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Motorhome versus 4WD with Van

This depends on the type of holiday you most frequently take. For roadtrips where you don't stay more than a night or two in each place then a motorhome might be the best option. If you set up for longer at a holiday destination then a 4WD with van (or camper) might be the better option.   If you do both then here are a few things to consider when making the choice.


  • very little setup upon arrival
  • can use your awning for longer stays or each night as they are quick to put up
  • can move between driving compartment and living area wihout going outside - a bonus if it is raining
  • must take it everywhere you go - parking in shopping centres can be a problem
  • can't keep claim to your site once you head off for the day

Caravan or camper:

  • can detach and leave on site while you go elsewhere - convenient, less fuel
  • can use awning and full annexe - more living space
  • takes longer to setup upon arrival - a Jayco Penguin Van/Camper is one exception that is fast setup
  • setup and leaving in the rain can be problematic

The Big Trip to UK and Europe!

For a 12 month roadtrip in countries that do not have the great weather we have in Australia, we opted for a Motorhome. We chose to purchase it before we went and sell it when the holiday is over. We bought a La Strada Pronto which is really a Ford Transit motorhome conversion. As we will be travelling on narrow streets in many of the countries we visit and also wanted to avoid the extra tolls and fees associated with a large motorhome we chose one that was under 6 metres in length and under 2.7 metres in height. Here are some of the important criteria we looked for (other things like full oven V only a griller, or left hand drive V right hand drive, were not mandatory considerations for us):

  • 2 berth
  • diesel
  • mid wheel base
  • shower and toilet
  • awning
  • bed length greater than 188cm (6'2")
  • age less than 10 years
  • mileage less than 130000km (80000 miles)

We bought it in England using an online website called Autotrader. Once we had settled on one we were pretty sure was right for us, we asked friends to have a reassuring look at it for us. A big thanks to Jo and Jamie!!! Surpringly, we found out the owners actually lived in Melbourne and had not long finished their 6 months roadtrip around EU and England in the motorhome. It was great to be able to ask lots of questions about the van and the trip. Thanks Lynn and Nick!!! See the Tips & Tricks or the Planning page to learn more.

NOTE If you are interested in PURCHASING our MOTORHOME in January 2016 then please contact us. NOTE

The Big Trip around Australia!

For our 7 month trip around Australia we chose to buy a 4WD and tow a Jayco Penguin Caravan/Camper. It is one of the few caravans that is light to tow with fast setup upon arrival. Our trip was a mix of overnight stops up to a week at a time and we knew we would use the Penguin after the trip for longer stays as well so opted not to go with a motorhome in Australia.

I am pleased to report that the Holden Rodeo 4WD dual cab survived the trip around Australia without any major problems and has since taken us on many other offroad adventures..

During the 'big trip' we were away for 3 car services (Mt Isa in Queensland, Broome in Western Australia and Clare in South Australia) which didn't pick up any problems. We were due a new set of tyres by the time we got through Northern Territory so bought 4 in Kunnunurra Western Australia, before we tackled the Bungle Bungles and the Gibb River Road. This may have been the reason we had no tyre problems on the Gibb. The minor problems we had were:

  • a handle (worm screw) worked its way loose on the canopy and dropped off inside (luckily) letting the red dust all through the back before we discovered it near The Bungles
  • the handle on the tailgate also worked its way loose so next time we opened the tailgate it came off in our hand on the Gibb River Road
  • a mud flap was torn off by a stick near Middle Lagoon
  • 2 spotlights vibrated their way off the front of the car and were lost on the way to Cape Leveque
  • the light on the rear number plate bracket broke off near Cammoweal Caves but stayed attached luckily
  • airconditioning filter became VERY dusty which blasted us with dust each time we turned it on near King Edward River
  • the chain bounced the pin out that holds the tow ball tongue into the car on a particularly rough road near Lawn Hill Gorge and the caravan fell off!!!! Luckily the chain held it up until the last minute and we were going very slowly

Details on petrol and other costs, dates and kilometres travelled are found in the spreadsheet 'Trip Details 06'

Setting up the 4WD

We are very happy with the 4WD so far. We have had it fitted with electric brakes to make it safer towing the van and connected up the electricals so the battery in the van charges while we are driving. We bought a third roof bar to make it easier to carry the canoe. The petrol consumption is not great in the Rodeo but we knew that was the case before we bought it. The big selling point for us was that it was so much roomier than the other comparable brands of car. That was very important for us.

