When it comes to paying for a caravan, there are more costs than just the purchase price. Like any other vehicle, ongoing maintenance is a cost you’ll need to consider as a caravan owner. But what are the most common caravan maintenance costs you’ll need to budget for?
Some of the most important ongoing caravan maintenance costs are servicing brakes and tyres. You’ll also need to account for insurance and gas refills while keeping enough money aside for unexpected damage and repairs.
In addition to the cost of caravans in Australia, you’ll want to allocate a budget for van maintenance. If you’re curious about how to keep your caravan maintenance costs down and what maintenance you can do yourself, don’t go anywhere! In this article, we break down the most caravan maintenance costs and what parts of your caravan maintenance you can do yourself.
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What is Caravan Servicing?
Caravan servicing is an important aspect of maintaining a caravan and maximising its performance. Owners must take on the responsibility to service their caravan regularly to reduce the risk of wearing it down or severe damage.
As an owner, you can make regular checks on caravan parts such as tyres, lights, doors, windows, roof seals, appliances, and vents. However, your vehicle must still undergo professional caravan services regularly. Factors that can affect the interval and depth of caravan services include:
- Caravan age
- Current condition
If you want to avoid hidden costs of caravan maintenance, consider hiring a caravan or motorhome for your travels instead.
Why Do I Need to Service My Caravan?
You need to have your caravan service because, over time, things will wear and break down, and servicing will help catch any issues that may lead to costly replacements in the future and help improve the overall life of your caravan.
Caravan maintenance is essential for your caravan, and it’s standard practice to have it serviced regularly. The benefits of regular caravan servicing include:
- Improved Safety – regular caravan servicing helps lower the risks of accidents due to damages and malfunctions. A professional can foresee potential parts failure or issues before they lead to serious accidents.
- Preventing Costly Damage – Wear and tear are normal to vehicles, especially if they are older and often used. A caravan service can assess the current condition of vital vehicle parts. A professional can replace old parts and provide fixes to minor problems before they can cause major damages that are either irreparable or require expensive and complex repair jobs.
- Extend the Vehicle’s Lifespan – If you don’t service your caravan promptly and professionally, the frequency of damages and repairs increases. Constant damages and repair issues ultimately lead to a shorter lifespan of the caravan.
- Maintaining Value – A caravan that has gone through multiple major repairs is less appealing to potential buyers. If you keep your caravan in excellent condition, you will most likely preserve most of its original value.
- Better Peace of Mind – Simply put, a regularly serviced caravan will give you more confidence and peace of mind to go on long driving trips. Without proper maintenance, the risk of vehicles breaking down or having issues during your trip is higher.
What Is Involved in a Caravan Service?
A caravan service includes:
- Inspection of moving parts – they should be lubricated and connected to the caravan framework.
- Brake inspections – ensuring the brakes are working correctly and are not worn.
- Inspection of lights – checking that all globes are working and sufficiently illuminated.
- Inspection of tyres, rims, and wheel hubs – Looking for wear in the tyres, ensuring they still have grip, and checking alignment while looking for any signs of damage.
- Looking for cracks – Checking for cracks and breaks of water tanks and plumbing components.
- Checking of electrical wirings and connection cables – Making sure that all wires aren’t damaged, and all caravan electrical systems are safe to use.
- General appliance checks – Inspection of all appliances, tents and awnings (caravan accessories), ensuring they are working properly and aren’t damaged.
- Checking fire safety equipment – Caravan fire safety items like extinguishers and smoke alarms should be working.
- Inspection of engine and battery – Testing the engine and making sure the battery is not empty.
- Inspection of chassis, body components, peripheral fittings, and suspension parts – Looking for any damage or issues that could arise during your next caravan trip.
Is It Worth Servicing a Caravan?
Yes, it is worth it to service a caravan, as the time and money it takes to have it serviced are nothing compared to the costly repairs you could be left with if your caravan has sustained some damage on your last trip. Servicing can also help avoid breaking down while caravanning, leaving you stranded.
Caravan servicing may seem like an additional expense that you do not want to spend. However, bearing the cost of caravan maintenance saves you money, time, and stress in the long run. Because a caravan service conducts a comprehensive evaluation, it can detect and fix issues sooner than later.
This process prevents more damaging problems that can be more expensive to solve. Furthermore, you will be less worried about taking a regularly serviced caravan on a road trip than one that is not. All caravans, including rarely used ones, must go through annual service.
How Often Do You Need to Service a Caravan?
Caravans should be checked and maintained within the first 12 months from their original purchase date. This first check-up is called the first service and is often done after 2,000 kilometres of driving. Servicing should be done every 12 months or 10,000 kilometres after that.
For most regularly-used caravans, the standard checking and maintenance should be done every 10,000 kilometres or once every 12 months. Even if your caravan has not been on the road for months, it still needs to go through annual servicing to make it road-ready whenever you decide to go on a trip.
