Top tips for buying a van: Part 1

By: John Mack, Photography by: David Bristow

Knowing your requirements and outlining your budget are the first steps in choosing the best rig for your intended lifestyle.

Top Tips For Buying A Van Part 1

For first-time buyers without prior experience the huge range of recreational vehicles (RVs), options and accessories can be bewilderingly large and more than a little confusing. How do you know what will suit you and where do you start?

Some serious research is needed before you get carried away with the excitement of the moment and sign up for a deal. The decision to purchase a caravan and possibly a suitable tow vehicle for your future travel will result in the outlay of a significant lump of capital so getting it right is pretty important.

Planning should start well before you visit your first RV show or caravan dealership. This will save you lots of time when you do get there and it will make the time you spend there far more productive.


Understanding your future travel preferences, or style of caravanning, is an important first step. This requires that you define, as far as you can, what you will use the caravan for. Will it be just holidays and long weekends away? Or do you intend to become full-time nomads and live on the road?

Maybe you will mainly cruise the bitumen, staying in caravan parks, or perhaps you prefer to have greater independence and stay in the more isolated and out of the way places? You might fancy a combination of the two.

What does it matter, you may ask? Well, clarifying your travel preferences will play a large part in getting the right RV in which to enjoy your travels.


Then there is the important issue of the budget to consider: how much you can afford may also have a significant effect on the sort of rig you eventually purchase. I use the words ‘eventually purchase’ for the simple reason that rushing in without doing your homework thoroughly is a good recipe for getting it wrong. And don’t forget to allocate some money for the accessories we all accumulate – good quality chairs, a folding table, tools and spares plus a barbecue, etc.

Getting what you want within the constraints of your budget can be difficult and there often has to be some level of compromise. Successful planners try to ensure that the compromises they make have the least effect on their proposed lifestyle and comfort levels.

Generally speaking, increased strength and durability equals increased cost and weight, and may mean a larger tow vehicle is required. These are all things to keep in mind during the planning phase.

If, due to budget limitations, a new unit is not possible then there are some very good second-hand vans about. However, this can add another layer of complexity to your decision-making as the whole question of wear and tear needs to be considered. You may require some professional help in checking the van and understanding the costs involved in getting the van travel-ready for a new lease of life on the road.

Understanding these basic parameters will ultimately determine the type, length and style of caravan you choose and it provides a good foundation around which to develop more detailed planning.