If you're thinking of buying a caravan, here's what to look for.

For anyone who’s ever thought of hitting the road and touring Australia (that’s us too!) this guest article by Alex Hamilton is going to help you find your ideal type of caravan.

Like us you’ve probably asked yourself questions like: “What sort of caravan should I buy?” or “What is the best touring caravan?” or “Which is the best make of caravan to buy?” and overall, “Which is the very best caravan to buy,” for our individual needs and requirements.

Then if you’re anything like us, you’ve looked around a bit and become confused. 

Read on, as Alex explains how to find your ideal caravan type …

Buying a Caravan? Here’s what to look for.

How to find the right caravan
Pic supplied by Alex Hamilton

Ready to buy a caravan and hit the open road, or head off-road, but don’t know the difference between a pop top and an eco-tourer? Here’s a handy guide on modern caravan types, key features and typical buyers to help you choose.

Types of Caravan

There are many types of caravan but there are four which are most common.

Deciding on the shape and size when looking to buy a caravan is the most important factor to ensure you get a van that suits your travelling style.

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Full Height Caravan

How to find your ideal caravan type
Pic supplied by Alex Hamilton

Full height caravans are the most common form of caravan. The full-sized design allows for substantial living space, room for all utilities and plenty of storage room. Full height caravans are completely insulated, helped by rigid design which allows for better temperature control.

They are usually one of the more expensive options, however, they are also one of the most popular due to their range of features. They’re great for people going on long trips  who want to have space and comfort. Due to their weight and size, they will also cost more to tow due to fuel consumption and are often harder to navigate around small caravan parks.


Pop-tops are shorter than their full height caravan counterparts, however can be extended to reach a similar height. These caravans have better aerodynamics due to their reduced height and are therefore also easier to store in garages or underground car bays.

Pop-tops come in both a PVC (flexible material) or rigid (folding panels) form. As they are not completely insulated, outside temperatures and sounds are more noticeable.


These caravans are more compact. Due to their aerodynamics, they are great for long distance travel with reduced fuel consumption while still providing a nearly full sized living area when set-up. One of the biggest downfalls is the lack of storage space during travel.


how to find your ideal caravan type
Pic supplied by Alex Hamilton

Teardrop caravans have a slim teardrop-like design for maximum aerodynamics. They are often made from a lightweight but rigid material to provide a strong exterior. They are a favourite with budget travellers due to their cheap and compact nature.

The biggest downside is that there isn’t really a living space, rather just enough room for a bed and some storage space. A lot of owners will look to customise the outside of their caravan to include annexes and additional storage space.

Common Caravan Categories

When deciding which caravan to buy, considerations may include price, size, off-road capabilities and so on. Most caravan specialists sort their caravans into categories to make it easier for you to decide which caravan to buy. Here are some of the common categories.


Luxury caravans are the top of the range and usually attract the largest price. Many models offer extra living space with an adaptable layout. Luxury models may also include add-ons as standard. Features can include:

  • Solar panels
  • Generator
  • Wi Fi capability
  • Premium appliances


Family caravans are the ideal choice for parents with young children or teens. These caravans offer a reasonably sized social/living area as well as extra beds to fit the whole family. One way caravan manufacturers fit a whole family is by using inter-changeable furniture and slimline bunk beds for the children.

Caravans in the family friendly category are also likely to include a:

  • Washing machine
  • Dishwasher
  • Separate ensuite
  • Large TV

Rugged Off-Road

If you’re planning to explore hard to access country roads, then a rugged off-road caravan is the way to go. These sturdy vans are well equipped to handle the rough roads you’ll likely encounter in your travels.

It’s important to purchase an off-road caravan to match the terrain you’re likely to encounter. Key features you may need include:

  • Premium off-road tyres
  • Increased ground clearance
  • Sturdy exterior
  • Off-road suspension


This category covers caravans that have the latest innovative features. It’s one of the most unique categories as caravan manufacturers create new and different features to add value to their products. Innovative features may include:

  • Technologically advanced appliances
  • Stylish design
  • Exceptional quality
  • Unique layout


Economy caravans are usually standard models with a lower price than other vans. They are ideal for first-time caravan buyers or occasional travellers. Even with a lower price range, economy caravans should still have basic features and offer value for money.

What Type of Buyer Are You?

Heading off on a long-term vacation, taking the kids on a short holiday or planning to live in your van for a long period, whatever your stage in life, it’s important to find the right caravan with features to suit your purpose.

Here’s some typical buyer examples and suggestions of their preferred van types.

  • Grey Nomad

Chasing the warmer weather or simply exploring the country in retirement, grey nomads may consider their caravan a home-away-from-home and often opt for greater creature comforts and quality features. Typical van choices for grey nomads may be luxury, eco-tourer or full height caravans.

  • Family Adventurer

Buyers with young families looking to discover the country or head off-road for fishing and hiking adventures fall into this category. A typical van choice would be an off-road, full height caravan.

  • Family Vacationer

Buyers with teens or older family members who travel occasionally fit this category. They appreciate extra space and may want technology features to keep the teens entertained. Typical van choices would include luxury or add on features and full height or pop top models. They are unlikely to head off road or away from caravan parks without access to a portable generator.

  • Youthful Explorer

Young couples or solo travellers either vacationing or working their way around the country fit this category. They want an economical way to travel with features to suit. Typical choices may include innovative features in a teardrop style caravan or alternatively an economy van.

  • Budget Buyer

While all van buyers are mindful of budget, this category of buyer is especially frugal and looking for value for money. They will opt for standard features in an economy or pop-top caravan.

Author Bio

This article is written by Alex Hamilton, who recommends Lewis RV – A West Australian distributor of quality new and used caravans, parts and accessories. You can find Alex on Google+.

ZigaZag Website is an affiliate of other sites offering products which might be useful for readers, as well as being a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you purchase a product from one of these links it will not cost you any more, but ZigaZag may earn a small commission. 

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  1. Great caravan buying tips. We went to the Caravan and Camping show last year in Perth and were overwhelmed with the range and choice. My best tip is to make sure you are not buying something that is too heavy to be towed by your vehicle. We opted for a full height van, single axle, with a shower and toilet. I love not having to go outside to the loo in the middle of the night! Happy touring!

  2. I know the range is often overwhelming Jill. We’ve done exactly the same as you. Great tip – and yay, for an inside loo!

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