If you’re thinking about buying a campervan in Australia, there are quite a few things you need to know.
The first thing is that you are in for one of the most incredible experiences of your life! Van life in Australia is absolutely amazing, and if the idea of camping next to the world’s best beaches, hiking through rainforests and going on the most scenic road trips you can imagine tickles your fancy, you’re in for a real treat.
Not that we need to convince you of that. After all, you most likely have already figured out that travelling Australia in a campervan is the exact way you want to see the country.
The other things to keep in mind though are what we are going to address in this blog post.
Points like ‘what type of campervan you should get’, ‘where is the best place for buying a motorhome in Australia’ and things to do know before you buy are exactly what we are going to talk about today.
By the end of this campervan guide blog post you are going to know everything about buying a campervan in Australia.
What Type of Campervan Should You Buy?
This age-old question really does come down to two main considerations – how big do you want it, and what’s your budget?
You have a couple of different options for campervans in Australia. The main ones you’ll see are small panel vans, cargo vans and Coaster buses.
How Much does a Campervan Cost in Australia?
That is a great question, but there is no definitive answer. Budgets can range from $2000 for an old, rundown van with very basic facilities, right up to $250,000 for the best RVs on the market.
As a general rule though, if you’re looking for a small budget van, expect to pay between $7000-$10,000. If you’re looking for a mid-range cargo van, expect around $15,000-$25,000. A professionally built or modern campervan will set you back between $30,000 and $75,000. Anything new will most likely be over $75,000.
Small Panel Vans
The two most popular models of small panel vans in Australia are the Toyota Hiace and Mitsubishi Express. These come in either short-wheelbase (SWB) or long-wheelbase (LWB) models, and are great purchases if you want something that is easy to drive and fuel-efficient.
These make great vans for Australian road trips as the interior space is surprisingly large. If built efficiently, you can have a bed/sitting area, kitchen and even a cassette toilet installed.
The downside is that they can be cramped, and might be hard to be fully self-contained.
They can comfortably take two people around the country, and even 3 or sometimes 4.
Our Recommendation – Toyota Hiace
Parts for Toyotas in Australia are readily available and cheap. You’ll find them everywhere, including the most remote places in the country thanks to the popularity of Toyota Land Cruisers and Coasters.
They are also more reliable and safer than Mitsubishi Express vans.
Expected Cost – $5000 – $15,000
These are larger vans, usually used for transporting cargo. The two most popular models in Australia are the Mercedes Sprinter and the Ford Transit, although other options like Renault Masters and Volkswagen Crafters can also be found.
The benefit of these vans are obviously that they are much larger than a standard panel van, which means you can fit a lot more stuff in them.
They will usually come in short-wheelbase, mid-wheelbase and long-wheelbase options, with differing roof heights.
To give you an idea of just how big a cargo van can be, a long-wheelbase (LWB) Mercedes Sprinter can quite easily have a permanent bed, permanent sitting area, kitchen, storage and a bathroom, as well as licensed seating for 3-5 people.
Our Recommendation – Mercedes Sprinter
Mercedes Sprinters are some of the best and most reliable cargo vans on the market for campervan conversions.
They are so reliable that they are the go-to choice for the Australian ambulance services.
One downside to Sprinters though is that being a Mercedes means they are quite expensive compared to other brands, and maintenance costs can be quite high. Also if you are in a remote region, finding parts in a hurry can be next to impossible.
The plus side to this though is that they hold their value quite well, and if you get a diesel motor will last a long time.
Expected Cost – $20,000 – $60,000
These are small passenger buses that have been used for school runs and mining operations for decades, and in recent years have seen a resurgence as a great motorhome option.
The main models you will find are the Toyota Coaster and the Mitsubishi Rosa, although Nissan also have a model.
The benefits to these are that they have a huge amount of space in them, as there is no engine space in front of the vehicle (the engine is between the driver and passenger seats), and the rear has been designed to fit a large number of people for transport.
That means you can create a proper tiny home with a well thought out conversion.
The downside though is that they can be cumbersome to drive, especially in cities.
Our Recommendation – Toyota Coaster
Toyota Coasters come in different sizes, and parts are readily available anywhere in Australia (including the countryside)..
They also hold their value very well, and are quite safe.
Expected Cost – $15,000 – $50,000
4WD campervans are notoriously difficult to come across in Australia, and when they are available, they are often insanely expensive.
If you happen to find a 4×4 Mercedes Sprinter that fits your budget, jump on it, as they are quite rare.
You can also find 4×4 Toyota Coasters and Toyota Hiaces, but they are also rare.
