Buying a motorhome in Australia

We are now the proud owners of Della, a 2014 Autotrail Delaware Lo-Line! More to follow when we pick her up in a couple of weeks, but we thought we’d summarize the process we’ve been through in the last few months, weeks and days to get to this point.

Months before
Once we’d decided to do this trip we started our hunt for a vehicle. We did all the things you’d do in our online age – contacting friends in Oz, searching for motorhome dealers in Sydney and Brisbane (where we knew we’d be at the start of our trip), and joining Facebook groups (we found Motorhomes Australia, Planning A Lap Of Australia – Hints and Tips, and Caravan And Camping Australia particularly useful). Having set up alerts for any time something that fitted our brief came on to a forecourt, we sat back and watched prices, asked questions and made notes. After some time we got a feel for what we could get for our budget and had a few favourite van models on our shortlist, but were aware that it was going to be almost impossible to make any concrete decisions before we reached Australia.

During this period we were also doing our homework on the paperwork, etc. that would be needed to support the vehicle – license requirements, insurance, roadside assistance, rego (pronounced ‘redjo’, not ‘reego’, we learned this week) and warranties. Being Brits, we had no idea what rego was, but asking questions in the FB groups and Googling helped us work that one out.

It became clear that we liked Autotrail vehicles in particular, notably the Tracker FB model, and we set about earmarking those whenever they came up for sale in our target area. Having said that, we’ve watched endless episodes of Location, Location, Location and know that Kirsty and Phil always say you can’t reject a home because you don’t like the photos on Rightmove, and the same applies to buying a motorhome. We’d never seen a Jayco Conquest, an Avida Ceduna or an Avan Ovation in person, so knew we should wait until we could view some before making a final decision. Autotrails are manufactured in the UK and do have a slightly different look to them to locally made vehicles, and that’s probably what drew us to them in the first place.

Weeks before
Let’s think about the period from Christmas to the end of February, three weeks before we set off. Knowing that we’d be landing in Sydney and spending a week there before moving on to Brisbane for two weeks, we planned to spend the Sydney week viewing vehicles and only making a purchase if we were sure we wouldn’t see anything better. But how did we know if something better was waiting for us in Brisbane? Chris read Algorithms To Live By in an attempt to find the answer, but we really had no idea.

We’d had a Tracker FB stored in our Favourites list on the Sydney RV website for a couple of months so when we saw one come up for sale at a dealer near home in Bristol we drove down to have a look at it between Christmas and New Year, and that confirmed that it would be a good vehicle for us in terms of size, layout and storage. If we could find one at the right price, age and mileage, we’d be happy to get one for our Big Trip, so we checked the Sydney RV site every couple of days and started imagining where we’d store our stuff, and what we’d need before we were ready to drive it off the forecourt. We’d seen on their website that they offered a ‘fully refundable holding deposit’ option and we discussed putting a deposit on the Tracker, but decided not to because a) they probably wouldn’t take it from a couple on the other side of the world more than a month before they were due to arrive in the country, and b) it would give us less bargaining power if they knew we were really keen to get it.

And then one day in mid-February, Chris noticed that it wasn’t there any more. 😦

Never mind! It’s all part of the adventure! Another one will come up! We’ll see something we like more when we get there! Think positive!

So then we looked again at the Autotrail Delaware that Sydney RV had in stock (the Tracker’s big sister) and which had also been on the website for a good few months. We’d looked at it before and it was the perfect layout, mileage, age, etc, but was too expensive and too long for us to feel comfortable driving and manoeuvring. So we started to look for other Trackers in other dealers and for sale privately. Since the outset of our planning, we’d ruled out buying from anyone other than a dealer because we wanted the security of warranties and a support network of mechanics as we travelled, etc.

Unbeknown to Chris, with the Delaware in the back of her mind, Karen had asked a question in one of the FB groups about how easy it is to drive, park and manoeuvre an eight-metre long motorhome in Australia, and was inundated with replies along the lines of ‘If you’re coming from the UK, you have no idea what sort of space we have here – you’ll be absolutely fine!’ One response came from another member of the group – we’ll call him S – who said he had a Delaware, loved it, and had no problems driving, parking or manoeuvring it. All very reassuring. S then contacted Karen with some links to Trackers and Delawares he’d seen for sale, commenting on whether they looked to be good value or not. He also offered to go and view a couple that were near him on the Gold Coast, in an effort to help us find our new moho. What kindness from a total stranger! S has continued to give us lots of useful information on all sorts of things since we’ve arrived, and he’ll be volunteering at the Commonwealth Games over the next few weeks so we’ll be buying him a few beers when we meet up.

