Van Selection

Submitted: Thursday, Feb 15, 2007 at 21:19
ThreadID: 123334 Views:133121 Replies:14 FollowUps:6
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I am going through a similar exercise to others that have posted here, but the field has changed a little. I have read most the postings by people looking for vans and the reasons they have selected Bushtracker. We have camped etc, built our own pop top at one stage, only two people, want something strong enough to cover most country dirt raods without "doing the Simpson".

My diliberations have me torn between two levels, Kimberley Karavan (the new boy on the block see ) and Bushtracker. They are very different in some respects, appear to be similar in others - for a start the Karavan weighs only 1500kg and is currently being pulled adeqauetly by Prado level vehicles, it is smaller (narrower), more compact. But then I don't intend to live in it for the rest of my (our) life. We are only two and ususally spend more time sittting around outside the van (tent) than in it.

Both vans seem well constructed for what each is, have good suspension etc. Price difference in the 16 - 18 foot level is of little consequence (even more so if you buy a second hand Bushtracker - ie the Karavan is not a cheaper option, just a different option so price is not really a consideration. The primary differences being size and weight and the fact that I therefore need a much bigger total set up to encompass a Bushtracker.

Some people have suggested the Ultimate as their option if they did not have a Bushtracker, the Karavan appear to offer the same benefit without the canvas.

What are the thorughts of those out there that may have had similar experiences. I realsie that the Karavan has only been on the market 12 months so I doubt there are people that have had both but there are older hibrides of similar concepts.

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Reply By: Bushtracker - Thursday, Feb 15, 2007 at 22:01

Thursday, Feb 15, 2007 at 22:01
They are at the Shows, go see them.. You are not even talking about the same Species here!!! There is a difference and a HUGE compromise in Lifestyle. Bathroom, shower, air conditioning, solar, refrigeration, tankage, island bed, storage, lockers, you are talking about an entirely different type of vehicle.... That is just too much of a loss of creature comforts and storage. And who cares if it weighs 1500 kg, running on two wheels it will have the same pressure per square centimeter as twice the size running on four wheels. And four wheels plus all four running 12 inch brakes, and load sharing? Easier yet.

My view has always been, that these little half measures are only another stepping stone, and eventually almost everyone will want a higher quality Lifestyle than that sort of vehicle offers. Many many people, have to make these little steps, tents to tent trailers to camper trailers and then finally for Quality of Life they end up right here. Air conditioning, a good hot shower without the battle of the elements of dust and bugs in an outdoor shower with moldy shower screen? Adequate water tankage? Solar power? Air conditioning? Pantry, storage, nice stove and oven and on and on? I would suggest this is only another step in a direction that leads people to their final destination of wanting a better Lifestyle than something like this offers...

It is often a mistake made by people that chose too small of a tow vehicle to start with. Eventually when they realize the bigger diesels get better fuel economy whey towing, most correct their mistakes in the long run. Even a second hand Landcruiser is better value than the city vehicles like Prado and Pajero, safer when towing, and the running gear and bearings designed to do the job. There is a reason the Landcruiser and Nissan Patrols can tow an extra 1000 kg. And guess what? The success rate in even 16' Bushtrackers is less than 2 years for most people that want to do more than short trips. There are a few exceptions, but in 11 years you could count the long term keepers of 16' Bushtracker vans on about two hands.. This is about a 95% accuracy rate in our experience over 11 years of Bushtracker. They come back for a larger van in most cases... How would I know? We have booked our 45th second van for a Customer now, since we started counting three years ago... Size is the predominant issue, and size matters, especially with quality of life.

I am not different to most and I like my luxuries. My webasto heater, air conditioning, my large shower and ensuite and big galley and bench space and large dining. My volume of storage, my big fridge and freezer, all the appointments make it a lifestyle not just a camp out you burn out on. I could happily live in my van, my vacation home, anywhere in Australia...

Listen and learn from the mistakes of others, or do it the hard way and learn by your own mistakes.. This is another stepping stone. It is a nice vehicle for what it is, and has a spot in the Market Place: but most people will move on to a higher quality of life..

Either way, there is no comparison in the two Lifestyles, and quality of life is what Bushtracker is all about. I have take the time to give you the fair evaluation, you might just want to consider that these are two radically different species... Don't hate me, I am here just trying to help you.

