Try before you buy

You THINK you want to buy a caravan, but you’re not 100% sure. The wife isn’t convinced that she’d enjoy a week in the bush in a little fibreglass home. And you’re not sure if your car will cope with towing a caravan if you do buy one. Why not try before you buy?

Text: Stephen Smith Photographs: Supplied

You um and you ah, but you just can’t make up your mind. You go and look at caravans at the local dealer, and return weekly for months, trying to decide, and to convince your wife, but without much luck. You don’t want to make a mistake that could cost you a small fortune.

You wish you could just try one out for the weekend.

You obviously haven’t heard of Big Five 4×4 Caravan and Trailer Rental. The company, and its sister company Ezinkulu Caravan rentals, have fully equipped off -road and road caravans, and off -road trailers, for rental. The company has been going for four and a half years, and is owned by Wouter Gerber, of Gerber 4WD.

Big Five Caravan and Trailer Rental has a fleet of Xplorer and Oryx caravans, which are two of the most popular off -road caravans on the market, manufactured by Jurgens Safari. Both models are capable of sleeping four people, although the Xplorer is a bigger, heavier and more spacious caravan, and should only be towed by more powerful vehicles.

All of the caravans are completely equipped with everything that you could possibly need for your weekend, or week, in the bush.

“We went ballistic with the kitting out of them, from stainless steel pots and pans, fridge/freezer… I thought ‘get the most expensive camping chair you can get, for example, so it will last’,” says Wouter. “There’s even a puncture repair kit. Each and every trailer and caravan also gets a set of wheel bearings; should something go wrong you’ve got your wheel bearings. I can’t promise that we can come out and quickly fix it, but at least you have the spares.

“In the past we’ve had cases of new wheel bearings seizing, s we made the decision to replace all with Timken bearings, as are found in Land Cruisers, as soon as we buy a unit. And every ti me our units come back from a rental, we replace the bearings. It’s not expensive, and it cuts out a lot of problems.”

What does caravan rental cost? The bigger Jurgens Safari Xplorer costs R700 a day, including insurance and all equipment. The smaller, lighter Oryx costs R600 a day to rent, also all inclusive. An interesting point to note is that there is no extra expense if you want to take the caravans cross-border, unlike many 4×4 rentals where you pay a premium for this right.

If a caravan isn’t your cup of tea, then maybe a 4×4 trailer is the answer. Trailers are easier to tow, especially in off -road conditions, and are much lighter. They are, however, a bit more hassle, because you have to open it all up, and set up the rooft op tent. The trailers that are available are the four-sleeper Bushbaby and the two-sleeper Bushbaby, made by Venter trailers.

The trailers are also completely rigged for a holiday in the bush, and once again all you have to bring is your food, drinks and clothing. The prices for renti ng a trailer are R350 per day for the two-sleeper, and R450 per day for the four-sleeper, and this once again includes all insurance, and the right to take it into neighbouring countries.

“The two-sleeper is actually kitt ed for four people. The only diff erence is that the four-sleeper has a four-person tent, and the two-sleeper has a two-person tent. Some people stay just one night at a spot before they move on, and a trailer is easier than a caravan for this sort of trip,” says Wouter.

Wouter also has “2×4” caravans for hire, in the form of Jurgens Swing and Scout units. These are hired exclusively to tourists, and are restricted to tar roads only, although dirt driveways aren’t a problem.

Another option, especially if you want to learn more about camping, caravanning and towing, is to join a guided caravan trip. Johan Appelgryn, of Hi Adventure 4×4 Eco-Tours, will organise a trip for a group of between four and twelve vehicles, although he thinks eight is just right, and will even organise the rental of caravans from Big 5 if you don’t own one.

Either you can join one of his existing tours, to places like Mozambique, or if your own group is big enough, Johan will put together a tour just for you. It can be catered, uncatered, a weekend or longer, and Johan will organise a trip to wherever you want to go.

“A nice thing about these trips is that if anything goes wrong with the caravan, Johan is there to fix it. Also, a lot of people are intimidated by the thought of towing and setting up a caravan by themselves for the first time. These people gain a lot of confidence and experience from having a person like Johan around giving them advice,” says Wouter.

“If you do the maths, there is no way that buying a unit is more affordable than renting one,” says Wouter. “But there are people who want their own caravan with their own beds. Even for these people, why not try it before you buy it?”

It seems as though Wouter and Johan have put a lot of thought into the idea of caravan rental, and caravan tours. So if there is a question you’d like to ask, or more information you’d like, give either of them a call. Bear in mind though that Wouter is almost fully booked until the end of the year!