We know we say this a lot, but Australia is an amazing country. Lush rolling hills, arid outback, endless beaches and rainforests so dense they block out the sky. This big old island is ripe for exploring, and hiring a campervan is a bloody good way to do it.
Why’s that, you might ask? Well, with the exception of some major city centres, Australia’s roads are remarkably RV-friendly, and there are campgrounds and caravan parks around almost every corner.
On top of that, you’ve got the bulk of your transport and accommodation costs already covered thanks to having a bed, kitchen and storage all in the back of your van. Ultimately, you’ll struggle to find a more cost-effective way to travel.
So, how do you hire a campervan in Australia?
Renting a campervan isn’t rocket science, but if you’re new to the game there’s definitely a few things you’ll want to think about before you sign the dotted line. If you’re keen to book your van and hit the road, you can do that here.
How to hire a campervan in Australia
Whether you’re coming from overseas or interstate, the best way to hire a campervan is online and well in advance. It’s generally a quick, easy process which guarantees a campervan waiting for you at the depot before you arrive. Rental companies typically have depots countrywide and move their fleet around according to demand, which is why you wouldn’t want to rock up and expect there to be spare vans ready to go.
Rent it: Britz campervan hire Australia
We like to look into campervan rental at the same time we’re booking flights, if not beforehand. For peak periods like Christmas you’ll want to book at least six months in advance for two reasons: so you don’t miss out, and to also avoid price hikes.
Websites such as CamperMate feature a range of different models from a variety of companies, allowing you to find a suitable campervan within your budget without googling yourself crazy.
If you plan to pick up your campervan as soon as you land and drop it off before your departure flight, check the opening hours of the pick up location before you commit to flights. Depots are usually closed on Sundays and may even open as late as 10am during the low season, so you’ll want to plan your flights around these opening times to avoid potential headaches.
Also, check the location of the pick up location and have a plan on how to get there, whether it’s by train, bus, Uber, taxi, foot or a free shuttle if available.
Rent it: Maui premium motorhome hire
What to look for in a campervan
There’s a tonne of different campervans for hire out there, from no-frills vans for as little as $30 a day, to luxurious motorhomes with all the bells and whistles that’ll set you back more than $200 a day. While it’s tempting to search by price, the first step to whittling down the list is to consider the following:
How many people does your campervan need to accommodate? Campervans are smaller than motorhomes and tend to sleep between two and four travellers. If you’re travelling with a bigger group, you might be better off hiring a motorhome or multiple vans.
Do you drive automatic or manual? Most rental companies will have auto and manual options however auto is by far the most popular as they tend to be newer and easier to drive. Be sure to book well in advance if you need a campervan with an automatic transmission just to be on the safe side.
2WD vs. 4WD
The vast majority of campervans for hire are 2WD and suit travellers who intend to stay on sealed roads. If you’re more adventurous and want to head further off the beaten track to places unseen by most other travellers, you’ll need to look into hiring a 4WD campervan or a different setup entirely, such as a rented camper trailer. Bear in mind, off-road campervans aren’t as common, they’re more expensive and they come with special rules and restrictions.
Space, amenities and comfort
Campervans come in different layouts and sizes. The bigger the van, the more comfortable the layout will be and the more mod-cons you’ll get, such as a fridge vs. esky for example. Bigger campervans feature separate kitchenettes, bench seats that convert into a double bed, and high tops that allow you to stand up inside. If you’re on a budget, you might be content with a more basic backpacker-style van. Either way, make sure you’ve set and met your minimum comfort requirements before committing to a campervan so you don’t end up feeling cramped, frustrated and without facilities you need, when you should be enjoying yourself.
Rent it: Jayco HiTop Campervan for Two
Cost of hiring a campervan
Now that you’ve decided what kind of campervan you need, you’ll be able to start searching and comparing prices. As mentioned, campervan rental quotes can vary wildly based on the size, transmission and age of the vehicle. But the quote you receive can also change due to other factors, such as the time of year you’re travelling.
To get a crystal clear idea of how much you’ll need to budget for a trip in a rented campervan, it’s worth familiarising yourself with the costs you may encounter that aren’t always obvious from the outset.
Picking up your van in one city then dropping it off in another city thousands of kilometres away can be a great way to maximise your time travelling and avoid backtracking massive distances. However this is where vehicle relocation fees can come into play, sending the price of your van hire skyrocketing.
On the flipside, relocating campervans and motorhomes can be a great way to score an insanely cheap deal. If a company needs to relocate vans from A to B, they’ll often advertise massively discounted daily rates to tourists willing to make the journey for them within a certain timeframe. Sometimes this can work out as cheap as $5 a day!
