CARAVANNING

Buying a caravan? Avoid these common mistakes

A caravan is a major purchase. This advice aims to put you on the road to happiness.

The decision to purchase a caravan can be a daunting one. Like any sizeable investment, there’s a lot to consider.

And our friends at New Age caravans have seen it all over the years.

So, we put the question to the team at New Age caravans in Sydney: What are the most common mistakes people make when buying a van?

Their answers might just help you to avoid buyer regret.

It's best to have done some research before you walk through these doors.

1. Overlooking and over-researching

As with the purchase of anything where you’re armed with abundant options, it can be daunting, confusing, and tricky to settle on one product. And when it comes to buying a caravan, the pressure is amplified. It can be a costly mistake if you end up with a van that you’re not satisfied with.

Dealer advice: It is difficult researching a new caravan, as there are plenty of manufacturers and options to choose from. To simplify the process, think of it as creating your own little house on wheels and build it to suit your travel plans and camping needs.

2. Insufficient research based on the buyer’s needs

There is a fine line between over-researching and not researching enough. By focussing on one key point – your anticipated travel plans – it’s likely you’ll find that sweet spot sooner. A good starting point is to ask yourself a few key questions, such as:

  • Where are you likely to travel to?
  • How often will you likely use the caravan?
  • How many people will be travelling in the van?

Dealer advice: Avoid treating caravans with a one-size-fits-all mindset. If, for example, you are buying a family van, it’s important to consider how often the entire family would actually use it. If the answer is rarely, then you might wish to purchase a smaller or more compact caravan.

The question is - what do you want from your caravanning adventures?

3. Not understanding there’s a big difference between needs and wants

This is a common mistake made by many would-be buyers. Often what we want and what we need are different, yet it can be difficult to distinguish between the two.

Dealer advice: Just like a home, you can add to a caravan as you go. One suggestion is to browse various makes and models and consider their major features. Then, create your own list of the essentials and the like-to-haves and progress from there.

4. Being ill-informed about the purchase

When buying a caravan, you can expect to be given a truckload of opinions about the best vans, or the worst ones, and anything in between. But taking others’ opinions as gospel is fraught with danger, as they might not understand your requirements, budget constraints, and travel plans.

Dealer advice: It is a sound idea to understand how much you will be using a caravan. If it’s just 4-5 times a year in a holiday park, then a quality standard layout may be perfect. If you’re travelling months on end, then you will likely need to consider the options for semi off-road usage, along with other factors such as power and water.

Distinguishing between needs and wants is important. Nice TV, though.

5. Being too price-driven

Clearly, we all want to walk away from a purchase feeling as though we’ve landed a good deal and received value for money. But at the heart of your purchasing strategy, it is important to opt for quality over quantity.

Dealer advice: It pays to adopt a 'practicality over price point' approach. Purchase what suits within your budget, rather than simply opting for the cheapest van. Many customers make the mistake of not paying attention to detail and end up with a product they’re not entirely happy with. Just as you likely would with a home, it’s best to view the purchase of a van as a long-term investment rather than a short-term buy.

6. Lack of knowledge about weight

Tare weight, ATM weight, ball weight, GCM, GVM – what does it all mean? While you don’t need to have an encyclopedic knowledge of all things caravanning, it pays to know the key terms at least. This is particularly so when it comes to weight.

This article about caravanning terms and phrases is an excellent starting point.

Weight watchers: Are you familiar with the key terms?

7. Not considering their vehicle’s tow capacity

Following the above point, the specifications or limitations of your tow vehicle is critical to the purchase of a caravan. In short, the weight of the car must be aligned with the size of the caravan.

This is a critical safety issue and an important factor to consider whether you already have a tow vehicle or are in the market for one.

Dealer advice: When buying a vehicle for towing, it’s always a good idea to look at the caravan you are keen on purchasing and consider its tare, ball and, aggregate trailer mass weight. Once you understand the various weights of the caravan, purchasing a tow vehicle is a much smoother process.

If you already own a tow vehicle, a good caravan sales consultant should have a clear understanding of which models are able to be towed by that vehicle. Like anything, ask as many questions as you can and do your research prior to the purchase.

Happy couple: Your tow vehicle needs to marry up with your van.

8. Not researching warranty adequately

Similar to the purchase of other major products, knowing and understanding a caravan’s warranty is important. It is essential to understand the difference between warranty and service and maintenance.

A big tip is to read your warranty paperwork thoroughly. As the owner of the caravan, you are responsible for regular and proper maintenance in accordance with the warranty agreement.

Dealer advice: When purchasing a caravan it is always a good idea to understand what back up comes with your purchase. The caravan industry has plenty of manufacturers and most have a limited dealer network to service their customers. Some questions that should be asked include:

  • How many dealerships are available Australia wide?
  • How many service agents are available throughout the country? 
  • Can they provide you with a physical list of these service agents?
  • What is the warranty period of the overall product?

As an owner, you are responsible for maintenance of your home on wheels.

Hopefully this advice steers you in the right direction and helps you to become a proud caravan owner.

For all your caravanning needs, check out the New Age website

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