This was a first for us, coming to Australia we knew our methods of travel would change. This vast and expensive land isn’t as easy to get across as the entire continents of Eastern Europe and South East Asia on a shoestring! To see so much of it we would have to get our own transport. The options seem endless, buying, renting, what about sizes of camper or even just getting a car instead. Then there’s the petrol prices, camping fees and laws, isolated areas and outback charges! After 3 different trips in 3 different modes of camping transport. Here are our tips for renting a campervan in Australia!
Pick the right camper for you
Not all campers are equal, but that can also be said for the price. Renting a camper will set you back quite a bit of money, but there are still options out there for all budgets so anyone can look at renting a campervan in Australia.
We have rented out 3 different types of camper: A station wagon, a small campervan and a car with a fold out roof tent. The Station Wagon and Tent/ Car options are your cheapest and I have to say they were still great. They allowed us to do trips we otherwise couldn’t afford. However there is only a certain level of comfort that comes from sleeping in a car or a tent and the weather is a contributing factor. These option are also a little bit more annoying when it comes to organising your stuff as there is not as much storage space and things need to be moved more often when setting up between driving and sleeping. However a station wagon is amazing on fuel and has a huge tank, our small tent car was also manual which was also good for economy purposes.
We also rented a small non powered campervan. This is the cheapest option for actual campers and it was of course much more comfortable than the cars. The main benefits were lots of storage space, the ability to keep pretty much everything in place between sleeping, driving and chilling out and also a cooking area, sink and fridge built into the back. However without power and in the scorching hot Queensland summer it still did get incredibly hot inside! Though you can switch the engine on for a few mins and blast the AC or pay for a powered site and hook up a normal fan through the powerpoint with an extension lead!
Above that the options are immense and depending on your budget you can indulge in a whole host of comforts and conveniences. There are fully AC units, ones with built in kitchens and even bathrooms! But remember, you pay more for a powered site at a camp ground and some of the larger vans are hard to find a park for!
You should also consider whether a campervan is the right vehicle for the job. If you are up in the Top End or going more rural then consider renting a 4×4, many come with a tent on the roof or can be organised so you can sleep inside. If you are planning on mostly staying in hotels, motels or even hostels rather then look at just simple car rental! Renting a campervan in Australia might mean different things depending on your trip!
Research the different companies
There are lots of different companies available to rent from and each offer a different variety of vehicles available, different pricing scales, styles of vehicles and also different additional costs and insurance options. It’s worth shopping around but also doing some research on each company. Some, like Britz for example are aimed more at the higher end market and bigger campers.
Wicked however are aimed solidly at backpackers with cheaper options and crazy paint jobs that some might not want to be seen inside!! We have used Wicked twice and they have been great and offered the cheapest price at the time. We have also used Travellers Autobahn that rent out huge campers but also very basic but solid station wagons that are cheap and great for long drives and a top choice for renting a campervan in Australia.
Should you buy instead of renting?
Another option to consider if you will be in Australia for a year or even two is buying the camper, car or jeep rather than renting it. You have to consider whether you want to take a few long road trips and be based somewhere to work. Or maybe you are just on an extended holiday with more of a timescale. You should decided whether renting a campervan in Australia is the right choice for you.
If you want to take your vehicle across the entire county and don’t have to stick to strict time plans then buying might be a cheaper option. Though consider that you have to pay registration, insurance, roadworthiness certificate and any roadside cover you may need or want especially if you are travelling to remote locations. However, what is great is that you can customise your camper if you buy, adding accessories or even converting another vehicle to make it more useful for you, right here is a great website for professional camper van parts and conversion help.
You should also shop around and research well first, it also helps if you know what to look for when buying a car. I know a couple of 19 year olds who vastly overpaid on their car, it needed 1000s of $ of work, they went uninsured and unregistered risking even more trouble and now can’t sell the thing with their visa soon running out! It can be a great idea but make sure you know what you are buying into. When renting you are generally covered for most things that can go wrong and know the vehicles are well maintained.
Look at insurance options
When you look at renting a campervan in Australia you have different options for insurance.
The most basic involves paying an upfront deposit or bond of usually a few thousand $. This way they have the money if they need to charge you but you also get this back which means that overall if you don’t have an accident then its cheaper. However if you do then you might loose more money and often you might not have that amount of cash to hand over upfront on top of what you are paying!
Another option is to pay an additional fee per day, this often for cheaper cars and vans doubles the price of the hire cost per day. However it can still be as little as $50 a day with insurance. This will cover you for pretty much anything regular insurance has. However be aware that often driving at night isn’t covered when outside of a city due to the increased risk of hitting an animal!
Another option is to pay the bond up front and then pay for insurance though a third party that essentially covers your bond money. A car rental damage insurance like Bonzah is a good balancing act between paying the bond and taking out insurance with the company themselves and will work out cheaper overall if you can get the bond money together! An American friend recently took this option and ended up saving a lot of money she could then use during the trip!
