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With the Caravan & Camping show season about to commence many of you will be thinking of getting into this great outdoor lifestyle, or perhaps wanting to upgrade your van. All hoping to find the perfect rig at the best price at the show. 

Before you get to the point of temptation you will need to know what to look for in a caravan. What will suit your needs, not what the manufactures want you to buy.

Hopefully this article will help answer many of the questions about ‘what you think you need’ and ‘what you really need’.

The number 1 asked question I’m asked: “Do I really need an off-road caravan to travel around Australia?’

Obviously, there are many factors to consider but for most of us the short answer is NO!

Which may come as a shock to some readers. There will always be a few consumers who really need an off-road van, but generally these types of vans are not required for most travellers.

Off-Road Caravans have several disadvantages not considered by the uninitiated buyer.

Let me clarify.

Firstly; RV manufacturers nearly all offer an off-road version in their range. These are there due to demand, not necessity. Perception is half the problem.

Apart from the coast, Australia is 80% Outback. This conjures up a perception that once you leave the cities things get very rough and tough and you are going to need a van that will tackle these conditions.

The reality is, we are like any other first world country have good roads, regional towns have everything you need, and our National Parks are some of the best on the planet. You can access most of this great country in a car – ask any visiting overseas backpacker!

So, what do you really need in a Caravan?

Questions you need to ask yourself. (be brutally honest and put aside dreaming for a moment) 

  • Will I be wanting to drive for long hours on rough corrugated tracks?  E.g. Tanami Desert, Birdsville Track, Great Central Road, Gibb River Road to name but a few?
  • Do you like far away places with very little of interest other than the challenge of getting there? 
  • Are you willing to take a brand new $90,000+ dollar van down very rough unsealed roads with the potential to do damage to car and van?
  • Do you have enough money to pay for the extra fuel consumption?
  • What type of tow vehicle do you own? 
  • Are you going to have to buy a new 4×4 to match the off-road caravan? A very expensive exercise especially if you won’t be using it to its max.
  • Do you have a high garage or car port to store a tall off-road van?
  • Is climbing into a van OK. Would you prefer a small step up?

I’ve seen so many off-road vans on the road looking far more immaculate than ours, having never been down more than an access road. Some being towed behind totally unsuitable vehicles for a rough track. 

So, I ask myself, what is the point of owning one if you are never going to use it for its intended purpose.

Most retirees will head off around Australia travelling along the well-worn tourist routes visiting the ‘must see’ sights and have a fantastic time without owning an off-road RV.

The last thing you need is a great big rig behind you that is sucking the dollars out of your wallet faster than the house contents in a tornado. 

To be Off-Road capable vans have to have a much higher ground clearance which in turn subjects them to greater wind resistance than a lower on-road van. 

Headwinds are our nemesis and they will always blow hardest from the direction you wish to travel to!

When it comes to visiting coastal cattle stations (mainly in WA) and popular freedom camps that have gravel access roads you will not miss out because you don’t own an off-road van.

For short distances on gravel, even very corrugated roads, you simply let your tyres down and take it easy and you will get there with no problems or damage. 

There are not many places we haven’t been in our decade of discovery – and we do not own an off-road van.

Yes, there will always be a few instances where you wish you had a van capable of taking you down some of the unsealed roads to those unique places. 

The Gulf country Savannah Way comes to mind. And we would have loved to have done the Gibb River Road and the Cape York Highway but at what cost? 

The latest Off-Road Caravans can handle these tracks easily, they have superb suspension (which is what you are paying for). However; is your car up to it? Are you up to it? 

Corrugated roads, especially bad ones, can impose a lot of stress and strain on a non-upgraded 4×4 vehicle, not to mention the driver and passenger taking a pounding hour after hour. I’ve met many a traveller whose off-road caravan has done the job, but their car failed miserably. Road side rescues are expensive in remote areas.  

Eva has massaged many a weary traveller who has just come off an outback track or corrugated highway. Their caravan showing no signs of wear but their bodies needing some serious TLC.

A normal Australian built caravan will take you to 90% of the best places in OZ, no problem. 

They are lighter, cheaper, lower (less wind resistance) and easier to tow. Can be towed behind smaller SUV’s and larger road cars (E.g. Commodore). Be sure to match your rig to the tow vehicle whatever you end up buying. They are also easier to store at home.

Generally, there is no difference inside. All vans are alike. It’s the souped up under carriage that is makes it an off-road van.

Remember; If you don’t have an Off-Road set up you can easily take a guided tour to the more remote areas. No risk to your vehicle or RV, guaranteed to see all the best spots and it will save you money in the long run. 

Take a leash to the caravan show…

Ladies…it’s the men who are the problem. 

They are the ones who get excited when they first see the off-road vans on offer. The beefed up, butch image has a tendency for Hubby’s common sense and rational thinking to leave his body. At this point clip on the leash and gently lead him away.

In conclusion; I am all for off-road vans for those who genuinely wish to get off the beaten track (myself included) but they are not really needed by the majority of travellers. If you really want to go bush, then a camper trailer may be a better option.

Buy wisely.  Then invest what you save with Hudsons.


RV Guru

PS: This article is an extract from Chad’s monthly RV Newsletter ‘Aussie Life On Wheels’ which, thanks to Hudson Financial Planners, you can grab a copy FREE of charge by clicking this link:

An entertaining read and a useful tool for all Caravan & Motorhome owners and would be owners. It’s free!

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