Consumers in the market for a caravan or motorhome can be forgiven for feeling somewhat bewildered by the mind-boggling array of rigs that are now on offer.
Happily for the indecisive amongst us, the choice is narrowed down by the fact that we can’t afford a lot of what is out there! But while that Rupert Murdoch-friendly super-luxury motorhome may be just out of financial reach this year, you may be pleasantly surprised by how much bang you can get for your buck … if you shop wisely.
The starting point for any successful shopping expedition is to sit down and work out exactly what your budget is, and what your needs are. Ensure you make a list of all the features you definitely need, what features you would like to have but could live without, and the features you definitely don’t want. A bargain isn’t a bargain if you’re paying for things you don’t require … however cheap they may be. Do you really need that solar power system and massive water tank capacity if you’re going to spend all of your time at powered sites in caravan parks?
Judy and Darcy R from New South Wales bought their 6.02 metre Coromal caravan about 12 months ago to replace their trusty camper trailer.
“Our budget was $35,000 and our main requirement was that the van had a toilet and shower,” says Judy. “But it certainly wasn’t as easy as we thought to find what we wanted, and we quickly realised we were going to have to spend more than we had planned to.”
Indeed, after negotiating with a dealer in Nerang, the couple ended up paying $45,000 for their van … $10,000 more than they had wanted to but still a full $5000 less than the advertised price.
The couple’s experience shows the importance of setting realistic purchasing goals in the first place, of being flexible … and that it pays to negotiate!
After several trips in their new van, Judy and Darcy couldn’t be happier with their choice.
“As well as the toilet and shower – which we weren’t prepared to compromise on – we’ve also got a microwave, a conventional oven and a washing machine,” says Judy. “The van was quite difficult to find, but it was definitely worth the search.”
Another lesson to be learned then is that you must be prepared to spend time and energy shopping around.
These days, more and more people are looking to the internet as a way of casting their net further in search of a bargain. Websites such as eBay certainly do have the potential to make your rig quest a lot easier but commonsense rules apply and some customers are simply not comfortable making such an important purchase in this way.
Most budget-conscious wannabe travellers will, however, want to have a close look at the second-hand caravan and motorhome market. In the case of caravans, there is no need to worry about an engine that might go wrong so it less risky than buying a second-hand car, for example. However, there is also no odometer to tell you how many times the old van has been around Australia so you will have to judge by appearance, condition and the perceived honesty of the seller. It goes without saying that you should check for water leakages inside, the tyres, suspension and the condition of the appliances.
Good places to look for second-hand vans are the local paper, the Trading Post, online, and at dealerships. There are a number of ways customers can make their money go further. Most dealerships will be prepared to negotiate with the customer. “And it is important for consumers to remember that there’s more to it than just getting the price down … they can probably get a better deal by getting more accessories/features for their money as there is a greater margin for negotiation with these things.
While many people bring in an old van to trade against the cost of a new van, cash buyers will always get better value than trade-in customers. Some experts says a rig shouldn’t be judged by the price alone – warranties and service are an important aspect. Most new caravans have manufacturer’s warranties and second-hand caravans, if purchased through a dealership, will normally have a dealer’s warranty.
Of course, research is absolutely key when you are about to spend possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars. Get out into van parks and have a chat with people who are effectively test-driving the sort of rig you are after. There’s no better way of finding out what a given van or motorhome is really like to travel in … and what features may be surplus to your requirements. Similarly, most vans and motorhomes now have their own owner’s groups. Make contact with them and get some feedback about the particular make and model that you are considering buying.
You also want to ensure you get to as many dealerships as you can. Get a feel for the layout you want, the features you think you need, and the approximate cost. Caravan and motorhome shows are other great places to learn about the market and, if you are at the stage where you are ready to buy, show models are sometimes sold off at a good price.
If you time your purchase right, you may also find dealerships sell off the previous year’s stock more cheaply than the incoming new vehicles.
Do your homework, do your sums and do your negotiating … and you should get yourself a rig that will suit both your needs and your budget. Just think of all the wonderful holidays you will have, the wonderful people you will meet, and the wonderful memories you will accumulate. Buying a caravan or motorhome has got to be one of the soundest investments you will ever make.