Hiring a campervan is a popular way to travel about in Australia and New Zealand – and for good reason. Campers allow flexibility, independence, and the chance to experience some of the world’s best loved scenic drives.
Outside of major cities, you’re not searching for hotels and there’s plenty of camping-friendly infrastructure along your way. Campers can save you money – you won’t need to spend on hotel rooms or prepared meals – but they do come with their own costs, such as fuel, dump fees, and parking.
The good news is that there are ways to control costs and save on your campervan hire – especially if you plan ahead and can be flexible.
1. Plan to travel outside of peak times
Summer, public holidays, school holidays, and any long weekends are always popular for campervan hires. Pick an off peak time and the daily rate can be half the cost – quite a bit cheaper!
An ideal compromise is ‘shoulder season’- spring and fall, when rates are lower, yet the weather’s still mostly good. As a bonus, attractions will be less crowded at these times as well.
If you can be a bit flexible in your plans, use of comparison tools will allow you to check a wide date range or try moving a few days one way or another – it just might make a big difference!
2. Decide how long you want for the vehicle hire
Logic would tell you not to book more days than you’ll need – you won’t need a campervan upon arrival if you’re flying to Sydney and spending a few days in town before hitting the road.
And yet, you also want to allow for travel being slower than it seems on the map, enjoying the chance to make side trips – all the reasons you’re renting a campervan.
Camper hire rates are often organized into range brackets, where in longer hires are at better daily rates, with the best rates as you reach 21 days.
3. Check out your insurance options
As with a car hire, you will be offered a few choices – using the standard (limited) insurance from the camper company, taking out their additional coverage (typically a daily charge) to reduce the amount of excess – the amount you would owe should the vehicle be damaged, or using your own insurance in the case of any damage to the vehicle.
To best decide, which option will work for you, it’s strongly advised that you check out these options thoroughly and know the terms, to which you are committing.
4. Compare different cities
There are times, you have a choice where to start your journey and when possible, you should certainly check the prices in as many cities as possible to see, where the best pricing may be found.
Particularly with one-way hires, there is often a prevailing direction of travel (and perhaps a drop fee) – going in reverse can result in a big savings.
Comparison tools make this easy, displaying data from over twenty camper companies and allowing you to toggle between cities for your rental.
5. Book as early as you can
You really can’t start looking too early; once the bulk of campervans become booked for peak dates, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything at all – there’s no last minute deals on campers.
And it will happen for all the peak times – summer, public holidays, school holidays, and long weekends. Booking two months prior is a must and beginning the process six months prior won’t hurt.
6. Book the right size camper
This is a tricky one, because a larger vehicle may be more enjoyable and have more amenities, but to keep the costs down you don’t want to reserve any more space, than you’ll need for a reasonable level of comfort.
Two adults do not need a full size motorhome, though you may prefer a van to a station wagon.
7. Bring your own supplies
8. Limit yourself to one driver
9. You may not need the newest camper
A newer model year camper will cost you more, plain and simple. If you don’t need the latest and greatest, it’ll be cheaper to hire an older model – even a few years older can save you money, without sacrificing much in terms of features.
There are typically graduated levels, allowing you to strike a balance somewhere in the middle. Comparison tools make it easy to see exactly what you are getting and at what costs.
10. Research any applicable deals
There are discounts at times for multi-city or multi-country hires, group rates for large groups requiring multiple vehicles, long-term hires, relocations, and off-peak seasonality specials.
It never hurts to ask if there might be a cheaper price for what you have in mind. One of the benefits of using comparison sites is the ability to access information, including any special rates from over twenty companies at once.
11. Know your fees
Your contract will stipulate how your vehicle should be returned- typically full of fuel and gas but waste water tanks empty. You may be able to purchase a bundled package for an ‘express return’ but chances are it’s cheapest to plan on doing it yourself.
Also note that only 4WD vehicles are typically allowed on unsealed roads and a fee may apply if it’s found you’ve driven in restricted areas. Our comparison site tools come with no fees from us; however, the individual hire companies may charge deposits and cancel fees.
12. Plan to cook your own meals
Eating out adds up quickly, but even the most minimal two-person lowtop van will come with a basic kitchenette area that has a gas cooktop and a cooler or a fridge.
Plus, you’ll save time, not searching for eating establishments or waiting for service.
To optimize cooking costs, purchase your groceries at larger food markets, not petrol stations.
13. Park smart
There are rules about where you can park your camper overnight; typically on popular routes parking by the side of the road is discouraged as are most carparks for overnight use.
You’ll want to familiarise yourself with major caravan park networks such as Big 4, Discovery, and Top and make advance reservations at peak times.
These parks are an affordable cost and will provide amenities, such as toilets and showers, Wifi, power and water hookups, camper’s kitchens and BBQ’s, a waste dump point, and sometimes even cabins.
National Parks are another popular option though be aware that some are only first-come first-served.
14. Consider what features are most important
With the exception of a station wagon, all campers will come with cooking facilities of some sort. Beyond that, you’re paying for extra space and, potentially, a toilet and a shower.
While it may sound like a plus to have your own facilities onboard, they may be most readily available in the larger and more deluxe campers, meaning there are other vehicles without them at a cheaper price. In reality, you’re probably going to be visiting places during the day that will have restrooms and overnighting at a caravan park that has showers.
Other considerations are whether you require an automatic transmission (being able to drive manual will give you more options) and whether you desire petrol or diesel for fuel. Do your homework to learn what’s out there and find what you’re comfortable with, for both inclusions and costs.