Minimum hire periods
Rental companies usually don’t allow their campervans to be hired overnight due to their ‘minimum hire period’ – typically three to five days. This isn’t likely to affect most holidaymakers setting out for a week or more, but it may impact you if you’re looking to hire for a weekend getaway. The minimum hire period can also be longer over Christmas holidays.
More often than not, your campervan will come with unlimited kilometres, meaning you can travel as far as you like on any given day. A few companies do offer capped daily kilometres on their campervans, and exceeding the daily limit will incur a cost determined by the number of extra kilometres travelled.
Plan on travelling some of Australia’s outback highways? Maybe you really want to check out Uluru and Alice Springs? A few companies charge extra for travelling on outback or alpine roads – up to $10 per day.
Some rental companies have a lower daily rate with the option to pay a fee in advance which allows you to return the van without cleaning it out first. The last time we rented a campervan the cleaning service fee of $75 was money well spent – WA’s red dirt and sand has a way of getting everywhere no matter how vigilent you are with your shoes-off policy!
If you opt out of the cleaning service, be aware that you’ll need to set aside enough time to give the van a thorough sweep and clean before you return it, or your credit card may be charged an inflated cleaning fee.
All rental providers offer some level of insurance. This insurance operates similarly to Third Party Insurance, where you’ll be covered if you’re hit by someone else but will incur a very high, non-negotiable excess if you’re the cause of the accident. With the standard insurance you can expect the excess to be thousands of dollars, with things like cracked windscreens not covered.
Most campervan rental companies offer upgraded insurance. This means you can pay an additional $10 to $30 a day to have the excess significantly reduced, and to be covered for windscreens, tyres etc.
It’s worth noting that insurance typically won’t cover the undercarriage or roof of the vehicle and any damage to those will come directly out of your pocket. Avoid underground parking, standing on the roof, and driving off-road or through water and you’ll be sweet.
Roadside assistance is also included in most hire agreements which will cover you if you break down.
Rent it: Travellers Autobarn Budget Campervan
When you pick up your campervan, you’ll be provided with a condition report that lists all existing damage. Go over the van thoroughly before you head off to make sure all the dings and scratches have been accounted for. In our experience, small paint and windscreen chips are considered normal wear and tear, but all rental companies are different so make sure you’re familiar with the contract and your responsibilities before signing.
Costs for optional gear
What’s included in your campervan differs from business to business, and is usually reflected in the daily rate. Cookware, dinnerware and utensils come as standard, and more often than not bedlinen will also be provided. However if you need gear like camp furniture, GPS, roof racks, kids booster seats, locator beacons, awnings, bike racks, heaters and fans, expect to pay anywhere from $5 to $40 per add-on.
Fuel and refill
Without petrol you won’t be getting anywhere in a hurry. Most campervans have a fuel range of 300 to 500kms depending on the size of the fuel tank and if you’re city driving or travelling on highways. Budget around $80 to $100 per tank of fuel based on an average $1.30 for unleaded petrol or diesel fuel. Remember, the further you travel from civilisation the more expensive and infrequent petrol stations become.
As with any rental car, if the tank is full when you pick the van up you’ll need to return it full. If you don’t you’ll be charged the hirer’s fuel price which is normally at least $1 more per litre.
Tolls are another cost added to your final balance when you return the campervan. Although you don’t have to use toll roads, big cities are trickier to navigate without using them. Consider using toll roads when you’re unfamiliar with an area or would prefer to bypass city traffic, but don’t be surprised when you’re billed for it.
Caravan parks and campgrounds
Even though most campervans won’t have a bathroom, it’s possible to free camp if you don’t mind roughing it. If you’re like us you’ll probably stay in mix of free camps and powered sites in caravan parks. Budget $50 a night for caravan parks and enjoy the luxury of a shower, flushing toilet, water tank refill, power and wifi. Not a bad deal.
Pro tip: to hire a campervan you’ll need a credit card to pay the bond. In our experience debit cards with credit functionality aren’t always accepted. The name on the card will also need to match the license of the listed driver. Rental companies will take a refundable bond on the credit card, either by debiting or freezing the funds. If your card limit is low, make sure it’s paid off in advance so you can cover the bond, and be sure to inquire about credit card surcharge fees to avoid any nasty surprises.
