There is something about Australia that screams road-trip to every backpacker who visits the country. It’s the modern day equivalent of hitting the Silk Road in a beaten up old VW Camper Van. The country has thousands of miles of open road to explore. There are breathtaking views, sites to see, adventures to be had and kangaroos and koala bears to spot. Yet before you head out into the blue yonder, you will need to prepare a budget. So if you’ve already packed a selection of the best Australian films and literature and you have got some fruit picking jobs lined up, here is a budget guide for an Australian road trip.

australia campervan

The Camper Van

Buying or Renting

The first hard decision that you will face before you even set off on a road trip is: do you rent a van or do you buy one and sell it later? There is no easy answer to this question, but there are a lot of things to consider.

Buying a Van
There are lots of people backpacking and taking road trips around Australia, so it is easy to buy a van in any large city in Australia (think entry departure points: Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns, etc.). Buying a van can cost anything upwards of AUS $2,000. Although it is easy to find a van to buy, it is hard to find a good van, so it could take anything up to a week of hanging around before you find one you want to buy. The situation is the same at the other end if your journey, so give yourself lots of time to sell the van at the end of the journey.

The best place to look for suitable vehicles are in the back of newspapers, in hostels and travel forums. These are also the best place to sell a van. In fact, if you organise yourself well, you can actually start advertising the sale of your van almost as soon as you have bought it. For instance you can place ads on travel forums with the vehicle you have, the price you want to sell it for and where you will be selling it.

Renting a Van
It is a lot easier to rent a van than it is to buy one. However, you will of course spend more money int he long run than you would if you bought and sold your own van. The flipside of course is that you don’t have to have a large amount of cash to hand to buy the can and you don’t have to go through the hassle of trying to sell the van at the end of your journey.

Renting a budget van costs around AUS $55 per day. Most of the hire companies that operate in Asutralia allow you to drop off the van in another city, meaning you don’t have to worry about returning it to the same place that you rented it from.

beach in australia

Choosing the Right Motor

Obviously the vehicle you choose for your road trip will be partly decided for you based on your budget and what is available at the time. However, it is important to realise that you do have a choice. Although the classic VW Camper Van is the iconic option, in terms of size, speed and fuel economy, it’s not the best choice. More modern vehicles are both more fuel efficient, have a higher top speed and offer more space for sleeping. Below are a few of the best options for budget backpackers currently on the market. Of course, remember to check on the vehicle thoroughly before renting or buying it as the last thing you want to happen is that your van breaks down in the middle of the desert.

australia camping trip

Daily Costs

There are certain daily costs that are unavoidable on a road trip, while other depend on the choices you make. Petrol for instance costs AUS $1.50 per liter. So expect to spend around AUS $25 per day. You should budget around AUS $50 per day for food for two people (this is a mixture of cooking for yourself and eating out at budget restaurants).

Camp Sites Vs Sleeping In

One of the biggest expenses you will face on a road trip after the rental costs for the vehicle, is accommodation. It is possible to save on these costs by sleeping in the van by the side of the road or in public places (It used to be illegal when I travelled around Australia in 2000 :-/). Choosing to do this is a huge money saver, but it leaves the question of where are you going to wash – most truck stops have free showers – or how will you all fit in such a tiny van…

If you’re tavelling on a budget, but you have a bit of money to spare, then staying in a campsite every night is an option. This is pretty easy to do as there are camp sites along all of the main backpacking routes. Most campsites include basic facilities like showers and a kitchen. The other good thing about campsites is that they are also a good place to meet other travellers. However, the benefits come at a cost of around AUS $15-20 per night.

roadtrip australia


Staying in a hostel is the final and most expensive option available to travellers going on a road trip. Budget hostels will cost you around AUS $20-$50 per person per night. However, you do get a comfy bed for the night, which is a pretty great thing if you’ve been sleeping in a van for two weeks.