AnswerID: 570635

Reply By: Fosssil - Thursday, Feb 15, 2007 at 22:15

Thursday, Feb 15, 2007 at 22:15

Just for something to do I did do comparison research a while back...and though I discarded most of it from my memory bank a while back because it was a no contest, here are just a few of my thoughts from memory.

You need to look at things like limited water carrying ability with nowhere to add more tanks easily.... battery power is limited to 320 a/h or so (from memory) as there is no room for anymore batteries,

The Kimberly is only 7ft wide and the actual room to move around in inside is very have to slide the table in to move around...You would be lucky to turn around in the shower, though it does get larger in the elbow would definitely be living outside, ...but the annex is very approx 2m x 2.? m ( and that is from memory)

The diesel stove is so slow as to be nearly redundant and a waste of space....10 mins till it gets hot and a further 10 to boil a liter of water(from memory)...and the fridge, although it is compressor is fairly small with nowhere to place any other cold storage.

Solar panels cannot be added to the roof due to weight restrictions, so you would need to use portable panels...what a pain...and they would be open to theft...

When the Karavan is optioned up to anywhere near the similar specs of a Bt its cost skyrockets to be similar to a Bushtracker

There are many things which detract from the Kimberly Karavan, and the only thing in its favour is its size and weight...just about everything else is a compromise when compared to a Bushtracker....but in my opinion I would not be bothered with it because it has too many negatives for its one positive...

I should add that my opinion is biased, but the points I made are as accurate as my memory in other words to be completely accurate it would pay to do your own comparisons with some of the above points in mind.

have fun,


AnswerID: 570636

Follow Up By: Fosssil - Thursday, Feb 15, 2007 at 22:18

Thursday, Feb 15, 2007 at 22:18 Mr speedy typist says...its all about quality of life...and the quality of life living with a Kimbery would be full of compromises in my opinion...

FollowupID: 847237

Reply By: Darcy - Thursday, Feb 15, 2007 at 22:16

Thursday, Feb 15, 2007 at 22:16
Thanks for the inpout and I do here where you are coming from. One of the other issues for me is a stepping stone or half measure may infact be a good idea without making the big step upfront. In my discussions to date I have heard many stories come relecting your views and other equally strong on alternatives.

By the way in my research I also found the following site - - it seems not everyone shares the same views but then that is what these open forums are about.

Again thanks and I lookforward to more input from other users.
AnswerID: 570637

Follow Up By: Fosssil - Thursday, Feb 15, 2007 at 23:06

Thursday, Feb 15, 2007 at 23:06
Yes there is a long saga to that idiots story...he did not want to hear the truth...
Countless hours of answering questions that no one else would have done.

They are the sort of people that the Bushtracker clan and Bushtracker Business can do without..Definitely a lot more trouble than they are worth,,,,can you imagine any other Managing Director taking the time to answer 1/4 of those questions...that man at that website is a moron....
Oh other major factor to consider if it has not been said already is the Bt appears to have the best resale value of any van ... the Bushtracker often gains in value at resale, no other van including the Kimberly does that...Best to consider the loss of value of a lesser van as against what it would cost to borrow a few extra dollars capital.
why go in little steps when it will cost no extra in the long run to take the bigger step.

FollowupID: 847238

Follow Up By: Bushtracker - Thursday, Feb 15, 2007 at 23:28

Thursday, Feb 15, 2007 at 23:28
Well done, well said Foss... You are a Champion.... Thanks for saving me the trouble.

Unfortunately that Guy way back in what 2003? I never got that guy to the next level to see how he could upgrade BMW suspension to handle such a large van... He would have hit the stone wall with a splat !!!... He conveniently left out bits of wanting to tow a 23' van with his little city car... Ha! Lol.... Nevermind, we get all kinds..! If you end up reading his whole epilogue, from memory he shot down every off-road van builder and ended up buying a second hand Jayco or something??? Ha! You get all types... Usually the Bagger is a "know it all" trying to talk himself into not spending the money he can't afford anyway... Someone wrote him to try and straighten him out and he sent back his detailed odd bod sex life business to them??? Yea, listen to him... Ha! Ha! lol.... Nevermind.

