In this post I'm going to show you that even though prices of fuel and everything else are soaring, it's STILL POSSIBLE to travel around Australia by car for $100 per day.
To demonstrate this I'm using my Big Lap Budget Spreadsheet which you can download for free from our Members Hub.
With fuel prices up over $2.00 per litre now and the price of everything else rising along with it, you might think that the dream to travel around Australia by car and on a tight budget is over.
Well the good news is that it is still possible!
Having said that, you will need to make a few sacrifices and take advantage of free and low cost camping along the way.
There won't be a lot of eating out at restaurants, big ticket tours, caravan parks with jumping pillows and helicopter joy flights.
But let's be honest, you don't need all that stuff to have a great adventure driving around Australia.
All of the best stuff is free anyway, or very close to it . . beautiful beaches, adventurous 4WD tracks, hiking, sunrises and sunsets, fishing, camp fires, snorkelling, etc.
The biggest expense that you can't avoid will be fuel, but I have some strategies to help you keep fuel usage to a minimum.
Some Assumptions about you and your trip
For this exercise I'm making a few assumptions about you and your setup.
- 2 adults and no kids
- You own your vehicle - no finance
- You are not towing a van or trailer
- You can sleep in your vehicle or on top in a rooftop tent - A swag or tent might also be an option but it might limit your use of free roadside stops
- You are self sufficient enough to be able to take advantage of free camps with little to no facilities. This is easily doable of you set yourself up right from the start
- You don't have any expenses back home eg. mortgage, or if you do, they are cost neutral. In other words I'm only considering the trip related expenses
- You start the trip with $36,500 in the bank ($100 per day x 365 days)
- You don't earn any money along the way
- You travel for 12 months
- You travel 25,000km - Highway One around Australia is about 15,000km so this allows an extra 10,000 km for side trips.
- You are including Tasmania on your itinerary - I've included $2,000 to cover the cost of the Spirit of Tasmania Ferry
So let's take a look at the budget.
The Budget to travel around Australia by Car for $100 per day
You'll notice on the Big Lap Budget Spreadsheet there are 9 sections and you enter relevant info in the yellow cells of the spreadsheet.
All of the calculations happen automatically in the background.
Let's look at each section:
Section 1 - How many months is your trip
I've assumed 12 months as this is an ideal length of time to drive around Australia at a comfortable pace.
If you have less money to spend then reducing the amount of time you travel for will help to lower your overall trip cost but keep in mind the fuel bill won't change and that is one of the biggest expenses.
Read these blogs for more info:
Section 2 - Accomodation
Accommodation, which is mainly caravan park fees, is the biggest expense for many Big Lappers.
The trick to being able to travel around Australia by car for $100 per day is to be almost completely self sufficient so you are not relying on the facilities of caravan parks for power, showers etc.
For those travelling on a budget, it's the best place to save money because you can pretty much free camp your way right around Australia.
For our $100 per day budget I've assumed that you'll spend 2 nights per month staying in caravan parks, on an unpowered site where possible. This will most likely be at places you want to go that don't have any free camping options.
I've also included 4 nights in national parks which are generally much cheaper than caravan parks.
The rest of the nights are at free camps.
Find out more here:
Section 3 - Fuel Cost Calculator
Fuel will most likely be your single biggest expense for the trip and unfortunately recent price hikes have made for even more pain at the pump.
In our $100 per day budget I've assumed your vehicle uses 13 litres of fuel per 100km which would be about average for an efficient turbo diesel 4WD.
You probably know what mileage your vehicle gets or you can do some research and find out the mileage of the vehicle you are planning to buy.
Either way, enter the figure in this field on the spreadsheet.
Try different mileage figures in this field to see what impact it has on your trip budget . . . It will make you want to have an economical car!
I've used $2.30 as the current city price of fuel - this may go up or down but we have to start somewhere.
The 'Remote Area Fuel Loading' adds a percentage to the 'City Fuel Price' to allow for the fact that a lot of your fuel purchases will be outside of big cities where fuel prices are generally higher.
You'll notice the default figure on the spreadsheet when you download it is 25% but for this budget I've changed it to 15%.
This is because I'm assuming you'll be staying on the main highway around Australia for most of the trip and not venturing too far off the beaten track where fuel prices are even higher.
I've assumed you'll travel 25,000 km which is very achievable and allows you to include Tasmania and 10,000 detouring off the main Highway One around Australia.
Most Big Lappers will average around 35,000km for their trip but they are not trying to do it on a $100 per day budget.
So the bottom line for this budget is $716 average per month for fuel.
Read this post for some tips on keeping your fuel bill down:
Section 4 - Food Cost Calculator
You probably know how much you spend per week on food now.
I'd allow a little extra for higher prices in remote areas.
Plus we have $50 per week for dinner at the pub or a couple of roadhouse lunches.
You can spend a lot on food but you don't need to.
Basic meat, veggies and fruit are affordable, healthy and available everywhere.
Read this post for more tips on keeping your trip food bill down:
Section 5 - Other Expenses
In this section you add all of the regular monthly expenses from back home and on your trip.
For this budget I've assumed you have no expenses back home and just focussed on the trip related costs.
You'll need to add in and change anything that is relevant to you.
By not towing a trailer or caravan you're not only saving fuel but also the cost of insurance and maintenance.
I've allowed about $150 per week for miscellaneous spending money other than the other items on the spreadsheet. This won't be enough for helicopter joy flights and river cruises but should cover most or all of your extra expenses.
Section 6 - One Off Expenses
This is the section to add the total amount of any one off expenses you know you'll incur.
I've put in $2000 which should be enough to cover the Spirit Of Tasmania fares for you and your vehicle to get to Tasmania and back, or to the mainland and back if you live in Tassie.
Section 7 - Income
I haven't included any income on this spreadsheet but if you know you'll be earning money along the way, this is where you enter it.
Finding some casual work along the way might be the solution to funding your trip if you don't currently have enough cash to cover it.
This article will give you some ideas about how to earn money while travelling around Australia:
Section 8 - Cash On Hand
This is how much cash you have saved or set aside for the trip.
Since our budget is $100 per day, that's $36,500 in a year so that's what I've entered as our 'Starting Cash Balance'.
There is also a field for 'Other 'one off' cash income' which would be something like a tax return, sale of an asset, inheritance etc.
Section 9 - The Equation
This is where it all comes together.
The spreadsheet calculates all of the numbers and shows you your average monthly income (including your savings) and expenses and whether you'll have a surplus or shortfall per month and for the entire trip.
If these fields are GREEN you are looking good and have enough in the budget.
If they are RED then you have some more work to do.
Keep massaging the numbers until you get the GREEN for GO on the spreadsheet.
It IS possible to travel around Australia by car for $100 per day
Inflation and other factors are driving prices of everything up but despite that it is still feasible to travel around Australia by car for $100 per day.
The trick is to have an economical vehicle and be self sufficient so you can take advantage of the thousands of free camping opportunities around Australia.
Ideally you'll have extra money available for unforeseen expenses like vehicle breakdowns but at the very least, have a credit card that you can use if you need to.
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