New Goldstream caravan


So you've convinced the family (or did your family convince you?) that a caravan or motorhome is an excellent idea. You've started researching, you've looked at the bank balance and no doubt many of your friends have given you their 'expert advice.

Before you go any further, here are...

Questions to consider when buying an RV


1. How will I use it?

Will I go on family holiday, short trips, extended bush travels or retirement travels? Do I like to stay in one place for weeks, or do I prefer to be on the move? Do I prefer to travel light or have all the comforts of home with me?


2. Do I want to tow?

For many, towing a caravan is the default choice. However, there are other options, such as camper trailers, pop-tops and fifth wheelers. Towing does not suit everybody and a campervan or motorhome can certainly offer comfortable travel, but the travelling lifestyle will be different.


3. How much does it weigh?

A very important question to ask your dealer/manufacturer, for two reasons. In the case of towed RVs, a tow vehicle with adequate towing capacity will be needed and in the case of all RVs, an adequate load capacity is necessary. For caravans it is usually 300kg for a single-axle caravan and 400kg for tandem-axle rigs. Offroad caravans are often heavier than blacktop caravans, and items like extra water tanks have to be included in the load capacity.


4. What sort of layout do I want?

What sort of sleeping arrangements will I need, east-west, north-south, or single beds? Will I entertain visitors, or have children? If so, will extra beds be required or will folding down the dinette suffice? How do I like to cook? Do I plan to stay mostly in caravan parks? Many upmarket vans these days have a shower and toilet but that adds both weight and length and if you are planning on staying mostly in parks, then will you really need those items?


5. What sort of body structure do I need?

Some RV manufacturers offer aluminium frames, others offer timber, some have no frame with composite walls. Underneath the body, some offer a hot-dipped galvanised chassis, others offer either DuraGal or just painted. All have their advantages and disadvantages.


6. Do I really need an offroad/rough-road caravan?

Many caravans are marketed as ‘offroad’ and, although it’s been tightened up in recent times, the definition of ‘offroad’ is a bit loose. Indeed, a number would fit better into the ‘rough-road’ category, and there is nothing wrong with that. If looking for a true offroad van, many dealers and manufacturers will tell you what upgrades they do to the chassis but it’s equally important to ask about what modifications are done to the body. If considering an offroad van for the just-in-case scenario, keep in mind that there is frequently a weight penalty involved.


7. Will I really need that?

Just about all new RVs are packed with home-away-from-home features, but consider whether you’ll actually them all.


8. What will I need?

This is a slightly different question to the above. For example, if considering long-term free camping, either a three-way fridge is desirable, or else if using a 12V compressor fridge, then 12V battery capacity and solar panel capacity has to match. Most RVs come fitted with gas-fired cooktops and water heaters, but diesel-fired appliances are on the rise because they’re particularly suited to remote travel.


9. Should I buy at an RV show?

Given the number of RVs on display at any show, they can be a daunting and exciting experience for the serious buyer. Some preparation is required, especially if you are considering buying one of the show specials that are often available. I recommend two show visits. The first is your reconnaissance sweep. Take along a pen, notebook, tape measure and a small backpack for all the brochures. Go through everything you want to look at, making notes about features and prices, and then think about it all. Your second visit, a day or two later, can be a more limited but detailed look at a selection of RVs, along with serious negotiation.


10. What sort of warranty is involved?

This is a good question to ask because sometimes after-sales service isn’t always up to scratch, so it’s wise to check on where services and repairs can be performed. In the case of motorhomes, there’s the truck to consider, too, as well as warranty matters and the location of service and repair centres, especially with imported units. Guide to Campervan and motorhome hire.

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