Things have significantly changed in caravanning since the early 1960s. But one thing that has endured is that Suncorp Group insurance brand, CIL, is the insurer of choice for recreational vehicles, currently insuring around one in five caravans in the nation.
The brand has an unconventional origin story, starting in 1962 on the back of an insult at the local pub. The tale goes that Gordon Smillie, CIL’s founder, was sitting down when another patron engaged him in conversation and asked what he did for a living. When Gordon said he was in insurance, the man – a local caravan dealer – passionately told him how ridiculous he thought it was that no one insured caravans. Gordon had to agree, and that’s how CIL Insurance, then called C.I.L Brokerage Pty Ltd, was born.
Back when CIL Insurance started out, caravanning was generally a low-cost vacation option for young families, with caravanning peaking in popularity in the 1970s. Today, 60% of caravan owners are older couples getting out and enjoying their financial freedom or empty nests, renowned as ‘grey nomads’.
In the early days, caravans didn’t feature the technology that many RVs have today, like solar power and satellite TV. In fact – they didn’t have bathrooms either. Today, top of the line caravans have all these mod-cons, including a flushing toilet.
CIL Portfolio Manager, Damien Bray, reflected on how caravans have changed over the years and how it has impacted insurance.
“Top-of-the-line caravans can have reversing cameras, digital electronics, and other high-tech conveniences. This has meant security is more of an issue, with many customers investing in hideaway safes and ensuring their insurance policy includes extra cover for these items,” Damien said.
Damian Bray, CIL Portfolio Manager
Some of these mod-cons might be what’s helping caravanning mount a comeback for young holidaying families too – it’s definitely a growing segment of the community again. Families are also re-discovering the simple pleasures in life - like spending quality time together away from the pressures of the everyday.
It stands to reason that these features may have contributed to the increase in the average value of a standard caravan over time; a 22-foot caravan in the 60s could have sold for $3,000, but in 2022, the RVs can cost in excess of $100,000. However, Damien explains, caravans tend to retain their value, and a family of four or more can get a lot of holiday mileage per dollar invested in an RV compared to the cost of airfare and accommodation.
Another significant change in caravan design is that most now come standard with a rollout awning, which was phased in during the early 80s.
“Since then, we’ve seen a surge in awning claims, as they often get left up and damaged during weather events, which we’ve had a number of across Australia in the past few years.”
Recognised as a true pioneer of the Australian caravan industry, Gordon Smillie’s approach to promoting caravanning and safety was quite unique for its time.
Gordon got together with Aussie stars like Bert Newton and Johnny Young to film caravanning safety videos that were both informative, and a lot of fun – with Bert and the King of Young Talent Time, how could it be anything else!
"That sense of good, safe fun and community is how we continue to think about caravanning today. We want Aussies of any age to know how they too can have a fantastic holiday here in our own great country."
“We are both pleased and proud of our ongoing commitment to promoting the caravanning way of life – to bring a sense of fun, family and community into the lives of Australians as they enjoy everything this great country has to offer.”
As we celebrate this milestone anniversary, CIL’s goal today 60 years on is no different to back in 1962 – to provide reassurance and peace of mind and help make the Australian caravanning experience as memorable as ever.