You know we’re a huge fan of encouraging everyone to get out and about on the open road; or off-road with the kids and the 4WD; it’s the best way to create memories, spend quality time together, reconnect family ties and explore nature.
While taking road trips is fun; it’s also serious; and it’s important you make sure that your 4WD is safe for travel, and you’re prepared in case of a problem. Nobody wants a family holiday memory that involves their family being stuck in the middle of the outback.
Follow these 4WD preparation tips to make sure that nothing dampens your family road trip adventure!
Understanding 4WD Driving Conditions
You may be an experienced driver, but remember that each driving condition requires that you handle your 4WD differently. Also, remember that you will need different 4WD accessories to help you get out of sticky driving conditions. Driving on sand, gravel, or snow all require specific knowledge, and even situations such as driving in high heat while towing will require mindful decisions to be made. If you plan on a trip around the country or even just regular 4wd’ing trips; it’s a great idea to do a 4wd driving course, or even just join the local 4WD club and learn through the knowledge of experienced drivers.
Carry a 4WD Outback Survival Kit
Aside from bringing a first aid kit on your road travels, you will also need to bring your 4WD’s outback survival kit. For example, bringing 2 spare tyres and a spare wheel should be on your list. Recovery tools, plugs, and wheel bearing kits are also useful to have, as is an air compressor. Make sure your gear is rated for use with your 4WD. Many products are suited to smaller cars and 4WD’s often require heavy duty gear due to their size and weight.
Carry a Heavy Duty Air Compressor When Driving a 4WD
The more off-road driving you do, the more you’ll end up using your air compressor. Hence, having a heavy duty air compressor is a must have accessory if you own a 4WD; you never know when you might need to re-inflate your tyres. You may even use the air compressor to inflate camping accessories like inflatable floating devices or an airbed! Having a heavy duty compressor is a must for those with a 4WD. Our patrol runs on light truck tyres and a standard compressor just doesn’t cut it when trying to inflate our tyres, it’s no good carrying a compressor unless it’s right for the job.
Understand & Implement 4wd Preparation for Long Trips
Make sure that you have your vehicle inspected by the 4WD experts before taking it out for long off-road trips. The state of the brakes, the level of fluids and the condition of the oil tank are among those that should be checked. You can also ask your 4WD specialist like Macquarie 4×4 for any advice about the proper accessories and tools you need to bring on your trip. Become familiar with websites that provide information so you know the types of things to look out for; but head to the experts for a thorough safety check.
Carrying Excess Weight Risks Lives & Insurance Validity
4WDs are not trucks. So don’t try to bring everything for your camping trip, otherwise you might end up with an overloaded and broken down vehicle. To avoid this ugly scenario, prioritise bringing the essentials: water, food, fuel, shelter, and clothes. Don’t forget to bring communication devices in case you need to call for help, but aside from that, leave all other gadgets at home and focus on the family trip and the scenery! 4WD’s are often fitted out with accessories that add weight and when people and camp gear are thrown in on top of this, the car actually becomes illegal to drive. Please know your weights; if you don’t, your insurance is likely to be void in case of an accident.
So what are you waiting for? Have your 4WD’s checked and plan your family’s next big camping trip! Don’t forget to share your safety tips with us as well.
The planning stage for a trip around Australia requires a whole lot of decisions to be made. We’ve written before about how to choose the best car to travel Australia and we wrote this basic guide to planning a big lap of Australia for those who weren’t sure where to start, so now, we thought it was time to share with you some of the choices and modifications we’ve done, starting with our vehicle.
We chose to travel in a Nissan Patrol. A big reason for this was the space and the off road ability, as well as the dual fuel tanks and tow capacity. We knew before we purchased our car, that one of our ideal modifications was to fit a rear drawer system.
There are many options on the market for rear drawers, with everything for just fitting a basic fridge slide, to systems that contain water tanks, fridge slides and drawers. We went with the latter.
Things to consider when choosing a drawer and slide system for your vehicle:
Weight is a really important factor: Regardless of the specific weight specifications of your vehicle, the more weight you add, the bigger you can expect your fuel bill to be, and fuel is one of the biggest expenses of touring the country, so anything that keeps the cost down is a bonus. Aluminium units are ideal, some use wood, and that’s ok too, you just need to think about what it is you’re purchasing.
Self install vs professional install: Some brands give you the option to deliver the product flat packed and you then do all the assembly and fit out yourself. If you’re handy with the tools this can be a good way to go, and save you some money. Keep in mind the extra time and your skillset and weigh up these options.
