From the Great Ocean Road to the Grand Pacific Drive and all the outback in between, Australia is a roadtripper’s dream. And for those seeking adventure, unforgettable vistas and diverse landscapes, the campervan offers a flexible, affordable and liberating means of exploring all that this vast country has to offer.
Cross-country campervan travel is popular with both visitors to Australia and locals alike. But if you’re new to vanlife — or to Australia — there are probably rules and practicalities you aren’t familiar with if you’re thinking of hitting the open road and setting up camp in a van. Before you put your foot on the pedal, here are 10 things you should know about campervan and motorhome hire in Australia.
WHY HIRE A CAMPERVAN OR MOTORHOME IN AUSTRALIA?
Motorhome hire is extremely popular in Australia. If you’ve never driven a campervan before or you’re not sure if vanlife is the life for you, then we definitely recommend hiring a campervan for a couple of weeks so that you can test out the vehicle (and the lifestyle) before you commit. Hiring a motorhome or campervan in Australia is an unforgettable experience and a flexible way to see the country that affords a lot of freedom. It will also mean you don’t need to worry about all the paperwork that comes with ownership, such as vehicle registration and roadworthy certificates.
IS IT LEGAL TO LIVE IN A CAMPERVAN OR MOTORHOME IN AUSTRALIA?
There’s good news for anyone who wants to take a longer trip in Australia — yes, it is completely legal to live in a campervan or motorhome hire in all parts of Australia. There are, of course, restrictions on where you can park up.
WHERE CAN I PARK MY CAMPERVAN OR MOTORHOME HIRE IN AUSTRALIA? CAN I FREE CAMP ANYWHERE?
While you can’t just park your campervan or motorvan rental wherever you feel like, there are still plenty of permitted parking spaces for your motorhome throughout Australia. Some of them are free of charge, too. It’s a good idea to make yourself aware of the parking rules and regulations in each state you’re travelling through, as parking fines can be hefty. And if you plan on staying overnight, make sure you park your motorhome or campervan hire in an area specifically designated for campervans or motorhomes. We recommend researching your route beforehand and booking campsites and national parks in advance. Remember that spots on free campsites are allocated on a first-come-first-serve basis too, so plan to get there early.
WHAT DO I NEED TO HIRE A CAMPERVAN OR MOTORHOME? WHO CAN HIRE A CAMPERVAN OR MOTORHOME IN AUSTRALIA?
While most campervan or motorhomes require you to have a full license and be over 21, there are some campervans and motorhomes you can hire if you are under this age limit or hold a provisional license. If you have an international license that’s not in English, then it will need to be translated to English. Most rental companies will ask for a bank card for your bond/liability too.
WHAT KIND OF INSURANCE DO I NEED FOR CAMPERVAN OR MOTORHOME HIRE IN AUSTRALIA?
When you hire a campervan or motorhome in Australia you will need to choose an insurance option or package with the campervan rental company. Standard insurance will typically mean a higher bond/liability, while upgraded insurances packages can reduce this to as little as $0. Keep in mind that a standard insurance policy will most likely exclude any damage done to the actual vehicle if you are at fault, as well as theft and vandalism and any towing/recovery charges. As with renting a car, you should look carefully at these policies to be clear on the excess you’ll have to pay if you make a claim, and what exactly is or isn’t included.
CAN I TAKE A CAMPERVAN OR MOTORHOME RENTAL ON A BOAT OR FERRY?
If a sea crossing is part of your planned itinerary, make sure the trip is covered by your insurance. It’s a good idea to plan ahead too — ferries book out quickly, so get your ticket early.
DO I HAVE TO PAY TOLLS WHEN TRAVELLING IN A CAMPERVAN OR MOTORHOME RENTAL IN AUSTRALIA?
There are toll roads in quite a few of the major cities in Australia, including Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, and you will be responsible for paying any fees to travel on them. These roads are electronically tolled (so you won’t be able to pay with cash), and there may be a higher fee for larger vehicles. The most convenient way to pay is to set up an online account for each state you’re travelling through, and register for a temporary road toll pass within three days of travel.
CAN I HIRE A CAMPERVAN OR MOTORHOME IN AUSTRALIA IF I’M TRAVELLING WITH KIDS?
You can hire a campervan or motorhome in Australia with little travel companions, but keep in mind that children less than 145cm tall are legally required to be secured in a child seat. Most campervans and motorhomes have anchor points for car seats. If you don’t have your own car or booster seat, you should be able to hire one from your rental company so that the whole family can travel.
WHAT SHOULD I PACK FOR A CAMPERVAN OR MOTORHOME TRIP IN AUSTRALIA?
Pack light! Most campervan and motorhome rental companies in Australia will provide bedding, towels, pillows and sheets for you. If your campervan has a kitchen unit, it should also have pots, pans and crockery included. That means all you need to pack are your clothes, toiletries and food!
CAN I DRINK ALCOHOL IN A CAMPERVAN OR MOTORHOME?
While you may be living in your campervan or motorhome and calling it your home, remember that it is, first and foremost, still a vehicle. That means your campervan or motorhome rental is subject to the same laws and regulations as a car or any other vehicle. Different Australian states have different laws in this regard. But in general, you should avoid drinking alcohol in the front cabin of your campervan, particularly if you’re seated behind the wheel and definitely not when you have the keys in the ignition.
Of course, driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal throughout Australia and strictly enforced with severe penalties. You should also keep in mind that some states — particularly the Northern Territory — have ‘dry’ or ‘restricted’ areas where consumption of alcohol is not allowed or is limited to certain hours.