Anyway, Thank you Fosss, you were concise and correct and right on the mark!!! I salute your effort... Our views come from many years of doing it... Most opposing views come from people that have not done it or can not afford to do it right. I think that is about 98% accurate in 11 years of communicating with the thousands...

Kind Regards, Ranger
FollowupID: 847239

Reply By: Darcy - Friday, Feb 16, 2007 at 01:02

Friday, Feb 16, 2007 at 01:02
I acknowledge what is being said above but am not really interested in the personality issues. I find the comments by "fosss" above constructive and ligitimate. The Karavan is narrow and we maybe prepared to accept that but I do share his concerns abot the stove and the size of the kitchen are (i can immagineit getting very dirty and hard to clean).

The carry on above reflects the problems "mbg" encountered and is not constructive towards reaching a legitimate answer. For what it is worth what is written in 2003 seems to have been cut and pasted many times so much effort went into that story I don't know and don't care.

Through out my career I have learn't one thing, research and plan and raely believe what you are told first off - always question and do more research - it pays off in the end. I sence this part of what you are saying but you are saying in a way that says "we know best, this is an exclusive club and how dare you questions us". These are the credentials for failure. I am sure Bushtracker do not run there business this way and install components based on one or two peoples say so.

Questions and concerns I have in addition to those raised by "foss" included:
1. Has any one else had experience with electronic up lift as there is no manual override to lift the van?

2. The Highlifter van is very similar but seems to have a manual wind - has anyone here owned or experience on of them? If so why did they buy, did they keep it and sell it and for what reaosn?

3. Seeing water has been mentioned what is a reasonable limit - do I need to measure what I go through at home today? Have people run short - underwhat ciurcumstances?

4. The Karavan also stresses the same safety feature of diesel in their vans as you do in cars - lack the flamability - in this case gas in the van for the cooker (how often do petrool cars catch fire or vans explode because of gas - is this a real issue or simply another urban myth sort of thing).

There is much talk about using less diesel with a bigger load? I also don't understand this but when examples are asked for no one has answers; I know my Jeep does 11.3 l/100k on the open road and that candrop to 18l/100k around Sydney. I also know what it does towing my boat. Am I niave in thinking that no one out there knows what there xxx size LC does with an 18ft 2500 kg van on the open road etc?

At the end of the day I want to enjoy where I am. I do not want to be exhausted driving a big rig getting there (and as I have never experienced it I can't relate to this aspect). Where I lay my head just needs to be warm and dry. I have lost count of the countries I have been to and the hotels I have stayed in - a bed is a bed.

I just had lunch with a LC driver who has done a number of the big drives across this great country and his advice was despite the shortcomings go with the smaller van. One man's view and he explained why - in the end I have to way all that up.

I will buy A van and want some help - I want honest help as with "foss" and for his input I thank him.
AnswerID: 570638

Follow Up By: Bushtracker - Friday, Feb 16, 2007 at 02:15

Friday, Feb 16, 2007 at 02:15
You may be on the wrong Forum.. Maybe you should be on the Kimberly Karavan, Campervan sort of Forum… We have taken the time to try and help you. Two emails yesterday and a package in the mail...

"when examples are asked for no one has the answer?" No, possibly you are just not getting the answer that you want to hear..

The truth is....You have too small of a tow vehicle, a petrol Cherokee with a 2268 kg towing limit.? For a towing a van??? It would be on its limits by the time you loaded a 16' van... I have already sent you a good long email, yesterday, and specifically addressed all your problems and I quote:

"Your dilemma is how much you want to handicap your travel plans for the tow vehicle that you have now. You do not have the best vehicle for travelling in the Outback, with it being petrol and a smaller town car type of a four wheel drive. There are all kinds of real hazards and inconveniences in travel with petrol, safety in re-fueling, availability of fuel, safety in carrying extra fuel with an explosive fuel, and lousy fuel mileage when you tow with a petrol vehicle as your mileage will go down to about a third of what you are getting now. You probably would not keep that vehicle after the first year of towing. I would suggest that a good second hand diesel Landcruiser for about $30,000 out of the 4x4 Trader Magazine, would be a better option for you than trying to pack into a smaller van of 16-17'. " End quote....

