HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
☆☆☆ MONEY MONEY MONEY ☆☆☆
How much does it REALLY cost to live on the road?
Well we’ve kept track of all our spending over last 2 YEARS and we’re gunna break it down for you right here!
Firstly, a bit of background: We are a family of 3 (2 adults & a now 4yo) traveling in a Cub Campers camper trailer. We left without much money so Renee picks up short term nursing contracts as we travel. All up she’s worked roughly 40% of the time. Work sometimes comes with fuel paid for & accommodation covered, so that has helped keep expenses down. However we also left home with a Triton that was a giant money pit so that has increased our spending greatly (we no longer have that vehicle – we now travel in a Pajero).
Many people will tell you that it’s cheaper to live on the road than at home, so we’ll compare that as well and let’s see, shall we?
Ok, lets start with the ESSENTIALS. These are those non negotiable things that you just can’t live without.
– 731 nights total – 418 free nights incl. 92 in staff accommodation, 112 with friends/family/fellow travellers we’ve met on the road/even the occasional follower of our Facebook page, 21 house sitting (we use Aussie House Sitters), 61 in work for accommodation deals (usually on farms through helpx.net), & 34 covered by insurance when our 1st camper trailer was written off in an accident (not our fault 😉) – 121 low cost campsites like national parks, council camps, station stays etc – 189 nights in Caravan Parks incl. 78 while working & 20 while stuck with issues on the bloody Triton. Thanks to some awesome REDARC products we very rarely pay for powered sites. – 1 night in a B&B for a birthday treat – 2 nights at Seaworld Resort – Number of times we’ve set up the camper trailer: approx. 170 times (we’ve gotten pretty bloody good at it!) – Total camping cost: $67/wk! (Much nicer than the $400/wk our mortgage was costing us at home)
🍎 GROCERIES 🍏
This has consistently come in around $146/wk. This usually includes toiletries, and at the beginning of the trip it included nappies. We cook the same as we did at home, and this cost is pretty much the same as it was at home too.
🚗 FUEL 🚗
– Roughly 55, 871kms covered incl. 24, 125kms in our first year & 31, 746kms in our second. – Using about 8696 litres of diesel – fuel economy in the Triton was 16 – 17L/100kms – fuel economy in the Pajero is 13 – 14L/100kms -With approx. 20% of our fuel costs being covered by work our weekly diesel spend comes in at $82/wk.
We carry 40 litres worth of jerry cans to extend our range, and use the FuelMap app to find cheaper prices & track our consumption. It’s important to note that we travel relatively slow, & only tow a camper trailer, so if you’re doing a ‘big lap’ and/or towing a caravan your fuel expenses will likely be significantly higher. Considering at home we were running two cars to two different jobs our fuel cost on the road is actually less than at home.
💲 INSURANCES/REGO 💲
Now this is one that most people leave out of their budgets, but is a significant expense. For us the rego & insurance on both car & camper, plus breakdown cover with RACV comes in at $54/wk. We have used the breakdown cover numerous times & made significant insurance claims on both the car & camper, so they’re all well & truly worth the money. We insure our 4×4 with Club 4X4 as they cover us for all the offroading we do + all of our modifications (the new car is still a work in progress!) We were still paying all these at home, plus we had the expense of a second car as well!
We have 2 mobiles on Boost Mobile Australia plans, a Telstra internet dongle for extra data (rarely used), & a sat phone for emergencies. All up these cost us $35/wk. Other than the sat phone (which only costs $15/month) our mobile plans would be the same at home.
💨 GAS BOTTLE REFILLS 💨
Gas is our only ongoing ‘bill’ as such, and comes in at $1.73/wk. Compared to paying water/electricity/gas/rates at home, this is definitely cheaper! Although note our fridges are 2 way, and don't run on gas.
🚑 AMBULANCE COVER 🚑
100% a necessity, this comes in at $1.74/wk. Ours is through Ambulance Victoria but covers us Australia wide. Here’s hoping we never have to use it!
🔧 MECHANICS/CAR REPAIRS 🔧
This has been a massive one for us, and certainly we’ve had a lot of bad luck. BUT it could happen to you too, so it’s always important to have a contingency fund just in case. And a lot of this was still just routine car maintenance – services & the like that you can’t avoid. Unfortunately though for us it comes in at a whopping $92/wk.