Rent it: Jayco HiTop Campervan for Three
Equipment: what’s included and what’s not
Most people hiring campervans are flying from overseas or interstate so the expectation is that you only need to bring your luggage, and buy consumables like food, fuel and booze along the way. But remember, while some items will be always be included, others may need to hired at an additional cost. If you’re from the area you’re hiring from you can always bring your own stuff.
Typically, the following things are included when you hire any campervan:
- Kitchen accessories such as plates, bowls, cups, utensils, pots, pans, a kettle, teapot and dish cloths.
- Cleaning and cabin accessories such as a dustpan and brush, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, bucket and hose, maps and area guides.
Depending on the company, the following gear may be included in the daily rate, but if not they may available as optional extras that you’ll need to budget for.
- Bedding such as pillows, sheets, doonas or sleeping bags and bath towels are often not provided with less expensive rental companies. Be sure to confirm this before you book.
- Outdoor furniture and accessories such as tables, chairs, awnings, bike racks and roof racks are also often not included with inexpensive rental companies. If you have to bring your own linen, don’t expect outdoor furniture to be included too.
- Internal accessories such as booster seats for children, heaters, fans, phone charging cables, AUX cords and cigarette lighter adapters.
- Additional safety equipment such as satellite phones, emergency kits, GPS units, tyre puncture kits, bigger first-aid kits and locator beacons.
Rigid hardshell suitcases aren’t always the most practical luggage option when you’re travelling in a confined campervan. Take the smallest luggage you can get away with and opt for soft shell where possible so it’s easier to stuff into overhead storage compartments and under seats, and less likely to always be in the way.
If you’re travelling long distances, it’s a good idea to carry lots of spare fuel, water and long-lasting food in the campervan at all times. You never know where you might break down away from civilisation and it’s better to be safe than sorry. If heading into the outback where towns and petrol stations can be hundreds of kilometres apart, carry double the supplies.
Rent it: Jayco HiTop Campervan for Three
Licensing and Age Requirements
Like everything else, the license and age requirements to hire and drive a campervan will differ depending on which rental company you go with. The minimum age for most rental companies is 21, although some companies have a minimum age of 18.
Licensing changes according to where you’re registered. For local Aussies, most hirers only allow someone with a P2 (Green P’s) license or full license to drive their campervans. Whether you’re P2 license is automatic or manual will also dictate which campervan you can hire.
International travellers hiring a campervan in Australia
International travellers make up the majority of customers for campervan rental companies in Australia. Most providers require a full driver’s license from your home country in English or an international driver’s license to hire. If you’re from a non-English speaking country and can’t obtain an international driver’s license, a Certificate of Translation may also be used to prove your license. Most rental companies won’t hire to international drivers on probationary licenses.
Be sure to check the requirements needed with the rental company before booking – the last thing you want is to hire a campervan for your big adventure, only to find you can’t drive it due to your age or licensing.
Rent it: Toyota Apollo Trailfinder 4WD Camper
Pick up and drop off
The most important part of the pick up procedure is the walk-through with a staff member. They’ll show you around and explain how the gas, water and power works, how to set up the beds, where things are stored, and also give you a chance to do a thorough inspection.
- Check the insides for damages, especially around the kitchen, windows, bedding, gas bottles and batteries.
- Inspect the cabin of your campervan and make sure all the headlights, indicators, brake lights and hazard lights work.
- After the inside is checked, make sure the exterior isn’t damaged, or if it is, make the rental company aware of it before you leave the lot. A good idea is to inspect the undercarriage and roof for damage, as rental companies won’t insure you for damages against them.
- Pick up any maps and brochures from the rental company that are of interest, and hit the road.
Dropping off the van usually takes less time. A staff member will do a quick inspection and finalise any outstanding payments, which should take less than ten minutes. To make the process as smooth as possible ensure that you have:
- Cleaned the campervan inside and out if required. Remove food from the fridge, sweep it out and wipe down counters. Unless you’ve paid a cleaning fee, you’ll be expected to return the van in the same condition you received it.
- Filled the petrol tank. As mentioned in the costs section, vehicle car hire companies will charge you an inflated rate for fuel if you return the campervan empty.
- Checked your rental agreement to remind yourself of any other terms or conditions, as well as drop off location, date and time.
Rent it: Travellers Autobarn Hi5 Camper
Where to stay in your campervan
Ahhh sweet freedom of choice. This is what van life is all about. You can roll into a beautiful waterfront caravan park, surround yourself in nature in a national park or council-run campground, free camp (legally) in designated areas found along highways and in RV Friendly Towns, or explore options like station stays, farm stays and pub stays. You can book yourself a spot online in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants, however we reckon there’s no ‘one size fits all’ answer. Research where you’re going so you know what’s available, or use a free app designed specifically for campers so you can plan as you go.
