Ten years ago Derek and Susan bought their first caravan, and a few years later, their second. Now close to retiring, they’ve upgraded again. Jill Malcolm spoke with Derek to find out more.
Tell us about your previous caravans
Our first was a Swift Accord 480 and the second a Swift Accord Challenger. Both were great, but there are compromises with any RV, and we always kept our eye out for better options.
Why did you decide to change?
We are about to retire. We love caravanning, and could afford another caravan with all of the warranties and benefits of buying new.
How did you go about researching?
We researched online. Because we had bought both our Swifts from Melissa and Craig Growden at Gateway Caravans in Whakatāne, we spoke to them about a Coachman Laser 675, four-berth that they would shortly have arriving from the factory in England. Gateway Caravans is the New Zealand agent for Coachman, a luxury brand of beautifully crafted caravans that won the Caravan of the Year in the UK in 2021. Craig thought we would love the new Coachman. We did. It was the best caravan we’d ever seen.
What were the most important features?
The main ones were an east-west bed, a full rear bathroom, and a full-size fridge/freezer. We also wanted a double-axle caravan for ease of towing. The Coachman ticked all those boxes and, of course, there were many more.
What other aspects influenced your decision?
We really liked the layout. The designers had put a lot of thought into the access and flow. Caravans are confined areas and flow is very important. The Coachman is slightly wider than our others were, and therefore a little roomier. This allowed for the queen-sized, east-west bed, which is very comfortable. The rear bathroom is spacious and well designed. In the kitchen there is a large fridge/freezer which opens either side. The caravan is built with advanced bonded construction (ABC), which means that it’s lighter than steel framing and it comes with a 10-year water ingress guarantee. It is a very classy modern caravan, pleasing to look at from both the outside and inside.
What else do you enjoy about it?
It’s a long list. As I have said, this is the best caravan we have seen. The decor is sophisticated, the colours subdued, which gives an overall impression of space. The bathroom has good lighting, a large basin, plenty of storage, and a spacious shower box with a folding hanging hook. Attached to the wall is a ladder-style, electrically heated railing. There is also an exterior cold shower. During the day the bed slides in to allow better access to the bathroom. We find the bed super-comfortable, and the small bedside ledges have room for cups of tea and night-time bits and pieces. There is plenty of storage space in every area, including his-and-hers wardrobes.
The kitchen area has everything – including the sink – which is large with a high-arched tap for easy filling. The fridge is three-way (153L) and hinged on two sides, a fold-out flap provides extra bench space, there’s a full oven and four-hob gas cooktop, and a microwave. The manufacturers have paid attention to safety issues. As one example, the gas hobs cannot be activated until the glass top is completely open.
In the lounge, two comfortable upholstered bench settees provide seating and can be converted to a double bed, which our two young grandchildren love. There is a large front-end picture window and two smaller side ones, so there is plenty of outlook and light.
What are some other thoughtful touches?
There are many. Among them, I’ll mention the entertainment speakers in the lounge and bedroom, the USB charging ports and a wireless mobile phone charging unit in the bulkhead. All the lighting is LED and the spotlights are controlled by touch. We like the soft-closing doors and cupboards, and the fully integrated ALDE heating system that works off a sensor.
How is the towing?
We tow the Coachman with our Ford Wildtrack Ranger pickup. We hardly know we’re pulling anything behind us, let alone something that is an overall length of 7.8 metres and weighs 1.8 tonnes. It helps that the caravan has an AL-KO automatic adjustment brake system and trailer control.
Have you added anything?
We had a backing camera installed at the back of the caravan, which has been very useful from a safety point of view. We added a TV and satellite dish, which picks up Freeview and can be adjusted for Sky, and solar panels to keep the battery charged. We also had a separate blow-up awning fitted.
How do you use the caravan?
We mostly use camping grounds rather than freedom camps. In the past we have often been based at Ōhope. Next year we’ll spend eight weeks in the South Island, based in Arrowtown. Typically we will meet up with friends or have our grandchildren to stay when it’s good to have swimming pools and other activities.
We think the Coachman Laser is a remarkable piece of engineering, and the finish is superb inside and out. Only around 2000 are made each year, so the focus is on quality.
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