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Thinking of buying a caravan? Pitfalls #2: Size Matters

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

Everything in life is a compromise and more so when it comes to caravanning.

Most newbies to the RV market fall into the trap of comparing caravans with their homes, thinking everything you have in your house you will need in your prospective home on wheels. But if you ask experienced travellers this is far from the truth especially if you look at those on the road for long periods at a time. Invariably they have the smallest vans and the least amount of gear.

Why? Because they have learnt the hard way that the more you take the more weight and weight equals money, unnecessary costs and hassles. So, if you are a hoarder or think you need to take parts, tools and clothes to cover every possible contingency then perhaps a motorhome would suit you better. We for example have spent the last 10 years in an 18’6” van and love it.

Things to consider before rushing out to buy a new or used van. This could save you thousands of dollars (that Hudson’s will gladly invest wisely for you…) and increase your enjoyment.

The biggest change in caravan design over the past decade has been the introduction of the full ensuite, bathroom, dunny call it what you will. Consumer demand has doubled the size of bathrooms whilst reducing the living space (bringing us back to that word ‘compromise’) Which put into prospective, means that the majority of travellers are towing around 8’ x 3’ of space that they only use for 20 minutes a day!

Now ladies; you are the biggest culprits. As a mere male I cannot fathom how the female mind can justify a larger bathroom in lieu of kitchen space when you spend far more time preparing meals than getting rid of them. Check out how small, if any, preparation space is allocated to the modern caravan kitchen. And, please don’t kid yourself that this is a holiday and you won’t be doing any cooking, so you have no need for a functional kitchen.

My point being – there is only so much space inside a caravan so compromises will have to be made when it comes to layout – the bigger the bathroom the smaller the living area. The crazy part to all this – a longer van usually means an even bigger ensuite not more seating or kitchen area.  And be aware that café style seating is also a con trick. Because it is usually located over the wheel arch this means that only two persons can sit at the table, unlike the L shaped table/seating option which can sit 4 or more. It all comes down to what is important to you. 

Smaller vans are easier to tow, reverse and get into tight spots (you will encounter these numerous times in your travels) so make sure the rig suits what you want it to do. E.g. Are you likely to stay in parks more than freedom camping. Are you happy to use the excellent bathroom facilities in caravan parks or is your own a must have (which means more cleaning!). Off road bathing is limited by the amount of water you can carry, a luxury shower head eats into that supply very quickly.  

An annex will overcome living space but is only realistic if staying in one place for a fortnight or more (it takes time and effort to erect) the extra weight (up to 40kg) and where to store it are factors to consider before adding it to your list of purchases.

Consider renting a van before buying, or pop down to your local caravan park and interview caravan owners, they’re a friendly lot, to find out the pros and cons of their model, ask if there are any things they wished they knew about beforehand – all valuable information that could save you a lot of grief and make your dollars go further.

One last point: Never buy a van without a toilet! The older you get the more you will thank me for that tip!

So, ladies bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to Caravanning.

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 those over 55.

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