When the first Europeans landed in the Australian coasts, they couldn’t imagine how immense that country –almost a continent on its own– was and the discovery fascinated anthropologists, zoologists and travellers all over the world. Australia was, is and will always be, a wild land where animals have still the control of a great deal of the land.
There is no better way to explore in depth the wide brown land than by renting a car, van or motorhome to drive to the most remote spots and discover the natural wonders it has to offer.
Another good reason to rent a vehicle is the price of accommodation in Australia. Everything is expensive there, but sleeping in a hotel is almost unaffordable if you’re backpacking. That’s way you should think of renting not a plain car but a car you can sleep in –a motorhome. Large vans and campervans will be for sure your best bet.
In this post we’ll look into some options for rent-a-car companies and related advice, but before that you should know that you can also buy a van and sell it back when leaving the country. This is especially suitable for long term stays, as you’ll have enough time to buy and sell. If you’re lucky enough you could even make some money out of the deal. But if you’re only in Australia for a few weeks it is definitely not worth the effort of buying and selling a vehicle.
Antes de entrar más a fondo en las compañías de alquiler y otros asuntos relacionados, te comento que también existe la posibilidad de comprarla a la llegada al país para venderla cuando te vayas a marchar. Esta es la mejor alternativa cuando estás planeando un viaje de larga duración porque te permitirá tener tiempo suficiente para elegir bien, tanto la compra como la venta. Muchos de los que hacen esto acaban incluso ganando algo de dinero en la transacción. Sin embargo, si vas a visitar Australia tan solo por unas semanas, es mejor que alquiles y te olvides del engorro de la elección y la burocracia de la compra-venta.
When renting a van or a motorhome Down Under, there is a wide range of companies to choose from.
If you’re going for the high end, Britz, Kea, Maui and Apollo are the most common brands on the road. A little on the pricey side, their motorhomes are real homes on wheels, reliable and you won’t miss anything.
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If you’re more a like a backpacker, then go for Jucy, Spaceship, Backpacker, Wicked and Traveller Autobarn, with much more affordable prices. Services will be also more limited though.
I personally tried Spaceship, Wicked and Traveller Autobarn and only had problems with the latter. I wouldn’t recommend it to my worst enemy.
At Spaceship I rented a Toyota Estima van with manual transmission, equipped with a small gas ring, DVD player, double size mattress and a small fridge. We got from Sydney to Melbourne in this van, crossing the beautiful Blue Mountains and driving along one of the most spectacular roads out there – the Great Ocean Road, featuring the well-known twelve apostles.
I had no problems at all, Spaceship staff was the best one I found and they didn’t block any balance on my bank card. We didn’t have any extra fee for picking up the car in Sydney and returning it in Melbourne. This is not a common policy in Europe, but it is in Australia, so if you are required to pay for this, then shop around for something better.
I also had a nice experience with Wicked and their attention-grabbing vans. The founders of the company started buying second-hand vans to revamp them and give them a new life. In order to cover up some small dints and scratches they painted them with graffiti, and those graffiti –all of the different– became so popular that they ended up being the symbol of the company. Wicked vans are absolutely unmistakable. And their prices are unbeatable in most cases.
With Traveller Autobarn I rented a Toyota Hi Top. That was my first motorhome actually, as the previous ones were mere vans, and this had its pros and coins. As it is bigger it needs more petrol –pretty expensive in Australia– and when the wind blows it feels more instable. Inside, we had a big bed, a table, a two-stove kitchen and we could stand up with no problem. Definitely a much cosier option than vans.
The problem with Traveller Autobarn was its staff –the most carless and unkind. We were given quite an old and wrecked car. We made a deep check-out of the vehicle to know its conditions, and glad we did it, because during the week we had it the water tank, a window rubber and the windscreen wiper broke. A real gem.
The best option to rent a car for almost nothing is checking websites where some rent-a-car companies are looking for drivers to cover some journeys. The price is symbolic –1 AUD dollar– and it’s the perfect method to get around. You won’t be able to make stopovers as you usually have a deadline to get to your destination. It’s a win-win deal, as the rent-a-car companies have their cards returned to the place of origin and you are making your journey almost free.
When driving in Australia, try to do it by daytime. When the night falls many wild animals come out –i.e. emus, kangaroos, lizards or any other animal wandering around the Outback. If you have to drive by night, do it slowly and if an animal crosses your way avoid any sharp turns or else you could get off the road.
It is very advisable to take full coverage insurance as this is a wild land where the unexpected can happen. Always make sure you have plenty of petrol and water, as there are large areas, especially in the west, north and centre of Australia, where there are no petrol stations in hundreds of miles around. Of course, don’t forget neither that currency in Australia is the Australian dollar (AUD). You can have your travel money exchanged at Global Exchange.
Get on your motorhome and come explore the awesome lands of Australia!