A Guide to Modern Towing Ep. 2: Choosing a Caravan or Camper
If you’re yet to enter the wide world of caravanning, you may be wondering whether you need caravan or camper. Before you make any purchases, you need to ask yourself about your budget, your needs, the space you have at home for storage, and how you’ll keep it secure.
- Research, Research, Research
The most important thing you can do is research! Whether this means hoping online or visiting the newsagents to pick up some magazines, it’s vital that you get to know the models on the market before you make a commitment. However, while social media and google let us do the bulk of our research without leaving the couch, we should always make an effort to visit showrooms or expos to get a feel for our favourites in person.
- Know your Weight Limits
If you aren’t planning on buying a new car at the same time, then make sure the model you’re considering buying is within the tow capacity of your car. Read through our blog on towing terms for a more in-depth discussion of what you can and can’t do when it comes to caravan and vehicle weight – it’s critical that you never exceed the weight limits set on either your van or your car, or you could be at risk of fines or accidents!
- Try Before you Buy
Take advantage of hire companies and try to spend a week away in both a caravan and a camper. This may tell you everything you need to know before you make any purchases, or at least give you a better understanding of their differences. You may find that you can live without an onboard washing machine and ensuite, and that a smaller van means lower fuel costs. Or you could spend a few nights in a wet canvas camper and decide that a caravan is worth the extra few pennies.
- Get Up Close and Personal
With so many makes and models on the market, it’s difficult to choose the one that’s right for you. It’s a great idea to spend some time looking through their internal and external storage, once you find a style you like – this will give you a good idea as to the quality of the workmanship.
- Under the Van
Generally, you will need to choose between single and double-axle models. If you travel with a fully loaded van, then a double-axle can give you the support you need. If you’re looking for a light and manoeuvrable option, a single-axle might be the better choice. You’ll also need to choose which suspension system is right for you. Leaf spring suspension is used for on-road travel, while independent set-ups, including trailing arms, coil springs and shock absorbers are used for off road travel. If you are planning on heading off the beaten track, as your manufacturer what makes their van an ‘off-road’ model. If they have simply put a heavy-duty chassis under a standard caravan, that may not do the trick.
- Setting Up
If you’re leaning toward a camper, then you need to ask yourself whether a side, rear or forward fold would be better for you. While the market used to be full of side-folds, and to a lesser extent, rear folds, forward folds have recently become far more popular. The main bed sits over the front of the trailer, reducing set up times and resulting in a smaller footprint. If you’re leaning toward a caravan, you’ll need to choose between timber or aluminium. We believe aluminium provides a far stronger frame, which is ideal whether or not you’ll be heading off-road.
- Accessorising your Van
These days, most caravans and campers come with everything you’d need as standard. This generally includes a stovetop, fridge, microwave, water heater and AC. Some even come with an ensuite and washing machine, TV, 100AH battery and awning. If you are looking for added accessories, this is generally upgrades in battery capacity, solar panels and even satellite TVs. While it’s fine to go crazy with your upgrades, keep your gross tow weight in mind, as everything quickly adds up and you could end up over your limits.
Don’t overlook warranty in the rush to get out of the showroom with your brand-new caravan or camper. If you’re buying a model interstate, make sure you’re able to service your van at home, without affecting the warranty. This is one of the biggest purchases you will make, and it’s important that you choose the model that’s right for you. Our biggest piece of advice – take your time.