~ by Will Stewart
Although Australia is an island it is also a continent and for this reason alone it is large. Very large. To get around the country there is a very large and competitive air travel network. The southern parts of the country also offer fairly substantial train travel while the more remote areas of the northern part of the country mainly only offer bus travel.
One other option which is becoming very popular is to hire or rent a Campervan.
Considering that with today's prices a single bed in a hostel dormitory averages around $27.00AUD per night per person. So for three people travelling together that equals an average daily cost - just to rest your head for the night - of $81.00.
It is no wonder that Campervans are becoming so popular.
A basic campervan vehicle can take two forms. One type is the Camper Wagon or Campa Car which is often a large Ford or Holden Station wagon (you may know this type of vehicle as an Estate) which comes equipped with full camping equipment including tents, Gas cooker, linen, cookware and crockery and camp chairs for each person.
These vehicles can comfortably seat 4 adult passengers and the daily rental prices start from as little as $32.00AUD per day including insurance. When you compare that price with hostel accommodation then the saving is substantial. In fact with 4 people travelling, the savings cover the cost of fuel and often camping fees in campervan parks.
The most popular type of vehicle rented in Australia is the HiTop. These units are based on a Toyota commercial van but have an extended raised main roof, so you can stand inside. They are fully fitted and most have a 2 way fridge, sink and 2 burner stove all built in. They are very popular units - over 85% of the rentals that we get are for the HiTop unit. They are fairly similar across the different companies and have the same standard "basics". The majority of these units, although they may have slightly different layouts, all basically present with the same features. Rental pricing does vary quite a bit from company to Company and prices are also season dependent.
A HiTop rental starts from about $62.00 per day and can go as high as $120.00 per day. Rental rates are seasonal and very dependant on the length of the rental. The longer the rental the less the daily rental rate. Be warned that most Campervan rental companies will not even look at a rental less than seven days so if your planning a short trip (less than 6 days) you may not find it easy to secure a rental campervan.
Are there "Other Costs" in Renting a Campervan?
Yes. So we'll take a look at what costs are really involved for you. If you understand this better you will be able to make a better choice when you go to book your campervan Holiday.
This is the actual cost per day to hire the vehicle and usually includes basic insurance. Basic insurance will cover you and your passengers in the event of an accident with another vehicle. Some rental companies do not include "Single Vehicle Accidents" - where you drive into a tree or a wall - and may charge an additional fee to cover this. If it is not explained to your clearly what the Insurance covers - ASK!
In Australia the Government charges a 2% fee on any contracts relating to the rental of gods or services. This includes unit/apartment/house rental, car hire and Campervan rental. It is not a secret little fee that Camper rental companies have created to squeeze a few more dollars from you. It is a Mandatory charge by the government. Some rental companies may offer to waive this fee - which simply means they have included it in the cost of the rental.
One Way Fee
This is usually applied if you are renting the van from one city or state location to another - for example, Sydney To Cairns.
This fee is fairly common and has come about as a result of some companies having to engage professional drivers to collect a vehicle and return it after a rental. With some of the smaller rental companies the fee cover's the cost of the Agent at the destination depot to "turn the vehicle around" - ie; prepare it for another rental.
One Way Fees vary from $120.00 to $495.00 Depending upon the vehicle type and destination.
The Security Bond or Excess is the amount you are liable for in the event of a major accident. In other words this is the maximum amount you would have to pay if the vehicle was damaged beyond repair. With many rental companies this Security Bond or Excess is in the region of $4,500.00 to $6,000.00. With some companies this figure can be only $1,000.00. So when you are enquiring about a Campervan rental make a point of asking what the Bond/Excess is.
Many rental companies offer an "optional" Collision Damage Waiver" (CDW) which effectively means you pay an additional amount per day on top of the rental but reduce the Bond/Excess by half. This CDW can vary from $10.00 per day to $26.00 per day.
The reason for the wide variation in these and rental rates is due to the nature of Campervan Rental Insurance Companies. There are about 3 companies in Australia that will insure Campervans on Rental. Some have one set of rules and the others have another set.
The important thing about all these "fluctuations" is that if you are not knowledgeable in what the costs are it may end up costing you far more.
Following are two possible rental scenarios over a 15 day period from Sydney to Cairns rented from two separate rental companies. One, at a daily rate of $75.00 per day including Base insurance with a Security Bond/Excess of $1,000.00 and the other at a lower daily rate but with a higher Bond/Excess, which may help clarify the "costs" of a rental.
1. Company A - A campervan is to be rented at a daily rate of $75.00 per day including Base insurance with a Security Bond/Excess of $1,000.00.
Rental Value is $1,125.00
Stamp Duty $ 22.50
One Way Fee $ 170.00
Total Rental Value $1,317.50 with a $1,000.00 Bond/Excess.
2. Company B - A campervan is to be rented at a daily rate of $65.00 per day including Base insurance with a Security Bond/Excess of $5,000.00.
Rental Value is $ 975.00
CDW @ $20.00/day $ 300.00 (reduces the Bond to $2,500.00)
Stamp Duty $ 19.50
One Way Fee $ 170.00
Total Rental Value $1,464.50 with a $2,500.00 Bond/Excess.
The above example shows that with the same rental over two different companies there can be a difference of $147.00 and a Bond/Excess of over $1,500.00 difference after paying more.
The message here is to be careful. When you hear someone quote you a really good daily rate there may be hidden extras which may end up costing more than the other company who may have quoted you a higher daily rate but with a lower Bond/Excess.
Other Costs / Options
Some companies offer extra items that can be rented. These mat include outdoor bar-b-ques, portable toilets ("Porta-Potti"), Child booster seats and baby capsules. If you may be requiring some of these extras then just simply ask if these things are available.
A Word Of Caution
Most Campervan and Motorhome rental websites advertise vehicles that are 6 berth Winnebago Motorhomes. However often these are not actually available and we have, on many occasions while acting as an agent for another Australian company in Cairns, found the customers have just stepped off a plane to discover that what they are getting in the way of a 6 berth motor home, just is not what I have shown them.
So if you are booking your trip from outside Australia please really make sure that the vehicle you are getting is what you actually saw on the website and believed you will be getting. Have the company email you a picture of the type of vehicle. You may need it!
Also watch out for "false descriptions". For example: The company's confirmation email to you reads… "We take pleasure in confirming your booking for a 6 berth Mercedes Motorhome". You may just be getting a large van that sleeps 6, and it may very well be an Iveco or a Fiat and not a Mercedes.
Whomever you book your Campervan (or Motorhome rental) through they will usually send you some form of Confirmation that will detail your rental. READ THIS thoroughly and if there any items on your Confirmation ask the company to clarify it.
In general Campervan Rental in Australia is very safe. There are the odd one or two "shifty" operators but all in all it is a very safe way to see the country and there is an amazing variety of Australia too see.
Will Stewart owns his own Campervan and Motorhome business and has been involved in the industry for over 9 years.
Thanks to Will and Article City for the free use of this article.