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Is Australia better seen from a 4WD or a motorhome?

Is Australia better seen from a 4WD or a motorhome… What’s more important, travel flexibility or comfort?

YES, I KNOW people have cycled, walked and hitchiked around Australia. Good on them, and now back to the more mundane reality for most of us which means four-wheeled transport. But which wheels? There’s so much choice it’s almost like trying to order a Subway, so I thought I’d compare two extremes – a modified 4WD ute with a tent vs a distinctly road-going motorhome.

4WD and tent
Try getting here with a motorhome.

I own the ute, 4WD is my background, and I love offroad touring for many reasons. First would have to be the ability to explore anywhere, any time. There is no track too steep or rough, save a few ultra hardcore tracks, and negotiating 4WD tracks is often a rewarding challenge of driving skill, knowledge and teamwork leading to a sense of deep satisfaction that no drive on a bitumen road can ever offer.

Then there is what you can find. Many, many times we have seen and experienced things simply not possible with a roadcar – waking up on a beach with seals, watching the sun set in the middle of deserts and the kids have seen pretty much every major animal in Australia in the flesh but not in a zoo.

4WD on beach
Beaches are no problem with a 4WD. Motorhomes…well you can read about the beaches in comfort!

There’s also free-camping flexibility, where all we need is a patch of ground. No motel, no power, no sullage plumbing required. It’s great to be roll into seaside towns in peak season that have been booked solid for months yet still find a place to pitch a tent, and it’s so cheap too.

I also love the fact the 4WD does dirt roads very well – many a time we’ve departed the main road to avoid traffic jams, motoring along at speed in comfort and control on rough roads. And the 4WD can be used as a towcar, a daily driver, and a general carrier of things.

Unlike the motorhome. That’s nearly eight metres long, weighs 3.7 tonnes empty and isn’t any good for bulk carrying of anything. It doesn’t do dirt roads let alone rough tracks, and while it can be used away from a caravan park it’s really designed to be hooked up to everything in a nice, safe and snug site.

Yet the motorhome has its attractions:

Motorhome interior
Yeah…all right. This kind of beats the tent.

That’s not what the inside of the 4WD looks like, or the inside of the tent. Frankly, the modern motorhome is, literally, a little home on wheels and not a low-end one at that. Here are some luxuries 4WD tent campers can enjoy – no tent pegs, comfortable seating, cooking insider, windproof and waterproof, taps with water, toilet, shower and even a washing machine. And a comfortable double bed.

motorhome bathroom
Just missing the minibar. Oh, wait…

Now some of that list can be achieved with a good camp setup and especially a camper trailer, but I’ve tested lots of camper trailers and none come close to the motorhome’s comfort, and anyway I’m comparing here a single 4WD vehicle without a trailer.

Setup is also simple. You park the motorhome, undo the seatbelt and walk into the back. And maybe connect a few things outside such as 240v electricity. It is simple, quick and easy so for those people who are infirm the motorhome is perfect;nothing to lift, no need to bend down or over, no need to fight the elements. Yet for that comfort you pay a heavy price, and I don’t mean dollars, but isolation. You’re inside your house, not feeling experincing  nature as you do when in and around a tent camp, and you’re far less likely to meet others without more of an effort.

So which would I choose? You probably know the answer. I want both, in the same way my garage houses both a 4WD and a sportscar. But for the moment, the costs of a motorhome are prohibitive, and the go-anwyhere, explore-anything seduction of 4WD is too tempting. There is no wrong or right way to travel Australia, but for me touring Australia without a 4WD is like owning a TV and just watching the most popular channel – there’s so much richness to discover off the beaten path.

Jayco Conquest Specifications

  • Jayco Conquest FA-25.1
  • Fiat Ducato base vehicle, 3.0L turbodiesel, 130kW / 400Nm
  • Wheels – single wheels, 225/75/16, full-sized spare
  • 6-speed automated manual
  • Stability control, traction control, ABS, front airbags
  • Fresh water: 120L, grey 75L.
  • Fridge freezer (gas/12v/240v)
  • 2 x 9Kg gas bottles
  • Length – 7990mm, Width – 2390mm, Height – 3120mm
  • Braked towing – 1500kg, 100kg TBM
  • GVM – 4490kg (car licence), Weight – 3600kg, Payload – 890kg (770kg with full water tanks)
  • Warranty – 5 years vehicle, 12 months cabin. 24×7 roadside assistance for 3 years.

Base unit cost (exclusive of onroads) $143,100 Options as tested

  • Alloy Wheels $2400
  • Roamsafe Security Door $990
  • Ibis Air conditioner upgrade $190
  • Leather Upholstery $2990
  • Enhanced Graphics $3200

Total options – $9970 Total price as tested – $152,870 plus onroads.

Conquest motorhome on a dirt road
This was as far offroad as we got, and that was a mistake! Really not designed for this sort of work…


9 Comments

  1. Steve-O
    November 7, 2016 at 4:05 pm — Reply

    It’s better seen from a plane whilst on the way to Europe!

    • November 7, 2016 at 4:13 pm — Reply

      That’s like admiring a footpath painting from the top of a skyscraper.

  2. Arthur Bugden
    November 7, 2016 at 5:04 pm — Reply

    Boy what a comparison, a dedicated 4WD against a front wheel drive motorhome, at least you could have picked a 4WD motorhome

  3. Andrew Riles
    November 7, 2016 at 5:53 pm — Reply

    You could go with the best of both worlds, and tow the 4WD behind the motorhome…

    • November 7, 2016 at 6:51 pm — Reply

      Kind of, but I’d still be restricted to boring routes between A and B and have to backtrack. Couldn’t just randomly dive off some tempting track.

    • Guest
      November 7, 2016 at 11:12 pm — Reply

      I remember a motorhome towing a Suzi Jimny on the back. Made sense if you also drive into town but then you’d need to add another $20k on top of the $150k you’ve spent on the motorhome.

      • November 8, 2016 at 6:31 am — Reply

        Yep and then a Suzuki doesn’t compare with a bigger 4WD for touring either.

        There’s no right answer, and even if there was “right” is different for everyone.

  4. Max Bancroft
    November 15, 2016 at 4:45 pm — Reply

    After sampling caravanning for a year or two and also sampling 4W driving, we now know we want to get off the track and away from caravan parks. But a tent or conventional camper trailer is too much hassle and too little bed. I think this could be the answer.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/392a05979bf0707e2a8a7253dc17cb596384826338abb675e26376f8c58646a3.jpg

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Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper