With over 25% of the population of Australia aged 55+, and the Baby Boomer generation just starting to hit this age group, the Grey Nomad population is about to boom.
Grey Nomads, commonly defined as 55-70 year olds travelling domestically in Australia, made 2.6 million trips in 2011, with NSW the most popular destination, followed by Queensland, Victoria and WA (according to figures from Tourism Research Australia). This was 12% up on the year before and an amazing 90% increase against the figures in 2000.
The knock on effects of these stats are already being felt in the RV (Recreational Vehicle) market, with IBISWorld industry analysts predicting a year-on-year growth of 3% in the sector and an industry worth over $2.6 billion by 2017.
So the big question is – should you join them? If you’re seriously considering the big road trip the next question has to be, what mode of transport (and accommodation) will you choose?
Grey Nomad Transport Options
Making the right choice here is really a function of what you are planning on doing and how much ‘home comfort’ you want to have while you’re travelling. If you’re keen to do some off-roading and/or travel to remote locations and camp grounds, then you’re pretty much restricted to the first four options i.e. 4WD, caravan or camper trailer, or fifth wheeler, where you’ll have to park up the caravan or fifth wheeler unit somewhere safe while you go on the off-road trip.
Another option is to stick some pushbikes or small scooters/motorbikes on the back of the motorhome to give you the option of going bush without having to take the whole vehicle.
There’s even a top of the range motorhome which has a hidden space underneath for a small sports car – as demonstrated on an episode of Top Gear – but the sports car is probably not going to help with the off-road experience! Let’s have a look at the other options:
The main advantage of the camper trailer is that it’s lighter and more manoeuvrable than a caravan. The downside is that setting up and breaking down is a fair bit more work and with many types (although not all) you miss out on home comforts like the inbuilt bathroom and toilet. However, because they’re lighter you also have a wider choice of cars to tow them. Like caravans, there are some camper trailers that are built for off-road use.
At the risk of getting teased by fans of the aforementioned TV show (who make a point of ‘dissing’ and where possible trashing caravans whenever they can), a caravan is a very smart choice if you’re after some creature comforts, such as en suite toilets and bathrooms. Many caravans come with awnings so you can spread yourself out a little bit too. As above, you can also unhitch the caravan and park it while you go off exploring in your car or 4WD. Some caravans even offer a degree of off-road capability.
This term describes caravans that don’t hook up to a tow bar, but are located on a specially adapted towing vehicle which is fitted with a fifth wheel, usually seen on the back of truck cabs where the trailer connects. The benefits of a fifth wheeler over a conventional caravan is that the travel length is lessened while the internal space is maintained. There is often also a split level over the fifth wheel allowing for extra room, often used for a bedroom or storage space. The downside is you do need to have a modified towing vehicle, which is generally a modified ute.
The archetypal grey nomad mode of transport. Campervans can be anything from the trusty VW combi van to a luxury Winnebago at $100,000+. The advantage of the campervan is there’s nothing to do when you arrive; just switch off the engine and put the handbrake on, then relax. And setting off again is the same, in reverse.
Now we’re at the ‘bring the kitchen sink’ end of the scale. At this end of town you’re talking serious money, with the most expensive motorhome in the world recently getting a bit of media coverage – a $3.65M 12m long road-going luxury conveyance called the eleMMent Palazzo with its own rooftop terrace, underfloor heating and marble lighting. The vehicle is even ‘self washing’ after a long day out on the road.
If you’re not in the market for the Palazzo, there are many more affordable options, but whichever model you choose, you’ll be heading out in the closest thing to your own home you’ll ever find on wheels.
Whichever way you look at it, a trip around Australia is a big undertaking. Many experienced grey nomads recommend trying out a couple of the alternative options to see what they’re like before splashing the cash. Although it can be a little expensive to hire campervans and motorhomes, at least you have the chance to really see which mode of transport suits you best before you make your purchase. When you’re good and ready, give us a call at Aussie Leisure Loans and we’ll do our best to line you up with the best finance for your chosen mode of transport, whether it’s a 4WD or a top of the line motorhome, or something in between.
PS If you really really wanted to, a quick check on Google Maps will show you can, in theory, circumnavigate Australia inside about two weeks. It wouldn’t really be in the spirit of the exercise, but you could do it in a Ferrari, staying in smart hotels and dining out in smart restaurants every night! Whether you could still call yourself a grey nomad would be a matter of debate!
Image credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Transit