We have written this “Motorhome Hire Brisbane: How to Guide” based on our own personal experiences when deciding to hire a motorhome. The one thing we encountered very early on in the process is “one size does not fit all”.
One of the most exhilarating ways to experience Australia is with the freedom and flexibility that a campervan or motorhome holiday offers. You set your own itinerary, stop where you want, when you want, travel at your own pace with no ties to schedules or fixed timetables.
Brisbane is a fantastic starting point purely because of the diverse range of landscapes and scenery you can experience all in one day. Start your adventure from Brisbane and bask in the sun on the famous Gold Coast beaches, or head North West up to the jaw-dropping Carnarvon Gorge. Experience the sun-scorched outback or explore the natural waterfall and fresh water circuits in the valleys nearer to the coast.
Whichever route you take, a Brisbane motorhome rental is the best way to do and see it all.
This comprehensive guide to motorhome hire Brisbane will help you make an informed decision about the many aspects you will need to consider.
My favourite thing is to go where I’ve never been.– Diane Arbus –
How do You Hire a Motorhome?
A motorhome or campervan is one of the cheapest and easiest ways for you to explore Australia. Yes, you can fly around the country staying in a variety of cities and hotels, but not only does that become incredibly expensive, you also don’t get to experience those ‘one-off’ side-adventures that make travelling Australia on the road special.
Whether you are an Australian resident or are coming from overseas, the best way to hire a motorhome or campervan is online. It is not possible to just turn up to a rental company and expect them to have a motorhome or campervan ready to go. In peak periods such as December and January, it is best to book at least 6 months in advance to ensure the likelihood of availability of what you want.
The best websites we found to compare prices were:
The term Campervan, Motorhome, RV (Recreational Vehicle) and even 4WD Campervans are all often used inter-changeably to describe the same vehicle. Whilst there are exceptions, a set of rule-of-thumb definitions generally include the following:
Motorhomes tend to be top-end, luxury vehicles providing the most generous living space and facilities for the number of passengers that can be carried. In most instances, these are 6 and 4 berth vehicles, although you can also get 2 berth, and come equipped with European styled kitchen appliances, bathroom facilities, air-conditioning / heating, LCD televisions and DVD players.
Campervans are more compact and tend to include mainly 3, 2.5 (2 adults and 1 child), and 2 berth vehicles. Some of these are equipped with bathroom and complete kitchen facilities, and often TV’s and DVD players. Most have air-conditioning and heating in the driving and living cabins.
Recreational Vehicles (RVs)
North American term to describe both the above sets of vehicles.
4 Wheel Drive Campervans are designed on their namesakes, the most popular of which is Toyota’s Land-Cruiser. Whilst limited in internal features (generally bedding for two), these often provide additional external sleeping through tent extensions and some can accommodate up to 5 travellers. Vehicles are all Diesel with manual transmissions and generally long-range fuel tanks. The 4WD vehicles are ideal for those who want to travel off the beaten track.
What to Consider Before Booking a Motorhome
Choosing the right campervan or motorhome for an Australian motorhome holiday is crucial for the best experience. From our own personal experience, we know that it’s the little things that can be so easily overlooked that can make the difference once on the road.
It is worth creating a list of things your motorhome ‘must have’ and another list of things it would be ‘nice to have’. This means you can base your decision off your priorities and allows you to better compare each rental provider and the vehicles they have on offer.
Number of Passengers
How many travellers will be aboard? Vehicles clearly state how many passengers can legally be seated i.e. 4 berth means 4 people can legally be seated in the vehicle. Australia has strict road rules around wearing seatbelts i.e. you cannot sit a third passenger in the back of the van if there isn’t a seat in place.
What’s your budget? Money is one of the key determining factors in any holiday. The more you are able to splurge on a motorhome, the better the vehicle you can hire. Also check carefully what other fees you might need to pay. Sometimes, especially with campervan agency specialists, bedding and kitchen facilities are not included in the daily rental cost and you will need to pay an additional fee.
Also, ensure you factor in the additional costs of motorhome hire i.e. fuel, tolls, on-site fees etc. (see below for more detailed info on this).
Do you drive automatic or manual? If it is displayed on your license that you can only drive automatic, of course you can only hire an automatic motorhome. Be sure to book well in advance if you need a vehicle with an automatic transmission as these are the most popular for hiring.
2WD Versus 4WD
Will your itinerary take you on dirt, sand or unsealed roads? If you are a bit more of an adventurous spirit and want to head deeper into the outback, a 4WD motorhome may suit you best. These perform just as well on the bitumen as they do on dirt roads and allow you to venture to places unseen by many other road travellers. However, 4WD motorhomes and campervans are far more expensive and come with special rules and restrictions when hired.
