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How To Choose Your Big Lap Car & Van (or Accommodation)

by Rose Foster

Aside from swooning over the dreamy beaches and making a mental note of all the awesome spots you’ll stay during your Big Lap, there are two major decisions you’ll need to make during your planning process: your car and your accommodation.

What Car Do You Need For Your Big Lap? Do I Need A New Car?

Firstly, let’s look at one of the most frequently asked questions about the Big Lap: do you need a new car to travel around Australia?

While there are some advantages to buying a new car, it’s not absolutely necessary. When you buy new, you have peace of mind that your transport will be reliable, under warranty and will get you around Australia with ease. But obviously, buying new comes with a price tag that you might not be able to afford.

And not being able to afford a brand new car shouldn’t be the barrier which stops you from setting out on the adventure of a lifetime.

That said, travelling Australia in an old, unreliable car can come with its own set of problems that can literally stop you in your tracks.

So, perhaps the better question is, do you need a different car to travel Australia? Do you need to change the car you currently have?

Here are some questions you need to ask yourself when thinking about the car that will get you around the country.

What Are You Going To Tow Around Australia?

One of the biggest questions you’ll need to ask yourself is, “What am I going to tow?” as this may narrow down your choices in terms of which car you need. Of course, you can also work the other way too and narrow down your caravan options based on the car you have or want, but for now let’s stick to this.

Where Are You Going?

Most people travelling Australia will choose a 4WD but if you’re planning on going off-road quite a bit you may need to really consider your car’s capabilities. Most 4WDs will allow you to get to the off the beaten path places you’re probably looking at going but if you’re wanting to take things to the extremes, do water crossings or a lot of sand driving, you may need to look a little deeper at not only the car, but its accessories too.

How Much Space Do You Need?

Space is a huge consideration when choosing your car. You’re going to be in your car for a considerable amount of time so having enough room for you and the family to sit comfortably is absolutely paramount. But it’s not just the bums on seats you need to think about. Think about whether you need storage space in your car too.

How Much Peace of Mind Do You Need?

New cars obviously come with warranties and for some people, this peace of mind is essential when doing their lap. For others, it’s something they don’t stress too much about. Which side of the fence do you sit on?

Do You Want To Drive or Have An Easy Ride?

It really is a personal preference when it comes to choosing between manual and auto. Some people really don’t feel like they’re ‘driving’ an auto and would choose a manual car any day. That said, it is considerably easier to drive an auto, which can make for a much more comfortable and less stressful drive.

If you’ve not towed a caravan before, an auto may make your life a little easier. They perform great on hills, which can be crucial when towing either up or downhill, and they have a lesser risk of stalling.

In terms of fuel economy though, a manual transmission usually performs better due to lesser complexity of the engine, fewer gears and lighter weight. Overall, manual cars can give you 5% to 15% more kilometres than automatic. And that’s not the only cost you’ll save with a manual, they are generally cheaper to buy and cost less to maintain.

Ute or Wagon?

Again, this is more of a personal preference but your specific circumstances will ultimately determine which avenue you take.

The biggest consideration here is space. For families, a wagon may be a better option since they often have a little more room. Although dual-cab utes have seating for the kids, there is more room in wagons for them to stretch their legs.

On the other hand, utes generally have more room in the back than wagons, especially if you have a ute with a canopy. So depending upon what you’re planning on taking with you, you may need the extra space.

Diesel or Petrol?

Diesel is often the preference for many Big Lappers for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they perform more efficiently when towing and diesel is actually more readily available in remote areas. What’s more, they’re perfect for cruising and they’re much more economical fuel wise.

But that doesn’t completely rule out buying a petrol car for your Big Lap.

4WD or 2WD?

Generally, there’s no argument here! You’ll usually need a 4WD if you’re towing a van, and even if you’re not, the types of places that you’re likely wanting to visit will possibly be off the beaten track. Limiting yourself to main roads may restrict you from visiting some of the best places and accessing the best free camps.

What Is The Best Car To Travel Australia?

Since a lot is down to personal preference, your unique set up and circumstances and your budget, it’s difficult to say which is the best car for you to travel Australia. There is also a lot of conflicting opinions about which is best. That said, here’s a look at the most popular cars out there for doing the big lap:

  • Toyota Landcruiser 200
  • Toyota Hilux
  • Ford Ranger
  • Isuzu D-Max
  • Isuzu MUX
  • Ford Everest
  • Nissan Partol
  • Mitsubishi Triton
  • Nissan Nivara
  • Landrover Discovery
  • Volkswagon Amarok

Your Accommodation

Next, deciding on the type of accommodation that suits you and your travel style is another painstaking task that so many people go through when planning their Big Lap.

Let’s look at your options…

Caravan

The caravan is, without doubt, the most popular option for accommodation when travelling Australia, and it’s easy to see why. Caravans provide all the comforts of home in one compact space.

What’s more, vans can come in a range of different shapes and sizes so you can usually find one that suits. Depending on whether you need all the bells and whistles or you’re happy with an older van, you can spend as little at $10,000 right up to $100,000 and over.

Advantages

  • Home away from home
  • You can set up in a caravan park and go exploring for the day (unlike motorhomes or campervans)
  • Will provide more storage than other options

Disadvantages 

  • You’ll need a car with adequate capacity to pull your car which may mean buying a new car
  • Probably the most costly option, considering additional insurances and registration

Camper Trailer

Camper trailers are generally the domain of the weekend camper, but many people are choosing to take their camper trailer on their big lap these days too. Camper trailers are becoming more and more advanced, with modern features, some even coming with aircons and other facilities. You can pick a used camper trailer up from around $5,000 but a semi-decent second hand trailer will cost you between $10,000-$15,000. New camper trailers start from around $20,000.

Advantages

  • Cheaper than a caravan
  • Can pull it virtually anywhere
  • Fuel efficient

Disadvantages 

  • Set up and pack down can be lengthy
  • Less of a homely feel

Motorhome/Campervan

Motorhomes and campervans are also popular options. From the tiny to the super-sized, motorhomes come in a range of sizes, a range of styles and a range of comfort levels. From around $5,000 for a ‘backpacker’ van to in excess of $50,000, there is no one size fits all option here.

Advantages

  • All in one option meaning little to set up
  • Could be more fuel-efficient due to no towing

Disadvantages 

  • You can’t set up and then go exploring
  • You generally can’t go offroad

Tent

Tents are probably the least popular option when it comes to travelling the Big Lap, for obvious reasons! Most people want some semblance of comfort when they’re travelling Australia and for most, a tent just doesn’t cut it.

Advantages

  • Cheap
  • Light-weight/nothing to tow

Disadvantages 

  • Set up can be a pain
  • no home comforts

 

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