THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO CARAVAN TYPES IN AUSTRALIA
When it comes to choosing a caravan, you’ve got a lot to choose from. This can be quite confusing, especially if you’re purchasing your first van.
In this report, we’re going to break down all the features and benefits of each type of caravan. This will allow you to quickly weigh each one up and narrow down your search for the perfect camping vehicle for you and your travelling companions.
Let’s explore the different types of caravans available in Australia today.
1. The Classic Caravan
This is the basic caravan that consists of four solid walls and a full height roof. It comes in many different sizes, measured by its length. It may have 1 or 2 axles depending on how long it is.
Most classic or conventional caravans will have all the features that you need to enjoy the outdoor experience without compromising on comfort.
Here are the major benefits of a classic caravan:
-The van is easy to set up once you reach your destination. All you have to do is unhitch it from your car and make sure it’s level and stable. Then, just walk inside and you’ll have everything at your fingertips.
-If your caravan is self-contained and has its own power, toilet and shower, you can stop just about anywhere for a night or two. This is great for when you’re going on an extended trip and you’re too tired to drive any further.
-This caravan will ensure that you’re warm and dry, no matter the weather. Most modern caravans come with reverse cycle air conditioning for cooling in summer and heating in winter.
-Most modern caravans have enough storage space for all the little things you want to take along.
-You’ll have ample cooking facilities with the indoor kitchen and some vans even have the addition of a pull-out camp kitchen. Plus, you’ll have a fridge whether it’s compact or full size.
-Classic caravans designed for couples will have a double or queen bed which you can make up before you head off. Then, when it’s time to stop and turn in for the night, you just have to crawl into the bed and get a great night’s sleep. These vans may also have a table and seats that you can convert into an extra bed if you have guests (or you and your partner have had an argument!).
-Family caravans will also have a double or queen bed. Plus, they’ll have bunks for the kids. Most family vans will comfortably sleep up to 5 people.
-A lot of modern vans also have a separate toilet and shower. This makes them totally self-contained with included water tanks.
-The cooking appliances are usually run on gas as is the fridge. The gas bottles have their own brackets on the front A frame. This makes it easy to access them when you need to swap one for a refill. You’ll also find that most caravan fridges are dual-power. This means you can run the fridge on either gas or electricity.
-You’ll also find modern caravans that have solar panels on the roof and their own battery bank. This allows you to use electrical appliances even if you’re not staying in a caravan park with powered sites.
-Most modern vans also have wind-out awnings where you can sit and enjoy the great outdoors with your camp chairs or a picnic blanket.
-To finish off your home-away-from-home, most vans also have a TV, microwave and stereo so you can enjoy all the entertainment you want while you’re travelling.
An off-road caravan allows you to travel on roads that are not accessible to normal vans. These off-roaders have extra suspension features and a higher chassis. Plus, they have large off-road tyres that can handle the rough conditions that you might encounter on the roads in the outback.
Here are the benefits of an off-road caravan:
-Off-road caravans have all the above benefits of a classic caravan but so much more.
-These vans have a minimum 6 inch chassis whereas classic caravans have a 4 inch one.
-Off-road vans also have at least 16 inch heavy-duty off road wheels and tyres.
-In addition, the suspension is much tougher, to handle all the uneven road surfaces you’re going to encounter when you go off-road.
Pop Top Caravans
Pop top caravans are very similar to classic caravans except the roof is not full-height until you pop it up. This lower profile makes the van more aerodynamic when you’re towing it.
In addition to most of the benefits of a classic van, pop tops have the following additional benefits:
-They are generally lighter in overall weight.
-A pop top van is said to be easier to tow because of the aerodynamic quality. However, most modern classic caravans are now as aerodynamic as pop tops.
-Because a pop top caravan is not as high as a classic caravan, it might be easier to store.
Disadvantages of a pop top compared to a classic caravan:
-It takes extra time to set up because you have to pop up the vinyl roof.
-Because the roof is vinyl and incorporates fly screens, you may not feel as protected from the elements as you would in a classic caravan.
-A pop top will generally have less storage space than a classic caravan.
Pop out caravans are similar to pop tops except instead of the roof popping up, the beds actually pop out usually at the front or back. On these vans, the roof is full height and solid. The idea is to create extra space within the van while keeping the silhouette slightly smaller for easy towing.
Major benefits of pop out caravans include:
-Additional space inside the van because the beds are on the outside.
-These are ideal for families due to the extra space.