Most motorhome rentals are 2WD and these are better suited freeway driving as you travel from destination to destination. N.B. Don’t take your 2WD vehicle on dirt, unsealed roads, or beaches – it’s not safe and it’s probably not allowed by your rental company.
What amenities do you really need in your motorhome? Different motorhomes and campervans come in different layouts. Some feature dining tables, TV’s, fridges, roof racks, bike racks, curtains and sound systems. Choose a motorhome or campervan that has all the amenities you ‘need’, rather than all the things you ‘want’.
Read Your Contract Carefully – Terms and Conditions
Before settling on any motorhome or campervan, take your time and read the “Terms and Conditions” of your rental contract. This document outlines everything you need to know about the motorhome and campervan, your responsibilities as the renter and the services the company will provide to you. It will also discuss what you need to do if you break something or your vehicle breaks down, and what is and isn’t included in your cover.
Agency Opening Hours
Prior to arriving to collect your motorhome or campervan, make a booking with the agency for the hand-over. Agencies operate on specific days of the week and hours so plan your flights, arrangements for pick-up and drop-off accordingly.
What Is and Isn’t Included When I Hire a Motorhome?
What is Included?
Generally, the following things are included when you hire a motorhome or campervan but this varies from supplier to supplier and the type of vehicle you decide to book.
- Kitchen: plates, bowls, cups, glasses, cutlery, basic cooking utensils, pots, pans, a kettle, teapot, tea towels, dish cloths, matches.
- Cleaning Equipment: dustpan and brush, bucket, hose, toilet chemicals, dishwashing liquid.
- Bedding: pillows, sheets, sleeping bags or doona (duvets), bathroom towels.
- Safety: fire extinguisher, first aid kit (charges apply if opened).
- Other: vehicle guides, travel guides, coat hangers, electrical extension cords, small step ladder.
Top Tip: Always check with the company you are hiring with to see what’s included in the rental agreement before you set out. We created a checklist to keep track of all the gear they provided so we knew what was ours and what was theirs.
What is Not Included?
Otherwise known as ‘optional extras’, many hiring companies offer these accessories at an additional cost.
- Outdoor Furniture and Accessories: tables, chairs, BBQ’s, bike racks and roof racks.
- Internal Accessories: baby / booster seats for children, GPS navigator, heater, fan, phone charging cables, AUX cords, cigarette lighter adapters.
- Additional Safety Equipment: satellite phones, emergency kits, GPS units, tyre puncture kits, bigger first-aid kits, locator beacons, snatch strap, D-shackles, spade.
Additional Fees and Costs of a Motorhome Holiday in Australia?
When hiring a motorhome or campervan, there are additional fees and costs that are important to help you work out a budget.
All rental providers offer some level of insurance when hiring a motorhome or campervan from them. This insurance operates similarly to 3rd Party Insurance i.e. you are covered if you are hit by someone else but you will incur a very high, non-negotiable excess if you are the cause of the accident.
In general, basic insurance only covers you for any mechanical or electrical issues while on the road. However, if you chose to ‘upgrade’ your insurance, any damage to your windscreen and tyres will be covered too.
Keep in mind, currently no campervan rental companies will offer insurance on the undercarriage or roof of the vehicle and any damage to those will come directly out of your pocket.
Motorhome and campervan rental companies also offer insurance excess reduction options. Standard excess charges generally range between $5000 and $7500, although some suppliers and vehicles incur lower rates and offer reduction options starting from $20 per day.
A ‘Bond’ is required on any vehicle at pick-up. If paid by Credit Card, this will be debited and reimbursed on return of the vehicle. The Bond reflects the insurance excess option taken.
Petrol is an obvious cost, but one that can add up very quickly and blow the budget. Also, the further you travel away from bigger cities, the more expensive the fuel and the fewer the petrol stations become.
Top Tip: The app FuelMap is great for locating petrol stations near you on a map with the last known fuel price displayed above.
Tolls are another cost added to your final balance when you return your motorhome or campervan. Although you don’t have to use toll roads, some cities are much trickier to navigate without using them.
More often than not, your motorhome or campervan will come with unlimited kilometres, meaning you can travel as far as you like on any given day. A few companies offer capped daily kilometres, which ends up usually being a few hundred, on their motorhomes. Exceeding the daily limits incurs a cost on any extra kilometres travelled.
Where Can You Stay Overnight in Your Motorhome?