We have outfitted the back section of the 4WD to create a 'shelf' above the fridge. It is simply a bit of ply across the ledge under the window with areas cut out of it to allow access to the fridge and battery. Click on this photo to enlarge and see what I mean.

We have also replaced the standard 70L fuel tank with a long range 120L tank. That should help with the frequent stops for fuel because of the thirsty fuel consumption of the rodeos.

Choosing the 4WD

We ended up with a Holden Rodeo Pickup with style side (4 doors). We chose to go with no carpets as the vinyl floors are easier to keep clean and decided against the electric windows as dust gets in and causes problems with the mechanism so you are forever cleaning them after 4WD trips. We have cruise control, CD, Air Conditioning, Nudge Bar, Tow Bar. We have recently purchased the canopy & had roof racks fitted. We went with a petrol car this time as the costs associated with fuel, maintenance and purchase price are less and the benefits of diesel are only realised if you are keeping the car for a long time. We probably won't keep it that long. Click on these small photos to see the enlarged versions.
Click to see enlarged photos of the 4WD   Click to see enlarged photos of the 4WD   Click to see enlarged photos of the 4WD and popup van (camper trailer)

The lead up to the purchase of the new 4WD

Our last 4WD was a Toyota Landcruiser (diesel) and we were very happy with that. It is the car we used for our first trip around Australia. It had two fuel tanks (very handy) and the long wheel base meant plenty of room. We had three kids with us last time but this time there will only be the two of us. That means a dual cab is an option now which we never considered before.

We looked at the possibilities through the Government Auctions (QFleet) and considered a Toyota Landcruiser Prado (2002) for $32000 or a Toyota Hilux dual cab (2001) for $29000 that had been passed in at a previous auction and were now available at reserve price. All Ex Govt vehicles have very low km and are pretty well looked after. We also visited the Toyota, Ford, Holden and Mitsubishi car dealerships to look at new cars. We were already pretty familiar with the Nissan offering as Karen & Gary had recently bought one.

The RACQ site has an excellent review of the Dual Cabs and also some insight into the Diesel versus Petrol debate. Worth a look if you are in the same boat as us. We are looking at about $10000 extra to buy new rather than second hand at the auctions. Unfortunately the Holden Rodeo which was top of our preferences was not available at the Govt Auctions. We are a bit wary of buying 2nd hand 4WDs privately and from dealers the difference in price is not so great.

Also of interest may be the Green Vehicle Guide, a Government site that provides ratings on the environmental performance of new vehicles sold in Australia. Unfortunately none of the 4WDs are great performers in this area.

What we considered

We decided on the Dual cab 4WD rather than 4WD wagon because:

- they are cheaper

- we don't need the extra space for passengers any more

- we can carry a lot of equipment and gear of odd sizes and shapes

- more suited to rough handling off road

- air conditioning works better in smaller interior

- it would allow us to get rid of that old trailer we sometimes use to cart rubbish to the dump

Do's and Don'ts of 4WD-ing

OK, well most of our trips can certainly be done without a 4WD but you will miss some of the good spots that can only be easily accessed by 4WD eg. Twin Falls at Kakadu (NT), Bungle Bungles National Park (WA), Fraser Island (QLD). Getting away from crowded tourist destinations with your 4WD is something we love to do.

There have been books written on 4WD-ing and I wouldn't attempt to try to cover everything here. These are just a few tips that novices may find handy to know before they set out on their first 4WD adventure.

1. Don't go 4WD-ing on your own. You really need someone else in case you need to be pulled out of a sticky situation or to go for help if it is a REALLY sticky situation!

2. If it is sand and beach 4WD-ing you WILL get bogged at some stage and you need to know how to get yourself out. You can try reversing out and coming at it again with a bit more speed or from a different angle or in a lower gear or with less air in your tyres. If reversing out is not that easy then try rocking back and forth (reverse, first gear, reverse) a number of times until you get enough momentum to get out. Once you get out DON'T STOP until you are on better terrain.

3. DON'T STOP is an important thing to remember when crossing creeks also. You don't want that 'bow wave' to wash back into your engine!

4. Make sure you have the equipment you may need - a 'snatchem' strap at a minimum. See the equipment page for more on this.

I hope I haven't put you off because it is FUN and EXCITING and best of all you get to go to places many others can't. JUST WATCH US!

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This page was last updated on 27-Feb-2017

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