Road tripping around Australia is one of the best and most popular ways to see the country. There’s much more freedom and flexibility when you have your own vehicle to get around in. You can pick the destinations you want to check out, travel at your own pace, and if you’re using something larger than a car (say a campervan) you can even sleep and cook your own meals on the go.
Renting a campervan is the popular choice amongst travelers as it saves the additional cost of accommodations while traveling around. There are many campervan companies in Australia ranging from very basic and budget mini-van sized vehicles (Jucy Rentals, Wicked Campers) to fully loaded, kitchen sink, toilet and all, homes on wheels (Maui, Kea, Britz).
But no matter what your budget is, renting a campervan can add up and you’ll need to spend the time taking into consideration all costs (including gas, extra mileage fees, & tolls) when budgeting your rental. But there is an alternative option for those whose travel times are flexible, want to save some cash, and still want to have that great Australian road trip experience. And this, my friends, is where I introduce you to the relocation rental.
What is a relocation rental?
Relocation rentals are vehicles that need to get to another location somewhere in the country. Usually it’s the result of someone renting the vehicle for a one-way trip and that vehicle now needs to be returned to its original location. Additionally, there might be a higher demand for certain vehicles at a particular branch so the company now needs to supply that branch with the vehicles. Instead of hiring drivers to move the vehicles, rental companies charge a very small fee (about $1-$5 a day), making it a very appealing option for those wanting to roadtrip around Australia at a fraction of the cost.
There are a couple of big relocation companies in Australia, but we opted to use Drive Now. Their website is easy to navigate, has a lot of vehicles and routes to choose from, and offers some of the best incentives. The rest of this article will pertain to our experience with Drive Now.
How does it work?
Every morning around 9am AEST, Drive Now updates their list of relocation rentals available for the next 2-3 weeks. The list will show pick up and drop off locations, the vehicle type (anything from cars to 6-person campervans), the first date it’s available for pick up, and the date it needs to be dropped off by. Also, by hovering over each individual line, it’ll show how much the daily rental rate is (usually about $5 a day for Drive Now) and the gas allowance given (ranges from $150-$400 depending on distance to be traveled).
Every route (pick up to drop off spot) will have a minimum and maximum number of days it can be rented for. For example: Cairns to Sydney has a minimum of 6 days and a maximum of 8 days to be relocated in. You may see one vehicle that needs to be relocated in 6 days and another in 8 days for this route. While the 8-day route might seem like the better option, there is an extra fee to be aware of. The $5 a day will only apply for the minimum relocation days, in this case only 6 days. If a relocation is available for 7 or 8 days and you want it for the full time period, you will have to pay $5 a day for the first 6 days and $75 for each day after that.
It’s best to check the list daily as soon as it’s released because vehicles can go quickly. Once you see the option that best suits your needs, click the “enquire” button, fill in your details (including a phone number you can be contacted at, or an email if you’re traveling without a cellphone) and a representative will get back to you.
Every relocation rental comes with a maximum kilometer allowance that takes into account the distance between pick up and drop off points, plus a little wiggle room if you want to detour a bit from the direct route. Any kilometers traveled over the maximum allowance will incur a 55-cent per km charge.
You will also receive a fuel allowance based on the distance the vehicle has to travel. This allowance will usually cover about half of your gas costs, helping you to save even more money. Make sure to keep your receipts to receive your rebate.
In order to secure your relocation rental, you will have to put a security deposit of $1,000 AUD onto a major credit card. You will be refunded this amount when you deliver the vehicle on time to its destination, but there’s something very important to keep in mind if you’re not from Australia. As you’re likely going to have a credit card issued from a country that is not Australia, you may loose money on this transaction because 1) you will be charged an extra percentage (usually about 2.5%) for a foreign transaction and 2) depending on how the exchange rate changes during the period of your rental, you could also lose some money on the deal. Unfortunately there’s no way around this security deposit, but something to keep in mind when budgeting out if this is a right fit for you.
What are the pros and cons of using a relocation rental?
The number one benefit to using a relocation rental is the money you’ll save. Paying $5 a day is a steal, not to mention getting almost half your gas covered by the fuel allowance.
The major downside to using a relocation rental is the time constraints. The time span by which a relocation rental has to be dropped off from the time of pick up is usually short (a few days for short distances and about a week for the long-haul journeys). You’ll spend more time driving than sightseeing, so being fully prepared and knowledgeable about your route will help you maximize the time you have on the road.
Check back again tomorrow where we’ll describe what our experience was like and how much money we really ended up saving.