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With a tight budget, anyone can have a great family caravan

A cheap, working caravan for our family

One of our main goals for travelling was to find a caravan set up that was affordable, roadworthy and practical. Having perused many family travel blogs, we often found that many of them had bigger budgets than us, which at first made the whole concept feel unattainable. We started to piece everything together and realised that we can still do this, we may not have a large budget, but we certainly don’t need the latest model caravan or car, either.

We don’t own a house, so mortgaging finance is not an option

We have chosen for a long time not to enter the housing market, as for as long as I can remember for my adult life, housing prices in Australia have been rising to unsustainable levels. This is entirely our own choice, as we did not want to be tied to a huge mortgage in one house that constantly needed upkeep where we would be tied to 9-5 jobs in the same place. We also do not want to be in debt, ever. For some people, this makes sense, to society this makes sense, to us, this does not make sense. That being said, we had a small amount of money put aside so that one day in the event of the housing bubble bursting, we may be able to afford a small parcel of land somewhere. After months of discussion, we decided to use that money toward a caravan and towing vehicle.


Our budget for caravan and 7 seater towing vehicle combined is $16,000 AUD

We had been reading travel Australia forums and found that many people were adamant that for a good caravan to suit a family of 6, a budget of $30k+ would be needed for the caravan alone. This was very dismaying to us, as $30k was definitely not attainable. We decided to do our research anyway.

We began to discover that there were many options available to us caravan wise for under the $10,000 mark, so we went and started looking at some of them around us. It took us a few months of actively perusing Gumtree, Ebay and the local buy, swap and sell pages, until a 1990 Windsor Pop Top that sleeps 7 came up in our search, from a boat place in our local area. Our only concern was that it was only 16’ which meant that it may be on the small side, so we drove up there with all the kids in tow to have a look.

As soon as we pulled up, we saw the Windsor, and amazingly the photos did not do it justice. We went inside and had a look, the first thing that struck us was the fantastic use of space. Every nook and cranny had been carefully thought of when it came to practical space. There were cupboards, drawers and under seat storage everywhere. The price tag on the van was $7900.00. Matt carefully checked the perimeters, for water damage, rust, termite damage and dry damp. The van was very clean and had been kept in excellent condition for its age. There had been some repair on the roof, upon questioning the owner at the sales yard, she stated that the top section of the roof had been repaired and there was very slight water marks in the corner, but it was no longer leaking. One thing that struck Matt was the hydraulic stabilisers that appeared to be crafted by an engineer, making setting up a breeze. This feature is still a rare find, that we are yet to find in even the very expensive modern vans. We found that many vans in the lot had higher price tags, even though they were older and in worse condition, the lot owner confirmed that there was not a huge market for vans with bunks and sleeping for seven people. This was an advantage for us as we could own an easy to tow van that had enough room for all of us to sleep. The other positive aspect was that the caravan came with a full annexe, we could see the awning, which needed some silicon to make it waterproof, but the walls were folded and inside the van so we really had no idea what condition they were in. We decided to offer the lot owner $7800, and she happily accepted. We left our deposit and went off to look for a suitable vehicle to tow her.


We discovered that a cheap caravan does not mean quality compromise

This 1990 Windsor Poptop Windcheater has been built with quality in mind. The main features of our gorgeous caravan are;

  • The hydraulic stabilizer system, which is a seriously excellent hack for setting up. Whenever we camp, we always have someone marvelling at this, including a lovely gent who happened to have a brand new Jayco next to us.
  • There is a large pull out pantry, for a family of six, we budget by taking our own food, and this feature had me filled with joy! This pantry is almost the same size as the pantry I have at home. It packs so many dry staples, it is a fantastic addition.
  • Three bunks at the back of the van are the perfect sleeping space for our kids, and the bottom bunk is tucked away and secure for our 2 year old. The kids love the little bunks, they even have their own lights and windows.
  • The dinette converts into another double bed, which is perfect for our eldest to sleep, Cayden. It takes less than 30 seconds to reconvert in the morning, and he loves helping us assemble it.
  • The couch at the front of the van, converts into a fairly large double bed for Matt & myself to sleep. It is surprisingly comfortable and roomy, and again, very easy to convert back into a couch for daytime use.
  • There is a full sized annexe that we have mastered after a few turns of setting up. It fits a fold out table for the kids to sit at and eat, and houses the dog bed, so she can be comfortably sheltered. The annexe keeps wind and rain out, and provides us with excellent privacy.
  • There is a 2 way fridge, microwave, full stove top, grill and bbq attached the front of the van.
  • The caravan is only 16’ so it easy to tow with a small 4wd or sedan, and this will assist us to get our practice in for a more serious, full time set up.


With a tight budget, anyone can have a great family caravan

If we can do it, so can you. We decided once and for all that this was a sensible way to spend some of the money we had been saving for a house deposit. Life is for living now, not later so we were over holding out for the property bubble to burst, when really we could be out exploring this beautiful country of ours right now. What are you waiting for? Is it time to shop around for your perfect caravan?

Until the next post, keep well xx

Mindy Bridgeman

About Mindy Bridgeman

Mindy is currently a student Naturopath and is happily married with four kiddies and a dog. She is interested in living in a frugal, sustainable way, focusing on emotional, spiritual and physical wellbeing. She loves to write about her journey as she travels around, living the best way she can in the hope that she can inspire others to live their best life and achieve wellness on the whole.

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