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Written by guest author and Hudson Member Jonathan Chadwick

Photos courtesy of Caravan Industry Association Western Australia

I took my annual sojourn to the 2018 Caravan Camping Show, this time in Perth, where I was hoping to find all the latest and greatest in gadgets, vans, motorhomes and camper trailers.

Alas this past year hasn’t been the year of innovation or the advent of new players to the market, which left me slightly disappointed. 

But it was a great place to check out the RV air conditioning range – how well they worked, were they noisy, did they cool the entire van? – it was 37c outside and the best place to be was inside a van with a/c. 

I found two salesmen lounging inside a van that had the door firmly closed. “Shut the door. If you want to know anything don’t ask, it’s too bloody hot to sell vans!” was their welcoming statement. Obviously not the company owners or WA residents use to the heat.

But for those that are new to the RV industry it’s a great day out. Perfect for researching your next purchase, being able to see, touch, and explore all the different varieties of RV’s along with your favourite burger stand all in the one place, it’s a window shoppers delight. 

It beats driving all over the city to the various RV lots (why are they never all in the same suburb?) and being pestered by commission hungry salesmen. 

However, is it a good place to part with your money? 

From what I could see the ‘show’ deals on offer were OK but nothing exceptional. I came away convinced I could get the same, if not better deal by negotiation at the sales yard. Some of the giveaways looked attractive but had no real value when it came to your hip pocket. 

My tip; if there was a van or two you were attracted to at the show. Go home and do more homework on the internet, read brochures, a visit to the showroom, even the factory. 

Then if it is the ‘one’ do not hesitate in asking for the ‘show’ special price. They can hardly deny you as they have already proven they can afford to discount and throw in extras. Believe me they want the sale whatever it costs. 

Shows are not the place to make impromptu decisions about major purchases and the wrong call could live with you for a long time.

On the other-hand if you have already done all your research and narrowed it down to one or two, then the show is the perfect place to put your negotiation skills to the test. 

All the staff manning the stands are there for one reason only – to make a sale. You are in the driver’s seat so make the most of it. Pit one against the other to get the best deal possibly subject to you signing on the dotted line during the show. 

Photo courtesy of Caravan Industry Association Western Australia

And don’t forget to insist they refund your show entry fee!

What about ancillary equipment? 

They too are there to tempt you to buy on the day with a discount or added extras to sweeten the deal. 

Here’s a good tip; I took along my son and whilst I was talking to the salesperson gathering as many useful facts as I could, he was checking out the same product on the internet. He then discretely showed me the best deal he found. About 70% of the time it was cheaper to buy online, even with postage.

The added extras on offer can be appealing but do you really need them? 

A good example was the Hema GPS Navigating system (I was sorely tempted) they had just launched their latest upgrades which were impressive and in my humble opinion puts them a notch above the competition. But their ‘show’ special included a free copy of Camps 9 and a sun visor for the in-car unit. 

It all looked appealing but he had just spent ten minutes extolling the virtues of how Hema maps now includes (superimposed) all the Camp 9 free camps sites and relevant information at the tap of the screen. 

Surely this made the ‘book’ redundant. I would have thought the whole point of buying the GPS unit would be to save weight and no need to carry a large heavy book with you. 

The visor I was on the fence about, I’ve made them myself from stiff black foam for less than $2 which work just as well as the commercial version.

Back to the show

Tips on how to make it an enjoyable productive day

  • The ‘expert’ talks are always worth a visit, never too experienced to learn something new. 
  • Take a packed lunch – the food outlet prices were outrageous, feeding a family could set you back the price of a spare tyre on your new van!
  • Pack a hat, sunscreen and a note book. And an umbrella if you live in Melbourne!
  • Do your homework ‘before’ you go. That way you already know what to look for and are not blinded by the fancy lights, show specials and perfected sales pitches.
  • Most city shows include free public transport in the price of the ticket. Use it to its max. We jumped on the train and went sightseeing afterwards. The train staff had no problem with our travels as we had a valid ticket in their eyes. No parking fees, no peak hour traffic to negotiate. Can enjoy a beer or two?
  • Keep your credit card in your pocket until you have done all your homework
  • Check-list all the important things you require in your RV, attach to a clip board. This not only saves time, it also impresses the salespeople. You’ll be amazed how quickly you rule out numerous vans giving you more time to focus on the ones that suit your needs. Great tool for getting the truth from sales staff, they think you know what you are talking about!
  • Always ask if they welcome visits to the factory, even if not in your state, those that say yes have nothing to hide!
  • Take a young person with you, to do the google searches on their smart phone! You will save more than the price of their ticket and an ice cream.
  • Have fun. Poke around, open draws, swing on the cupboards, crawl underneath, grab the free hat. It’s an adult’s playground with no rules. The cheapest fun you will have for a while. 

Finally: I came away realising there is no substitute for hands on experience. I certainly knew a lot more than many of the sales people I spoke to – simply because; I live 

and travel in an RV full time and they don’t. And I’ve done my homework!

My pick of the show:

  • Avida Motorhomes and Caravans – light well-built vans with an impressive 925kg load allowance. Attention to detail and some very innovative space saving ideas.
  • Hema GPS Navigation – Everything you need to get around on and off road. Easy to use. Possibly a marriage saver when it comes to map reading
  • Caravan Weighing WA (I believe there is a similar service in QLD) They come to you to weigh your caravan, vehicle, trailers. A great service and so much easier when it comes to emptying your RV to be weighed. Peace of mind knowing you are legal or not.
  • Dometic Annex – Brilliant design, modular, fits all vans so you can take it with you when you upgrade. But best of all lightweight and value for money in comparison with other annexes. I own one and I should know. This was one product where the ‘show special’ price was a bargain.

This article is an extract from his RV Newsletter ‘Aussie Life On Wheels’ which thanks to Hudson Financial Planners, you can grab the first issue FREE by clicking this link:

Here you will find other informative ramblings, plus lots more tips, laughs and exciting places to visit in your RV. A good read.

Chad and his partner are veteran caravaners. (10 years into a 2-year trip around Australia!). Chad has spent years researching vans and equipment, knows most of the ins and outs of living on the road and how to earn a living from their van.

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