Van Life! – Hiring a Campervan to travel Australia. Where to start, costs and living in a van!

So you want to travel Australia and you’re not sure if #vanlife is for you? Well having done it for 6 weeks in a variety of vans, by different companies, it’s safe to say I have the lowdown for you! Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I was going to love it or regret the day we chose campervans over hostels and coaches. But 6 weeks later I wouldn’t have done it any other way! Personally, we’ve absolutely loved it! You have so much freedom that you wouldn’t have with the greyhound buses and privacy and comfort you don’t have with hostels. It’s felt like a home on wheels and we’ve become attached to each van to the point it’s sad to leave it! However everyone’s different so I ll tell you all about my experience with it and let you decide if #vanlife is for you…


Costs

We’ve hired three vans in total. One for the east coast of Australia, one for Melbourne and the great ocean road roadtrip and one for Perth and our Western Australia roadtrip. All of our vans were hired with the help of Sammy at Ratpack travel who I couldn’t recommend enough. He has contracts with all the campervan companies over Australia (and New Zealand) and so he compares all of the different vans available for your trip and let’s you know your options – he essentially does all the hard work for you. As he has contracts with all the different companies he can then apply a discount to the price you’d get if you booked direct. You can get hold of him through their website or DM me on Instagram and I’ll drop you his WhatsApp number so you can easily chat through your options via WhatsApp! I will leave all the prices of our vans down below but there are so many factors which effect the cost that you need to consider. 
Things that will effect the cost of your van and running it:- If you pick up and drop off your van from the same place it will be cheaper than if you pick it up in one location and drop it off in another, however this is still possible!- How many people there are! We had two hightop vans and one two seater, two sleeper van and I would personally not get anything smaller than a hightop van. I would also not have more than 3 people in one van as it would be such a tight squeeze! – Company – some of the smaller companies are much cheaper and this is why Ratpack travel are so tear as they know all the different companies to compare. This may mean pick up points are further out from city centres etc so you would need to weigh this up in your cost. – Mileage – an obvious one but the more mileage you cover the more petrol costs you need to consider. On average a full tank cost around $70 and lasted us about 4 hours of driving on A roads. This is very rough estimation and obviously varies depending on tank size/ how economic the engine is!- Whether you are staying at campsites or freedom camping. For two people to camp in a powered site in a small campervan it usually costs between $35 and $45 / night (more often than not its around $40) so you need to add this into your costs! This includes your water, power and of course showers/toilets. If you choose to camp at free campsites or just off road then you will save a lot of money but won’t have power or the luxury of a shower!

We’ve hired three vans in total. One for the east coast of Australia, one for Melbourne and the great ocean road roadtrip and one for Perth and our Western Australia roadtrip. All of our vans were hired with the help of Sammy at Ratpack travel who I couldn’t recommend enough. He has contracts with all the campervan companies over Australia (and New Zealand) and so he compares all of the different vans available for your trip and let’s you know your options – he essentially does all the hard work for you. As he has contracts with all the different companies he can then apply a discount to the price you’d get if you booked direct. You can get hold of him through their website or DM me on Instagram and I’ll drop you his WhatsApp number so you can easily chat through your options via WhatsApp! I will leave all the prices of our vans down below but there are so many factors which effect the cost that you need to consider. 


Things that will effect the cost of your van and running it:

  • Location – If you pick up and drop off your van from the same place it will be cheaper than if you pick it up in one location and drop it off in another, however this is still possible!
  • People. We had two hightop vans and one two seater, two sleeper van and I would personally not get anything smaller than a hightop van. I would also not have more than 3 people in one van as it would be such a tight squeeze! However you can get smaller vans for less people/bigger for more which of course cost more. At the campsites you also pay more if there are more people in the campervan.
  • Company – some of the smaller companies are much cheaper and this is why Ratpack travel are so helpful as they know all the different companies to compare. (Tip – Check pick up locations as some are further out).
  • Mileage – an obvious one but the more mileage you cover the more petrol costs you need to consider. On average a full tank cost around $70 and lasted us about 4 hours of driving on A roads at an average of 110km/hour… I’ll let you do the maths. This is very rough estimation and obviously varies depending on tank size/ how economic the engine is!
  • Campsites – Whether you are staying at campsites or freedom camping. For two people to camp in a powered site in a small campervan it usually costs between $35 and $45 / night (more often than not its around $40) so you need to add this into your costs! This includes your water, power and of course showers/toilets. If you choose to camp at free campsites or just off road then you will save a lot of money but won’t have power or the luxury of a shower!
  • Insurance – you can get insurance with the same company you hire the van through and there are varying levels. Alternatively you can sort your own insurance which might work out cheaper although a bit more hassle. I would advise getting windscreen and tyre insurance which is often extra. This is because there are so many stony roads/ trucks which flick stones at your windscreen as well as animals jumping into the road/pot holes etc which could cause problems with tyres etc! 

Tips and Tricks!

  • Bring an extension lead! There is usually two plugs in the van so this way you can plug a lot more in at once.
  • Depending on the weather, go straight to Kmart and pick up some blankets/ heater or fan if it’s hot! 
  • If you’re travelling Australia in winter, buy yourself a hat to sleep in – even with your sleeping bag and blanket your head gets really cold!
  • Don’t travel Australia in Winter – do it in Summer!
  • Get yourself a really good portable charger! The power in the van only works when you are plugged into power so whilst you’re driving or out for the day you won’t be able to use the power! Plus this way you could opt to camp without power for a night to save money.
  • Your fridge stays on whilst you’re driving or plugged into power so you just need to remember when you are parked up and not plugged in, it won’t be on. However it does stay fairly cold! 
  • Keep your bed up and made the whole time. We made our bed as soon as we got each van and then left it up. This saves so much time and effort and means you can just put your suitcase/backpack on the bed whilst driving. 
  • Buy tupperware boxes and prep some food for a few days to keep in the fridge. That way you save money and also can grab some food quickly without having to cook each night – it can be quite faffy so it’s nice to do have to do it every day!
  • Have a small bag which you put your ‘Daily essentials’ in (toiletries and a few outfits/underwear) and leave this in the accessible storage so you can easily go for a shower/get ready for your day without having to get your big bag/suitcase out every day!
  • Plan your route before you set off so you know where petrol stations and campsites are that you could get to! There’s not always loads of options especially higher up on the east coast or over on the West!

Reality

I won’t pretend living in a van is the most comfortable and easiest thing in the world. You are completely in each others personal space, you have to take everything in turns as there’s not loads of space to move around and it can be quite a faff to pack up and set up every other day however once you get into a routine you get so used to it! The beds are actually very comfy too and if we’re comparing it to getting on a coach at set times and getting off when you’re told you can/sleeping in hostels then I personally think choosing to hire a van is much more comfortable and gives you SO much more freedom. You can change your plans last minute, if you get somewhere and there’s not as much as you thought to do there, you can move on – or the opposite!

Details of the Vans we hired

Pick UpDrop OffInsurance Days rentingTotal CostHire company
Gold CoastAirlie BeachEverything covered except roof, windscreen or tyre -$40018$1296 plus $500 refundable deposit (cost $250 more for dropping off in another location)Camperman
MelbourneMelbourneFull cover including windscreen and tyres – $3309$535.18 plus $100 refundable depositApollo – Hippie Drifter
PerthPerthFull Cover – $36011$900Autobarn
living in a van in australia!

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1 Comment

  1. Joanna
    July 17, 2019 / 11:56 am

    Thanks for sharing this info 🙂

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