Still pursuing Trackers and Delawares all down the east coast of Australia, we chanced upon another discussion in an FB group where a technical detail was being discussed. We chipped in on the chat and ended up getting a private message from a member of the group who was looking to sell his Tracker and all its kit and content for health reasons. Result! After several DMs, texts and emails, we looked set to do a deal as soon as we arrived in Brisbane. Yay! We got on the plane to India with a clear plan and a motorhome within reaching distance.

Days before
Discussions continued between us and the owner of the Tracker during our week in India, and things looked so secure that we decided to cancel the hire car we’d booked for our week in Sydney to get around the motorhome dealers. We’d spend our time there sightseeing and relaxing, and we’d get straight down to business in the few days we had in Brisbane before the start of the Commonwealth Games. We got back to making the most of our time in India.

We arrived in Sydney late on Sunday night and spent Monday sorting out our bank account (we’d opened one from the UK and just had to go and collect debit cards on arrival – very straightforward) and a local SIM and data bundle for the phone, then exploring the Opera House and Circular Quay area. While we were having a drink and watching the ferries we got a message from ‘our van’ man to say he had had a family crisis and would be in touch again ‘after Wednesday’. We weren’t sure whether that meant the day after tomorrow, or the following Wednesday. Yikes! What happened if he changed his mind about the sale? We decided to visit Sydney RV on Wednesday (the day after tomorrow) to see what they had and to look at the locally made mohos, just in case everything fell through. We spent Tuesday sightseeing with Chris’s sister who was in Sydney with her partner for his nephew’s wedding, and worked out what trains we needed to catch in the morning to get to Sydney RV, which is about an hour out of the city to the west.

We can’t fault the customer service at Sydney RV. On their website they offer to collect customers arriving by train from the station, so we met Ruby, their Lifestyle Facilitator, as we got off the train at 10am and told her what we were looking for over coffee in the office. We were also introduced to General Manager Mike, who’s from the UK and a convert to life in Oz. Ruby showed us round about 12 motorhomes that met our criteria, and as we were looking at the third one Chris received a text from our man with the van to say he’d changed his mind about the sale and it was all off. Another disappointment, but thank goodness we were in the right place to find an alternative. By the time we’d finished our initial viewings of the vehicles Ruby had shortlisted for us we were a bit despondent. There were no Trackers in stock, none of the local vans really appealed and the Delaware was too expensive and too big. We walked down the road to the local cafe and while we were having a sandwich and a chat Ruby called to say she’d just heard a Tracker was coming in a couple of days later. But it wasn’t our preferred layout.

To cut a long afternoon short, we took the Delaware out for a test-drive and spent the next couple of hours going back and forth between the Delaware and the Tracker, discussing and negotiating with Ruby and Mike over purchase price, buy-back price and optional extras. At the end of the day, the difference between the cost of the two vans was marginal, so we decided not to wait until we got to Brisbane, but to go for the Delaware and put down our deposit. By the time we’d finalised all the details with Ruby, sorted out the financing and arranged when we could come for the two-hour handover, it was 5pm. Ruby suggested we could leave our moho-related luggage at the office so we didn’t have to lug it to Brisbane and then back to Sydney (what a relief!), and took us back to the station. We headed back to the city for celebratory beers with an old schoolfriend of Karen’s.

That all happened two days ago. Yesterday we did the rego, got quotes for insurance and roadside assistance, and joined the CMCA (Caravan and Motorhome Club of Australia). We’ve been making a shopping list for all the kit we’ll need and we’ve packed all the moho luggage tonight, ahead of an early start back to Penrith to drop it off tomorrow morning.

The rollercoaster isn’t showing any sign of slowing down yet!

2018-03-28 19.53.08
Celebratory beers with Andy, who Karen hadn’t seen for 30 years!
2018-03-27 10.29.52 HDR
Sightseeing with Patricia and Jon!
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