Whether you’re buying a new caravan or a second hander, there’s plenty to consider.
The time has come. You’ve finally decided to buy a caravan and hit the open road. Now for the big question: will it be a new or secondhand van? There is merit to both options, so which will it be? Let’s examine the pros and cons…
If price is of secondary concern, the choice is easy: buy new. The van will come with the full manufacturer’s warranty, while the appliances inside will be covered under warranty, too. If you’re new to caravanning, this peace of mind is particularly valuable.
Buying new also means that you’ll get the van that you actually want, the one that will best suit your needs. If you’re intending to head off-road, for example, buying new means having the correct suspension (among other gear) fitted at the factory, rather than attempting to perform expensive, fiddly and sometimes impractical retrofits.
Many manufacturers allow tweaks – or even wholesale changes – to their layouts. Perhaps you’d like more cupboard space, or you’d prefer cafe-style seating instead of an L-shaped lounge.
Again, it’s about getting it right the first time. Buy once, cry once.
Importantly, travelling the new caravan route will allow you to more closely align your wants and needs with the towing capacity of your tow vehicle. After all, every secondhand van was once purchased by someone to suit their needs and vehicle, not yours.
On the downside, a new caravan is likely to take some months – sometimes as many six – to be built. The build time will vary from one dealer/manufacturer to the next, but factor the build time into your holiday planning.
As with any secondhand purchase, buying a used van comes with risks. This is not to say it’s a horrible idea – far from it. Just do your research as you would with any secondhand item.
The negatives first. Cosmetic problems, from surface rust to peeling laminate, are easy to spot. Damage to the frame (assuming it has one), rot, poor seals, etc., can be harder to identify, especially by untrained eyes. And we all know that feeling of becoming emotionally ‘attached’ to that ‘perfect’ secondhand item, which leads us to rationalise objectively poor decisions.
So, when it comes to the quality of the used van, proceed with a hardened heart. Save the giddiness and joy until you’re sure of the van’s structural integrity and the general serviceability of all other components.
Whether you are prepared to overlook wear-and-tear components, such as the tyres and wheel bearings, comes down to your budget – can you afford to have them replaced once the van is yours?
Generally, a van that’s been taken care of will hold its value well. For example, a 12-year-old 24-footer with rear ensuite and all the trimmings could easily fetch over $40,000 on the private market. For an extra $15K (or less!), you could get into a brand new 20-footer with similar equipment. Having said that, $15K buys a lot of fuel… just understand that a mint second-hander won’t be cheap.
Price aside, the main appeal of purchasing a secondhand van is that you’ll get it immediately. It’s worth mentioning, too, that caravan dealerships around Australia are stacked with near-new vans at near-new prices that can be towed off the lot as soon as the finance paperwork clears.
If you have the means, it’s a no-brainer: go for a new van. With the right manufacturer, it will be an exciting experience.
But the RV lifestyle is open to people of all stations in life. If your budget is limited, no worries: there’s something for you on the secondhand market. Use your head instead of your heart, and you’ll find a rig that’ll give you years of happy memories.