On road v’s off-road
This is the tricky one – everyone loves the idea of being able to tug there caravan down those remote tracks or onto that secluded beach. Fact is that most manufacturers who produce outback or off-road vans do not want you to drive them off tarmac. It’s worth reading the fine print of manufacturers warranties and you will soon see that coverage is not always available off made roads. Sure, some people have taken them on the Gibb river road or Oodnadatta track and you will probably be fine. Unless you are going to be buying something like a Kedron or a Bushtracker you will have to be cautious about where you take it.
Pop-top v’s Full
This will really depend on how many people will be staying in the van and how much space or luxuries you require on-board. I’m going to focus on the family vans as that is what we are looking for:
Family vans this size will usually require something to be converted to a bed or have bunks beds where kids sleep above.
Likely to have fold away bunks which may need to be used as a seat to provide extra seating room around a dinette. Usually with a double/queen at the other end and kitchen in the middle. Could be single or tandem axle and still have the option to be pop-top.
Usually with dedicated bunks at one end, kitchen and dinette in the middle and a double/queen bed up the other. These are usually full height vans however it is able the limit of pop-tops so some manufacturers offer pop-tops. Usually tandem axle and occasionally have shower/toilet squeezed in at the expense of cupboard space
This are the bigger vans, usually with a shower and toilet, usually with weights above 2.5ton. Almost all will be full height, tandem axle and have plenty of space. The number of modcons you can have in these is limited only by the ability of your tow rig and the depth of your pockets.
Single Axle Vs Tandem Axle:
Tyre costs/wear – With only two tyres touching the road a single axle would be roughly half the cost in tyres
Load and Performance – Tandem axles are reported to tow a lot better than their single axle equivalent. Tandem axle vans also allow more load to be carried as the load is shared between four wheels/sets of suspension components
Tandem axle also has the benefit of providing an extra wheel as backup in the case you have a blowout. I’ve experienced this first hand on the Hume hwy near Canberra where an elderly couple towing a tandem axle van had a blowout – I had to flag them down as they were actually unaware that one of their tyres was gone.
I guess this is a personal preference. Keep in mind that having a shower will mean you will need to have more water on board which will increase your weight. Toilets offer convenience of having your own clean place to do your business, the downside is you have to empty them and they can make your van smell.