Home is where you make it and for us right now home is a 17foot poptop, 5 berth ’84 Viscount Grand Tourer’. Here is a break down of our setup, hopefully it will give people an idea of what you can achieve on an insanely tight budget. We are not big on debt at all, in fact it’s our belief that unless it’s for a house , then debt is only a means to set you further behind the 8 ball. So if we can’t goal set, work towards and pay with cash, it’s off the agenda. With that said our ENTIRE set-up cost was about $10,000, that’s for car, van and upgrades! Bonza!!
We specifically looked around for the exact caravan and car models that we thought would best suit our family’s needs while still remaining within our tight budget; then we waited to magically come across these items within that aforementioned budget. We spotted one on gumtree that fit the bill, went back to check and Alas! it was gone. Talk about the universe at work here though alah The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (if you have not read the book – do it! It’s short, an easy reading fictional novel that inspires). So as it turns out the van that fit the bill that was gone, turns out it was a gliche in gumtree and the seller had not noticed it wasn’t listed for a month; the month we needed to finalise our savings to acquire the van. When we find something that we want…we go after it.
The purchasing of the caravan highlights this perfectly. We’d been looking for months and had never seen a caravan that both had the perfect layout that we’d chosen and remained relatively within our very meagre budget. Then WHAM! There it was…in Sydney, 800km away from us! No worries, we’ve still got this; so we talk to the seller looking to arrange a day through the week to potentially pick it up and he lets us know that there is someone else very interested but because he likes the sound of us if we could be there the following morning…he’d give it to us! Well nothing keeps the Rowe’s down and we love a bit of a challenge; we promptly jumped into our 4 cylinder Suburu(so not equipped to tow a van!!!) and off we went, drove overnight (having never driven in Sydney in our lives, never towed a caravan before!) and here we are, living it up in ‘BigVan’. So it was bold, it was risky, it potentially was a little crazy…it was so worth it!!
So all up that’s $2900 for the 97 Landrover Discovery and $5500 for the van. We spent a little over $1500 to pimp the ole girl up, this allowed us to have some mod cons. We did all the wiring ourselves, it’s a great way to save a few grand and if you’re unsure how to go about it, then hit up our ole mate Google and/or his buddy YouTube. If all else fails feel free to pm us on our facebook page, if we can help we will. Here is a summary/overview of what our van includes:
- 12v battery system 200ah
- 3 x 12v outlets, 1 usb outlet
- Microwave (used it twice, obsolete for us.)
- Full size gas oven
- Electric powered tap at sink
- Wireless LED lighting
- 12v 90L fridge (running off 12v electricity not gas)
- Washing machine
- Camp Toilet (kept and used in a cupboard inside!)
- 12v to 240v inverter
- 12v shower
- 90L water tank under the van
- 240 watt solar panels with regulator
- Car wired to charge in transit via Anderson plugs
- Rear View Camera mounted on Van
- Voltage analyser
- Tv + antenna + 3tb of media storage
We pretty much only FREE camp, with National Parks being an exception. So this means we need to be self-contained and self-sufficient in the way of power and amenities. Our fridge is another ebay ripper but it is generic brand Mishto so this means insulation and efficiency is not top shelf. It’s bottom shelf but that means it is also twice the size and half the cost of the big brands, sounds like a win win to me. Nothing wrong with the bottom shelf though, has served us well!
Here are some tips if you are running your van without mains power.
- Look after your battery.
- Keep your fridge/freezer as low as it can go, always, or run it on gas.
- LED lights always.
- Avoid running the inverter after 2pm.
- Avoid running 240v appliances where possible.
- Do NOT run appliances with heating elements (Toasters, microwaves etc…)
- Choose a 12v TV with low amp draw.
Here is a tip if you are looking to run your van off batteries and solar and it’s an important one. Look after your battery if you don’t, it will lose it’s capacity fast, not just for a cycle; forever!! Look after the battery they said, but how? Well just keep it from dropping too low. Just because you can run an appliance doesn’t mean you should. At any cost, unless you like throwing away money, look after your battery. This is why a duel battery is preferred over a single bigger battery, but be aware ideally you want the battery to share capacity, in other words if you want 200ah in total get two 100ah batteries. This way the batteries will compliment each other and in turn feed each other and ultimately increase the lifespan of your battery. This is why a voltimeter is great it will give you a more accurate reading reading than a multimeter and it will also give you a running count of Ah and Wattage coming from your solar panels. Never hurts to carry a generator to top up battery in the event of rainy days or running excessive power items, we don’t have one but just run the car instead which is not ideal however works a charm.
Our set-up is far from the best, in fact there are far superior set-ups; I’m pretty sure we already know this. For us though, it’s the Hilton on wheels and more importantly it’s home for now and provides us with all the necessities of life while on the road. We love it and if you have a dream to travel Oz don’t let anyone tell you it is unattainable on a budget because they are wrong! Also don’t wait too long...Life is finite so make your dreams come true NOW!!!