The benefits though are immense. First of all, many of Australia’s most beautiful and remote places require 4WD to reach them. And there are plenty of empty beaches that have vehicle access, but can only be driven on with 4×4.
They aren’t as capable as an SUV, but you’l have access to a lot more places with 4×4.
Our Recommendation – Mitsubishi Delica
This is the one 4×4 van model that is relatively easy to find in Australia. The Japanese-built Mitsubishi Delica is quite capable for beach driving and dirt trails, and hold their value well.
They aren’t very large though, so for a couple doing full-time living, it might be a bit cramped.
Expected Cost – $10,000 – $18,000
Petrol vs Diesel Engines
This is an age-old question that many first-time campervan shoppers are wondering. Should you buy a petrol or a diesel van?
We’re just going to come right out and say it – if you’re planning on owning the van for any significant amount of time, or you are purchasing an older van, then you really should buy a diesel engine.
They are more reliable, fuel prices are usually more consistent (sometimes more, sometimes less, but it doesn’t vary as much as petrol), and if you maintain them properly, it’s not unheard of to see diesel engines get upwards of 500,000kms.
What’s Best for You?
Well, only you can answer that question. It really comes down to your budget, your plans for travelling Australia in a campervan (full-time, short trips, etc), and importantly how much money you will have after your purchase for things like car registration, fuel, repairs and maintenance.
Converted vs DIY
One of the toughest decisions for many van lifers is choosing whether to build your own campervan, or buy one that is already converted.
There are of course pros and cons with both options.
- You can design it exactly how you want.
- Can potentially work out to be cheaper.
- The sense of satisfaction at the end.
- You will have a solid understanding of the van in case something goes wrong.
- Steep learning curve if you are not a builder.
- A lot of time is needed to build one – not good if you are on a tourist/working holiday visa or work full-time.
- Chance of making costly mistakes.
- You will save a lot of time.
- Somebody else does all the hard work for you.
- Ready to buy and drive away.
- Converted vans are often more expensive.
- Alterations can be expensive.
- More of a guessing game when things break inside the van as you aren’t familiar with the buid.
Ultimately only you can make the decision if you want to build it yourself or buy one already converted.
Where to Buy a Campervan in Australia
Campers in Australia are plentiful, although not quite like you’ll find in Europe or North America. Here the caravan is king.
But if you don’t like the idea of towing your home behind you, never fear, because once you know where to buy, you’ll be well on your way to finding your perfect van.
BUYING PRIVATELY OR THROUGH A DEALER?
If you’re buying a campervan brand new, you’ll have to head to a dealership to find one. But if you’re going for a secondhand van, you have a choice between going to a dealer or buying one privately.
There are merits for both. We personally went privately, but if you’re unsure what is better for you, here’s our thoughts:
- The van should be ready to drive away.
- It might come with a warranty.
- There is somebody to help with paperwork and legalities.
- Almost guaranteed to be more expensive.
- Car dealers are salespeople at the end of the day, and can be unscrupulous.
- Better prices.
- Less pressure to buy compared to a dealer.
- You can get detailed information on the history of the vehicle.
- The owner most likely knows the campervan and lifestyle very well, and can share lots of tips and advice.
- No guarantee of it being mechanically sound.
- No warranty given.
We recommend that you don’t automatically choose one over the other. Instead when you’re looking for a vehicle, whether it is a backpacker van or high-end motorhomes for sale in Australia, go look at any one that fits your budget and style.
The Best Websites for Buying a Campervan in Australia
There are a few great websites to find campervans for sale in Australia. If you’re buying your first campervan and wondering where to start looking, these are our personal recommendations.
You’ll find plenty of options on these sites with different models and from locations all around Australia. After years of looking for our perfect campervan, we found it.
Caravan Camping Sales
This is one of the biggest and most popular sites for buying a campervan in Australia, particularly if you’re after something a bit more professional or have a higher budget.
This is free for buyers to use but you have to pay if you want to advertise your motor vehicle.
This is a free online classified website where you can sell or buy absolutely anything. It’s a UK-owned company, but it has really taken off here in Australia.
You’ll find plenty of used campervans for sale, starting from very cheap right up to mega-expensive.
It is free to sign up and free to advertise. You can save items for later or to watch and even put an ad up for something you need and people can get in touch with you.
Facebook Marketplace and Groups
One of the most popular options for finding a camper van for sale in Australia is using Facebook.
You can use the Marketplace to find vans for sale in your area, or join some van-specific groups to help narrow down your search.
Here are some of the best groups:
This is an auction website. They have ex-government vehicles, ex-ambulances, ex-military vehicles and more.
