So, you’ve decided to buy a new caravan? Congratulations! It’s such an exciting decision! So much fun, relaxation and adventure await you but first you must do the hard bit……..buy a new caravan for the right price!
We too started out as caravan virgins and learned a lot along the way. We love to share our knowledge and have compiled this simple guide to assist you in navigating your way around your caravan buying journey. If you have any questions or need anything more, please don’t hesitate to reach out in the comments section below or on our Facebook page. Good luck!
1. Allow Time. Give yourself lots and lots of time! Buying a caravan is a huge investment! Second only to your house or perhaps car! It took us 6 months to make our final decision. If you are interested, you can check out a video tour of our beautiful caravan here.
2. Do Your Research. Spend many many hours researching. I can’t stress this enough. The process of buying a caravan is like learning a whole new language.
3. Find out What’s Available and Don’t Disclose Your Budget Too Early. Ask. Ask. Ask and Ask some more! Also look through the specifications of as many different caravans as you can. Even research those that may be out of your budget as you might see some important inclusions that you hadn’t considered previously.
Ask dealers for a list of EVERY possible inclusion and consider them all carefully. Do you NEED them or simply WANT them? What will the caravan be used for? Offroad? Offgrid? Full time living? What does each particular inclusion actually mean to the overall scheme of things? Does it take up extra weight that could be utilised better? Does it exceed your budget? Will everything cater to your needs?
The dealer will likely offer you the ‘base’ model price to keep their quote as low as possible. You may however, be disappointed to find out AFTER the build that had you opted for a different type of suspension (that was slightly out of your budget so wasn’t even offered to you) your payload would have been significantly higher! Who knows? You may have been able to ‘adjust’ your budget slightly but now you’re stuck with a much lower payload and there’s nothing you can do about it. So, rather than disclosing your budget from the very beginning, simply ask, what are ALL my options?
4. Go to Caravan Shows for Research Purposes Only. We highly recommend going to a Caravan Show (or 2 or 3) in order to assist you in your research! Visit every stand and use the sales people’s expertise to your advantage. Ask questions, ask for quotes, even if you do not yet intend to buy (which you don’t!!)
Also, remember, these people are sales experts! They will say and do anything to get their commission so stay strong, smile politely and say, “Thank you for the information, you have given me a lot to think about, I will not be making my final decision today, I’ll contact you if I need to.” As mentioned, they will try again to win you over with promises of bonus “show only” extras and “today only” offers but STAY STRONG, I can almost guarantee that what they can offer you today will still be on the table tomorrow! I repeat…….DO NOT buy a caravan at a caravan show (unless you have done a hell of a lot of research and negotiation first). Read more about our experiences at caravan shows in our article here.
5. Make a Wish List. Once you have considered every possible inclusion and modification it’s time to make a detailed “wish list”. This can include everything from caravan layout, to suspension type to fridge size.
6. Set a Budget. You will soon notice that almost each and every item on your wish list will cost you more $$. Want a separate toilet and shower? $$ Want a full oven? $$ Want independent suspension? $$ Want a curtain dividing the bedrooms? $$. Once you set your budget you may have to go back and revise your wish list but at least you’ll be aware of all of your options and not regret leaving anything important out.
7. Read Reviews. Check out as many online reviews as possible and even consider consulting the controversial Lemon List! Read both the positive AND negative reviews with an open mind. Does the author have genuine evidence and experience or are they simply disgruntled, high maintenance, hard to please customers? You can come to your own conclusions but learning from others’ negative experiences may potentially help you avoid buying a lemon!
8. Study Used Vans. Regularly check the second hand market. Set up an alert feature on a couple of popular caravan selling sites such as www.caravansales.com.au or Facebook Marketplace. Choose a couple of your most important items to use as a keyword for your search, i.e. triple bunks, year 2018+. Then check your inbox to see what’s on offer. This will also help you to get an idea of the potential resale value of your new van. Some brands are renowned for holding their value better than others if your plan is to resell it after a set time.
9. Make a Shortlist. Even if you think you’ve decided on the brand you want to buy, select 2 or maybe 3 comparable brands / dealers. Give each of the dealers your finalised wish list. Get a detailed quote from each. Now you can compare apples to apples. Who can satisfy your full wish list and come in under budget? Who can offer you bonus inclusions? Who is easiest to deal with? Who do you trust the most? Who offers the best after service / warranty? Who has the best quality product?
10. Negotiate. Once you’ve received your initial quotes, email a counter offer, something like; “Thanks so much for getting back to me so quickly. I am very conscious of my budget and unfortunately this is slightly out of my range. Are you able to reduce the quote to $??,??? (Choose a reasonable amount you are happy with)”. See what each dealer comes back with. They may meet you half way or offer some extra inclusions.
Once you have decided on your brand, use the other quote/s as leverage for further negotiations! i.e. Thanks again for getting back to me. I really like what “yourbrand” has to offer but as you know I am keen to make the best value deal. “Competitorbrand” has offered me a deal of $??,??? with all of my desired inclusions. Would you be able to match or better still, beat this offer?
Don’t feel guilty about asking for discounts or even extras thrown in like Smart TVs, diesel heaters or BBQS. Remember, the dealer will not sell it to you if they are not making a reasonable profit margin! Business means business!
Feel free to send as many negotiation emails or make as many phonecalls as it takes to make sure you’re 100% happy with the deal. It is a very big investment after all.
11. Be Sure. Read through all the terms and conditions. Ask questions about warranties. Ask questions about deposits. Ask questions about inclusions. Ask questions about build times. Ask questions about everything! Be 100% sure of what you are getting for your dollars before you sign the final contract.
Now all that’s left to do is pay the deposit and wait for your new van to be built.
12. Inspect. Make sure you stay in touch with the dealer and do a few inspections of your new van before the big hand over day. Make a list of things (big or small) that you expect to be rectified before your final payment. Again, this will ensure no unexpected surprises on pick up day!!
13. Enjoy. Congrats! The hard part is over! Time to test out your new home on wheels! *Hot tip* Make sure your first few trips are reasonably close to home in case you find some warranty issues that need sorting out. Here’s to many years of caravanning bliss! Now, go and explore this beautiful country of ours!