To the uninitiated or the inexperienced, it’s a dizzying decision. With so much to choose from how do you know what is right for rig for you?
The most important aspect of choosing a rig is that you feel safe and comfortable driving it. If you have never towed a caravan, be aware that it takes a bit of getting used to. Vans with single axles are easier to maneuver than those with double axles – but there are caravan towing classes available that can help you develop your skills. Some of the larger motorhomes and converted buses (those that weigh more than 4.5 tonnes) require drivers to obtain a ‘LR (light rigid truck)’license. To get one, you’ll need to log a certain amount of hours with an accredited instructor – but you may not need to take a driving test.
Luxury rigs come with luxury price tags and today’s top-of-the-range RVs can set you back hundreds of thousands of dollars … which, of course, is fine if you’ve got it. Don’t torture yourself looking at rigs you can’t afford. Sit down with a calculator, do your sums and then, when you’ve dried your tears, see if you dig out one of the kids’ old tents!
A giant motorhome or converted bus is going to consume a lot more fuel than a compact little campervan. As a very rough guide, a diesel-engined motorhome weighing 4-5 tonnes typically consumes 12-14 litres/100 km (at 70-80 km/h). An average diesel-engined 4WD wagon towing a caravan consumes roughly 17 litres/100 km; the equivalent petrol 4WD and caravan consumes roughly 22 litres/100 km. It’s just one consideration but it should at least be factored into your decision.
While the bigger rigs may generally cost more to keep on the road, they do usually give you more space and comfort. It’s a trade-off. Just how much space and comfort is needed is a personal choice. How important is it to you that you have an onboard toilet and shower? How much storage space do you need? There is no right or wrong when it comes to space and comfort … it is just what is right for you and what you are prepared to pay for it.
Again, to some people, being able to get to those out-of-the-way bush camps, or into ‘inaccessible’ national parks is exactly what a trip is all about. To others, it’s sitting in a van park meeting others and not worrying about getting punctures. If you think you may want to go off-road, just remember having an off-road vehicle is only part of the equation. Take the time and trouble to learn some basic off-road skills and some basic maintenance.
Different rig set-ups offer different levels of mobility. The classic argument normally centers around the larger motorhomes. If you have just set up camp you don’t always want to start up the beast just to pop down the road to get a loaf of bread and a carton of milk … and anyway there’ll be nowhere to park it! You may choose to tow a small 4WD or similar behind but that again limits your mobility, makes reversing more difficult and so it goes on. Conversely, a lot of people just don’t want to tow anything at all and find pulling a van along limits where they can go. But then if you get a campervan you’ve got no space or comfort.