There are many choices these days for purchasing a new van. It is not our intention to suggest one brand or style over another. Rather, we offer some thoughts on what would be wise to include or consider with your purchase.
- Independent suspension
Many manufacturers are still offering leaf springs suspensions as their standard set-up. We suggest it is better to spend that extra to move up to a quality independent suspension. The extra cost is likely to be off-set by the cost of the leaf spring set-up. There are many options, some are described at:
- Solar panels
Most new caravans these days come with a ‘house’ battery. These are required to run the 12 lighting etc. They must be kept on a trickle feed. The best option to do this is to install a solar panel (adequate to service the battery size installed). An option is buy a portable solar panel that can be placed in direct sunlight at any campsite.
- Install Electronic Stability Control
These units help control sway in a caravan by activating the caravan brakes. There are 2 types, Alko ESC and Dexter DSC. Both are reliable. The Alko version needs a power supply from the tow vehicle and activate both brakes simultaneously wheras the Dexter unit uses the caravan ‘house’ battery and operates each side independently.
NB: ESC helps control sway, it does not stop sway. Sway is caused by incorrect loading or set-up. See our article on sway at:
- Seek as much payload as possible
Ensure you understand what the payload of your vehicle will be. Essentially this is ATM less Tare. Discuss with the manufacturer what is included and not included in the Tare weight (usually water and gas are excluded). Calculate your potential pay load requirements and discuss these with your manufacturer. Some expenditure may be required to meet your needs (eg Suspensions, chassis or tyres) but acquiring these at build is better that retrofitting later.
NB: Be careful about items you want added to the van (either at purchase or fitted later). For example, a washing machine may not be in the original spec. If desired and added these add-ons would reduce your payload or risk putting you over your ATM.
- Diesel Heater
At some point you are likely to want to go to remote sites during the winter months. While the days can be warm the nights can be very cold. A diesel heater is superb at keeping you snug whether off grid or in a caravan park.
- Tow vehicle
When buying a new van, keep in mind your tow vehicle. If upgrading, your new van may be heavier and outside the ball weight and towing capacity of your current tow vehicle.
If purchasing a new tow vehicle understand that complex wiring needs to be installed to enable satisfactory towing. As a minimum you would need a brake controller. We recommend Prodigy P2/3 or RedArc Tow Pro. In addition you are likely to need a 12 pin set up to help run the fridge, an Anderson plug to charge the battery whilst travelling and a 2nd Anderson plug if installing an ALKO ESC. We also recommend an ignition isolation switch that turns power off to the fridge to prevent a flat car battery (It can go flat during your lunch break).
NB1: The outlay for the vehicle wiring (often 4-5 separate circuits) cost more than in days past when all a tow vehicle needed was a simple controller and lights connection. Understanding this may help with your budgeting and expectations of the time required to set-up correctly.
NB2: Some vehicles (especially European) require an additional proprietary towing loom to be installed.