you like and dislike before upgrading to a newer model.

    • Pre-built improvements: If you’re lucky, your used RV could come with existing modifications like water tanks, spare batteries, or GPS equipment. Make sure that any DIY engineering is soundly built and won’t cause problems later on.

    Caravan financing

    Whether you pick out a new or used caravan, this kind of vehicle can require thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. Many Australians take advantage of caravan finance opportunities in order to afford such a purchase. These are structured similarly to car loans but are specially designed with caravan needs in mind.

    There are several different personal loan programs that many buyers aren’t even aware of, so this is definitely a case where doing your research can save you a boat-load (or caravan-load) of money.

    Caravan buying checklist

    Caravaning is a wonderful pastime, but it can get expensive fast. It’s important to save up and be aware of the various costs of owning a caravan. The following list can help you stay prepared for all the expenses.

    Purchase price

    The purchase price makes up the bulk of the cost, and this varies immensely based on the size and condition of the vehicle. Remember to think about your planned purpose for the ride. Costs can range anywhere from $7,000 to past $110,000. The average new caravan costs around $80,000 while the average used caravan costs around $45,000.

    Servicing and maintenance

    Servicing costs will depend on the size and axle type of the caravan. You should take the vehicle to a specialized mechanic every 10,000 km or at least once a year. You can also perform routine maintenance on your own, like lubricating worn parts. Annual service costs start at $300 for single-axle and $400 for double-axle vehicles.

    Insurance and registration

    Insurance will vary depending on the value and condition of the vehicle, and usually ranges from $500 to $2,000 annually. Make sure to shop around to find the lowest price. Meanwhile, registration fees are primarily based on the weight of the vehicle. These vary by state, so check out our table before to see how much registration will cost you.

    StateSmaller caravansLarger caravans
    ACT$93.60 for up to 250 kg$238.10+ for over 250 kg
    NSW$0 for up to 250 kg$128.00+ for over 250 kg
    NT$103.80 for up to 200 kg$118.80+ for over 200 kg
    Qld.$152.05 for up to 1,020 kg$259.90 for over 1,020 kg
    SA$95.00 for all weights
    Tas.$89.42 for up to 500 kg$180.42 for over 500 kg
    Vic.$62.40 for all weights
    WA$6.38 per 100 kg

    Trip expenses

    Each day on the road will bring additional costs, depending on your travel style and where you are going. Having a caravan for trips means you avoid hotel prices, but there are still numerous expenses that come up. Of course, your individual travel style and personal preferences will have a big impact on the final price tag of the trip.

    Campsite space rental~$50 daily, based on amenities
    Fuel~$40 daily, based on travel distance
    Food~$50 daily, based on passenger count
    RepairsUp to $1,000 for possible emergency repairs

    Equipment costs

    The logistics of caravan travel mean that you’ll need several extra accessories: tow balls, hitch locks, extra license plates, wheel chocks, first aid kits, tow mirrors, and more. As you spend more time in the caravan, you will find other gear and equipment that you need. Over time, this can add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars.

    Renting out a caravan

    Unless you’ll be living in your caravan year-round, it will probably see a lot of downtime. Rather than having the vehicle sit empty and take up space, you could rent it out. Depending on the rental market in your area, you could earn thousands of dollars each year by partnering with an online RV rental platform similar to Airbnb or Vrbo. There are many additional advantages to having the caravan up for hire:

    Extra income Steady rental profits can help pay off the vehicle loan more quickly, and even earn you money towards your next vacation.

    Less maintenance Regular use of the caravan means you don’t have to think as much about long-term storage and protection against weathering.

    Flexibility As the owner, you can decide which weeks the vehicle will be available for rent, and plan ahead for when you want to use it yourself.

    Caravan buying guide FAQ

    Can I finance a caravan in Australia?
    Yes. There are numerous caravan financing options available, both through home lenders and vehicle lenders. The easiest way is to apply for a loan online.
    What is the average lifespan of a caravan?
    A typical caravan lasts about 14 years, so the most cost-effective age to buy would be around 5-7 years. However, well-maintained caravans can easily last 30 or 40 years.
    Can I live in a caravan permanently?
    Yes. It is legal to use a caravan as a permanent residence, but you will have to either move from place to place, or get a license in order to stay within one locality. Most people view caravans as only a temporary housing solution, but depending on your career and lifestyle, they can definitely work as a permanent living situation.

    Final tips for buying a caravan

    Buying a caravan should be an exciting process that lets you and your loved ones plan for your future adventures around the country. Using our caravan buying checklist for the purchase will make sure you’re thinking through all the important considerations. And while the cost of owning a caravan may seem daunting, remember that you can always use caravan financing to help lighten the burden.