Disadvantages of pop out caravans:
A pop out van takes a little longer to set up when you reach your destination. You have to pop out the beds and make them up each time you stop.
Combination Pop Top And Out Caravans
This combination caravan has both a pop up roof and pop out beds. This makes the unit very compact for towing without comprising on space once it’s set up.
Major benefits of combination caravans:
-This is a very compact unit that is easy to tow and also easier to store.
-Although the van is quite small when packed up, there’s a lot of room once the roof is extended and the beds are popped out.
Disadvantages of combination caravans:
-These vans do take longer to set up. You have to first pop up the roof and then pop out the beds. This could be a little cumbersome if you’re tired after driving and exploring all day.
-Because of its compact size, this type of caravan does have limited storage capacity when it’s packed up.
Wind Up Caravans
Wind up caravans have a very low profile for ease of towing. They have solid sides about half way up and then a canvas tent-like structure that extends above these walls. Therefore, they’re like a caravan and tent in one.
Benefits of wind up caravans:
-Their low profile makes them very easy to tow and store away when not in use.
-They’re a compact unit that offers quite a decent amount of space when fully set up.
Disadvantages of wind up caravans:
-These vans do take a little more time to set up. Therefore, they’re not ideal for just 1 night stays. Plus, you can’t stop for lunch somewhere along the way and go into the van without setting it up first.
-There is very limited storage inside the van when it’s folded down, so it’s not the most practical solution for large families.
Teardrop campers are tiny, lightweight vans that are basically a bed-on-wheels. These are great for singles and couples who just want something light and easy to tow. In most teardrop campers available today, the sleeping area is inside the hard walls of the camper and the cooking facilities either roll out from the back or the sides. Therefore, you can sleep while well-protected from the elements but you’ll have to do all your cooking outdoors.
Some of the benefits of teardrop campers:
-These vans are small and lightweight. This makes them extremely easy to tow, even with just a normal car or small 4-wheel drive.
-You’re protected from inclement weather or insects while you’re sleeping inside the van. Therefore, these campers offer more comfort than just pitching a tent.
-A teardrop camper can be a more affordable option for those people who just want to get away occasionally without forking out for a large caravan and a suitable tow vehicle.
-These campers are also easy to store in a garage or carport because they don’t take up a lot of space.
Disadvantages of teardrop campers:
-Due to their small size, they’re not really suitable for families.
-You do have to do all your cooking outside. This might not be ideal when it’s raining.
-There’s also limited storage space so you can’t take a lot of gear with you if you’re going away for an extended period of time.
-These campers also don’t have any bathroom facilities so they’re not self-contained for free camping.
Camper trailers might be a good starting point for those people who don’t mind roughing it a bit while they’re saving up to buy a full-sized caravan. They’re basically a tent on top of a trailer. Camper trailers are very similar to wind up caravans except the base is a solid-sided trailer instead of a cut-down caravan chassis.
Some benefits of camper trailers:
-Camper trailers are fairly inexpensive to buy compared to a full-size caravan.
-These campers are easy to tow. This makes them ideal if you have a smaller car. If your car is capable of towing a trailer, it should handle one of these campers adequately.
-Some camper trailers even have built-in kitchens and different storage compartments.
-The bed is usually situated inside the trailer section. This makes it more comfortable than sleeping on the ground inside a tent. Plus, it means you’re unlikely to get flooded out if it rains.
-Once the tent is folded out and set up, it can give you plenty of additional living space.
-Camper trailers are also very easy to store when not in use.
Disadvantages of camper trailers:
-Camper trailers take a while to set up once you reach your destination. Therefore, they’re more suited to holidays where you intend to stay in the same spot for a few nights.
-You’ll find that there is less storage space in a camper trailer than in a conventional caravan.
-Most camper trailers don’t have bathroom facilities so they’re not ideal for free camping.
Campervans are mini motorhomes. Most campervans are regular vans that have been converted internally to offer a comfortable living space. They’ll have a bed at the back suitable for up to two people, a seating area and a mini kitchen. Most campervans in Australia are not large enough to have their own bathroom facilities, though.
Major benefits of campervans:
-You have your own home on wheels to take with you wherever you go.
-There’s no need for a separate tow vehicle such as you need with a caravan.
-A campervan allows you to go virtually anywhere a car can go.
-It’s quick and easy to just step into the driver’s seat and take off if you have to.
-If your campervan is self-contained, you can take advantage of any free camp spots you come across in your travels.
-There’s no need to unhitch the van when you want to stop after a long day’s driving.
