Today, there are more 4x4s touring this amazing country than ever before. Whether you’re single, a couple, a family or a grey nomad, there are more beautiful places to explore in Australia by 4x4 than you’d do in a lifetime. Of course, there are a lot of reasons why everyone isn’t doing this, and probably the most common question relates to finances. What does it cost to tour Australia?
There are too many variables involved to accurately estimate, but one common method for estimating travel costs around Australia is $1 per kilometre travelled. This is actually surprisingly accurate. If you do a 30,000km trip, expect it to cost somewhere around $30,000.
However, let’s dive into the details a little more:
The major expenses of touring Australia are broken into three categories: fuel, accommodation and food. In all three areas, a bit of pre-planning, smart thinking and the right modifications can save you an absolute fortune.
By far and away the most expensive part of travelling Australia is fuel. This has come down a lot though, with modern vehicles achieving incredible fuel figures even when towing larger caravans. You won’t see much of Australia without buying fuel, so it’s a given expense.
That said, you can reduce your fuel bill by moving around the country slower, filling up at cheaper fuel stations, running correct tyre pressures, driving at a slower speed (that isn’t unsafe!) and ensuring your vehicle is serviced and running well. A long range fuel tank (or several jerry cans) goes a long way to reducing your fuel costs, as you can fill up at the larger hubs and bypass the smaller, more expensive ones.
If you stay purely at caravan parks, expect the cost of your trip around Australia to be substantially higher than someone who stays at low cost, or free camps with the occasional caravan park. In some parts of Australia you don’t have much of a choice, but there are more camp sites than ever before in Australia that are recognised places for you to pull up and rest your head for the night.
Some caravan parks can be extremely expensive, and you will save huge chunks of money by avoiding spending every night at one. There are a number of families on the road saving around $200 - $500 a week on accommodation costs by free or low cost camping. Of course, this is your decision, the free/low cost camps have limited facilities to match the price.
You have to eat. Whether you are at home, or on the road, that doesn’t change. What will change is the price of food (especially as you become more remote), and for many people, their eating habits.
It’s easy to fall into the habit of buying fast food, stopping into the local bakery, or buying lots of snacks for driving in the car. You will save a fortune by avoiding this as much as possible.
For some setups, it’s impossible to camp ‘off the grid’ for more than a day, as they run out of water, or cold food, or power. Self-sufficiency refers to your ability to survive outside of a powered site, or next to a tap of water. It’s become easier than ever to be self-sufficient, and it doesn’t take a huge amount of time or money either.
All you need is a potable water tank, a battery (or more than one) and some solar panels (or a generator). All this can run a fridge and lights and you are good to stay away from civilisation for some time. The more you do this, the more money you will save. You can even get diesel heaters for a fairly good price these days, making camping in all sorts of different climates away from a power point very feasible.
If you are going to be using something a lot, it pays to purchase a quality product to start with. This includes everything from tents and awnings to suspension and 4x4 tyres. A quality set of 4x4 tyres will save you a fortune in repairs, reduce the chance of getting stuck, and the frustrations that go along with it all.
How much of a tourist are you?
There are so many amazing tours and paid attractions around the country, and many of them are well and truly worth doing. However, if you do every one, you will spend a lot of money. Before you leave, do some research and make a note of what you really want to do and see.
Find your own rhythm
If you really want to, you can tour Australia for very little. $500 a week is achievable, but you have to be extremely tight to do this. $800 to $1200 a week is fairly common, and these figures exclude your normal ‘at home’ costs, such as house repayments, car rego, and health insurance.
Everyone has their own way of travelling. Some people won’t ever free camp, whilst others won’t ever visit a caravan park. I’ve met people who won’t do any paid attractions, and then others who have a list of what they want to do, and have a great time doing it.
What have our trips cost us?
In May 2018, we left on long service leave for three months. Two adults and a toddler from Perth to the Pilbara, Kimberley, Northern Territory, Coral Coast and back to Perth. We covered nearly 15,540km. Total cost $11,325 (including $2,000 insurance/medical expenses not planned for). That’s $943 a week, or 73 cents a kilometre.
In 2015, we did the Kimberley from Perth with two adults for five weeks. We covered nearly 9,000km. We did a lot of tours, and ended up spending $7,400. That’s $1,480 a week, or 82 cents a kilometre.
In 2013, we took two 4x4s and four adults to the Pilbara and Coral Coast covering 4,758km in three weeks. Total cost was $5,000, or $833 per week per vehicle with two people. That works out to be 53 cents a kilometre per vehicle.
What does it cost to tour Australia by 4x4?
Realistically, for most couples and smaller families a dollar a kilometre is fairly accurate, or $1,000 a week, providing you don’t spend every night in caravan parks and you are moderate with your tours and other expenses. Different parts of Australia will vary a lot in price, so some weeks you’ll save more, and others you’ll chew through the savings!
Of course, this will vary a lot depending on how you travel, what mechanical problems you have and spares you have available, as well as how long you plan on staying on the road for!
Money aside, travelling around Australia is one of the best things you’ll ever do, which is why so many people do it.
To follow Aaron’s adventures, click here.