The frequency of caravan service also depends on how often you use the caravan and on which terrain they usually tackle. If you are planning to go through rough dirt roads, then your caravan requires more frequent servicing to ensure that it is strong and safe enough to deal with rough conditions.
How Much Is a Caravan Service?
A complete caravan service can cost up to $1,000 and possibly more, depending on the condition of your caravan. The model, age and condition of your caravan will affect the price of your service, as will what needs to be done. Some DIY tasks like changing batteries and gas tanks can reduce your service costs.
The cost for caravan maintenance service depends on a few factors like brand and type of caravan, vehicle age and the number of axles. Newer caravans are usually cheaper to service because they are still in good condition. However, as your caravan gets older, it will eventually wear out. In this case, the servicing costs will be higher as parts may need more extensive repair or require replacements.
A standard single axle on-road caravan may cost around $250-$350 to service annually. Tandem axle vehicles are much more expensive and can cost about $400-$500 to service. You may have to pay around $600 for sophisticated caravans with independent off-road suspension and extensive appliances. An annual service bill for larger luxury caravans may reach $1000.
Aside from a full service, some shops also offer undercarriage service, which only services the brakes, bearings, and lights. An undercarriage service is cheaper than a full service, which checks everything like gas, appliances, and electric wiring.
Can You Service a Caravan Yourself?
It is possible to service the caravan yourself if you have the right tools and enough knowledge. Self-servicing your vehicle can lower the yearly cost of caravan maintenance. It also prevents major caravan problems and damages from occurring.
Many veteran caravan owners can execute small service jobs on their vehicles. Some of these service tasks include:
- Cleaning and changing wheel bearings
- Changing brake pads
- Changing tyres
- Changing light fixtures
For self-service, you will need a decent set of mechanical skills and a spacious area to work on the vehicle. If you are not handy with tools and are new to caravans, you will need a lot of time to learn to become a caravan mechanic. Knowing how to perform simple caravan maintenance is a useful skill, especially for people living in a caravan full time.
In addition, you have to understand that some aspects of caravan servicing should be left to professionals, things like gas connections, plumbing, and electrical wiring. You should not attempt to fix complicated electrical problems or modify electrical systems because they are dangerous. You should let a professional do these tasks as they have the right expertise and experience.
DIY Caravan Maintenance
You don’t have to rely on a mechanic or a caravan shop to do all the maintenance work on your caravan. There are simple tasks you can do yourself that will help maintain the condition of your vehicle.
Regular maintenance helps detect minor problems and resolve them before they become full-fledged dangerous and expensive issues. Regular caravan maintenance can keep you safe on the road and extend the vehicle’s life.
Most DIY maintenance tasks are all about evaluating key working parts. Some parts that need checking include brakes, wheels, rims, tyre pressure, wheel nuts, handbrakes, and jockey wheel.
How to Maintain a Caravan Yourself
Even if you are not a DIY person and have zero mechanical aptitudes, there are still things you can do to keep the caravan in good working condition. Here are some of these tasks:
Refill Gas Bottles – Refilling gas may be a basic task, but many owners still forget to do it. Before going on trips, make sure to fill up the gas level to the right amount to avoid trip inconvenience. Aside from checking gas levels, you must also watch out for gas leaks.
Clean Awnings and Fridges to Prevent Mould – A caravan awning refers to a three-sided tent that can provide additional living space to a caravan. The tent is usually attached to the awning rail that spreads along the top and sides of the caravan.
Caravan fridges and awnings are susceptible to moulding when not cleaned properly. You do not need any special skills or tools to clean these things. You can clean using warm water, sponges/cloths, brushes, and towels. It is best to clean the awnings and fridge after the caravan trip. After cleaning, give plenty of ventilation to dry out the awnings and fridges completely to avoid mould growth.
Check Batteries – There are two general types of batteries used in caravans – car batteries and leisure batteries.
A car battery gives the energy to start the engine, while a leisure battery gives off low-level energy to power up the 12V appliances and equipment in a caravan. As the caravan owner, you must check both types of batteries before getting the vehicle on the road. Most leisure batteries will have a display that shows the charge level. However, this does not always offer an accurate reading.
Experts advise owners to purchase a hand-held metre device that accurately determines the battery level.
Update Safety Items – Before every caravan tour or trip, ensure that safety items like fire blankets, extinguishers, and first aid kits are complete and in good working condition.
Wash the Caravan – Keeping a caravan clean and fresh even if it is not in use, offers benefits. If you clean your vehicle inside and out regularly, you can go for a trip on a quick turnaround. A clean caravan also prevents bacteria from growing more effectively.
Prevent Rust Build-Up – Inspecting your caravan for rust and mould regularly can avoid rust and mould build-up, which can be difficult to eliminate once they have spread extensively. This is why early detection is the best prevention strategy for caravan owners. Ways to prevent rust build-up include:
- Keeping the vehicle dry at all times
- Covering the vehicle during heavy rain
- Removing surface layers of rust and mould as soon as you discover them.