The cheapest option while travelling in a campervan is to free camp, because, well, it’s free. Some of the free camping options you might come across are roadside rest areas, designated parking lots in RV Friendly Towns, and basic bush campgrounds in government-run reserves, national parks, state forests or randomly located on the outskirts of town.
Free camping in rest areas and carparks (where legal) is great if you’re doing long drive days between destinations and want somewhere to park legally for the night so you can make a quick getaway in the morning.
We wouldn’t suggest relying on free camping in a campervan for the entire trip because you won’t have access to power, water and amenities like showers. If you’re after a remote free camping trip, consider a different type of set up where you can be totally self sufficient.
Caravan parks have so many perks for campervan travellers. The promise of a shower each day, access to laundry facilities, free or low cost water tank refills, a spacious camp kitchen to spread out in, and very often a pool, cafe, playground and many other forms of idle entertainment.
Sites come in two types. Powered sites give you access to mains electricity and you’ll usually have the choice between a grass site or a concrete slab. Unpowered campsitesare typically grassy areas used primarily by tenters. Caravan park sites can cost between $5 and $50 per night depending on location, time of year and if it’s a powered site or not. Be sure to book ahead in peak season (public holidays especially) as caravan parks in popular locations tend to fill up quickly. This is especially true if it’s a destination that doesn’t allow free camping or doesn’t have many other camping alternatives outside of caravan parks.
Pro tip: Have your vehicle’s dimensions handy when you’re booking a caravan park so you can be allocated a suitably sized campsite.
Quick tips for a successful road trip
Some people prefer to schedule every aspect of their trip, others like to go-with-the-flow and choose where they want to go when they wake up. Whatever your style is, when you’re in a hired campervan you need to be aware of the time frame your campervan is booked for, and have a realistic idea of how far you can go in that time. A bit of homework is essential in a country as huge as Australia because it’s super easy to get carried away and assume you can do a whole lap in a couple of weeks.
Downloading some maps, guides and researching fun things to do will assist you greatly in your journey. Check out local forums, reviews and travel stories about particular spots and activities, or if you need to go back to square one, have a scroll through our Australian road trip guide. Asking other travellers and the omnipresent grey nomads for advice and secret spots will make your experience even more enjoyable.
While you’re out there be sure to:
Watch out for wildlife
Accidents in hired campervans are more common than you’d think. Most accidents tend to be minor, but the worst accidents are usually animal strikes – either people hitting kangaroos or the campervan rolling when they’ve attempted to swerve to avoid one. But this hazard is easy to avoid if you refrain from driving during the peak roo period between 5PM and 7AM.
Talk to fellow travellers
Strike up a conversation with a fellow road traveller. Some people have been out there for months and even years and have tonnes of knowledge to share. Some of Australia’s best kept secrets are spread by word-of-mouth.
Perform regular vehicle inspections
A good habit to get into is checking over your campervan every time you stop for petrol. Check your oil, water and tyre pressure often, especially when doing long-distance driving.
What to do if you break down or get in an accident
If you happen to break down, the first thing you should do is contact the rental provider and explain the situation. Electrical and mechanical faults are typically covered for free by roadside assistance, while broken windscreens, punctured tyres and flat batteries come at an extra cost.
If an accident occurs, the first thing you need to do is call the police. Once the call has been made, call your rental provider for further instructions. Depending on your contract will depend on the excess you will have to pay, as well as any associated insurance costs.
What to do if you need more time
The only real downside to hiring a campervan is that you have to take it back. If you want to extend your trip or have been held up for reasons outside of your control, call the rental company as soon as possible to make arrangements.
Deadlines can be extended in off-peak times, generally during winter, but during peak periods rental companies take back-to-back bookings and your return date might not be flexible. If you do drop off your campervan late, you could incur late fees.
Get out there
You made it! It’s been a big read but we hope we’ve been able to answer any questions you have about hiring a campervan in Australia. It’ll be an experience you’ll never forget and you’ll no doubt meet some amazing people on your journey.
If we missed something, feel free to leave a comment below or get in contact with an Australian campervan rental company with any questions you have.
Download the free CamperMate app
So what the hell is CamperMate? We’re basically a bunch of travel addicts who love the outdoors, which is why we’ve created one place where you can book caravan parks, rent campervans, as well as share your experiences and stories. Whether you’re planning your next Australian road trip or camping adventure don’t forget to download our free app before you go, to find everything you need when you’re on the road.