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Things to consider when buying your first caravan

Embarking on the road with a caravan is a thrilling adventure, but for first-timers, finding the perfect caravan can be both exciting and overwhelming. There are so many makes and models that it can be confusing. 

Whether you’re dreaming of weekend getaways, epic road trips or adopting a nomadic lifestyle, making the right choice is crucial.

We understand how confusing this can be, so we’ve put together a list of a few things to consider when you’re researching and planning your first caravan purchase.


The very first thing you should do is think about the right van for you – or your family if you’re intending on taking them with you. The needs of a retired couple will be different to a young family with three kids.

Questions to think about include how many trips you’ll take, are you going to live in your van full-time or is it just for holidays? Where are you travelling to, will you be going offroad or sticking to the highways? How often are you going to use caravan parks or go free camping?

These questions will help you determine what size and what sort of van (and its included or extra accessories) you should be looking for.

For example, if you’ll be using it for weeks at a time, you’ll probably want to ensure you buy a caravan with a toilet and plenty of storage space.

Do you usually drive to a destination and stay in one spot? Or are you constantly on the move? If you’re constantly on the move, you’ll probably want to consider something more compact with minimal set-up. Do you plan to stay at caravan parks only, or do you want to take it off-road and off-grid?


This first point leads us to our second – determining your budget. Once you’ve decided what your trips are going to look like, you can start researching what types of caravans will fit your lifestyle.

Shopping with purpose is key – there’s so much to choose from so it can be quite overwhelming but try to be realistic. If your budget is $80,000, there’s no point looking at something that’s twice the price, no matter how good it is.

Familiarise yourself with what you get for your money – what different kinds of vans look like, what their layouts are and what extras you can get. It also helps to understand the difference between essentials and luxuries and decide what things you feel are things you can’t live without.

If you’re struggling with this, we suggest writing a list! Write down what your deal breakers are. These are the features that you absolutely will not settle for. Then use that list when you’re researching different vans or take it with you when you visit your preferred dealer so you don’t forget.

Other things to consider are additional costs such as maintenance (think about it like a car – it needs regular maintenance to ensure it’s running at maximum optimisation), does the brand have a national repair network and insurance.


This point is one where you need to be honest with yourself – what is your experience with towing? This is a major factor that can get overlooked in the excitement of your travel plans.

Remember, caravans are just one component of a duo, and you need both to work together.

There’s no shame in admitting that towing might make you a little nervous. At the end of the

day, it’s you who is going to have to drive with and manoeuvre it during your trip. If it does make you nervous, consider taking a towing course to learn the basics.


Now, what you’ll have to take into consideration is your towing vehicle. Do you already have one that you plan on using or will you be purchasing one when you get your van?

Ensuring a match between your caravan and tow vehicle is essential for safe and legal towing. Consider your vehicle’s capacity to handle your dream caravan’s weight. Before committing to a van, thoroughly evaluate your tow vehicle and if necessary, think about a vehicle upgrade if it’s not enough. 

You’ll most likely come across acronyms like these – Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM), Gross Trailer Mass (GTM) and Gross Combination Mass (GCM) and they might sound technical, but once you understand they’re not that scary.

GVM refers to the maximum weight a vehicle can carry, including its own mass, as well as passengers, fuel and any cargo.

GTM is the maximum weight of a fully loaded trailer (determined by the manufacturer)

which includes the weight supported by the trailer’s wheels, which is the total mass that can be safely carried by the trailer’s axle or axles.

GCM is the total weight of both the towing vehicle and its caravan when fully loaded.

You’ll also hear terms like Tare Mass (the weight of a vehicle when it’s empty or without a load) and payload, which refers to the maximum weight a vehicle can safely carry (including passengers, cargo and additional loads) and is the difference between the vehicle’s GVM and Tare Mass.  


This one of the best (and the fun one, in our opinion) ways to check out a caravan. Caravan shows are the perfect way to peruse or discover your dream van. These shows are designed exactly for you and there’s no better way to go.

It’s easy to compare loads of different caravan layouts and models.

While they can be a little overwhelming, they’re the best opportunities to see everything in the current market all in one place.