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Is the great Australian holiday out of reach?


“We were certainly not going to pay over $10,000 for an unfitted van,” Ms Engelhardt said.

People online had started referring to the campervan price increases as “the COVID tax”, she said.

“I think unless you have some knowledge on vans or a trade behind you to be able to do up a van and still do it cheaply, it’s pretty inaccessible to a lot of people,” she said.

Heightened demand has also placed pressure on manufacturers.

International manufacturer and retailer Jayco experienced a 35 per cent increase in sales across new and used RVs compared to the previous year.

National sales manager Scott Jones said the significant increase in sales could be attributed to new people coming into the market that may not have previously considered caravanning.

“Increased demand has meant we have put more of an emphasis on our production processes to increase efficiencies across all production lines,” Mr Scott said, “[But] like all industries experiencing increased demand comes the potential for longer production lead times,” he said.

Upwey resident Natalie Amoroso and her partner started looking for a caravan earlier this year, so they could venture off on a family road trip with their two children.

They bought a caravan in May 2021 and picked it up seven months later, on Christmas Eve.

Ms Amoroso’s family got in just before the year’s cut-off.

“[The dealership] did tell us that we were one of the last families to be able to purchase that specific caravan for the year… everyone else would have to wait [until] sometime next year,” she said.

Caravan Industry Victoria CEO Robert Lucas said that depending on the type of vehicle, what once had taken a six to nine-month wait was taking up to twelve months in the past year. But he said orders should return to normal wait times in 2022.

Chris Ellis, owner of @Peachwoodco_ in a van that he recently fitted out as a luxe campervan.Credit:Jason South

Others are opting to purchase empty vans and employ the services of people like Chris Ellis, from Peachwood Co, to do custom fit-outs.

In an Instagram Q&A with his followers, Chris said that custom fit-outs for smaller vehicles like the Toyota Hiace can start from $18,000 and increase up to $33,000 for larger vans like the Mercedes Sprinter.

Although this is in addition to the cost of purchasing an empty van, it contrasts with the price of new Campervans from retailers like Jayco and Winnebago which tend to retail for over $120,000.

When he started Peachwood Co four years ago, Mr Ellis would get one or two inquiries a week. Now he gets up to 12 a day.

“I’ve already booked up until close to October next year,” he said.

Mr Ellis said that the “market is crazy” for people like Lani and Amber, who were hoping to buy something already fitted out.

In February 2021, Mr Ellis listed a fully fitted-out van online and sold it that day.

“I put it up. I didn’t look at the listing for a couple of hours and I came back to … 160 inquiries for it. After four hours. I just was blown away by the level of interest in that sort of market,” he said.

The ZIP Weekly Spending Index, based on data from December 2020, revealed a 242.9 per cent increase in spending with caravan dealers.

Data from Parks Victoria further highlighted this trend, as campsite bookings in the 2020-21 summer period increased by 42.7 per cent. There were more than 60,000 bookings recorded in 2020-21, compared to about 42,000 in 2019-20.

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