Australia is a wonderful country that offers miles upon miles of breathtaking landscape. You will find almost every kind of terrain imaginable — from the subtropical rainforests of the Northern Territory, through the desert Outback, down to the temperate shores of Victoria.
It goes without saying that traveling Australia by car is one of the most enjoyable ways to experience the country, allowing you to explore its vastness completely unhindered. But it is more challenging than it might sound. A poorly planned Aussie road trip can lead to huge disappointment and, in some cases, could be really dangerous.
Thus, read my guide and make sure you are fully prepped to get the most out of your Aussie adventure:
Choosing The Right Vehicle
This depends on your budget, how many people are in your party, and on which parts of the country you want to go.
For those on a shoestring, the cheapest option is to get an economy saloon car. Choosing a hybrid vehicle will help you save money when city driving, but will not make too much difference on long trips, as these cars have to use their gas engines for high speeds.
The downside of a regular two wheel drive car is that there are some parts of the outback that you will not be able to go to. These roads are clearly marked ‘4WD only’ (4WD meaning ‘four wheel drive’). The other downside is if you are in quite a big group you could be pushed for space.
A big SUV or truck will allow you access to any part of the country by road. The issue is these vehicles are huge gas guzzlers and as fuel is expensive in Australia you will end up with a hefty bill for long distances.
Motorbike can be a cheap and fun way to get around, especially in big groups, but it is not for the faint hearted. Conditions can get rough out on the Australian highways and only highly experienced bikers should attempt long distance rides.
The final option is campervan. There are various websites that rent out custom fitted 4WD campers especially for road trips. These are a great option for taking large groups out on the road and what you spend in extra gas is saved on accommodation costs.
Whether To Rent Or Buy
This depends how long your road trip is going to last. If you are planning a shorter visit for three months or less, although renting is quite expensive, the hassle of buying a car is probably not going to be worth it.
On longer trips buying is cheaper and will give you more freedom than renting. Unsurprisingly, many hire car companies will charge you a premium to drive through ‘premium areas’, or ban you from going there at all.
You can easily find cheap used cars in Australia either from private dealerships or on sites like Australia’s Gumtree. If you are smart you can get some if not all of your money back by selling the vehicle after your trip.
If renting is your preferred choice then some companies in Australia offer what are known as relocation deals. This is where vehicle hire companies offer reduced rates for a rental, because they need a vehicle returned to the home depot. Sometimes you can even get it for free!
A Few Tips On Law And Safety
Driving in Australia is a bit different to driving in the US, so make sure you are ready for the differences.
Most importantly, Australians drive on the left like in England. Beyond the obvious advice that you should make sure you are on the right side of the road, also be aware that if you are not used to being sat on the right side of the car, your road position may lead to you driving too far to the left of your lane.
There are also different rules for overtaking. You must only ever overtake on the right unless a vehicle is waiting to turn right, is stationary, or if you and the other vehicle are traveling in marked lanes. Only then may you overtake on the left.
You can find a complete guide to Australian road regulations and safety here.
As was mentioned above, if you are only in a 2WD drive then watch out for this sign. If you see one like it you may only go down that road in a 4WD truck or SUV.
The US and Australia are about the same size, but Oz is far less populated in the central areas, so do not rely on phone service, mobile data, or GPS for directions and communication. It is best to make plans in advance with any other vehicles in your group and to bring a good old fashioned map.
Finally, watch out for Australia’s abundant wildlife! Kangaroos have a habit of hopping out into the road and with the average roo weighing about 200 pounds it will do severe damage to your vehicle if struck.