Coles Bay, Tasmania © Pete Harmsen/Tourism Tasmania
How to hire a car or campervan in Australia
Want to choose your own Australian adventure? Hiring a car or campervan is the perfect way to experience your journey.
By Lee Atkinson
Nothing beats the freedom of having your own set of wheels, especially here in Australia, where road tripping is a way of life and there are campgrounds and caravan parks in almost every town.
Hiring a vehicle means you can forget about juggling timetables and really get to know Australia. You’ll be able to explore the countryside and towns off the tourist trail and have really easy access to some of our amazing natural attractions. Hire a campervan you can cook and sleep in and you’ll cut down on accommodation costs, too. What’s not to love about that?
What’s best, a campervan or motorhome?
What’s the difference between a campervan (sometimes called RVs overseas) and a motorhome? Basically, it comes down to size. Motorhomes are built on a truck chassis, campervans on a van. Both have beds, sinks, stoves, a fridge, storage space and power outlets for charging devices, but you’ll get lots more space inside a motorhome, and there’s often a toilet and sometimes even a shower, too. Because they’re bigger, motorhomes can be trickier to drive and squeeze into parking spots than a more compact campervan, and they do use a bit more fuel. You don’t need a 4WD to see Australia, but a 4WD campervan is handy if you’re keen to head into the outback or spend lots of time in national parks.
Generally you must be over 21 to hire a campervan or motorhome in Australia (although for some companies the minimum age is 18), but you don’t need a special permit to drive one – although if you don’t have an Australian driver’s licence you might need an International Driving Permit (IDP).
Where and how to hire a car or campervan
There are car hire booths at all major airports and often at major hotels. You’ll find branches in major cities and regional towns, but it’s a good idea to book ahead, especially for campervans and motorhomes. Pre-book online before you arrive and you can pick up your vehicle at the airport.
Comparison sites like vroomvroomvroom.com.au and drivenow.com.au can help you find a good deal. You’ll need to pay a refundable security bond if hiring a campervan or motorhome, so remember to factor that into your budget – most companies will insist that this is paid with a credit card.
Tips when hiring a car or campervan
When you hire a campervan or motorhome, most will include cooking gear and eating utensils, but often you’ll need to pay extra for bed linen and camping gear such as outdoor chairs, GPS, child seats and so on, so always check when you’re hiring. If you prefer automatic transmission, make sure you ask for this too when making your booking.
One-way hire, and dropping off in a different city or state to the one you started in, often costs more than if you start and finish in the same place. The longer you hire for, the cheaper it will be.
Whether you’re hiring a car, a campervan or a motorhome, it pays to read the fine print. Things to look out for in contracts include limits to how many kilometres you can drive, cleaning fees, rules about travelling on unsealed roads (many hire companies will not allow you drive on dirt roads) and insurance details. And always make sure you inspect your vehicle carefully when you pick it up, making note of any pre-existing damage on your paperwork: it’s a good idea to take a few photos with your smartphone.
Where can you park your campervan or motorhome?
The battery that powers your van’s fridge and lights will recharge while you’re driving, but you’ll need to plug into a powered site every two days or so if you’re camping in the same spot for a while. Most commercial caravan parks have powered sites – as well as communal bathrooms, coin-operated laundries and cooking areas – and you’ll find one in almost every town.
Most national park campgrounds don’t have power or hot showers, but they do have composting toilets and are always in beautiful spots. Many towns offer free overnight parking for self-contained RVs, which means you’ll need to have an onboard toilet to stay there.