Others: Note on Gas appliances, No Bushtracker has ever burned to my knowledge in 11 years of making them... Petrol vehicles, now that is another story..

Note on Diesel... Yes diesels get better fuel economy and the bigger the diesel the better the fuel economy as they just do not work as hard... My own vehicles correspond to the figures give by about 500 others to me.. My 100 Series: With an average sized 18-20' Bushtracker van, figures on Landcruiser 4.2 litre Turbo run about 12 mpg as high as 14mpg average. With my Ford 7.3 International truck diesel, it runs about 14 mpg average to as high as 16 mpg, Dodge with the Cummins diesel runs higher yet. Just the facts...

Regards, Ranger...

FollowupID: 847240

Reply By: Darcy - Friday, Feb 16, 2007 at 02:43

Friday, Feb 16, 2007 at 02:43
Thanks, I think I am in the right forum and I am starting to get some of the facts. I appreciate your input, please appreciate my frustration. I am gathering data from a number of places and yours is of value. The dedication and committment to your product and that displayed by owners is great to see, but some people feel just as committed to other vans I have looked into that I wouldn't touch.

I have not made any decision on keeping the Jeep, it just happens to be what I have now and a point of comparison. The numbers you have provided are of value. Ranging from say 17 -22 l /100 they are not dissimilar to what I would expect from the Jeep towing even the Karavan (I might do a little better on the open road); but by moving up a vehicle class to say a LC (and I take your point about a good second hand one) plus a BR that costs almost the same as a Karavan I have probably saved money and have a safer rig from you perspective plus a better living area (a point I am not concerned with as I accept this aspect).
AnswerID: 570639

Reply By: Grumblebum & Dragon - Friday, Feb 16, 2007 at 02:51

Friday, Feb 16, 2007 at 02:51
Hi Darcy,
I guess not everyone is the same - it would be a boring like if we were. For us 'lifestyle' was top of the list. We had finished working and now wanted lifestyle and enjoyment That meant we wanted the confidence to travel the back roads and country tracks without worrying about stuff falling apart or breaking.

It meant the capacity to stop where and when we wanted and often stay for extensive periods in beautiful peaceful places - and that eliminates most caravan parks. It meant having sufficient fridge freezer space to enjoy the bush without heading into town every few days for supplies and water.

We wanted the convienence of just stopping and not spending time rushing around erecting things. It meant the joy of not having to wipe dust off all the surfaces after stopping for the night. We wanted plenty of water, nice showers, no worry about power supplies and some space to relax. Plenty of storage for toys - fishing gear, metal detectors, boat and motors etc.

Finally we wanted to buy an asset that at least held its value instead of plumetting like a brick as we drove it out of the factory.

In the end it is all about compromises and what sort of travelling you want to do.

The Avan will be fine for main road travel and the odd over-night stop in recognised stopping areas. To see the real outback you have to get away from the tourist industry, get off the tar roads and be pretty well independent in terms of fuel, power, water and supplies. One way to do it is with a swag in the back of an old Landrover and eating a lot of dried or tinned stuff - you tend to end up a bit on the nose after a couple of weeks. Or you can do it the Bt way in comfort and style.

Enjoy your travels and do it safely.

John and Jean

PS we bought the Camps 3 book to check out places where NOT to stop. Overflowing rubbish, litter, flies, fecal matter and other nasties. Yuk!
AnswerID: 570640

Reply By: Neil and Linda - Friday, Feb 16, 2007 at 04:13

Friday, Feb 16, 2007 at 04:13
G'day Darcy, We have a BT on order and have been looking at vans and campers for some years now. In 2001 we had 3months to travel the western half of OZ with 4 teenage kids. All we could afford at the time was a Jayco Expander. We had a great trip and we learnt a lot along the way. Our kids are now all grown up and we intend to do the trip again only further for longer. Some of the issues we had that have convinced us that a larger, stronger, and better set up van is the way to go are -
1 - It's a very big country and in the time frame we had we were generally doing around 600kms a day and often only staying overnight or for 1 or 2 days and setting up the expander and tents was a real drag. If you plan to go to a place, stop for a week and return, then setting up a camper is ok but not if you plan to see the whole country.
2 - Water is a real issue particularly on the west coast. We never had to carry extra fuel but we often ran out of good water. If this is an issue then you need a van capable of carrying the extra weight of the water. With all the kids gear and only 80 lts of water on board, the jayco was already well over the rated GVM.
3 - Staying in many of the van parks was often the least pleasant part of our journey and we would have liked to have been more independent - eg Solar, En suite and plenty of water.