This is all those visits to Bunnings, Jaycar, & Supercheap Auto. All the ongoing little bits of maintenance that are required, most of which Nathan has DIYed to save us money, and which comes in at $20/wk. Cheaper than maintenance on a house? Probably!
Ok so that’s the ESSENTIALS and that comes in at roughly $500/wk. And that’s before we even get to have any fun! (Which makes me a little skeptical when people claim they’re travelling Australia on $500/wk) So what about EVERYTHING ELSE?
Some people might argue this falls into the essentials section, and I’m inclined to agree! Surprisingly though our booze bill only comes in at $23/wk. Let’s remember that this is our life, not a short holiday. If we drank like we were on holiday every day our livers would have given up by now. Oh & Nathans moved on to cask wine so that helps the budget
🎡 ENTERTAINMENT 🎡
So we’re talking tourist attractions, national park fees, and for us even daycare fees as that’s part of Ryans entertainment when we stop to work for a few weeks. This comes in at $31/wk. Which is a hell of a lot cheaper than daycare cost in Melbourne I can assure you!
🍔 MEALS OUT 🍔
We’re talking bakery stops, Maccas runs, coffees, pub dinners/drinks etc. This comes in at $50/wk. We’ve tried to get this one down a bit but it seems we just can’t walk past a bakery pie! This one is probably higher on the road than at home.
🏥 HEALTH RELATED COSTS 🏥
Ok so this is a controversial one, and honestly it’s one I think should be in the ESSENTIALS section. Yes we choose to have health insurance (we’re with Bupa Australia) Yes it’s expensive. But both Nathan & I have required minor surgeries on the road. Surgeries that were very neccesary but that would have had long waits in the public system, which likely would have had a massive impact on our travels. By going private we were able to pick & choose dates, locations & surgeons which made a massive difference. Plus this one also includes doctors visits, & pharmacy costs (A visit to the doctor for Ryan a fortnight ago was $85! Plus the cost of medication afterwards). All up this one comes to a rather large $88/wk.
🎂 PRESENTS 🎂
We don’t stop celebrating birthdays or Christmas just because we’re on the road, & neither does our friends & family at home. Not to mention weddings & babies. So we still have to buy gifts, and this has come in at $35/wk.
👕 LAUNDRY 👕
Unavoidable unfortunately. But we do a lot of hand washing using The Scrubba Wash Bag, so fortunately this one is pretty low – just $3.20 a week.
🔨 IMPROVEMENTS 🔨
So we’re talking about things to improve our set up, that we didn’t already have when we left. Like a toilet & shower, fans, extra solar panels, a diesel heater, upgrades to our trailer when insurance paid for a new one, new camp chairs etc etc. I promise you no matter how prepared you think you are, you will always find things that need to be improved or replaced as you go. This one has cost us $48/wk
🌏 OTHER 🌏
And of course there’s all that ‘other’ stuff. Things like clothes (the child keeps growing), sunglasses (keep losing the bloody things), new phones (keep dropping the bloody things), car ferries (Moreton, Fraser, Jardine, Kangaroo Island), a drone (very important), you get the picture. This comes in at $86/wk
And that is it (well almost, Renee has some expenses related to work like uniforms, professional development, union fees etc that we’ve chosen not to include here cause it won’t be relevant for most people). Also remember that you may need to factor in costs related to your house at home (if you choose to keep it) & storage fees if you’re paying to store belongings.
So, the grand total comes in at a little under $900/wk!
Now does that mean that you’ll spend $900/wk? God no! But hopefully this gives you a place to start/compare. As a further guideline most families we meet doing a ‘big lap’ are spending anywhere between $800-1200/wk. But then again there are grey nomads travelling (very slowly) on the pension and getting by on a lot less.
As to whether it is actually cheaper to live on the road? Well the answer is Yes & No. You may very well actually spend less on the road, but chances are your income will also be significantly less (or not existent!) so it’s all relative.
Do you need to have $50k in the bank to travel Australia? Hell no! We certainly didn’t. BUT we’ve worked along the way to pay for it. And as a Registered Nurse I’m not earning minimum wage. If you want to take your family on a year long big lap and not work them yes, you’d better start saving!
And as I always say: Total expenses: shitloads Total experience: priceless
Any questions? Just ask!