You should also make sure you have adequate travel insurance to cover you and your trip too, if you don’t then the insurance on your car/ van might not be valid.
Do you need a credit card for renting a campervan in Australia?
Yes and no!
Most companies want a card on file for incidentals, not usually for things that insurance or your bond would be concerned with, but charges like admin fees if you get a ticket for example. It’s an old fashioned approach and strange really because the first time we rented the Station wagon we did actually get a charge for a ticket (Doh) but it came off my debit card even though they had a credit card on file! Also when we rented through wicked the second time they just took an imprint of my debit card and din’t ask for a credit card. I don’t know if this was just down to the fact that I gave them a British card that was Mastercard and they assumed it was a credit card or if they are more open to other options. Either way I can see in the future maybe more companies being easier going on this when renting a campervan in Australia.
However. Many companies allow you to use someone else’s card as a back up using a permission form. We were lucky that my parents were willing to allow us to use their card knowing that of course, we would pay them back straight away if anything were to come off it. (We are also lucky that we have good mates and basically an adopted family that also let us use their card!) If you are lucky enough to have someone that trusts you then this is a real problem solver. We also managed to get it done with just scanned copies of the card, ID and signed form from England whilst in Australia so you don’t always need original documents to do it either.
Consider extra costs: Petrol, camping, food, bedding etc.
Ok, so you’ve got your camper and you are ready to go! Everything is paid for and you are just ready for a good time! Well… there’s some extras to consider when renting a campervan in Australia! These are things like petrol, camping fees, food and what to pack for Australia depending on which regions you are visiting and what time of year you will be travelling.
Firstly there is camping fees. Yeah, you’re accommodation isn’t already paid for!! There are lots of free camping options available around Australia but make sure you are in a proper free camping area as many areas are patrolled by wardens and result in heavy fines for illegal camping. Site fees vary from popular resorts where you might pay upwards of $40 each for an unpowered site to someone charging you $5 to use basically an parking lot with toilets and gates for the night!
Some of the best we have found are on show ground and ovals where you would usually pay $15 per vehicle or national parks where we have paid as little as $3.30 and had a nice plot with access to toilets and showers! Some free sites are amazing, some feel a little bit dodgy and secluded! It’s all about judgement but sometimes paying $15 to feel safe is worth it! Also some hostels allow you to stay in their carparks and have access to the facilities such as the kitchen, pool, wifi and chill out areas. This was one of our favourite options when renting a camper van in Australia and in a city.
Download Wikicamps on your phone, you can filter out free sites and see reviews and prices. This is a really valuable tour for renting a campervan in Australia.
Petrol can be expensive in Aus, though notably cheaper than in the UK, however you will cover usually quite some distance! Once you get into more remote areas you will see a vast difference in petrol prices and often not have an choice but to fill up if it is the only pump for hundreds of KMs! If you can try to use “United” as they are cheaper and avoid Shell. The prices of petrol fluctuate daily too so avoid school holidays if you can.
You will also need to consider you will have to buy bedding, pillows, sheets etc for you van. Big W and target are good cheap options. Also stock up on food when you can at Coles, Woolworths or Aldi in bigger towns and cities. Once you get into the more remote places, even if you are just on an East Coast or Great Ocean Road trip, you will pay a hell of a lot more from the small connivence shops!
Often you will have to pay a one way drop off fee too if you are not returning the vehicle to where you picked it up from and some companies also have a daily outback fee too (Travellers Autobahn don’t). Also consider tolls if you might be around Melbourne, Brisbane or Sydney. It’s best to pay a little extra to cover you as you will get stung for quite a bit otherwise. Your age might also be a factor when renting a camper van in Australia as some companies won’t allow drivers below a certain age or will charge you more!
Plan a route, time and prepare!
Australia is a huge country and has some amazing places to visit, but it is also wild and at times very isolated. When you plan a trip check travel distances and times, it sometimes looks closer than it is to get somewhere! Plan your destinations and travel in between. Take regular breaks and share the driving if you can. Avoid driving at night at all costs as Kangaroos are a real threat and hitting one is very dangerous and often not covered by insurance either. Make sure you plan where you will be staying and ring ahead before you set off, check how regular fuel and food stops are. Always take more than enough water with you and if you break down in the outback never leave your car!
Use google maps to plan and Map.me when you don’t have any signal. Remember to download the maps when you have internet.
Have an amazing experience
Australia is a great country to travel around in a camper and an unforgettable experience that you will love! Most companies we’ve used have been pretty chilled actually and haven’t even checked our vans over properly when we handed them back in either. So don’t worry too much! Just prepare, be safe and have a ripper time when renting a campervan in Australia!
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Travelling and especially backpacking is a wild adventure, but make sure you are covered just incase something goes wrong, which if you’re living it up to the fullest it’s always a possibility!
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