Your vehicle type: Depending on your vehicle, you’ll have a range of options available to you. We had several options for the Patrol, although some less popular models may have less options available. For a basic fridge slide, most cars will be able to have this feature installed.
Second Hand Purchasing: We scored a bargain when we purchased our fit out. We have a triple drawer system with fridge slide, and a 60 litre water tank with 12 volt pump, and a half cargo barrier so we can load it up and things won’t go flying into the front of the car. I believe it would have cost close to $3000 installed. We picked it up for $1900 from ebay and it was in perfect condition. $80 delivery fee from QLD to our door, and a few hours install and it’s one of the best choices we’ve made.
Here’s our guide to the Nissan Patrol, rear drawer system and water tank install. Our rear drawer and water tank system – It arrived wrapped in plastic complete with instructions. Rain was approaching and it was afternoon when it arrived, but we figured it wouldn’t take too long so we layed it all out with a tarp on hand just in case and went about installing it.
First Step: Remove the rear seats for the Patrol, then install the half cargo barrier.
Second Step: Was to install the water tank which is the silver you’ll see in the next photo after this one. Then install the bottom plate and attach to the floor of the car where the seats normally anchor. The drawers are then built up on top of this.
Up Next: Install the sides and the fridge slide components.
In go the drawers, and the shelf for the top:
And we’re done! By this time we’d put a gazebo up to protect us from a few showers, and it was super dark and we were working by torch light, but even though we underestimated the time it would take, it was a relatively easy job and the finished product looks great.
One of the major considerations when heading off to travel within Australia, is finding the best type of car for your dream holiday. Australia’s landscape is large and varied, and the type of car you decide to take will depend entirely on how and where you plan to travel.
We’ve just been through this very process, and I won’t lie, it’s one I don’t really look forward to going through again. There is so much to consider, and we felt like we’d gone around and around in circles and still weren’t sure of what the right choice was to make! Now we’re out the other side I’m glad we researched as thoroughly as we did because we know we made the right decision!
However, we’re here to help and hopefully guide you toward making the process of choosing a car so much easier. Welcome to our first installment of choosing the best car for your Australian family holiday!
Choosing A Car to Suit Your Australian Travel Destinations:
STEP 1 – Deciding the Destination:
The first vital step is understanding WHERE you want to be able to travel on the road. If you plan on sticking to major highways and sealed roads, then your options will be very different to someone who wants to explore rough washed out four wheel drive tracks.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Do we want to drive on unsealed roads? – Sedans can handle unsealed roads, although an all wheel drive may be better.
- Do we want to drive on 4wd tracks? – For regular 4wd tracks an all wheel drive may be fine, for more remote or extreme tracks a dedicated 4wd is probably better.
- Will we be travelling remotely? – Long range fuel tanks (or the ability to have one fitted as not all cars can have one) may be beneficial
STEP 2 – Choosing your Towing Capacity
Once you decide if you’re looking for a sedan, all wheel drive or a dedicated four wheel drive, you will need to decide on what towing capacity you’ll need. This will depend greatly on whether you decide to tow a camper trailer, small caravan or pop top, or a larger full van. We found in our research, that towing capacity is one of the most under researched abilities of cars, and came across numerous people who’d purchased a car and van only to find that towing their van with their car would be totally illegal!
You need to understand the tow capacity of your prospective car e.g – our Nissan Patrol Manual can tow 3.2 tonnes but the X-trail we sold only had a tow limit of 2 tonnes. But that’s not the only capacity you need to understand, there is also a ball weight capacity. For instance, when looking at the Mitsubishi Pajero, it was advertised as a 3 tonne tow capacity, but a bit of research showed us that over a certain weight the ball weight reduced to 180kg’s not enough to cover most caravans!
Things to Know:
- The weight and ball weight of your desired “home away from home” e.g – camper, caravan etc
- The tow capacity, ball weight, GVM of the car you are considering (research these things and understand what they are!)
- Find a balance between these 2 things, you may need to compromise on the accomodation or car to get the best of both worlds.
STEP 3 – Researching Your Narrowed Down Car Options
Once you’ve found cars that fit your destination requirements and your tow requirements, the next step is to research whether they will be something you’d like to own. Although we didn’t think the X-trail would quite be able to do what we wanted, we were really surprised after tracking down a Nissan X-trail Review or two, as to what the car was capable of. So although we did discover it would take us many places we were planning to travel, the tow capacity just wouldn’t meet what we wanted and it wouldn’t have been fair to the car, which is why we upgraded.
