An insider's look at Caravan of the Year 2024

An insider's look at Caravan of the Year 2024 - Caravan World Australia

It’s that time of year again, and I welcome you to the first part of our Caravan of the Year 2024 presented by MSA 4x4 Accessories series. So, before you dive into the reviews, let’s have a look at what went on at this year’s event. 

Not so long ago, in the beautiful late summer days of February, we headed to Victoria’s Bellarine Peninsula to kickstart Caravan of the Year 2024 presented by MSA 4x4 Accessories. With 12 great vans from 11 of Australia’s most innovative manufacturers each vying for the ultimate title of Caravan of the Year, you can be sure it was an action-packed event. As you’ll see throughout the 12 reviews, every van was thoroughly put to the test in and around Indented Heads, Portarlington and the start of the Great Ocean Road. And with sunny days, beautiful ocean vistas and afternoons that gave way to soft golden sunsets, the Bellarine Peninsula was a picture-perfect setting for COTY 2024. 

Our home base for the six-day event was the BIG4 Bellarine Holiday Park, a lovely location boasting all the bells and whistles to keep outdoor adventurers of all ages entertained, not to mention an endlessly helpful team of staff. 

Caravan of the Year’s main purpose is to provide experienced and objective reviews of the caravans on display to help potential buyers find the best products for their requirements. It’s a massive task, and we give credit to the manufacturers who put their vans forward for testing. 

Each van is combed over by the panel of four judges who assess every component, inside and out, before taking the van out on a tow test across varied terrain. This process ensures the judges have a thorough understanding of every aspect of the van — its build, design and accessories as well as how it handles on the road. 

And of course, we must give a shout out to our returning major sponsor, MSA 4x4 Accessories, which returned for a third year. MSA 4x4 Accessories is a renowned name in the outdoor adventuring market and provides a wide range of high-quality gear to make caravanning and four-wheel driving lifestyles not only easier but safer

The other main event sponsor was REDARC Electronics, which hosted a fabulous event dinner at Scotchmans Hill Winery on the Saturday night, which was enjoyed by the merry band of entrants, judges, sponsors, event organisers and of course, our trusty photographers and videographers. 

Let’s meet the team

Now, hopefully these introductions won’t trigger déjà vu for any readers who checked out our Australia’s Best Hybrids 2024 content. For while we welcomed back COTY judge veterans Caravan World Creative Director Tim van Duyl, Editor John Ford and Field Editor Malcolm Street, the judging panel was joined by a new member: Catherine Best. 

Catherine has been writing for Caravan World for several years and as a keen caravanner with a young family, she brought a fresh perspective to the competition. To give a bit of background, Catherine’s first caravanning foray was as a kid in the middle bunk of a circa-1984 Millard, towed by a hulking F-100 on a lap of Australia. She’s since graduated to the island queen bed up front and enjoys reliving her childhood adventures with her three kids. 

A news journalist by trade, Catherine has been writing professionally for almost 25 years, is an award-winning travel writer, editor of Caravan & Camping with Kids magazine, and author of the guidebook Ultimate Caravan Trips: Australia.

“There’s something extremely addictive about the caravanning lifestyle. There’s no greater way to travel Australia and be fully immersed in nature,” Catherine said. “Caravanning has been such a gift for our kids, it’s provided endless wholesome outback adventures, family time together and — importantly — time away from screens!

“I thoroughly enjoyed being invited to judge in this year’s COTY competition. I was surprised by the level of technological sophistication in caravans across the board, and it was a wonderful experience meeting with the various manufacturers and hearing their brand stories. I was especially pleased to see sustainability having an increased focus this year, with composting toilets featuring more in vans, and the introduction of recycled building materials.” 

It was great watching the four judges work as a unit, each coming to the task with difference experiences, knowledge, expertise, and in the case of Tim, vantage point on the vans.

When asked about the event, Malcolm Street said, “COTY is an event where caravan manufacturers can demonstrate the latest and greatest. This year in particular featured considerable developments in power system technology. Industry-wide, I’d like to see more engineering effort towards reducing the overall towing weight of caravans and more clarity of the process with customer care.”