The Kimberly vans look good but they are really a different type of van to the bt. Even their Karavan model can't really be compared to a BT because it serves a different purpose. For me it comes down to the type a travel you intend to do. Of course a lighter van will be more efficient to tow but will it do what you want it to do?

These are just my thoughts - hope they help.

AnswerID: 570641

Reply By: Burt and Mary - Friday, Feb 16, 2007 at 07:10

Friday, Feb 16, 2007 at 07:10
I have looked over a Kimberley Karavan and would not entertain one for the price. In every aspect was to limiting and all features were compromised. In essence consider the Kimberley Karavan a bit of a hodge podge misfit. Insufficient solar capacity to power the basics and importantly small fridge and water capacity useless for outback trips and lack of gas stove inside. Outside cooking in much of Australia is hopeless unless you love flies moths mosquitoes sand flies. Considering the Kimberley Karavan is horribly overpriced misfit.
AnswerID: 570642

Reply By: Rob & Shayne - Friday, Feb 16, 2007 at 19:03

Friday, Feb 16, 2007 at 19:03
Hi Darcy,

A few years ago we wnt down this track.
We researched off road caravans and in our opinion BT was the best.
We then researched camper trailers and for similar reasons to you built a Camp O Matic with all the bells and whistles (including ensuit). Which is a great unit.
Eighteen months later we have orderd a BT realizing that we wanted more comfort and less set up and pack up time.
We attended a BT rally at Copeton Dam last Sept. and were even more convinced on BT after seeing the quality of the vans and the recomendations and loyalty from the owners.
Really loking forward to our BT.

Regards Rob.
AnswerID: 570643

Reply By: Darcy - Friday, Feb 16, 2007 at 20:11

Friday, Feb 16, 2007 at 20:11
Thanks for the feed back, this is the input I am looking for, from those who have already been down the path. I did some sums last night based on 16/17foot BT at $64,000 I saw advertised last week, (met our expected specs almost to a tee) and when you add it up the BT / LC looks attractive with all the positive features mentioned above. I understand that the Kimberley Karavan is a different animal and part of the issue is me and where I have been in the past. I have seen places I know I could get it into but I am not sure about a bigger van but this could simply be a misconception and lack of confidence on my part.

I know weight means strength etc, but it is also the piece that scares me about having it behind me. Again lack of experience and confidence.

We lived and travelled in England/Europe for three years in a Kombi with three kids so we fully appreciate the limitations of size and, also, its advantages. It is also this getting old bit and the changes in needs that we must consider and this is the feed back I see coming through above.

Thanks, I guess with 291 people looking at this so far I hope it is also of value to others - please contribute.
AnswerID: 570644

Follow Up By: Bushtracker - Friday, Feb 16, 2007 at 20:19

Friday, Feb 16, 2007 at 20:19
If you see a second hand one that suits your needs at that low of a figure, you better jump on it, pounce like a cat on a fat mouse... Most would spend far more....
Last month there were no second hand Bushtrackers for sale out of 3000 vans in the Caravan Trader... This month only three.

Good luck in your future travels..

Best Regards, lone Ranger at Bushtracker....
FollowupID: 847241

Reply By: Terra - Tuesday, Feb 20, 2007 at 05:47

Tuesday, Feb 20, 2007 at 05:47
Hi Darcy,
I will try a test first as l am having problems sending a msg to you (twice now)
AnswerID: 570645

