QUICK GUIDE TO FINDING A CAMPERVAN TO TOUR AUSTRALIA
One of the best ways to travel around Australia is in a campervan. Campervans are popular with Australians as much as they are visitors. They are perfect for camping, fishing and even doing the shopping. I had a go at getting myself one and did 6 months around a lot of Australia shortly after coming back. Here’s what I found.
WHERE TO BUY
There are so many websites where you can find a campervan. The Trading Post is probably the most popular place to look for a vehicle but there are a number of other popular websites, including…
Secondhand negotiations are always up for haggling. All prices you see are higher than what the current owner is willing to settle for.
WHAT TO LOOKOUT FOR WITH A SECONDHAND CAMPERVAN
The best way to make sure your vehicle is in tip-top shape is to have it checked by a professional before you buy. This is different to a roadworthy certificate.
Some immediate things to look out for include…
• Check all instruments work
• Check the oil is clean and a translucent colour (it could have been changed just before you inspect so make sure you check the oil before and after taking it for a test drive)
• Rust of accident damage (use a soft magnet to identify putty under paint)
• Check the coolant, it should be clean and not rusty (again check before and after test driving)
• Listen to the engine for strange sounds it should be relatively quiet if it is in good condition
• Look for an engine that is blowing smoke, again before and after test driving. An engine blowing smoke is in poor condition
I can’t stress how worthwhile it is to get your vehicle professionally checked by someone with the ability to decide whether the campervan is worth buying or not. The above list is only a simple guide and I cannot recommend anyone who is not a professional or highly experienced deciding on whether to buy a vehicle or not.
The last thing you want to buy is a wallet full of problems. There are many sneaky tricks those who are selling vehicles use to mask major problems.
ROADWORTHY AND REGISTRATION PLUS
When you are buying any vehicle in Australia, you want to make sure it has a roadworthy certificate. A roadworthy certificate is not a certification of quality, just the vehicle passes the necessary safety checks and transfer of ownership is possible. Each state has very different regulations but one thing is certain, make sure your purchase has a roadworthy certificate before you buy. Registration is easy after that. Remember, the higher the price written on the registration documents will result in a higher cost to transfer of ownership.
Don’t skip on insurance. Low cost vehicles without much engine power are very cheap to insure, especially with 4 cylinder engines. Excess coverage is really worth it when you are travelling around Australia because windscreens cost a lot to replace.
Keep these extra costs in mind when you are budgeting for price.
Quick tip: Put your fingers on the windscreen when driving on dirt roads to lessen the chance of breaking a windscreen from a stray stone. It really works.
WHAT YOU REALLY NEED
There is no substitute for getting around and seeing what the market has on offer to find out what you really need and what you can get inside your budget. Some vehicles offer 4WD, and if you are heading off the beaten track, 4WD is highly recommended. Even if you are going down a lot of dirt roads, 4WD is the way to go.
The more bells and whistles you get will cost all that much extra. Sometimes it is worth getting what really counts instead of luxury items like water tanks and comfort. You’ll have to judge this for yourself and think about the roads that you will be driving on. You’ll be able to go a whole lot further on 4WD. With 2WD drive, you are basically limited to sealed roads and dirt tracks in dry weather only – with care.
WHAT ABOUT FUEL TYPE
A well-maintained diesel engine will give you about twice the amount of kilometres as petrol. Diesel is the way to go if you are going long distances and have the leisure of deciding when you want to top up. LPG is great for saving money but you can’t carry any extra with you, which is a big deal if you really want to get away from it all. The fact that you can carry diesel or petrol is a big issue in Australia.
Quick tip: Fuel prices tend to rise towards the end of the working week. There are a number of apps to help you locate the best prices. Prices vary a lot from town to town and city to city. You really need to keep your eyes on the price of fuel when travelling. A jerry can allows you to buy extra when the price is low and you have a reserve when you cannot find somewhere to buy fuel.
WHAT EQUIPMENT TO TAKE ON THE ROAD
If you are lucky, you will be buying a campervan that someone used to travel and not just do the shopping. You will need some serious kit if you are going to stay safe when travelling those lonely roads. There are some other things you will need to stay comfortable. At the same time, the more you carry, the more you fuel you will consume.
Here is some of the safety gear you need…
• Tyre pressure gauge
• High lift jack
• Spare wheel and tyre
• Puncture repair kit
Other stuff you should seriously think about…
Camping gear, including rechargeable head torches, camping chairs and other camping furniture. Think about staying clean too with a portable camping shower. Oh, and you’ll need some decent sleeping bags.
COMMONSENSE WHEN TOURING
Play it safe by planning only 400kms driving per day. Anything more than that and you are stretching your concentration levels. Even then, you should be taking a break every 3 hours, maximum. Distances often take longer to cross than you may think. Small towns along the way can mean that you need to slow down. Don’t simply calculate your driving time by the maximum speed possible. You are on holiday and so remember the journey is just as important as getting there.
You always need to plan ahead. Remember that you might need a printout of maps because Google Maps won’t be available when you are really far outback.
Here are a few extra tips I picked up from my experience.
Keep your schedule flexible because there might be something, and probably will be, something you want to enjoy along the way. You might even end up changing your plans.
Share driving where possible. There is nothing worse than someone who is a wheel-hog.
Get to your camping destination 2 hours before the sun goes down, that way you can enjoy it and take some awesome photos.
Talk to others out on the road to find the best places to camp. Social media is not the only way to interact with people and there are some secrets people just won’t share online because they don’t want their favourite camping spot to get trashed by thousands of visitors.
Is there anything you can add to this article? Let us know and share with everyone else in the comments section below.