Your Top 5 Caravan Questions, Answered

Avleen M.
Avleen M.Published on 14 July 2020

From long weekend camping trips to living on the road, caravans let us explore the great outdoors in comfort and style. Whether you’re interested in caravans for sale or caravan hire, a luxury caravan or the ‘simple life’ type, this article will answer the top five questions you might have about investing in a new home on wheels.

What are the different types of caravans?

Jayco Expanda Pop Top

Conventional caravans: Also called traditional caravans, these are the most common, basic no frills caravans. They feature a solid roof and solid walls, neither of which can be adjusted.

Pop-top caravans: These have a roof that can be raised or lowered. When the roof is ‘popped’ up, the caravan’s interior is protected by roof walls made of vinyl or canvas. Advantages include: more space when the top is raised, aiding with ventilation when you’re in a hot or humid climate, and less weight to tow due to the lighter roof.

Off-road pop-top caravans also aren’t as tall as other off-road caravans, which helps them travel through parts of nature with a low clearance, e.g. a sandy gorge.

Pop-out or expander caravans: These have a slide-out section that houses pop-out beds or fold-out bunks. The beds can be used as seats during the day. The multi-purpose function and extra room offered by a pop-out caravan can be handy for larger families.

A pop-top-and-out caravan combines the benefits of the above two caravan types. The Jayco Expanda Pop Top range (pictured, above) fall within this caravan type.

Tent trailers: Also called pop-up campers, the top of the trailer ‘pops up’ into a tent that you set up after arriving at your destination. Since tent trailers are lighter than other caravans, you should be able to tow them using a small SUV.

Tent trailers are great for larger families with kids, as the tent can expand to sleep up to six people, sometimes more. Space wise, they’re on par with a motorhome but are much more affordable.

Camper trailers: These are similar to tent trailers, and can also equipped with a pop-top roof and extendable pop-out sections for extra sleeping capacity.

Fifth wheelers: These are the largest caravans, with generous interior space for luxury features. To tow a fifth wheeler you’ll need a sturdy towing vehicle, like a three-quarter ton pick-up truck with an Automated Safety Hitch System for safety. Not all caravan parks accept fifth wheelers, which may limit their convenience factor.

Is it a good idea to buy a caravan, or hire a caravan instead?

This is a valid question, as forking out money for a brand new caravan can be expensive - around $30K- $150K, depending on the model and features.

Caravan rental is worth considering if you’ll only be using your caravan for a couple of road trips a year. Hiring a caravan will save you money, as you won’t have to pay for overheads like caravan insurance, registration and storage fees, or for extras like caravan accessories or covers.

Renting a caravan is also a good way to ‘try before you buy.’ You can test out caravans with a wide range of different interior and exterior features, to see which ones are essential and non-essential for you.

Buying a caravan might be worth it if you spend long stretches of time on the road, or are thinking of becoming a ‘full time’ RV-er. You can customise it according to your needs, and have a caravan with a washing machine, solar panels, or an oven.

If you have your heart set on owning your very own caravan but can’t justify the cost, buying second hand can keep the dream alive. Make sure to buy from a licensed caravan dealer, to ensure title passes from the previous owner to you.

What size caravan should I get?

The most popular size of caravans in Australia is 11-24 feet (or around 3.3-7.3 metres) long. An 11 ft caravan can accommodate one person, and a 19-20 ft caravan can comfortably house a couple. A 20-24 ft caravan can sleep 6+ people, as the 20.7 ft Adria Altea 552PK for 6-7 people demonstrates. However, a luxury caravan for 2 people may also be 20-24 ft to make space for the extra features, or simply because space itself is a premium feature in a caravan.

To decide on the right caravan size for you, consider these three questions.

JB Caravan interior

How many people do you need to sleep? Do you need a family caravan or a caravan for a couple? For convenience sake, include space for regular visitors such as grandkids or your kids’ friends on school holiday trips.

What is the towing capacity of your vehicle? Your vehicle should safely and legally tow your caravan. Check the aggregate trailer mass (ATM) of a caravan - its weight when it's fully-loaded. Your vehicle’s towing capacity should be roughly equal to, or more than this mass to safely pull the caravan (towing requirements are different for unbraked trailers).

Which interior features do you want? These include amenities like a shower and toilet, handy with young children. Do you need kitchen inclusions like a fridge, microwave, or cooktop? How much storage space do you need, and would you like a lounge to relax on? You can also get a TV, Wi-Fi and AC in your caravan. Remember that the more mod cons you have, the larger your caravan will get.

Do I need an off-road caravan to travel around Australia?

JB Dirt Roader

While the thought of venturing deep into the bush with an off-road caravan is exciting, not many travellers really need an off-road model. Most Australian roads (including those in national parks) are sealed and well-maintained, making an off-road caravan unnecessary for most purposes.

An off-road caravan may be better equipped for the job if you’re going to be driving a lot on unsealed roads for hours, such as gravel or rough, corrugated tracks. Off-road caravans are made to endure these conditions, as they're built with a heavy-duty steel chassis and suspension systems to absorb road shock.

Off-road caravans are also more expensive than on-road models, and as they sit higher off the ground they face more wind resistance, making them harder to tow. There are also less off-road caravan manufacturers to choose from. If you really want to get off the beaten track but can’t afford an off-road caravan, a camper trailer is a cheaper option that’s also easier to manoeuvre.

What are the best caravans in Australia?

According to happy caravanners on ProductReview.com.au, these are the best caravans in Australia:

  1. JB Caravans Dirt Roader: Best semi off-road caravan for 2 or 4 people
  2. JB Caravans Scorpion: Best full off-road caravan for 2 or 4 people
  3. New Age Manta Ray: 16 ft Ensuite for 2 people, 19ft Ensuite Rear Door for 2 people and 22ft Bunk Ensuite for 4 people
  4. A’van Aspire Hardtop 499 Double: for 4 people
  5. Adria Altea 552PK: for 6 people

We hope this article has helped answer your most pressing questions about caravans before you dive deeper into the buying or hiring journey. They key is to customise your caravan choice to your lifestyle, travelling needs and preferences, rather than going for the most flashy model, or even buying when it would make more sense to hire a caravan instead. Happy travels! If you'd like to travel back to the caravan reviews page, click here.

About the author
Avleen is a content writer for ProductReview. Her area of expertise covers furniture and bedding, home appliances and beauty products. Outside of work she enjoys scribbling down poetry and music, reading fantasy novels, and discovering delicious vegan restaurants.