Many travellers choose to drive around Australia since it gives you the best options to explore Australia and what it offers. Once you have decided to take a road trip in Australia on holiday, you should consider whether to hire a car or campervan or take the road trip in a used car purchased solely for the road trip and then plan to sell afterwards. Below are our tips and advice on choosing the best vehicle and preparing for your Australian Road Trip.
Car vs Campervan: Advantages and Disadvantages
While hiring a campervan may sound appealing and cost-effective, it’s not always the best solution to saving money on accommodation. Touring Australia by car may often be the best solution for first-time visitors. And the benefits and the downsides vary a lot depending on the circumstances and the type of Australian road trip you want to plan.
Here I have grouped the main benefits and negatives of choosing a car vs a campervan and vice-versa.
Benefits and downsides of hiring a car in Australia
- Hiring a car is usually less expensive than a campervan.
The fuel and vehicle insurance costs are lower than those you are bound to spend on a campervan. While fuel isn’t expensive in Australia, hiring a campervan is considerably higher due to fuel cost.
Travelling by car is best suited for short and accessible routes.
It gives many flexibilities, and the care-free pre-trip preparation is almost non-existing compared to hiring a campervan, where you need to familiarise yourself with many aspects.
- Car hire implies a higher cost of accommodation and food.
That’s true if you will eat out for all your meals. If you stay in budget accommodations like hostels or are prepared to book yourself into a campsite, a basic cabin accommodation for 2-3 people would cost 100-120 dollars. This will allow you to cook your meals, too, thus saving money on food.
On this page, you can read more about tips for travelling solo by car around Australia.
Benefits and downsides of hiring a campervan in Australia
Campervans are not all equal in Australia. There are three main ranges, the low-range a.k.a. Budget campervans, the mid-range and the high-range. I would only consider mid-to-high-end range campervans for better comfort. While backpacker’s vans are pretty inexpensive, the quality of the vehicles is poor.
Travelling around Australia in a campervan is good fun; it’s advisable to weigh up all the pros and cons to make a thoughtful decision on the type of road trip experience.
- The cost of accommodation costs drops
With unpowered campers, rates can be as low as 20 dollars/per day. However, a powered camper will cost you around 50-60 dollars, depending on the campsite and type of campervan. Hiring a campervan or caravan will save lots of money if you plan a road trip around Australia for 1 or 3 months.
- Hiring a campervan implies a higher insurance rate
The insurance is available for purchase when you book the vehicle and pay it when you pick it up. This is something I wouldn’t skimp on. In case of an accident, the average travel insurance plan will not cover any damages and costs arising from campervan damages.
- A small campervan is comfortable to park
also in metropolitan areas, whereas for large campervans, you may have difficulties parking outside suburban regions, which are suitable for long-distance road trip journeys only.
- Trailers are an excellent alternative to campervans
They are an upgraded version of a tent. However, these are pretty common among the locals as they are not available for rent.
This is my experience on my Solo Camping Adventure in Australia.
The best comparison websites for hiring a car or campervan in Australia
While there are many car and campervan van comparison sites on the web, I suggest using an Australian-based comparison site, mainly because they have an in-depth knowledge of the market and the local customs and Australian driving rules and customs; secondly, they offer a full range of local campervan brands.
Which car and campervans brands
Depending on the car type, I have used rental car companies for my East and West Coast road trips. I hired cars with EUROPCAR and have used THRIFTY in the Red Centre and Outback regions.
BUDGET is another good option. But I would search and browse through the results to find the best deal and check the car features that best suit you.
For a campervan holiday in Australia, I suggest the following brands:
- If you travel on a budget but want to hire a good campervan at affordable prices, I would book Juicy Rentals or Cheapa Campa for the best value campervan hire.
- For mid-range campervans in Australia, I suggest Britz and Apollo countrywide locations and Cruising for Australia’s East Coast.
- For the highest comfort and luxurious campervans and motorhomes, Maui and LesGo. If you choose this category, they best suit a group of 4-6 people to leverage the costs better.
Buying a used car for your Australia Trip: Pros and Cons
Buying a used vehicle on a budget always requires thorough consideration. A simple car checklist before buying a car and heading out on the road should always include maintenance issues related to road safety. So, at least the condition of brakes, suspension and tyres have to be checked.
You do not want to get stranded in the Outback with a flat tyre or worn-out brakes. Worn tires, shocks and other suspension components also considerably affect the car’s drivability, especially if you have to drive in harsh weather conditions.
Take advantage of online shop offerings if you find a decent vehicle at a reasonable price, but the tires have seen better days. Numerous web-based tire shops are ready to equip your vehicle with new tires at friendly prices. Or, if you prefer the relaxed life of a van, you can also hire a camper home.
Three things your car or van shall have
- Changing shocks and other suspension components requires much more work, which is usually more expensive. Therefore you should think twice before buying a vehicle that needs extensive repairs to be roadworthy.
- Functioning air conditioning is something to consider – without A/C, your journey can become hot and humid. Most travellers want to spend their money wisely and as little as possible on the vehicle. Your vehicle needs depend on how many people and how much luggage you are travelling with.
- Always choose a vehicle that can safely carry your crew and belongings. The bigger the car, the more stuff you can bring with you. Minivans and SUVs can carry surfboards and other more significant items, and you can comfortably sleep in them. However, bigger cars also come with higher running costs.
- Fuel consumption is one thing to consider on your road trip journey. The difference in fuel economy for a smaller vehicle compared to an older big minivan or SUV is significant.
- Driving a four-wheel drive in the Outback is recommended if you explore the Australian Outback and head for unpaved gravel and sand roads.
- Vehicles with attractive prices usually can also require additional maintenance, which, in addition to tyres, is best to sort out before heading out on the open road. Again, care is usually somewhat more expensive for oversized vehicles.
Whatever vehicle you choose, ensure all the essential maintenance items are in order.
Things to check before going on a road trip to Australia
Road trips in Australia are usually thousands of kilometres long, so the car service is recommended to be updated. To name some necessary maintenance items, at least:
- Fresh oil change.
- Checking and possibly replacing coolant and brake fluid.
- Changing the air filter.
- Making sure that the battery and alternator are in good order.
The above should all be done before your trip. Car maintenance needs to be done at a reasonable price so that your journey is more enjoyable with a piece of mind about your vehicle’s condition.
Your Road Trip Vehicle Checklist – What to carry with you
- In addition to a fresh set of tyres, take a
- A Tyre iron, a safely functioning car jack and a spare tyre when something unexpected happens during your journey; are all necessary tools.
- A first aid kit also belongs to the primary car equipment.
For more information and advice on driving in Australia as a tourist.
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First published in 2016, last updated in Jan 2023
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