Reply By: Terra - Tuesday, Feb 20, 2007 at 06:40

Tuesday, Feb 20, 2007 at 06:40
G’Day Darcy,
I would like to throw my two cents in the ring after reading your replies on the BOG forum. I have been reading this forum over the last three yrs and have found it to be a great place for new ideas and experiences. It would appear that we have something in common, that being we are researching our next off road vehicle albeit a BT or a KK.
We have been looking at the KK since it first came on the market 12 mths ago and I will admit it is an ugly van. However one is getting used to the looks and in the end it is how it functions out in the weeds.
Having owned a 2003 KK mariner limited edition and having sold it last May we are now back to tenting until my retirement from the Army in Apr 2010 having served 32 plus yrs at that time.
My better half Vivian has had enough of canvas, tents included as it always rains on the last night or the morning you are to pack up - and once again going home with wet canvas means extra work.
We are now researching our future caravan and like you are in a rut so to speak at which way to go the BT or KK.
Having conducted a BT factory tour on 6 Dec 05 with Peter (very dry sense of humour) however a wealth of info on the product and was well worth the time if you are serious about a BT when you are paying a good deal of money.
In the end Darcy as others have said including Steve Gibbs it’s all about lifestyle and yes I agree that you may be limited in accessing areas when towing 2400kg plus up against 1800kg approx. Again the creature comforts of a full van up against a KK a choice we all have to make..
Vivian has concerns about the KK ensuite and storage space avail however she believes the BT is too heavy for the places we wish to visit. It’s all about positives and negatives I spose.
I have been talking to a couple in Geelong who have just purchased a KK in the last four mths and are very happy with it.
If you wish Darcy send me an email at to discuss the KK further. If not all the best in your endeavors,
Cheers Terra
AnswerID: 570646

Reply By: Bushtucker Man - Tuesday, Mar 06, 2007 at 19:15

Tuesday, Mar 06, 2007 at 19:15
This may be a little late but here goes. We have just sold our 16' B/T and 100series LC turbo diesel as a package, the buyer purchased it from this site after looking at photos and he was very happy with his decision after coming to see it just recently.

I am looking after the outfit for the next 2 months at which time he will come and collect and take off on his trip up North and then across the Savanah Way.

The outfit has recently been out to the Centre along mainly dirt roads/tracks and if I knew how to reduce some photos I would attach some to show we went from Alice to Finke along the Old Ghan Railline, out to Chambers Pillar plus too many places to list here.

Forget the KK and buy the best even if you have to upsize in the towing department, on our trip we covered 8500k's at least half of those on the dirt running in 4wd with air con and averaged 19 litres/ 100k's, I have the log book to prove it. Oh, I am the 45th that Steve mentioned in his replys, I would not consider any other van after experiencing a B/T.

Regards Stan.
AnswerID: 570647

Follow Up By: Bushtracker - Tuesday, Mar 06, 2007 at 21:29

Tuesday, Mar 06, 2007 at 21:29
Thank you Stan and Trish for taking the time...
You have just be outdone, we took an Order from the 46th Client who is coming back for a second and (all but one or two) larger Bushtracker.... That is pretty impressive, in that we only started counting about three years ago, and the tally is up to 46 coming back for second vans...

Other Potential Bushtracker Owners:
Another noteworthy thing for all of you Future Boggers on the sidelines to think about, is that almost all, like 98%, have come back for a LARGER Bushtracker.... I really don't think your concerns about size and weight, measure up to the obvious Decision by the Veterans who have "been there and done that", to go for the quality Lifestyle..

I would also make a flat judgment myself, that something like the KK will only be a stepping stone to your eventual destination here at Bushtracker... I would venture, that the 98% will find the handicapped loss of space and storage and comfort... In the long run will not be worth it to you... Some have to do it the hard way to learn for themselves, in gradual steps, tent camping to tent trailer to camper trailer and on up to the quality Lifestyle… But the overall weighted average is what I see, and I would venture that I am correct and the KK austere style is not going to be the eventual Lifestyle you want once you have tried it for a while.…

Regards from the lone Ranger...
FollowupID: 847242

Reply By: Noosa Fox - Tuesday, Mar 06, 2007 at 23:02

Tuesday, Mar 06, 2007 at 23:02
I have just noticed that someone a couple of blocks away from us here in Noosa has a Kimberley Karavan in their front yard.

Theirs has an airconditioner on the roof and looks pretty impressive from the outside. It would definitely be able to go a lot of places that we couldn't go in our BT purely because of its physical size. Tracks like the Cape York's Telegraph Track would be a breeze with one of these where it would be almost impossible with our van.

I will however be sticking with our BT as we enjoy all the creature comforts.

Good luck with your choice.

Enjoying the friendship of BOG members

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AnswerID: 570648

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