Jayco starcraft 1

SEB STEPHENS reports, Australia’s most popular budget caravan comes packed with so many luxuries, it’s hard for buyers to walk away

Sometimes I think I’d be a richer man today if only I’d heeded my father’s advice not to waste money on expensive cars when you could get something cheaper that would still get you me from A to B the same way.

That advice could be equally be applied to buying caravans and the phenomenal success of Jayco in Australia shows buyers are crunching the numbers and finding it hard to go past them.

Jayco accounts for more than 40 per cent of all Australian caravan sales and after spending some time in the Starcraft it’s easy to see why.

It is so packed with features, the complete package for under $40,000 almost sells itself.

Today Jayco touches almost every part of the Australian RV market, producing everything from budget campers and pop tops through to luxury firth wheelers. While it’s a big range in total, it’s also very straightforward. In caravans there are basically two models, the Starcraft and the bigger fiberglass Sterling. Sterling remains Jayco’s biggest seller, but the Starcraft is fast catching up, accounting for approximately 40 per cent of sales – which means 35 a week roll out of Jayco’s massive complex at Dandenong.

Starcraft is a heritage brand for Jacyo, originally used for popular pop tops back in the nineties, it was resurrected four years ago for new lines of pop tops and caravans.

Aluminium framed and cladded caravans have been synonymous with Aussie holidays since they were first mass produced in the mid-1960s, but aside from the basic construction materials, this Jayco has almost nothing in common with those classic trailblazer models from years gone by.

There are an incredible 32 different models in the Starcraft range ranging from 13ft pop tops up to 22ft luxury off roaders. We tested the single-axle 16 foot model. Its good-sized rear bathroom with separate toilet and shower have made it the second biggest seller in the range. It is relatively easy to manoeuvre and weighing just over 1.7 tonnes, it can be towed by a Falcon, Commodore – or even a classic Monaro.Jayco has added many of the popular refinements and features developed for the Sterling.

What impresses outside are the auto-style handbrake, the fiberglass streamlined nose cone, the cover that neatly conceals the two LP gas tanks and a decent-sized fully-line boot compartment.

For a budget-priced van there are lots of neat inclusions like an outside water tap on the front chassis and also an external 240v power point. It comes with 14 inch alloy wheels and three good quality tyres, the spare mounted on the back right above the rear bumper. All the tyres are nitrogen-filled which reduces
blow outs and make them last as much as 20 per cent longer.

Inside, the Starcraft is air conditioned and fully insulated. The double- glazed Dometic widows come with concealed blinds that pull up and insect screens that pull down. There’s also a skylight above the bed.

The combination of insulation and double glazed windows makes it remarkably quiet inside even when stuck alongside noisy neighbours or busy roads. The double bed is comfy and cleverly designed with a bolster coming off at the top to give you more than six feet in leg room. It can be neatly stored underneath, with gas struts giving easy-to-lift access to storage.

The kitchen is compact as you’d expect in a van this size, but well equipped. The SMEV stove is better than most homes I’ve lived in, with three gas burners and one electric hotplate along with a grill and oven with a turntable. A glass lid comes down to neatly conceal the hotplates and give more preparation space. The microwave is standard along with a 3-way (gas, 12v and 240v) 150 litre Dometic fridge.

There are two 82 litre water storage tanks along with a 22 litre hot water tank which is more than enough for a decent shower and it re-heats in 30 minutes, powered by either 240v or gas. The battery back-up can last 2-3 days if you’re camping away from mains power. A solar panel pack would set you back approximately another $900.

For a small van, the shower is a decent size and a there’s a Thetford cassette toilet opposite. The basin has a flick mixer, as does the kitchen sink, which also has a pump tap for when you’re away from mains supply.

The quality of finishes is impressive. The furniture is all aluminium-framed, there are synthetic edges on corners to make them ‘bump proof’. The fabrics really stand out including rubber-backed curtains and matching fabric pelmets.
Leather is available as an option for an extra $1400

Jayco is obviously the most mass produced caravan in Australia, but the range of different floorplans and optional extras effectively lets you customise it the way you want. You’d have to be extremely fussy not to be able to order and create exactly what you’re looking for.The value though is hard to beat. Consider the option of an off road kit with 18 inch alloys and upgraded ALKO suspension, combined with an optional outdoor shower, slide out barbeque and bike racks on the back. You get a caravan that’s durable and better equipped than what you might find for twice the price elsewhere.

Pulling up at a caravan park, owners of other vans will sometimes have a shot at Jayco because there are so many on the road; the inference being that mass production means quality goes out the back door.

But these criticisms are not really borne out by the facts. Jayco caravans hold their value as well as any other brands, one of the factors helping to make caravan holidays so popular.

We picked up our test van from Watsons Caravans of Coffs Harbour where they’ve been selling Jayco exclusively for just under 25 years and wouldn’t sell anything else. Kris Watson says buyers come back to swap their Jayco for another – trading up or down depending on their lifestyle.

We certainly found a lot to like with the Starcraft and the value and inclusions are hard to beat.

Price: from $39,990

Full details and specs: www.jayco.com.au


Separate shower and toilet, rather than all in the same tiny compartment
common in most small vans
Overall quality and inclusions for a great price, plus great added options
Compact size doesn’t require a hefty 4WD tow vehicle or storage space


Storage is somewhat limited, as you’d expect in a smaller van
Sound system and TV antenna are extras
TV bracket on test model was inconveniently fitted above kitchen bench