“Caravan of the Year is important because it shows significant developments and trends in the industry and highlights different manufacturers prepared to put their reputation on the line,” said John Ford. “Selecting a winner is always a challenge as we delve into the nine judging categories that even out the process. This year’s overall winner was also the most expensive in the contest, but it scored well across the board with superb build quality, likeability and innovation.” 

Putting the best to the test

During the reviewing process the judges assess each van according to nine categories which cover all the realistic areas of a van that can be reviewed. As vans are unique and cannot always be judged on the same scale, the judges take into account the van’s intended purpose and assess it against other similar COTY entrants and also against other vans of a similar class available on the market. 

Build Quality The construction of the entire van, including chassis, body, interior and more. Judges keep an eye out for anything that might impress or be cause for concern.
Liveability The practicality of the van for its intended purpose, including whether the layout is practical and comfortable, storage space and what appliances are included.
Innovation Anything new or different that has been incorporated into the van’s design. This might be the construction methodology, a unique design feature or the van layout. It’s a broad consideration, and looks at everything from solving problems, increasing efficiency to exciting design or aesthetic changes that haven’t been seen in the industry.
Value for Money The van’s overall cost is taken into account and judged against what the van offers in terms of features, quality, durability and overall experience compared to similar vans at COTY and on the market.
Self-Sufficiency How self-sufficient the van is for its intended purpose, including how much water, power, solar panels and gas it has, as well as the ensuite and cooking facilities.
Towability The judges assess how the van performed during the varied terrain tow test, including its weight and feel when driving and what kind of tow vehicle is necessary.
Suitability for Intended Touring The van’s intended target market and how it fulfils the requirements those prospective buyers are expecting. For example, if the van is marketed as an extreme offroad van, does it have the power, solar and water capacities to stay offroad for an extended period and is the build up to the task?
Customer Care The warranty and after-sale care the van manufacturer offers and how these compare to others in the market.
X-Factor What makes the van stand out in its class — what the most impressive features of the van were and what will give potential buyers that ‘wow’ moment. This can range from the interior or exterior design to an impressive accessory or feature, and how well these inclusions were implemented.

Event highlights

With so many great vans, sponsors and locations involved, you can be sure there were some fantastic event highlights at COTY 2024. 

The standout highlight was, of course, the public Showcase on the Saturday. Held in the beautiful coastal town of Portarlington, all 12 vans were decked to the nines and the location couldn’t have been more perfect. The Showcase is always an important component of our events and gives potential buyers and curious locals the opportunity to view the latest round of caravans and get insights from the expert teams. The locals rose to the challenge, and we saw a constant stream of visitors throughout the four-hour event, and even a handful of purchases.

Front and centre at the Showcase were the two event sponsors, MSA 4x4 Accessories and REDARC. Both teams put on fantastic displays, and it was great to see their stands as busy as the rest. 

One of the best aspects of events such as Caravan of the Year is that it brings together some of Australia’s best and most innovative caravan manufacturers and allows them to compete (in a good-natured fashion) and also chat with others in the industry, compare their experiences and see what new innovations other builders are bringing to the table.

After the Showcase was done and dusted the entire team enjoyed a fantastic event dinner at Scotchmans Hill in Drysdale, sponsored by REDARC Electronics. With hills of vineyards rolling towards the ocean and locally made wines and beers at hand, it was a great night for all to sit, relax and celebrate the success of the Showcase day and the event as a whole. 

COTY 2024 results

With the COTY reviews rolling out now — both the written and video reviews — it's high time we announced the winners!

Best Overall Wonderland RV XTR 2211
Best Build Quality Evernew Caravans RTX60
Best Innovation Wonderland RV XTR 2211
Best Value for Money Prime Campers PT-X16
Best Caravan Under $100k Prime Campers PT-X16
Best Couples Caravan Evernew Caravans RTX60
Best Family Caravan Wonderland RV XTR 2211

We couldn’t have asked for a more glorious backdrop for COTY 2024 than the Bellarine Peninsula, and the BIG4 Bellarine Holiday Park which hosted us so graciously. A massive thank you to everyone involved, the contestants, judges, sponsors, photographers, videographers and organisers, who all ensured this year’s Caravan of the Year was one of our best events yet. 


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