Some people baulk at the prospect of buying second-hand while others swear that buying used avoids most of the wallet-smashing depreciation that new motorhomes can be affected by. But there are other options, such as ex-rental RVs like the Kea Discovery - only one of the most popular rental motorhomes around! These RVs are built tough, simple and with ease of use in mind and it is this value that is often overlooked.
VALUE FOR MONEY
A used Discovery, like the one we pointed north from Perth, WA, on the road to Karijini NP, with around 120,000km on the clock will set you back around $80,0000. That is a third less than a comparable new one and, for a motorhome only a few years old and of this size, is an exceptional value.
The new Kea Discovery retails at around $120,000 which, for the four-passenger, car licence-friendly motorhome is, in itself, good value. It does not have the bespoke feel of some of the small volume van conversion RVs out there but what you get is a well-manufactured, well-designed and thought-out motorhome thanks, in part, to the size and scale of the builder.
MANUFACTURED NOT MADE
Kea has been around since 1995 and under the control of Tourism Holdings Limited (THL) since 2012. Motorhomes retail through the RV Sales Centre both in its native New Zealand and here in Australia. For those who do not know THL, it is one of New Zealand’s modern success stories. Pioneer in motorhome manufacturer and distribution, it is also a major stakeholder in some of the best tourism activities around the world and is actively growing new markets.
Anyone with a spanner, a cutting wheel and some Sikaflex can make a motorhome. Well, almost…You need a bit more but my point is that there are plenty of small-volume conversion companies and backyard built RVs out there. And, while I applaud anyone that has a crack themselves, it may not be the best investment to put your hard-earned money into one of these. THL, with its multiple brands and manufacturing facilities, is no bit-player. It ranks as one of the largest in the RV game. And it is through this that I see the greatest value in the Kea Discovery - the expertise and refinement.
The Kea we drove had been rented out for a couple of years yet showed little sign of real wear, which was a testament to its robust build. There were minor signs of use - the rear bumper had a few scrapes and the seats signalled a few bums had slid in and out, but it felt good. The cabinetry was in good shape and the floor did not look 120,000km old.
The Kea is made for inexperienced users so we thought best to test it as such. At one stage, letting one of our camera people loose to sleep in it, their only complaint was the cables that operate the drop-down bed came off their runners. A few minutes poking about and it was fixed. Camera-man Cam’s highlight? A restful sleep thanks to a comfortable bed and good sound deadening. Such was the positive experience sleeping in the Kea, by the end of our eight days with it, four of us had a chance to sample it and we were all were impressed.
THE SLOW LIFE
There are some consequences of manufacturing the Kea to be small and car licence-friendly, the biggest of which is the need to keep the running gear light. The Mercedes Sprinter van the Discovery is based on is a small unit with a 2.2 litre turbodiesel with 110kW and five speed gearbox. This means the RV was is race-car. But, to no surprise, best economy and cruise was under typical highway speeds, at about 90km/h. We did not quite see the claimed 13L/100km, seeing closer to 15 in our blustery WA drive but, with a fuel tank over 100 litres, we didn’t have to plan our driving around fuel stations as much as, say, a typical caravan tourer. It’s when not driving that the Discovery excels, however.
Good size fridge? Tick. Sleeping for four? Tick. Triple burner plus electric element cooktop and oven? Tick. Microwave… AC… tick, tick; it goes on. The gear you need is there plus there is plenty of good storage. And there is more. In a positive surprise, the Discovery came complete with everything a traveling crew could want. Chairs, table, cups, plates; the list is too long. Every drawer and cupboard that was designed to house a specific item came complete. It was the definition of turn-key. So what about ownership?
Long term, you will need to consider servicing and storage. Servicing is to be expected of a modern light-commercial, so follow the service manual and Bob's your uncle. On storage, the 3m travel height will necessitate a taller than normal garage but a carport should do and the 2.2m width is not bad at all. It’s no wider than most common garden trailers but having one at home brings with it another consideration.
GET IN AND GO
This is the main benefit of an owned RV, the ability to go on-demand without the need to book or the possible disappointment of missing out. We had trouble locking down our Discovery as the WA trip we were on was during school holidays. We got one after a few helping hands (thanks RV Sales Centre!) but here's the kicker: the weather was better the week before. If we owned the Discovery, we could gone when we wanted, where we wanted and modified our return date if wanted. This flexibility is what we all need in our ever increasingly busy lives.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Owning an RV offers the ability to get in and go, a flexibility rentals cannot always offer. Buying a used motorhome helps avoid one of the few ownership issues, depreciation. And then buying from a rental-specialist, a well maintained and well-built one only adds more value. A used Kea Discovery may not have the bells and whistles of bespoke builds but it comes with robustness and value-for-money that is hard to beat. I say get one and go.