Hippie Campers, Ace Rental, Spaceships, Wicked Camper, Travelers Autobarn and many other car hire companies specialise in cheap Backpacker cars, vans and station wagons. Most come equipped with all the necessary camping equipment, cooking gear and other stuff that you may need on your epic Road Trip. Which one should you choose? There are many car hire comparison websites. Just type in your travel dates and type of vehicle you are looking for, and a whole list of different options will display. But with soooooo many options how do you choose which one is the best for you?
What to look for when comparing car hire companies?
The first thing to consider is your age. Most rental companies have a minimum age requirement of 21 years old. However, some will rent from 18 to 80. If you are under 25 years of age you might have to pay a higher amount to cover insurance.
What things are included in the hire agreement? For example, some companies include camping gear for free, others charge either a one time, or daily fee. One thing to consider is whether the vehicle has a fridge or an esky. Although cheaper to hire an esky will cost an extra $5 dollars every two days or so for a bag of ice.
Where do you wish to go? Most hire companies do not allow their vehicles to be driven on unsealed roads or on any of the islands including Tasmania, some do not allow their vehicles to drive in the Northern Territory. So it is very important to do your research and have a plan of where you want to travel before you book your rental.
One way hire is a popular option, and will incur and extra fee of anywhere from $160 to $300 or more depending on the drop off location. This is definitely worth considering if you are only in Australia for a short time and wish to make the most of it.
How long are you planning to stay in Australia?
The longer you hire a vehicle the cheaper the rent per day will get. In my research I have looked at hiring a Camper Van for a 3 month time frame. Prices for this vary from $3000 to $4000. Roughly around a thousand dollars per month for transport and accomodation (read my upcoming post on free camping here). That is not bad at all. Compare this to a backpacker hostel at $200 per week, then the figures start to add up. Nice things numbers, you can always count on them :). If you are planning a longer Road Trip then the option of buying a vehicle becomes very attractive. For tips on buying a used car in Australia, see my post on buying a used care here.
A quick search on Gumtree Gumtree Australia reveals a choice of 179 Camper Vans that you can buy for under $4000. A station wagon can be bought for around two thousand dollars. This brings us to the age old question of buying versus renting?
To buy, or not to buy, that is the question.
So, let’s say we buy a Mitsubishi Express Van called ‘Mighty’ for $3000 with WA registration with 6 months registration (rego). As we bought it from another Backpacker it comes with all the camping gear we would need. We spend another $1000 on new tyres and a service. Initial cost $4000. Even if In 6 months time we sell Mighty for only a thousand dollars, all up we have spent $3000 on wheels and accomodation for our road trip.
Of course this is a simple comparison, and assumes that the Road Trip gods smile down on us and and bless us by not causing Mighty have have any major meltdowns. Road side Assistance like RACQ or NRMA cost between $200 and $300 depending on the level of cover. I would highly recommend that you consider this for peace of mind should you break down.
One thing I can not stress enough is that if you are driving an older car with a few miles on the clock it is imperative that you check the engine oil and cooling fluid on a regular basis. Preferably every morning on a big trip. This can save you thousands of dollars on repair bills.
Some of the hire companies sell their older vehicles with a buyback price guarantee. Often this is 50 percent of the purchase price. Check out some options here https://www.travellers-autobarn.com.au
Many people come to Australia for only a short time and therefore prefer to travel only one way and then fly out. For example, they fly into Sydney and drive the 3000 kilometres to Cains in tropical North Queensland where they either catch a plane back or fly to another destination. This presents an opportunity for the smart traveller.
Some hire companies offer cheap or free Camper Van hire if you pick up the vehicle from a remote location like Cains or Alice Springs and drive the vehicle to Sydney or another major depot. Your only expenses are fuel and food.
The fee for this can be as low as a dollar a day, with even a free tank of fuel thrown into the bargain. The drawback is that most companies allow only a short time frame for the trip. One example I came across was, Adelaide to Sydney maximum of 5 days. It is very important to be aware of this because you might be liable for a $500 a day fee for late delivery as often the vehicle has been already been booked. Of course you would have to catch a bus or fly to the pickup destination.
Careful planning can save you lots of money and make your stay in Australia so much more enjoyable. As always it is important to read the fine print and to compare your options. For a one or two month Road Trip there are many cheap hire options available. However, if you are planning to work your way around the land of Oz for an extended period of time then buying a car or Van is ‘far Kenworth it’.
Please leave a comment and make sure you check out my other post. If you have a car of van for sale feel free to leave a link or contact details in your comment.
May the roads rise to meet you, may the winds be always at your back, and may the travel gods shower you with blessings.