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Unless you’ve recently won the lottery, this information will be invaluable to you. 

Hopefully we’ve invested wisely with the help of a financial adviser and our money reserves are important. The last thing we want to do is throw a large chunk of it away unnecessarily. By chunk I mean $60 – 150k because that is what a new Caravan will cost, even camper trailers are creeping up in price these days, Motorhomes are into another stratosphere altogether.

So, before embarking on the house on wheels hunt, I recommend a period of reflection, some ‘RV mindfulness’, a chance to contemplate what is important. How much monthly income do you have? What would you most like to spend that on? Will it be lifestyle, activities, creature comforts, travel, sightseeing, fuel, accommodation, insurance?

Research is the key to help you answer some of these questions and CONGRATULATIONS you’ve already started that simply by reading this article.

If you are planning to buy a caravan, motorhome or camper trailer, have you considered – how many weeks of the year you envisage it being used, over how many years? None of us have a crystal ball, but you’ll have a good idea of whether it is for;

  1. annual winter getaways
  2. weekends / school holidays with the family
  3. a one-off trip around the country
  4. long term life on the road

If you ticked 1 or 2 then ask yourself can you afford to have $90,000 sitting in the driveway 8-9 months of the year? It’s a lot of money sitting there depreciating by the month. Re-sale values are depressingly low. What if you don’t like it? Life in a box on wheels is not for everyone. You cannot quickly reinvest an RV like you can shares or cash.

So, what if you were to spend say half ($45k) and invest or use the other half to enjoy life? 

I put that very question to our friends at Hudson Institute and this is what they came back with, based on investing $45,000 

  • Ultra-conservatively you can still achieve 3% p/a using term deposits so you’re talking $1,350 a year, or $112 a month extra cash.
  • Aggressive approach you put all your money into the Australian share market, over the last 30 years it’s averaged about 10% p/a, so you’d be talking $4,500 a year, or $375 a month.
  • The middle road approach, you gain exposure to all asset classes (Cash, Bonds, Shares and Property) and you’d hope to shoot for a return of 7% p/a. That would be $3,150 per annum, or $262 a month.

$262 a month can go a long way to making travel life very enjoyable. That extra spondooly would enable you to take a once in a lifetime excursion, like a flight over Mitchell Falls (Kimberley), eat out one or twice a week, enjoy good quality food and wine, a flight home to see the grandkids every now and then, the list goes on… and let’s not forget you will still own and have access to the $45,000, its not tied up in the driveway! Even if you just use the $45,000 to live off, it will keep you going very comfortably for close to two years and you will still have a very nice RV to live in.

Remember, if you initially spend too much on your rig, you might not be able to afford to use it as often as you would like. Likewise, many overspend on their van leaving themselves with very little to spend once on the road. The scenario I used is for $45k but this all applies to any amount.

Mobile living can be quite inexpensive, which is great if you are full time like myself. However; what is the point of driving long distances only to arrive at that much talked about destination and you can’t afford to do it justice? With a tight budget your dream rig just becomes a TV room on wheels, which sadly is what we see happening to many new to the caravan game, they end up confined to the park and van when all the smart travellers are out enjoying the sights or spending social evenings with new friends at restaurants or outback pubs. Which is what it is all about – right?

So, what are the alternatives?

Consider buying a smaller van or perhaps a pre-owned one, or a camper trailer instead.  Cut down on the extras (you can always buy later once on the road and then only if really needed). But sacrificing on build quality, sleeping capacity or trip frequency might not always be the wisest decision.

A huge number of preowned RV’s are less than 4 years old with all the latest trimmings at a fraction of their purchased price. When buying consider resale value, the top end ones keep their price better because they were not mass produced. Shop around before making a final decision.

Buying a caravan is really a lot of fun. You can spend hours browsing all the available options, and you’ll no doubt spend time admiring the top-end models you hope to upgrade to one-day. But if you remember these tips, you should be able to find the perfect RV that provides you with all the necessities and comforts for a price you really can afford and leave you with some dosh to spend on the good things in life.

Now get out there and start looking. 

I’ll see you somewhere, out there in the great outdoors where you can show me your pride and joy knowing we can afford to go out for a beer and a meal together!

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!) – A great read for anyone, especially those who grew up in the 70’s & 80’s it’ll bring back a lot of good memories. for Kindle for iPad and other e-books versions. for paperbacks

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