I am happy to announce that I have officially begun living the Van Life! For anyone who loves to travel, has Instagram or lives in Australia you will have heard of "Van Life". And I am here to tell you the good, the bad and everything in between!
When my Working Holiday Visa for Australia was accepted my biggest concern was where to live. I am there for a year so I want to see it all, from the big cities to the quiet towns. So I searched every possible site I could find to see if there was some perfect options that I would be happy with. No such luck. Every post had the same questions and restrictions, how long will you be staying, utilities are extra, pay first month deposit and last... I've done all of this and it is not what I was looking for.
My first thought was to check Gumtree for a backpacker vans. Not thinking anything would turn up I was shocked to see that there weren't just one or two but a dozen ads from backpackers like myself selling their van! Looking deeper into this I found blog posts and articles about people coming to Australia for 2 months buying a van at the beginning and then selling it at the end. It was that quick of a turn around!
I wanted something free, something without restraints or grounding me to one spot. Everyone sees these people on Instagram living out of their vans with a view of the sunset from their bed finding new places everyone... Awww what a dream. And a dream I thought it was. While endless searching for an apartment one night, I caved to my very low will power and searched on
With this spark of knowledge I found out that it wasn't just a dream but could actually be a reality! Oh man was I jumping for joy. This was perfect, exactly what I was looking for. With this I could pick up and go whenever I wanted to.
Finding a Van
Now this was a little tricky. With the ample amount of postings on Gumtree I always had my concerns on the "honesty" of the sellers. Anyone can tell you they had no issues with the van and that it runs perfectly but unfortunately I am not ready to give up $8000 for the potential of buying a crap bucket. With that in mind I went through the same process as the apartment hunt. Searching every site I could find hoping that one sparkly perfect van will appear and hop into my lap, my overly dramatic optimism was brought to you by the 7 months I had before leaving. Lots of google time!
I did find what I was looking for, well the reality version of it. I found a company called Travellers Autobarn, it's basically a backpacker car / van dealership. They have several different types of vehicles available such as a stationwagon, van, hightop camervan, 4x4 etc. These vans were a couple thousand more then I was planning on spending (looking back I think I was being unrealistic and stingy with my budget) however the benefits that are included made it a no-brainer. These benefits included Nationwide Guaranteed Buyback, 3 day 100% money back guarantee, 2 week total warranty, Roadworthy Certificate, Roadside assistance membership and so much more!
Being a Van Life Newbie I agreed that having these extra securities wouldn't be the worst idea. Since I am flying into Melbourne I started by calling the Melbourne branch and gave an agent my information and ended up getting an email with the vans they had available. I went back and forth with this one agent picking her brain about availability in Sydney and Perth as well. Since my timing is so flexible I was willing to transfer over to one of the other cities from Melbourne if there was a better deal available.
Melbourne ended up giving me the best option. I was going for the cheapest one available coming in at $8000 with 2 months of registration left, but before I gave the "I want this one" email I was informed that it had been sold. I thought my luck had run out until, I got an email back saying that one of the other vans that was previously $9500 could be brought down to $8800. The agent told me that this van came with 1 full year of registration which would of cost around $800. This means that I ended up paying the exact same amount but didn't have to do any of the work for the registration, woohoo! I would say that's a win win.
The van is confirmed with a $1000 AUD deposit. They were also running a promo on their website that if you pay the deposit prior to arriving then you receive airport pick-up and 2 nights in a hostel style accommodation. Score! That works for me.
Registration and Insurance
My CTP (compulsory third party) insurance was included in the registration fee I paid for my van. Travellers Autobarn took care of all of those details when they registered the van. The only thing I had to do was go to Vicroads and ask for a client ID and then send that back to Travellers Autobarn to put on the registration.
The research I had done before arriving told me that I could drive on my Canadian license for 3 months before I had to get my Australian License. When I went to Vicroads to get my client ID I was told that in Victoria I could drive the whole year on my Canadian license, it is only if I were to become a permanent resident that I would have 6 months to get my Australian license. They did say to double check with the other states if I will be living there for longer then 3 months but they seems confident that it won't be an issue. Either way, I'll be sure to stop by while I pass through just to make sure.
Stay tuned for updates on what it is really like to live in a van.
If you have any questions let me know!
I'd be more than happy to answer them for you