Living in a Car in Australia

Before we decided to run away to Australia, we both had good jobs and were able to save a pretty penny away. We had heard how huge Australia was and we didn’t fancy relying on public transport or The Greyhound this time round. Plus! Our vehicle could double as our accommodation! So we saved up for a car!

Now I had grand ideas of a pretty baby blue Volkswagen minivan with surfboards on the top. Or maybe a yellow polkadot trailer with vintage table, chairs and teapots outside.

That didn’t happen. We flew into Gold Coast determined to get everything sorted. Bank accounts, transport and jobs. We managed it all in 3 days! We wanted everything done as speedy as possible so we could get earning again after we spent a little too much in Thailand! Oops.

For the amount of money we set aside for a vehicle ($4,000) we found our purple wagon!

It’s a 2004 Ford Falcon, a popular choice for backpackers as the parts are cheap and easy to come by.

It’s got a 4 litre engine, so it can move! Great for over taking road trains!

Also we’ve not ever really had any trouble with it. Technically speaking of course.

There have been a few incidents with wildlife. The Irishmans’ neice little Lola was a little upset when she found out. Within 3 weeks he managed to hit 3 wallabies.

They are such cute things but they do get in the way.

We were driving very early in the morning out of the national park, which I don’t advise you do. Two jumped out in front of us and unfortunately we ran into the second one.  It smashed our headlight and cost us $300 to repair. An unfortunate thing about getting repairs, you have to find a reputable garage that won’t rip you off just for being a backpacker!  Sorry guys it just happens!

We’ve only had one flat tyre and that occured on the Stuart Highway just a couple of hours after seeing Uluru (Ayers Rock).

Boy, it was hot! We had to flag a guy down because one of the nuts rounded off and we couldn’t get it off with the tools we had. Plus the jack we used was sinking into the sand as we had to be on the side of the road, we ended up putting the bodyboard under the jack just so it held!

Driving and repairs is one thing but actually living in your car is another!

How’s living in the car you ask?

It’s a little close but I actually find it pretty cosy. He’s taller than me so it’s a little bit harder for him. We got a really thick piece of foam cut to the right shape, bought a thin duvet and pillows and voila!

Storage is an issue. We were putting all the things in the floor space behind the seats and we still have to move our backpacks from the front to the back and vice versa everytime we go to bed/go driving. We did buy a roof rack and box to go on top of the car from craigs list that we got for $100. We needed it after all the unnecessary stuff I bought during our 5 months living and working in a farm house. I don’t know many other backpackers who wander around carrying a cake tin!

It wasn’t until a couple of months ago we decided to buy a small cheap table from Big W, we were given two fold away chairs from the lovely estonian couple we lived and worked with. It made everything easier as you can’t really sit up in the back of the car. We store it underneath the “mattress” and it’s great for food preparation.

We don’t have a mini fridge nor have we invested in a cooler bag. It means we don’t buy food items that need to be in cold storage. You wouldn’t think that it would matter. But when you have to cut out those foods you realise how much you want them. Take butter for example. Oh, how I miss butter.

Oh, and forget about the butter melting, if you start to melt get out of there! Don’t do what we did and suffer. Australia can be super hot, even at night and if you’re not used to it, living without aircon can make you feel like you struggling to breathe. Especially inside a big metal box. At least get some mosquito net so you can open the windows to let some air in without fear of bugs and mozzies getting in. Even then we’ve spent a few nights with little to no breeze. Must. Have. Air.

Don’t even talk to me about when it rains!! If you’re a light sleeper you’ve no chance! We attempted a sleep over when there was a lightening storm going on. How foolish! We should have checked the weather forecast.

To delude yourself into feeling prepared, take an eyemask, ear buds and check the weather.

However it does depend on where you are and if you can stand Australia’s varied temperatures. If you’re not from a tropical country and not used to the heat I don’t recommend sleeping in a big metal can in Summer or up north no matter what the season.

There were nights in Darwin around Winter/Spring where I couldn’t breathe, it was that hot! Just pay for the air con! Sleep is important! Especially if you’re driving the next day…or attempting to do anything really. I think the amount I spent on coffee would have paid for a hotel room anyway.

In contrast, I would have needed a thermal sleeping bag if I was to stay in the car in Stanthorpe or Mulgowie during winter! Melt or freeze.

If I could go back I would be more confident knowing that I would earn enough money to buy a bigger vehicle to live in. At least one I could stand up in! Our little purple wagon is so small compared to the other vehicles on the road! It’s a bit of a nightmare getting changed in too. I mean for guys it’s just shorts and a t-shirt right and bam! Done! Ladies have that whole bra thing to deal with. We often joke that I’m practising ‘car yoga’. I’ve hit my head on the dashboard a few times now.
I reckon if we get into New Zealand next year that may be the time for that yellow polkadot mini van. I can dream. Or we’ll take the bus.

The whole ordeal of living in your car is a challenging one.  If anything though, Australian radio can be quite entertaining!

I love listening to triple J radio, but depending where you go it can cut out. We installed an AUX cable so we can listen to the stuff on our phones. A in car charger is a must have too as all that music runs out your battery.

If someone had told me 10 years ago I’d be living in a car calling the side of the road home…well… yeah I would have believed them. What baffles me is that I chose to do this!


I cannot imagine traveling Australia without a car. It’s just so big and everything is so spaced out! Although I’m definitely not saying that it can’t be done! There are plenty of other options for getting around but I would definitely recommend you get your own wheels if you’re coming out here.  As for living in it though, maybe get something that won’t drive you crazy.


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