Depending on your location, they have many monthly auctions. You can pick up a unique vehicle here for an incredible price.
Best for those looking to do a DIY project.
EX-RENTALs For Sale
A fantastic option can be to buy an ex-rental vehicle. Just like everything on this list there are pros and cons to this method.
The pros are that these vans are often fairly new, as the companies try to replace them regularly. They are well-maintained, and usually come professionally-built. As an added bonus, you may get a really good deal.
The cons are that you have no idea how the campervan has been looked after by the people who rent them.
There could be all kinds of wear and tear that a mechanic won’t pick up on their usual services due to drivers who don’t look after the vans.
If you do go down this route, we recommend only purchasing from the larger, more reputable companies like Britz and Maui.
There is one rental company (known for their offensive graphics on vans) in particular that we suggest you stay away from, as they are notorious for dodgy mechanics, poor safety and sketchy service work.
Pre-Purchase Checks and What to Look for in a Secondhand Campervan
If you’ve found the perfect campervan and ready to hand over the money, there’s one thing you absolutely need to do – a pre-purchase check.
There are two ways to do this. Yourself, if you are pretty savvy with vehicles (or have a friend who can do it for you), or pay a mechanic to do one for you.
In our opinion these are absolutely essential if you’re planning to spend a lot of money on a van that you are hoping to take you around this beautiful country.
After all, the last thing you want to do is end up paying thousands of dollars for a lemon.
If you end up paying a mechanic to come and do a pre-purchase safety and mechanical check, they will come look at the van with you and the seller present (or just the seller if you are busy), and do a 300-point check. You’ll then get a report at the end with everything they have found.
They’ll look through the engine, check the fluids, jack up all 4 wheels to check the axles and brakes, go over the standard safety equipment and more. A good mechanic will also take the van for a test drive.
Keep in mind though that this is all just a visual check, and by no means completely comprehensive.
The price will range between $250-300, which might seem like a lot, but it’s better to spend this money and find out if there are any issues before you commit to buying the van.
If you’re the kind of person who would like to look over everything yourself, here is what you need to check mechanic-wise:
- Engine oil, transmission oil, brake fluid
- Tyre wear
- Brake wear
- Look for any rust in the chassis (if you find any, DO NOT BUY)
- Rust in the body
- Headlights, brake lights, reverse lights and indicators all in working order
- Engine mounts sturdy
Then take the van for a drive and check these things:
- Any unusual engine noise at startup, idle or when driving
- Test brakes
- Acceleration doesn’t sputter
- Steering smooth and easy
- Seatbelts work
- Windows and doors all operational
What to Check Before Driving Away
Assuming everything is good with the mechanic check, there are few final things to make sure of before you drive away with your new home.
- Everything to jack the van up and change tyres (check spare as well)
- Vehicle manual
- Receipts, records and invoices of any services and repairs
- How the gas system works
- How the water system works (including hot water)
- How the greywater system works
- Compost or casette toilet operation
- Solar system setup
- Auxiliary battery system
- Where all the wires are running
- Where all the plumbing is running
- If the van was self-built, how was it made and where is everything behind the interior walls
- Structural points in case you want to install things like awnings
- What oils does it use (should be in manual)
- Tyre pressures
- Does the van come with an engineer’s compliance certificate if converted (click here for our blog post about this)
- Is there a spare key?
- Anything else to know
Making the Purchase – What Steps to Follow?
Once you’ve agreed on a price, it’s time to pay. Depending on the value, you can pay via cash, bank transfer or bank cheque.
If you’re buying from a dealership you can also possibly buy using a credit card.
The next steps are slightly different depending on the state you are in, but here’s the basics:
- Both the buyer and seller need to complete the registration papers to indicate new owner
- Get a receipt (handwritten is fine, as long as personal details are on there for both people, price paid and model of campervan)
- Seller needs to notify the local vehicle registry office that they have sold the vehicle
- You must go into the local vehicle registry office to complete the ownership transfer
- Pay any fees due (stamp duty, transfer fee, registration, etc)
- The vehicle is now yours!
Here’s a link to the official NSW RMS site which goes into more details. Look up the state you are buying in for more information.
Great Facebook Communities to Join
Welcome to #VanLife! Now that you’re officially part of the club, we recommend joining a few awesome Facebook groups to start in touch with the community and have all your questions answered.
Here’s some of the best ones:
These two facebooks above have been great. People are very active and are very helpful with any questions.
That’s it for our guide on buying Australian camper vans! If you have anything else you’d like to know, or think we should add to the article, leave a comment below and we’ll get onto it asap.
Good luck with your van life journey!