Business Profile: Dethleffs Caravans

By: Claire Smith

MCD editor caught up with Brent Thurlow from Central RV, the North Island’s only authorised agent of premium German-manufactured Dethleffs caravans

Central RV’s owner Brent Thurlow began his career in the caravan industry with the well-known former Taupo RV company, Barrons.

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Shortly before Barrons closed, Brent established Central RV selling English caravan brand Bailey and offering an extensive range of workshop services.

After a few years with Bailey, he decided to look for another brand that would offer excellent quality as well as meet the unique demands of the New Zealand market.

"Dethleffs caravans not only look sleek and luxurious but they also offer a long list of unique features that provide the next level of value, comfort, safety, and reliability," Brent says.

Dethleffs New Zealand caravans have had a combination of specifically selected component upgrades to help ensure they suit the demands of the Kiwi lifestyle. These include a heavy-duty AL-KO chassis and axle to allow for very high payloads, without compromising towing safety.

Brent -Thurlow

"In addition, we have an option list of more than 160 items that we can choose to add or remove," Brent says. "This means we can truly customise each caravan to suit, from the thickness of the chassis and the axle ratings, right down to the quality of the mattress, bathroom layouts, and the placement of the oven."

This level of customisation, plus insulation and heating designed to cope with harsh European winters, combined with typical German over-engineering mean the caravans easily cope with New Zealanders’ adventurous lifestyle and year-round caravanning.

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"Having visited the Dethleffs factory in Isny, Germany several times, I know first-hand that these caravans are produced in one of the most state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities in Europe," Brent says. "When clients drive away with a Dethleffs caravan, they have peace of mind in knowing they have a well-engineered, high-quality caravan that also includes a two-year general warranty and a six-year water ingress warranty."

Kiwi ingenuity

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There’s no denying that European-made caravans and motorhomes offer an unmistakable standard of quality and style. But when you add a touch of Kiwi ingenuity, including design and layout detail that New Zealanders love, the result is quite spectacular.

Nomad 650 RQT caravan

If you popped by Central RV’s stand at this year’s Covi show in March or the Hamilton show in September, you would have noticed the Dethleffs Nomad 650 RQT caravan. This unique caravan is the result of a long-distance collaborative effort between Central RV and Dethleffs’ design engineers.

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In February 2016, Brent and the Central RV team decided to completely strip one of the caravans and do a little reconfiguring. Some of the key changes included a larger kitchen and bathroom area.

Brent also tweaked the design to allow for a 2.05-metre-long east-west island bed unencumbered by wheelarch intrusion, thus providing easy access around the bed. The end result is a great all-round layout with no compromises in any aspect of the layout.

Within 12 months of the initial modification, the German manufacturers had completed a prototype and shipped it to New Zealand in time for a debut at March Covi show where it proved popular.

Brent's top tips for buying a caravan


With a long history in the caravan industry, Brent has earned a solid reputation as being something of a caravan guru. Here are his top 10 tips for those looking to buy a caravan.

1. Size matters

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Think about whether you can comfortably spend four to five days in your caravan without getting cabin fever. Do you need a large kitchen? Would you like a lounge with a permanent table? Is a compact bathroom sufficient for your needs, or would you prefer a separate shower and toilet?

Many first-time buyers make the mistake of choosing a small two-berth caravan only to realise within a matter of months that they need to upsize to a unit a with a permanent bed and lounge.

2. Safety is paramount

Chassis, suspension, and brake technology are critical factors in safety, road holding, and general towing manners, yet are often ignored by some manufacturers.

Has the caravan you’re looking at got independent suspension, a shock absorber for each wheel, and mechanical and electrical anti-sway technology?

3. Weight and payload


Total weight and payload should be a key consideration. To remain safe and legal, the total weight of your caravan needs to fit within the towbar rating of your vehicle.

The important thing, after extras are added (such as tanks, awning, solar, satellite, gas bottles, bike rack, etc), is what payload is left for food, water, and personal effects. Ask what the payload is and whether it includes the options a dealer has fitted.

4. Quality of fit-out 

Consider the choice of fit-out materials. Are they both durable and reliable without comprising the caravan’s overall weight?

5. Storage

The longer you caravan, the more contents you accumulate. From kitchenware to camping furniture, it will all need its own space within your caravan. You simply can never have too much storage space!

6. Year-round caravanning

New Zealand has some stunning winter destinations, but travelling during the colder months isn’t fun unless your caravan has good heating, insulation, and double glazing.

7. What does the price include? 

When comparing one caravan with another, look at what you’re getting for the quoted price. Does the advertised price include everything you need to travel where you want, the way you want?

8. Which layout suits?

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There are a number of layout options available, each with pros and cons. For example, an island bed takes up the most floor space but provides excellent accessibility.

A side bed is a better use of floor space compared with an island bed but has access limitations. Twin single beds are also becoming popular for their larger bed space per person, easier access to storage, and more open floor plan.

9. Warranty and support 

What does the warranty include? Is it with the seller or the factory? Be wary of importers who do not buy from the manufacturer and, consequently, cannot provide a factory-backed warranty.

Does the seller also stock parts and understand the servicing requirements? Would you buy a new car with only a 12-month warranty?

10. Home comforts

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Hopefully, you’ll be spending a lot of time in your caravan. Small touches can make all the difference to your level of enjoyment.

Give some thought to the finer details such as mattress quality, upholstery options, quality of lighting, and modern technology such as TV, satellite, and Wi-Fi.

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