Do you really need a 4WD to travel Australia?

If you’ve decided to travel Australia, and are looking into what you should do it in, then this post is a great place to start. A lot of people wonder whether you really need a 4WD to travel Australia, and the simple answer is no, you don’t.

You only have to look at the various caravan parks around the place to see that a people travel in anything from buses to motorhomes, tents and we’ve even seen people doing it in Electric Tesla vehicles.

However, a 4WD can offer some significant benefits, and despite our views likely being biased, we highly recommend considering getting a 4WD, and below we cover the reasons why they are so good, and then the costs of getting one to balance it out.

Dmax canopy
Do you really need a 4WD to travel Australia?

You’ll see far more

Australia is stunning, but if you stick to the bitumen roads, you’ll only see a tiny portion of it. When you stare at a map of Australia, and think about how little it actually covers, you get an appreciation for what can be explored with a 4WD.

There are thousands of gravel roads in Australia, and even more small tracks around the place including beaches, sand dunes, rocky sections and more. A 4WD increases your ability to see more of Australia by a huge amount, and this is one reason why so many people love them.

Pardoo Station
So much of Australia is only accessibly by 4WD

The best places require a 4WD

All of our favourite places in Australia require a 4WD to get to them. Sure, there are some pretty incredible places that we’ve stayed at that are bitumen accessible, but there’s almost always something nearby that requires a 4WD to access it, and takes your entire trip to a whole new level.

Think the Gibb River Road, Cape Leveque (yes, the main road is bitumen, but nothing else is), Lorella Springs Station, Kakadu, Fitzgerald River National Park (the best spots) and so much more.

Of course you’ll still have a great time without a 4WD, but using one will give you a much greater chance of seeing the best of what Australia has to offer.

Running Waters
Our favourite locations are usually 4WD accessible only

They are better at towing

With so many people today towing a caravan, camper trailer, hybrid camper trailer or boat, its no wonder the number of 4WD’s has exploded. Anything that weighs more than 1000kg is going to push the average 2WD vehicle into territory where its either working too hard to tow, or its illegal.

Most 4WD’s today have a 3500kg towing capacity, and whilst that is mainly marketing spiel and not really achievable, they will tow much heavier trailers than their 2WD counterparts.

This means if you want to drag your off road caravan or boat to pristine, remote parts of Australia you can do it safely, legally and enjoyably. Want to know more about the 7 weights you need to comply with? Check this out – Towing Capacity; a simple guide.

Towing with a 4WD
If you want to tow something heavy, you are almost guaranteed to need a 4WD

Your level of adventure can go through the roof

Travelling Australia in a 4WD will take your options for adventure to a whole new level. Whether its fishing, diving, swimming in remote locations, photography, rope swings or anything else you can think of, a 4WD opens up a huge new world that so many people have no idea about.

Lorella Springs Fishing
Endless opportunities come from having a 4WD

You can save a huge amount of money

Despite costing more money to buy, own and run, a 4WD can actually help to save a significant chunk of money as well. Being able to access the quieter places in Australia means that you can often stay in free, or low cost camps that are 4WD access only.

Instead of paying $50 or $60 a night to stay in a Caravan Park, you can pay $15 (or nothing at all!) just 10 minutes down the road.

Granted your amenities are not going to be comparable, but in this day and age where so many people are set up for off grid living there’s no reason to be uncomfortable.

With the right setup for free camping you can easily live with the amenities that you need.

Barred Creek Camping
There’s a heap of 4WD access places that are completely free to camp

You never feel like you are pushing your vehicle beyond its limits

I’ve always felt terrible seeing a 2WD vehicle (car, motorhome or whatever it might be) bouncing its way down a terribly corrugated road. Yes, you can take it down the road, and it will likely get there, but at what sort of damage level?

How many of those roads can you do before you either get stuck, or something fatigues and breaks off your vehicle?

At the end of the day they are generally designed to be driven on reasonable condition bitumen roads, and after seeing the damage done to some suspension components on the badly corrugated roads in Kakadu National Park, I’d be loathe to take anything but an absolute bomb on them.

Corrugated track
Corrugations are nasty, but at least your 4WD’s designed for it

You can get away from others

I don’t mind people, but when it comes to camping I’d much rather be miles away from the next group of people, than having them within 5 metres of us. A 4WD allows you access to more remote places, which means you have a much better chance of getting away from others. 

Remote camping
We love getting away from others

What’s the downsides of having a 4WD though?

There’s never a free lunch, and we try to be non biased and cover all of the bases. Travelling in a 4WD isn’t all sunshine and lollipops either; it comes at a cost, and you have to decide if you are prepared to pay it.

They can use more fuel

4WD’s tend to be larger, and heavier than normal 2WD vehicles. That in turn means they tend to have worse fuel economy, but the modern ones can be quite frugal when lightly loaded.

If you are towing something big and heavy expect to use a lot more fuel, but you won’t be able to tow it with a smaller 2WD vehicle so its almost null and void.

4WD fuel consumption
You’ll generally use more fuel with a 4WD

They can require more maintenance

4WD’s can get punished on endless corrugations and when being driven up difficult 4WD tracks.

Compared to a 2WD vehicle that spends its life on the bitumen, there are more wear and tear components and you will generally end up spending more money on maintenance on a 4WD. It’s just a fact of life, and something you have to live with.

80 Series swivel hub
Working on the swivel hubs of our old Land Cruiser

You’ll probably get stuck

Inevitably, once you start using your 4WD for what it was intended for, you’ll probably get stuck. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this, and providing you know how to do a safe 4WD recovery you can get going again with no real loss, but it is something you need to be prepared for.

That said, if you are pushing the boundaries of a 2WD you are probably more likely to get stuck, and that’s a much worse situation!

Maxtrax to get us out
You’ll eventually get stuck somewhere!

They can cost more to purchase

The initial purchase of a 4WD over a normal 2WD vehicle will usually cost you more, as they are built for very different reasons.

We are biased

You only have to look at the name of this website to know that we are going to promote the use of 4WD’s. For us, its a lifestyle, and we love nothing more than heading away with the 4WD to places that less people can get to. 

You can, and many people do enjoy travelling Australia without a 4WD. It is not a must, but we firmly believe it makes it better.

What do you think? Have you tried both sides?

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