Buying From A Dealer? Here Is What You Need To Know

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Prior to entering any serious RV purchase, it’s always a good idea to have done some considerable research. There are any number of options here. In years gone by it might have just been restricted to RV magazines like Caravan World but these days, as well as magazines, the internet is a mine of information – manufacturer’s websites, associated forums, various Facebook pages and of course, pages like this one. Owner or club websites/FB pages can often be particularly revealing but be wary of taking a single persons experience as gospel!

27/4/2014. CCIA Supershow
Picture James Horan

Try before asking any questions

If a newcomer to the RV industry, then there is often the problem of not knowing what you don’t know. A great way to assist with that problem is to “try before you buy”. That can be a little more difficult with a caravan since there seem to be more motorhome rental companies that caravan ones around. That said, groups like Camplify do have private owner caravans available. However, you get hold of an RV by hiring/borrowing/whatever, it’s a great way of learning more about the RV lifestyle than any salesman can tell you. Make a note of any queries that get raised.

What about RV construction?

Asking about an RV’s construction is definitely a good idea. For many years Meranti timber was the standard framing technique but these days aluminium is quite common and even if timber is still used, then it could be interlocked ply sheeting which has been CNC cut. Not having a frame at all is becoming more common – instead, a weight saving composite body structure is used.

On-road or off-road, what’s the difference and does it matter?

Many a dealer and manufacturer offer both on and off road caravans with the same layouts. The key distinction between the two is in the chassis and suspension areas but the body construction counts for much too yet some RV’s are branded off-road with little to no difference to their road focussed siblings. Ask the dealer to quantify the differences and importantly, what the differences mean to performance and warranty.

Are towing weights important?

Caravan towing weights are a regular subject of conversation these days. Particularly where the maximum towing weights, payload and Gross Combined Mass weights are a bit marginal. Asking for a weighbridge certificate after all options are fitted and just prior to purchase is highly recommended. Don’t just accept the figures stamped on the caravan nameplate.

What payload?

Still, on weights, a good payload is essential these days. For many years, the accepted industry figures were 300kg for a single axle caravan and 400kg for a tandem axle caravan. However, I reckon these days, given what is fitted and carried in RVs, I reckon 100kg should be added to both those figures. For motorhomes, a cab chassis should have payload over 450kg. Ask your dealer what the payload is and how much is absorbed by filling tanks like fresh and grey water.

How’s the after sales back up?

Warranty matters do seem to cause grief in some cases. Making sure the warranty is fully understood, particularly on appliances within the RV, is a reassuring item. Some manufacturers have “service” requirements, always a good question to ask about, before driving away with your new purchase.


Tim van Duyl

Coming from marine publishing Tim now oversees Caravan World and Trade-a-Boat for the Adventures Group as their Senior Editor. With experience garnered from travelling the breadth and width of his home country New Zealand in all manner of ways, his mission is to see all Australia has to offer. Having already sampled Cape York, Murray-Sunset National Park, Wilsons Promontory and the bulk of Victoria’s West, he has plans to add to the small parts of WA and NT already seen. When not on the road you can find Tim passing time at lakes around Australia or in the high country camping with his close friends and family with the Murrindindi a popular spot.


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