The Truth About NEWGEN Caravans and Why Composite is BestUntil recently, almost all the caravans you’d find on Australian roads were constructed with a traditional ‘stick and tin’ method, but with advances in technology and manufacturing methods, composite fibreglass panels have seen an explosion in popularity.
Stick-and-tin vs. Composite Panels – What’s the Difference?Aluminium panel (stick-and-tin) construction is the elder statesman of the caravan world. A tried-and-tested technique, this method involves cladding a wooden frame with aluminium sheets and has been the backbone of Australian caravans since the 1960s. Although stick-and-tin vans are robust, they are also heavy, prone to swaying during travel, and vulnerable to rot on account of their wooden frames.
On the other hand, composite panels (also known as sandwich panels) are a recent innovation that has only really taken off in the last decade. They are made by sandwiching a layer of insulating foam between two pieces of fibreglass to create a lightweight panel that is both strong and highly insulating. These panels are then attached to an extruded steel frame, creating a sleek, seamless and aerodynamic caravan.
In addition to being significantly lighter than stick-and-tin vans, caravans constructed from composite panels are more rigid and less prone to swaying when you’re on the road, while their steel frames make them impervious to rot.
Strength & DurabilityWhen it comes to strength and durability, stick-and-tin caravans have a time-tested legacy and are capable of weathering a storm or two. However, they are also prone to damage as their aluminium skin can be dented by hail or falling branches, and each join and rivet in the exterior creates a point of potential ingress for water.
Maintenance & Repair
When it comes to maintenance, stick and tin caravans require regular checks for corrosion, wear and tear to the panels, and potential water ingress and rot in the wooden frame. Repairs to the panels can be relatively straightforward and often involve a simple replacement, but if the frame starts to rot, you’ll be in the hole for some serious money.
Composite panels, on the other hand, require less routine maintenance and are more resistant to environmental damage. Because there are no joins or rivets, it is much more difficult for water to penetrate the fibreglass skin – and if it does, there is no chance of the steel frame rotting.
Aesthetics & Fuel-Efficiency
Although the design of stick-and-tin vans has come a long way since the 60s, many still tend to look boxy and dated – a shape that, when combined with the additional weight of the frame, hurts their aerodynamics and fuel efficiency.
In comparison, composite panels are practically space-age, and their seamless, gleaming fibreglass shells are perfect for buyers wanting a sleeker, more modern look. This sleek design also means composite panels are more aerodynamic than stick-and-tin vans, resulting in more stable towing and greater fuel efficiency.