Life on the road: Meeting Janine & Richard and their Big Red 22 Club Lounge (BR22CL)

By: Jill Malcolm, Photography by: Jill Malcolm


In this monthly column, Jill Malcolm interviews the owners of RVs to learn how they made their decisions

Janine and Richard Presling are enjoying a new chapter of their lives in a recently purchased caravan. Janine, a part-time nurse, and Richard, an IT Engineer, have also spent the past 35 years renovating houses then selling them. Now they want to enjoy some leisure.

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A large rear lounge, which can be closed off was one of the deciding factors.

Deciding to live full time in a caravan was a big leap and working out what make and model to choose was a long process. They intended to move around the country, but at the moment, Janine’s elderly mother needs help, and they spend much of their time near Auckland’s North Shore. Richard still works full time. As long as he has a good internet connection, he can work anywhere. 

What has been your camping/RV experience so far?

We both grew up having caravanning and camping trips with our families and friends in spectacular holiday spots. We also tented with our sons for many years.

Why did you choose to buy a caravan?

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Janine and Richard in their home on wheels

We envisage parking the caravan and going off on day adventures, returning to rest and recover. Richard loves mountain-biking, and we thought it would be easier to drive down unknown roads without a caravan in tow. We also didn’t want another vehicle and engine to maintain or the perceived hassle of decamping whenever we needed to go somewhere.

How did you go about researching?

We talked with RVing friends and relatives to learn about their perspectives. We attended caravan and motorhome shows two years in a row and joined the NZMCA, read magazines and viewed designs and layouts on manufacturers’ websites. We like being able to able to back up to a beach and see the view through a large rear window, and this narrowed the range.

What was the biggest challenge WHEN choosing the right caravan?

Determining the right size. We initially thought a shorter length was about right because our tow vehicle had a three-tonne tow rating. But then, to allow us more choice, we bought a secondhand Land Rover Discovery with a 3.5-tonne rating. Another challenge was staying within budget. We were well aware of how cost rises steeply with size.

The New Age Club Lounge with its generous U-shaped lounge seating rose to the top of the list. We visited Auckland Motorhomes several times and were impressed with the caravan’s build quality.

Can you tell us about the make and model?

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The bathroom has it all

We finally chose the demo caravan that was in the yard - a New Age Big Red 22 Club Lounge (BR22CL), which has an overall length of 9100mm and a GVW of 3.3 tonnes. At the drawbar end is a queen-sized bed. There is a full shower and separate bathroom, a three-way 180L fridge/freezer, full oven, generous kitchen and large U-shaped lounge. The galvanised chassis is supported on rocker-roller tandem suspension, and the AL-KO ESC (electronic stability control) is standard.

What were the four most important deciding features of your caravan?

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There’s plenty of space for personal touches

The club lounge at the rear, facing the view, was paramount. The second was the ability to separate the lounge from the bedroom, allowing Richard to contact his overseas customers during the night without disturbing Janine. A full-sized shower and bathroom were third, and brand reputation and dealer responsiveness were fourth.

Who did you buy it from, and how did you find the process and follow up?

The New Age dealer in Auckland is Auckland Motorhomes (AMH) in Drury now owned by Nationwide RV. We first saw the New Age range at the Covi Motorhome and Caravan Show in 2017, and the stand was manned by people who were knowledgeable but not pushy.

We went back in 2018 and met the New Age guys from the Melbourne factory. They answered all our additional questions about the construction process. Janine didn’t like the angled concertina door between the kitchen and bathroom and so, at that point, we had decided on an Oz Classic Club Lounge, even though Janine was little concerned about being able to handle something of that size.

We made it known that we were not in the market until we had sold our house, But we kept in touch. Once we sold the house, we went back and looked at the Big Red (BR22CL), which was on special and immediately available. We decided that we could live with the concertina door and bought the caravan off the lot.

Then we added our list of the options and agreed to pick it up in two months. There were a couple of minor issues: the annexe got lost in transit from Australia; we were told that the Big Red came with two batteries, but it only had one. AMH fixed both of these quickly and effectively. The handover process was comprehensive, and a checklist and collection of practical manuals was provided.

Would you do anything differently?

No, we were happy with the process and felt we were in control throughout.

Is there anything about your caravan you changed or would change?

We had the vehicle wiring modified so that it would support the 12-pin plug, an Anderson plug for the AL-KO ESC and braking system and another Anderson plug for charging the caravan batteries from the tow vehicle.

We added motor-movers, an automatic satellite dish, an internet puck aerial, leather seating, a dual bike rack, a second battery, a towing camera and a backing camera, a 2kW inverter and an annexe/awning. We also changed the water pump as the original, which was bolted directly onto the chassis, was too noisy.

We had it replaced with a Shurflo pump on rubber mounts. The motor-movers are fantastic, but they struggle to move the heavy caravan on slopes and can end up slipping. It would be great if they had more grip on the tyres. Apart from that, we can’t think of anything we would change. There is a tremendous amount of storage. We love the caravan and can see ourselves living in it for a long time.

What advice would you offer others?

Take your time and look at lots of designs. Pay attention to the towing capacity of your vehicle. Research the dealer and make sure you feel comfortable with their service. Enjoy the process.

What travel plans do you have?

Depending on family commitments, we are planning short trips in the North Island. We will explore the North and South Islands in a few years and are looking forward to travelling with family and friends and meeting new people.

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