-Campervans are ideal for long trips because there’s no set up required when you stop for the night.
-Parking is far easier and more accessible than if you have a larger motorhome or are towing a caravan.
Disadvantages of campervans:
-You have to take your ‘home’ with you when you want to go sightseeing or just to do some light shopping. This requires you to be extra tidy constantly so you’re not constantly having to put things away before driving off.
-You’re very confined if you’re not travelling alone. Campervans are not large in size, so you have to get used to being in a confined space.
-A lot of campervans don’t have bathroom facilities. This makes it difficult to free camp if you want to.
As the name suggests, toy haulers have additional features that allow you to take all your favourite ‘toys’ with you when you go travelling. These caravans are equipped with additional platforms or decks that can accommodate things such as motorbikes, jet skis, mountain bikes, kayaks and even a tinny.
Some advantages of toy haulers:
-Toy haulers usually have an extra platform on the back that is either attached separately or folds down much like a tailgate on a truck. This allows you to easily access things like motorbikes that are stored in the back ‘garage’. You can also use the platform as a party deck for relaxing on when the weather is good.
-A lot of toy haulers also have a method for you to secure items to the roof such as kayaks.
-Other smaller toy haulers may have special bars on the A frame that you can secure bikes to.
Disadvantages of toy haulers:
Toy haulers tend to be larger and heavier than conventional caravans. Therefore, your tow vehicle must be able to handle the extra weight.
Fifth wheelers are one of the largest caravans available in Australia. Because of their size and method of attachment, they normally require a large 4-wheel drive ute or small truck to tow them. They attach to the back of the motor vehicle in the same way that a semi-trailer attaches to a semi-cab.
Some fifth wheelers are even equipped with fold out sections for beds and seating areas. They’re the ultimate in luxury travelling but come with a hefty price tag. It’s almost like towing your home behind your truck.
Some benefits of fifth wheelers:
-Fifth wheelers are huge and offer many of the comforts of home including full-size furniture.
-They offer lots of internal space and are great for large families.
-Set up is quick and easy. All you have to do is unhitch the tow vehicle.
-Fifth wheelers are incredibly stable on the road as there’s no draw bar and the attachment is directly above the tow vehicle’s back axle. This means that the tow vehicle carries around 25% of the weight of the caravan.
-Most fifth wheelers available here in Australia are designed to be towed by a large ute.
Disadvantages of fifth wheelers:
-You need to ensure that you have the correct tow vehicle to be able to tow this van safely. Quite often, this requires an investment in a large 4-wheel drive ute.
-Due to their size, you may come across some problems with certain caravan parks as they may not be able to accommodate you.
-Although fifth wheelers are overall easier to park than caravans, it might be difficult to find a large enough parking space if you want to stop for some supplies during your travels.
A motorhome is a true home on wheels. It has all the space and conveniences of a classic caravan but you don’t need a separate vehicle to tow it. This is one of the major appeal for many people travelling around Australia but it’s also the greatest drawback of a motorhome.
Anytime you want to go sightseeing or just need to pick something up from the shop, you have to take your ‘home’ with you. Some people have overcome this by towing a small vehicle behind the motorhome but this defeats the purpose of not having to tow at all.
In general, motorhomes are favoured by older couples and even singles, especially women, due to not having to tow anything. Plus, if there’s every any trouble where you’re camping, you can just climb into the driver’s seat and drive away without actually leaving the vehicle.
Major benefits of motorhomes:
-There’s no need for a second vehicle because your car and home is all-in-one.
-Motorhomes generally come with all the modern conveniences such as a toilet and shower plus a very workable kitchen. Some even have full-sized fridges.
-Most motorhomes can be driven just on a standard car license and are easy to drive and park.
-These vehicles are self-contained so that you can stop just about anywhere for the night.
-A lot of motorhomes have solar panels on the roof and a battery bank. That means that you don’t need electricity to run your appliances when you’re camped.
Disadvantages of motorhomes:
If you want to go somewhere near your camp spot, you have to take your ‘home’ with you. This means you might lose your spot if you’re free camping. You’ll also have to pack up your awning and your outdoor furniture and unpack it again when you get back.
Now that you know all the different types of caravans available in Australia, it should make it easier for you to select the option that is best for you. This will depend on the size of your family, how far you want to travel, what size vehicle you have and how often you’ll be using your van.
It’s a good idea to make a list of what features are most important to you before you make your final choice. Then, look at each of the different options and choose the one that you’re going be the most comfortable in for your travels.