Unexpected Caravan Maintenance Costs
Scheduled maintenance isn’t the only maintenance cost you’ll have to account for as a caravan owner, there are some unexpected costs you will have to deal with. It’s important to ensure you have emergency caravan maintenance funds for when these issues arise.
Damage and Repair Costs
Damage and repairs aren’t something that happen all the time, but accidents occur and paying for damage and repairs on your caravan is something you may have to do. This is especially important when caravaning in areas with lots of wildlife.
The cost of caravan maintenance is less than the cost of major damages caused by accidents, collisions, and severe weather. But these damages can happen, especially if the vehicle has been used for a while now.
Minor damages in caravans are fixable and do not cost a lot, but big damages can result in heavy financial losses. You have to watch out for disasters like floods, hail, and storms as they can seriously damage caravans. One way to mitigate the financial risk of repair costs is to purchase an insurance policy for your vehicle.
Gas is one of the caravan expenses that may shock first-time owners. These days, gas is not cheap, but this does not mean that you have to give up caravanning entirely. You can still find ways to cut down fuel costs while still enjoying caravanning.
For instance, you can use apps to locate the cheapest places to buy gas. A well-maintained vehicle is more fuel-efficient compared to one that is not. In addition, reducing driving speed to 85-90 kilometres per hour will also save you some gas.
Tyre Maintenance & Replacement
Caravan tyres do not last forever, and when you are caravaning in the outback, you need to be prepared for terrain that can damage your tyres, leaving you stranded in the middle of nowhere. That’s why it’s important to maintain tyres, and have at least one spare handy at all times.
One of the main things to inspect during tyre maintenance is tyre pressure. Aside from making visual checks for road damage, sidewall bulges, and chipping, you must ensure that the tyres are inflated to the pressure (psi) recommended by the manufacturer. Other things to look out for include wheel alignment, leaking valves, or missing valve caps.
In many cases, new caravans do not come with features you wish to have. This is why caravan modifications are common. In fact, there is an industry that sells caravan accessories and offers modifications to meet the demands of caravan enthusiasts.
Some modifications are considered essential. Examples of these are:
- Theft prevention gadgets
- Fire safety equipment
- Large water tanks
- Towing mirrors
Other types of modifications focus on personalising the vehicle or offering more convenience to users. Examples of these are:
- Bigger or more stylish awnings
- Fancy caravan furniture
- Bike racks
- Sophisticated hot water systems
- Reversing cameras
- Internal caravan storage hacks
Unlike car insurance, the Australian government does not require owners to get caravan insurance, but it’s highly recommended. Caravan insurance protects you from financial loss in case of thefts, accidents, emergencies, and natural disasters.
Aside from caravan insurance, Green Slip is another relevant form of insurance for caravans. Green Slip insurance – also known as Compulsory Third Party insurance – covers financial loss over a personal injury or death of people involved in a motor vehicle accident. In case you get into an accident with your caravan, people involved like passengers, pedestrians, motorcyclists, and drivers of other vehicles are covered by Green Slip insurance.
Compulsory third party insurance is mandatory in all Australian states and territories. This insurance policy covers caravans and trailers as long as the towing vehicle is covered.
Accidents relating to caravans and the vehicles towing them can be severe. That’s why it’s best to ensure you always have caravan insurance, green slip insurance, and a fundamental understanding of how to safely tow a caravan.
How Much Does It Cost to Insure a Caravan in Australia?
It is hard to determine an exact amount but on average, a $100,000 off-road caravan can cost about $1500 a year to insure. Insurance cost is lower or almost half that if your caravan’s original value is about $55,000-$65,000.
Insurance companies offer different products according to the size and type of caravan or RV. A caravan refers to a fifth-wheel trailer, while Class A or B RV vehicles are what people call “motorhomes”. Insurance cost also depends on the coverage details. Caravan insurance can be comprehensive or only focus on collisions and liability.
If you want to drive a caravan in Australia, it is required to register it. The registration process, paperwork needed, and fee vary depending on the state or territory you wish to register your vehicle.
If you are planning to do interstate travel with your caravan, you also need to follow the registration transfer rules relevant to the state/territory you are visiting.
Storage is one of the unexpected but needed expenses when you have a caravan. Like most caravan owners, you may not be able to be on the road all year round. Thus, your vehicle must have a safe and convenient space to stay in while you take a break from caravanning.
Fortunately, there are many storage facilities all across Australia. The best facilities have features like:
- Central and convenient location
- On-site managers
- Tight 24-hour security
- Fire protection system
- Cleaning, servicing, and repair options are available
- Flexible payment plans and storage arrangements
How Often Should I Reseal My Caravan?
Experts recommend that caravan resealing should be done every 6 years. In addition, you should also conduct regular inspections of caravan seals to prevent water leaks.
Will a Caravan Dry Out?
A damp caravan will dry out after a considerable period. If you want to speed up the process, use a dehumidifier. A dehumidifier will lower the humidity and stop the growth of mould while speeding up the time it takes to dry out.