You’ll find reviews on 4wd forums, carsales.com.au, magazines and on 4wd tv shows. The most important thing is not to believe everything you read or see. There are often very extreme opinions floating around the internet, and it’s important to read reviews and opinions objectively.
STEP 4 – Set Your Budget & Go Shopping
While most people would advise to set a budget first, when you’re planning extended travels within Australia, the abilities of the car you choose are the most important thing. The next step in setting a budget will really define the age of the car you purchase, and perhaps let you narrow down between 2 options if you’re having trouble deciding. Start to check out local car dealers, online car sales websites, ebay, gumtree and newspaper ads, as well as travel forums etc for cars that are advertised. This will give you an idea of what you’ll get for your money. Take time with this part, test drive and wait for the right car. It will definitely be worth it.
Choosing a family car for travelling Australia can be a lot of hard work, but take your time, understand your requirements and then keep a close eye out for the best car you can get for your money and here’s to lots of great travels in whatever car it is you decide to buy.
Let me just say, that our next trip around Australia, we’ll be taking our own vehicle with a great setup, for our first trip however, in order to “just do it” we needed to Fly to our start point and use a hire car. If that’s the only way you can see this great country, I say just do it! Here’s how we made our decision at the time:
Our first ever touring holiday, the amazing experience that sparked this desire to travel Australia permanently, began on the 2nd August 2008. Well, the planning stage began much before that, but that was the date we headed off. Keep in mind this wasn’t a self drive holiday where we had the luck of taking our own vehicle and gear, nope, just to make it more difficult we would be in a hire car able to take only as much gear as we could fit in our luggage allowances for the plane. On an adventure like this, who wants to do things the easy way right!
Choosing a Hire Vehicle for our Travels Through Central Australia.
Hiring Motorhomes For Family Travel:
Motorhome Hire Was Too Expensive for Our Holiday
Ideally, when you’re travelling on a camping holiday for 3 weeks with 3 small children, packing your own car and towing a camper or caravan is the way to go. Not us however. We knew that we had one chance to take this trip, and we just needed to get there whichever way we could afford. We looked into hiring motorhomes, seemed like a great idea, a ready made home away from home. Well, that WAS the plan, until we realised we needed a bond of $7500 plus the hire fees. When you’re a young family on a tight budget that’s a whole lot of money to come up with!
So we quickly realised that even though the comfort would be amazing, that the extra expense would totally wipe out our funds for fuel, food and fun activities, so it just wasn’t going to be a reality.
Hiring a Car For Family Travel:
When the only way to see parts of remote Australia is to fly to your starting destination to reduce wasted time, you really have to hire a vehicle. Because of the expense of motorhomes, we knew for us, it had to be a hire car. Now that choice might sound simple as well, but it really wasn’t. Other than the fact we were trying to make the decision within a few days of leaving, you just don’t realise what restrictions are placed on hire cars until you want to use one to take an adventure around the Northern Territory and the Desert!
Our first choice was a 4wd of course. Knowing there would be dirt roads and tracks, we thought this would give us the best option for accessibility to all the areas we might like to travel.
Well guess what! Most hire 4wd’s don’t allow you to use them offroad.
If you can’t use a hire 4wd off road then there’s no real point in paying a higher rental fee each day and more expensive fuel bills just to have 4wd capabilities. There are hire companies who allow off road use, I’m sure there are, but we couldn’t find them at a reasonable price in time. The realities were, that with young children we probably weren’t going to be travelling in 4wd exclusive areas either as we wouldn’t want anything to happen that would see our short amount of travel time eaten into by a breakdown.
Our Hire Car for Our Central Australian Holiday
So, in the end we chose a Toyota Camry. Large enough to fit all the kids and ourselves comfortably and plenty of room in the boot to fit our camp gear. It was a lovely car to drive and served us well.
Pointers to know when you’re doing any sort of driving in the Northern Territory or Desert with a hire car:
- Most hire agreements don’t allow you to drive in the period from dusk to dawn – The territory has a lot of animal activity during those times and damage to the car won’t be covered by your general hire insurance.
- You will be given a list of roads that you are allowed to travel on. If you choose to travel on unsealed roads other than those allowed and something goes wrong, then you probably won’t be covered by your general hire insurance.
- Choose a company that allows drop points at your destination. When you’re travelling through Central Australia, you don’t really want to drive all the way back to drop your car off and miss out on awesome travel time.
For us, choosing a cheaper hire car with great fuel economy left much more money to spend on the fun things. Once we had the car sorted the next consideration was how to get our camping gear etc to Darwin when we were flying by plane… but that’s another story.