Thinking of embarking on a campervan journey of a lifetime through Australia? Finding the right van can be tricky. Here are our suggestions.
Coming to Australia we always planned to travel the East Coast and thought there was no better way than in our own campervan. Prior to our journey, we were unaware of the rules and regulations that the Australian Government have in place. We were also not 100% sure what features would be needed whilst making the trip from Melbourne to Cairns.
After extensive research, help and advice from those in the know (mainly my dad A.K.A Big Roj) we learned an awful lot. Taking a trial run with Wicked Campers on the Great Ocean Road also helped with what to look for to make our three-month trip as comfortable as possible.
Campervan features – what you need for a long trip in Australia
Here are some of the main features we feel are necessary for a long road trip around Australia:
1. A fridge
If like us you love to cook and can’t live off pasta and sauce every day for three months, a fridge is a big selling point. Not only is it useful to store meat and veg, but keeping drinks cold on the road is essential when you are in the heat of the day with hours of driving in front of you.
2. Diesel engine
This may be a sticky subject for some but diesel engines are far more economical than petrol motors. This means you will save a great deal on fuel considering the distances you will be driving. The engines are also generally more reliable and less likely to break down which of course is a huge positive. However, they are worse in terms of pollution, hence why they are slowly being taken out of production.
3. Comfy mattress
I cannot stress enough the importance of a comfy bed! Having tested the water with “Wicked Campers” we learnt that sleeping on a yoga mat for 3 months would not work out. Having a welcoming place to sleep really does make or break a van. When you are filling your days hiking, swimming or surfing, you need a nice place to relax and recuperate. It is also important to make sure you fit! When you go to view a potential van, ask to lie on the bed to test it out and make sure you can fully stretch out.
4. Second battery
Despite not having one as part of our campervan, a second battery is a recurring feature on many vans that are for sale in Australia. Although if you have power packs for keeping phones charged they are not essential. A second battery (often powered by solar) is extremely useful for fridges, charging laptops and any additional lighting you may want in your new living space. Be prepared to pay a slightly higher price for a van with a second battery.
5. Western Australia rego
All vehicles in Australia have to be registered to a state. For example, if you buy a camper in Victoria with plates from a different state, the vehicle will need to be changed and registered with Victorian plates. This extra cost and hassle can be avoided if the vehicle is registered to Western Australia. If the campervan comes with WA plates you can simply change the rego to your name online without having to go into the transport office and transfer the registration.
6. Low mileage
Having spent some time scouring the market for potential vans it was clear that most of the campers that fall in the affordable price bracket all have a high number of kilometres on the clock. These campervans are driven up and down Australia being sold on at either end to the next adventurers. Knowing this, it is important to find a van that hasn’t done one trip too many. The further the camper has gone the more worn the parts are likely to be. If you can find a vehicle with a dial under 400,000 you are doing quite well. The lower generally the better.
7. Full-service history / Pre-purchase check
Like buying any motor it is good to know if it has been looked after well by its previous owners. Check the service history against the recommended service timeline for that particular model. See if it has had the required oil and filter changes which will prevent engine problems further down the line. The service history may not be available for some vehicles but hopefully, the person selling should at least have some proof of any work that they will have had done while they owned it. A vehicle inspection can be carried out at garages as well. This makes sure the van is in good condition before you buy.
As silly as it may sound, ventilation is something that may get overlooked when looking for a suitable camper. Well, it was at least in our case. We purchased a campervan with a bulkhead separating the front from the back (sleeping area). This meant that opening the windows in the front of the van made no difference to the temperature in the back. With no windows in the side panels of the van, it meant regulating the temperature in the back was fairly difficult. Although this was useful for going incognito in certain areas where camping may have been frowned upon, it was difficult to keep cool on the warmer evenings.
To simplify the purchasing process read our step by step guide to buying a campervan in Australia.
Not all of these on our list are 100% essential when it comes to buying a campervan. You may not even find a van with all of these recommendations and if you do it may not be in your price range. At the end of the day, you generally get what you pay for so try not to go too cheap.
Typically you should make back all of the money you use to buy a van. They hold their value extremely well and there is always a market for these types of vehicles in Australia. This means buying your own campervan is far more economical than renting. It’s a more personal experience. Although you may have to pay for services and any potential malfunctions, if you buy well you should still end up saving money in the long run.
Knowing all the steps to take when deciding on a vehicle can be tricky. To simplify the process read our step by step guide to buying a campervan in Australia.
Hooked on the van life
We cannot recommend the van life enough, the freedom it offers is truly amazing. You can stop at more secluded destinations that are not overrun by the greyhound gangs. The experience has even made us want to create a campervan of our own on returning to Europe. Trust us, you will love it. There is no better way to see this amazing country.