So you have made the decision to embrace your inner nomad and purchase a caravan to take you around Australia? You are probably spending hours upon hours researching the caravan that is going to suit you best. In fact, with hundreds of different caravan types to choose from, it’s easy to get confused. Throw in the need to find the best vehicle for towing your caravan on top of this, and things can quickly get overwhelming.
Fear not, however, because here at OneAdventure we have put together this guide on how to select the perfect towing vehicle. To help you pull your new caravan around this great sunburnt country of ours!
Where to start?
First things first, it is important not to put the ‘cart before the horse’, so to speak. There are huge variances between caravans in size, weights and dimensions, so jumping the gun on a vehicle could find you selecting something that doesn’t fit your requirements at all. Based on this, it is a great idea to go out shopping for your caravan first. Which will make the car buying process much easier in the long run.
The only exception to this rule is if you find yourself looking at a big caravan. In this case, it might be worth looking at your vehicle options as part of the purchase process. The reason for this is ‘most’ vehicles top out at a towing capacity of around 3500kg (3.5 tonnes). It’s worthwhile taking into account the vehicle you’ll need in order to tow the caravan if you intend on getting one that exceeds this weight. For more about working out your caravan’s weight for towing purposes, keep reading the next few paragraphs.
Working out Towing Capacities
Once you have your caravan sorted, the easiest way to shorten your potential vehicle list it to work out your caravan’s towing weight. This can be done by referring to your caravan’s compliance plate. This will list it’s Tare Weigh, Gross Vehicle Mass and maximum towing weight. If you’re unsure what these terms mean, read up on safe caravan towing for more info.
Once you have all the weights listed above, you can start to narrow down potential vehicles. List out your measurements and make sure your chosen vehicles meet the load-bearing criteria. Depending on the weight of your caravan, this could potentially narrow your list down to only a handful of vehicles. Talk about making your decision easier from the outset!
Narrowing down a price range
Buying a vehicle to tow your caravan can range in price from as little as $20,000, to well over $150,000. So narrowing down your price range can help exclude certain vehicles. You may also consider if your budget is better suited towards a new or pre-owned vehicle.
On the lower end of things, you can usually get a pre-owned 4WD or Ute for around $20,000-25,000. When looking in this price range we would generally recommend getting a thorough mechanical check before purchasing anything. The benefits of an older car is that they often have a range of accessories already fitted. Things such as towbars, bullbars, canopies and other items that would be considered extras on a new vehicle.
To get a brand-new vehicle, your budget usually needs to stretch to around $40,000-50,000 for a utility or SUV. And closer to the $60,000 mark for a 4WD. Brands such as Ford, Holden, Isuzu, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Toyota are all very popular with caravan owners. With affordable options that come paired with long warranties and great service plans too.
On the high end, you can look towards US-bred utes such as Chevrolet Silverado, Dodge Ram and Ford F150’s which can tow upwards of 6 tonnes. High-end 4WDs such as the Toyota Landcruiser Sahara, a perfect combination of luxury and practicality, also lands in this range. Keep in mind, these vehicles will generally cost you anywhere from $100,000-150,000 brand new. This can sometimes push the budget, especially if you have spared no expense with the caravan itself!
4WD, SUV Or Utility?
Now you have your towing capacity worked out, and budget set, need to work out what ‘type’ of vehicle will suit you best. If you have a smaller caravan or camper trailer, an SUV vehicle may suit. However, these generally only have towing capacities of up to around the 2-tonnes. Additionally, their off-road capabilities are limited. Meaning you may find yourself stuck if you really want to get out and explore the great Australian outback!
Rewind 15 years and you never really saw utes towing caravans, however, their popularity has grown steadily and now they are everywhere on the roads. With full 4×4 capabilities, high ground clearance, plenty of storage and towing capacities of up to around 3 tonnes, utes are definitely becoming the go-to choice for caravanners around the country – but is it right for you?
Tthe traditional 4WD vehicles (think Patrol, Landcruiser etc) are definitely still the first choice when it comes to towing a caravan. They generally have more luxurious finishes than utes and are a more comfortable ride, which is very important on long-hauls such as crossing the Nullarbor. Additionally, you can get towing capacities of 3.5 tonnes pretty easily which give you a bit more leeway if you have a bigger caravan that needs pulling.
So where to next?
Hopefully, by now, you are starting to paint a bit of a picture of what your ideal vehicle is going to look like and can really start looking at options for towing your caravan around Australia. If this is the case, I can’t stress enough the need to go out and ‘try before you buy’! Take them for a long test drive so you get a proper feeling for the vehicle.
Additionally, if you are buying pre-owned, it is definitely worth spending a little extra for an independent inspection to ensure everything is in top condition before forking out your hard-earned dollars – the last thing you want is a lemon!
For help buying your next towing vehicle, head to Cartopia, Australia’s newest car classifieds website!
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