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Thinking of buying a caravan? Caravan Pitfalls #1

Written by guest author and Hudson member J.D. Chadwick

You’ve fallen in love with the bathroom, that’s the size of a small country, complete with washing machine and enough storage space for all contingencies. Next is the trip to Spotlight to pick out cushions and bedspreads. Hubby crawls underneath to check out the sexy independent suspension – you are getting excited this is ticking all the boxes and looks like it could be your dream rig… “where do we sign?”


Not yet. You still have some serious research to do before you leap into what is going to be a major investment for most of us. You want it to be perfect, one that is going to give you many years of enjoyment and hassle-free travel.

You researched and then made a wise decision to have Hudson Financial Planning handle your investments, so take the same approach before making large purchases like an RV.

It always amazes me that prospective caravan purchasers all choose their vans purely from aesthetics, superficial enticements, things perceived as important but are in fact just eye candy to the uninitiated. They are there to Wow you. Do you really need all those extras? Is size important? And what is the number one thing to test out before buying any caravan, motorhome or RV?

There is one thing that all long-term travellers have in common, something you should consider when looking at vans – apart from motorhome owners, they nearly all tow smaller rigs (17 – 20ft). Why? Because we have all learnt that you do not need all the temptations on offer to really enjoy travelling this vast continent, in fact a big van becomes a hindrance and too many extras translates  too much weight (our nemesis) – but that’s a story for another day. 

So, what is #1 on your check list?  Something I have never seen written about or discussed and yet it could make or break your enjoyment and comfort – The Bed, more importantly the Mattress.

You will spend more time inside your van asleep than awake so doesn’t it make sense to do some serious mattress testing before you part with your hard-earned dosh. Do a test run, take one home, enquire how and who makes the mattress supplied. A quick lie down will tell you very little. Check underneath, feel the quality, ask questions, because when it comes time to christen your van its only then that you realise the bed is not as comfortable as first thought and that maybe that suspension upgrade package would have been a good idea!

Things to consider: What do you sleep on at home? Can this be replicated in a van? 

  • Foam is hot and cheap – It doesn’t breathe and it generates extra heat so if you are a hot sleeper it may not be for you. It can also produce condensation which will lead to mould. 
  • Natural fibres breathe and do not produce condensation especially in the tropics. 
  • Internal Coil Sprung mattresses are more expensive but last longer, are cooler to sleep on and generally a lot more comfortable and come in a range of firmness.
  • A Queen is not a Queen. They are usually smaller than household bed sizes resulting in tall hubby sticking out the end and you can guess where his cold feet are going to end up, that’s right…on your side. Will your linen fit snugly?
  • Pulling the mattress out at night is not ideal, check to see if it reduces the walking space around your bed as this may impede that night time trip to your flash new ensuite.
  • Is the base slatted or a solid piece? Slats let air flow and reduce moisture. They also give and act as a type of sprung suspension adding to your bedtime comfort.

But don’t be put off purchasing your dream van if the mattress is not up to scratch. You have options:

  • Negotiate for a better quality one to be included 
  • Supply your own (there are several good manufacturers that custom make caravan mattresses to your specifications.)

The life expectancy for a mattress is 5-8 years depending on use. So, if looking at a used van / RV factor in the cost of a new mattress for hygiene & peace of mind. It will be a good investment.

If you are considering forking out $60 – 90,000 you want it to be perfect, not full of off the shelf items that keep manufacturing costs down. Alas mattresses often come under this category.

So, please do your homework especially when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, well rested campers are less likely to get divorced the next morning when that stressful period comes – hitching up for the first time!

Happy travels

J.D. Chadwick 

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. ‘Author of ‘Deckers, Punters and Dead Ants!’ – (Around the world in a Double Decker bus!). – Now Available on Amazon. A great read for anyone, especially for those over 55.

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