Caravan parks and free camping are the two most common ways for you to spend a night in your motorhome. If you are on a budget, mixing it up between the two is an easy way to save money for other activities.
Caravan parks generally offer a lot more amenities than most free camping locations. Sites come in two types: powered and unpowered, with both of these options having water available. Caravan park sites generally cost between $15 to $50 per night, depending on the location, time of year and if it’s a powered site or not. Be sure to book ahead in peak season (public holidays especially).
If you are a traveller on a budget, there are thousands of free camping spots all around the country, however, most do require you to be self-contained. Free camping can be done in a number of places; national parks, roadside rest areas and pub stops.
National parks offer limited free camping spaces so get there early in the day or book your site online. Most roadside rest areas allow travellers to stop there for a maximum of 24 hours. However, some local governments don’t allow camping in roadside rest areas, so be sure to check the council’s website before settling down for the night. Pub stops are great and the expectation is simply that you patronise the pub i.e. have a few drinks in or order your meal there.
How to Plan a Successful Road Trip
Planning often depends on the people who are travelling. Some prefer to schedule every aspect of their trip, others go-with-the-flow and choose where they want to go when they wake up. Whatever your style is, make sure it fits in with the timeframe your motorhome is booked for.
Apps / Websites / Facebook Pages for Planning Your Trip
Some of the Facebook pages we followed and used prior to our trip around Queensland were:
- Camping in Queensland
- Low Cost and Free Camping Australia Wide
- Full Time Travellers Australia
- WikiCamps Users Group
- Motorhomes Australia
- The OZ BIG LAP Crew
We also downloaded WikiCamps Australia app for a cost of $7.99 which is suitable for any smartphone, tablet or Windows 10 PC. WikiCamps is Australia’s largest database of campgrounds, caravan parks, backpacker hostels, points of interest, dump stations, visitor information centres, water taps, toilets, showers, and more.
In addition, we read lots of blogs on travelling in Australia, and suggested points of interest on road trips from Brisbane to Cairns. Some of these blogs included:
As we found interesting places / ‘must sees’, we added them to the “Trip Planner’ function on the WikiCamps apps. We loved the fact we could plan our trip and have it available offline.
Apps / Websites / Facebook Pages Used While on the Road
On the road, we found we kept going back to the same apps and websites.
The apps we used on a very regular basis were:
- WikiCamps – Described above.
- FuelMap – Locations of petrol stations are shown on the map as a branded pin with the last known fuel price displayed above.
- TripAdvisor – Whether planning or on a trip, we turn to TripAdvisor to check the reviews on popular tours and attractions, as well as to identify and check the reviews of great restaurants.
When seeking places we could stay overnight in the motorhome along the way, we used a mixture of:
- Facebook Groups – Low Cost and Free Camping Australia Wide and Country Pub Camping
- An older version of the Camps Australia Wide book which we had been given.
Picking up Your Motorhome Hire Brisbane
On the day you are due to pick-up your motorhome, ensure you pack a camera (or your phone), and have pen and paper ready to take copious amounts of notes on how things work in your motorhome. Also, be sure to do a thorough inspection and take photos of any damage to the vehicle, before signing anything.
Check the insides for damages, especially around the kitchen, windows, bedding, gas bottles and batteries.
Inspect the cockpit of your campervan and make sure all the headlights, indicators, brake lights and hazard lights work.
After the inside is checked, make sure the exterior isn’t damaged, or if it is, again take a photo and make the rental company aware before you leave the lot. A good idea is to inspect the undercarriage and roof for damage, as rental companies won’t insure you for damages against them.
Dropping Off Your Motorhome Hire Brisbane
Prior to returning your vehicle, ensure your motorhome is back in the condition you hired it in, or watch out for huge repair and cleaning fees.
Check your rental agreement for a specific drop-off time or place. If you cannot find this, call and make an appointment with the company for drop-off. Other aspects to check for include:
- Does it need to be returned with a full tank of petrol
- What internal or external cleaning needs to be done
- Is there a ‘additional drop-off fee’ if you are returning somewhere different to where you picked it up
N.B. Not following the agreed returning terms may void your bond or incur additional late fees.
In Summary: Motorhome Hire Brisbane: How to Guide
As you can see, there are many factors that need to be considered when hiring a motorhome. However, if you follow our guide, it is a simple and very rewarding experience. We absolutely loved our motorhome rental and highly recommend this as an alternative way to go on holidays.
Want to Read More?
If you want to read more about our personal experience renting a motorhome and travelling from Brisbane to Cairns, click on the following post.