How to Choose a Campervan to Hire for your Road Trip

How to Choose a Campervan: a comparison guide of rental campervan models, hire a campervan in Australia or New Zealand, van life, campervan life, Noosa Queensland

If you’re planning a road trip and you want to hire a campervan, you’re probably wondering which model to choose. There are so many factors to consider including budget, passengers and your own personal preferences! Having just returned my fifth campervan rental of the year in Australia and New Zealand, I reckon I’m officially qualified to offer some comparisons and advice. Read on for how to choose a campervan to hire for your road trip!

I hired the first three campervans below directly with the companies, and the second two via RatPack Travel. I only wish I’d known about them sooner! They took over everything, eliminating the hours I’d previously spent hunting (only to be told a model advertised online wasn’t actually available after they’d taken a deposit *eye roll emoji*) so all I had to do was give the go ahead then rock up at the collection depot. Oh, and they’re always at least 10% cheaper than going directly, so it’s a total no-brainer.

How to Choose a Campervan: Model Comparison

Budget 2 Man People Mover (Toyota Tarago)

This was the first ever ‘van’ we rented to drive Melbourne to Adelaide along the Great Ocean Road! Though to call it that would be a stretch; it’s a car that you sleep in with an esky and a camping stove in the boot. If you’re on a tight budget and don’t mind roughing it a little then there’s nothing wrong with this kind of model, especially for shorter road trips. We began with the Jucy El Cheapo which is very much by name, by nature. We had to stay in paid campsites every night as the camping stove didn’t work so we needed a camp kitchen, and it was too small to realistically ‘live’ in without the space and facilities of a campsite.

Pros
  • Cheap and economical to drive
  • Easy to fold chairs into bed
  • Equipped with all the basics
  • Just like driving a car
Cons
  • Can be claustrophobic
  • Nowhere to store luggage (must pile everything on the front seats to make the bed, then back again in the morning)
  • Almost no storage
  • Esky has a small capacity and costs $5 per day in ice
  • Better suited to staying at paid campsites with facilities and a camp kitchen

Action Pod 2 Man (Toyota Hiace)

For our second road trip, a tour of south west WA from Perth to Esperance, we went a little up in the world! If you’re coming from a people mover model, the Hiace feels really luxe in comparison. It’s roomier, has a small fridge instead of an esky and a pull-out kitchen design at the back. We rented the Britz one and were given a brand new model complete with satnav, so that was great. It felt a lot snazzier than the 10 year old Torago! The biggest pro was a really comfy bed which folded in and out so easily you didn’t even have to remake the sheets each night. However, the lack of head room meant bed made equalled immediate sleep; it wasn’t spacious enough to chill out in. We did manage to freedom camp successfully in this van in the summer! It’s a good model for someone on a budget but who doesn’t want the most basic of basic set ups.

Pros
  • Proper fridge
  • A much nicer drive
  • Room for luggage
  • Comfy bed
Cons
  • Lack of headspace
  • Fridge capacity small
  • Limited storage
  • Portable camping stove means you must cook outside and will drain gas bottles fast

freedom camping is the best

Hi-top 2/3 Man (Toyota Hiace)

Oh hello, have we just collected the Ritz on wheels? Well, not quiet, but a high top van does feel worlds apart from it’s baby counterpart. We spent three weeks along Australia’s East Coast in this van and I vowed I would never rent anything but a high top again. Being able to stand up is just glorious! This van gave us so much more freedom. We could cook inside in the little kitchenette area, it had more storage and was just an all round worthy upgrade. This was a Travellers Autobarn one and the following two rentals are the same model but via different rental companies; I’m going to tell you about them anyway because there were some fundamental differences in terms of layout and usability.

Pros
  • BEING ABLE TO STAND UP
  • The ability to cook in doors on a proper two ring gas hob
  • A decent sized fridge
  • Plenty of storage
  • Good kitchen design with work top for prep
Cons
  • Storage poorly organised; lots of wide open spaces that made it hard to unpack cohesively
  • Used more fuel
  • Microwave is such a waste of valuable space

(Budget) Hi-top 3/4 Man (Toyota Hiace)

This was van numero quattro and our companion around the glorious roads of New Zealand. This is the first time I booked via RatPack Travel and was thrilled with the intimate customer service that I hadn’t experienced with the previous three rentals. I was a bit of a dodo and left booking until really last minute…during peak season. Poor Sammy had a real challenge on his hands as, by this point, I was quite picky about what I wanted too. We went with the most budget version because on paper it ticked the boxes, but it was the last time I’ll ever go against Sammy’s advice. The van we ended up with was largely similar to the above, except it was hired from the ironically-named Lucky. In short, it was old and glitchy and their customer service was shocking. Thankfully, having rented via RatPack, I could just WhatsApp Sammy and he was nice enough to never say “I told you so”, even though I deserved it! All of that being said, it took us on an epic journey and by the end, I became quite fond of El Crapvano.

Pros
  • Head room
  • Budget friendly hi-top with little worry about wear and tear
  • Good storage nets
  • Diesel so super economical for long distances
Cons
  • Fixed point camping stove: like a portable one, but mounted in which meant cooking with the boot open and draining through bottles of gas, rather than a proper piped in hob
  • Game of Tetris every night to build the bed
  • Old model meant the battery was unreliable and fridge was ineffective
  • Hand pump style tap with 15L water tank, as opposed to proper water reservoir

Hi-top 2/3 Man (Toyota Hiace)

Our most recent rental was a lovely hi-top that took us down the East Coast of Australia. No, you didn’t accidentally scroll up; we just loved it so much we did it again! In the same year…keen beans,  I know. This Camperman van was my favourite van so far and proof that Sammy is always right (but don’t tell him I said that). Everything was ultra smooth from start to finish, the van set up was good and it was a reliable drive.

Pros
  • Largest fridge we’ve had so far
  • Awesome house battery that literally never needed a plug-in charge
  • Most storage I’ve ever had in a van
  • Only one action to the make the bed up, which made it super quick and simple
  • Ability to cook inside
Cons
  • Guzzled petrol
  • Sleeping bags (a bit of a reach of a con, I know, but I way prefer it when rental companies provide a duvet)
  • Almost no prep space in the kitchen big the microwave took up all the work top room

A note: the hi-top vans are sold as 3 man. This will totally depend on you and your crew: personally I’d feel claustrophobic with a third person (unless it was a child) and wouldn’t enjoy sleeping in the top bed. However, some groups are totally happy with this! 

How to Choose a Campervan: Van life, small space living

How to Choose a Campervan: Things to Consider

Here’s a list of questions to ask yourself when you’re choosing a campervan

  1. How long are you spending in it? Do you need it to be a real ‘living’ space, or just for sleeping in?
  2. Will you be paying for campsites or freedom camping? If the latter, more room and a kitchenette is preferable.
  3. Are you happy roughing it or do you like to be a little more comfortable?
  4. How much stuff will you bring with you?
  5. Who is sharing the van?

My List of ‘Musts’ in a Campervan Rental 

Here’s my must-have criteria for how to choose a campervan based on my own experiences and preferences

  • Ability to stand up in it
  • Fly screens on the windows
  • A (big as possible) fridge not an esky
  • A proper kitchenette

I hope that’s helpful! Have you ever hired a campervan? I’d love to hear your ‘musts’ in the comments!

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How to Choose a Campervan: The Ultimate Comparison Guide to Campervan models for hire in Australia and New Zealand. Experience van life and freedom camping

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