One of the biggest questions I asked myself before buying my backpacker car was, can I do my Australia road trip without a 4×4?
I think the first thing to do when considering whether you want to do your Australia Road trip without a 4×4 is to understand the difference in types of vehicles.
- Normal station wagon – Ford Falcon, Holden Commodore, Subaru Liberty
These are normal vehicles. They don’t have any 4 wheel drive capability so will be good if you plan to stick to the bitumen.
- AWD 4×4 – Toyota Rav 4, Nissan X-trail, Ford Escape, Mazda Tribute
These are All Wheel Drive. Generally they drive 2 wheel drive and engage the other wheels when the car senses a loss of traction.
- 4WD 4×4 – Toyota Land Cruiser, Mitsubishi Pajero
These all proper 4 wheel drive vehicles. They have low range gearing and allow you to get up steep and boggy terrain where other cars would not be able.
Advantages of a 4×4
- Can go pretty much anywhere
- No need to spend on hiring a 4×4 if going to Fraser Island
- Big Car, Big storage
- Unlikely to get bogged down during rainy seasons
Disadvantages of a 4×4
- Fuel efficiency
- Price of car
- Cost of repairs
- Cost of recovery gear
- Damage from off road driving
What do you want from your Road Trip?
When considering your Australia road trip without a 4×4, you need to ask yourself what areas you really want to see. Do the spots require a 4×4? Would you kick yourself for missing them or are you content to move onto the next spot. The National Highway One goes round the whole country and is sealed bitumen. If you had a 4×4, would you even go to those places that require one? If the answer is no, or just a couple of places, then it’s probably not worth it.
I can tell you that you can go to all the main Australia hot spots with a normal car. These include Daintree Rainforest, Alice Springs, Uluru, Kings Canyon, Kakadu. Many assume that to go to the Red Centre requires a 4×4, but the roads are actually extremely well maintained and you’ll have an really smooth drive.
I did my 3 month road trip in a Nissan X-Trail 2007. This is an AWD vehicle which according to many forums and reviews is the AWD vehicle with the best off-road capability. I didn’t put it under too much stress, taking it on some sand dunes and some pretty bumpy off road terrain but nothing too boggy or marshy.
If you are adventurous, and want to go to the more isolated areas around Australia, you may want to consider buying a proper 4×4. However, you should keep in mind that if you want to do these tracks/isolated areas, you should be prepared and have the necessary gear to get you out of trouble if something happens. You may not see another car for quite a while. out there. You don’t want end up like this…
Most people end up going to Fraser Island and you will find it’s very expensive. It cannot be done without a 4×4. You can hire a 4×4 on your own or join a group in a 4×4. Both are expensive and will set you back a $400-$500.
If you have your own 4×4, it is possible to do it on your own, saving some money. But Fraser Island will involve some intense driving and you are at risk of damaging your vehicle if you aren’t careful. If this happens, your trip could be cut short or you fork out a hefty bill for repairs.
Australia Road Trip without a 4×4 – My Opinion
I had 3 months to do my road trip and personally think you can do your Australia road trip without a 4×4. I had an AWD, which is awesome. The car gives you room to build a sleeping platform in the back and store all your gear too. Read my post on choosing your backpacker car here.
If you have more time, and want to veer off the beaten path, get a 4×4. But consider that you may consume twice as much fuel and spend a lot more money to get a reliable 4×4. On your first Aussie road trip, you probably don’t have time to get off the beaten path, so buying a 4×4 may not be necessary.
If like most of us, you are on a tight budget, your money may be better spent buying a cheaper car, which is more reliable. This is in contrast to buying a 4×4 that has done 300,000KM+. These ex backpacker cars are unreliable and may break down around any corner. You can save a small fortune if you have an efficient car, as fuel will be your biggest cost.
If you’re a backpacker, you’re probably looking to sell your car afterwards. Off-roading will increase your chances of needing repairs, so you may want to factor in some dollars for repair costs before you sell it on.
Please hit the share/like button if you enjoyed this post.