Ready to buy a new caravan? Here’s what you need to consider

new caravan guide

Travelling around the country is almost a rite of passage for many Australians, and jumping in a caravan or camper trailer is a great way to explore everything at your own pace. If you’re thinking about buying one, there are a few basics you should consider before shopping around. This handy guide covers all the essentials so you can start on the right path.

Finding the perfect caravan for your unique needs

There are so many different types of caravans to choose from, so deciding what will best suit your needs will be shaped by a number of factors:

  • Size – How many people will it accommodate? Does it need to sleep one person, a couple or a whole family?
  • Use – Will you be going on short or long trips? Are you heading off the beaten track, such as to explore the Outback? If so, you might need to consider an off-road caravan.
  • Budget – How much do you want to spend? It’s important to make a list of all the necessary amenities before you settle on a budget.
  • Type of caravan – Would you like a traditional caravan, a camper trailer, a pop-top or pop-out (the top and/or sides of the caravan can be popped out when parked for more space) – or would you prefer a complete motorhome?
  • Features – What features do you consider essentials? Do you want a shower and a toilet? Would you like additional features like air-conditioning, a washing machine or an entertainment system?

Towing – make sure you get the numbers right

It might seem like an afterthought, but if you’re heading on an extended trip away, you’ll need to ensure your vehicle is up to the task.

Check your car’s towing capacity (the maximum amount it can tow) as this can impact the size and weight of the caravan you choose.

Towing capacity varies between different types of vehicles. For example, sport utility vehicles (SUVs) have a higher capacity than smaller passenger cars. Towing capacity is provided as two figures – ‘unbraked’ (if the trailer/caravan doesn’t have brakes) and ‘braked’ (if it has brakes). It’s higher in the latter.

Also make sure you find out your car’s tow ball load (the percentage, usually in kilograms, of weight the caravan adds to the back of the car when hitched). Putting too much weight on the tow ball is not only unsafe but illegal.

You’ll find the towing capacity, tow ball load and other essential information, such as speed restrictions for driving when towing and related towing weights, in the owner’s manual or by checking with the manufacturer.

What about all the extra costs?

Have you set a budget for your new caravan? You may want to put a portion aside to cover some of the additional costs of getting your caravan on the road and for maintenance once your warranty period finishes.

Costs to consider include:

  • Registration and related expenses, like roadworthy certificates.
  • Maintenance, including annual services, and repairs.
  • Additional equipment, such as a spare battery, tyres and gas bottle.
  • Caravan and trailer insurance to keep you covered while on-the-go.
  • Storage (if required).
  • Fit-outs like bedding, towels and kitchen cookware and utensils.
  • Any accessories you may want, such as solar panels, an awning, mat, bike rack, caravan cover, security system or an antenna/satellite TV.

Doing the maths before you head to the next big caravan expo, or directly to a caravan dealer, will ensure you stay within your budget.

Registration differs according to state laws

The rules for registering a new caravan and camper trailer differ slightly between each Australian state and territory, as do the costs and requirements.

In Victoria, for example, a private-use caravan with an aggregate trailer mass (ATM)* of under 750 kilograms is registered as a light trailer. While one over 750 kilograms but less than 4,500 kilograms is registered as a vehicle.

In New South Wales, any private-use caravan or camper trailer that weighs up to 4,500 kilograms is registered as a light vehicle. Its weight dictates the cost: the bigger it is, the higher the cost of the registration.

Look into the registration requirements for caravans in your home state or territory before you shop around. That way you’ll know how the weight and size of the caravan you’re interested in may affect how much it will cost to register.

* Aggregate trailer mass (ATM) is the total loaded mass of the trailer, as recommended by the manufacturer, when hitched to the towing vehicle.

Storing it safely and securely when you’re back home

Where will you store your caravan when it’s not being used? If you’re going to park it on your property, for example, under a carport, in a garage or even out the front of the house it is important that you measure up the proposed space. This will avoid any awkward surprises like your caravan being too tall, wide or long to fit.

If you don’t have space at home, consider the cost, ease of access and security of other alternatives, such as a caravan storage facility.

 

While you’re out enjoying life, it’s important that you’re protected against loss or damage to your caravan and its contents. With CCI’s Caravan and Trailer insurance, you can set off on your adventure knowing you're covered. Find out more about our insurance policy or get a quote today.