There are many reasons why people are opting for living in a caravan full-time in Australia. From wanting to gain more financial freedom to being able to simplify their lives, plus being free to travel and explore the country.
But, living in a caravan comes with its own quirks and definitely calls for a change in lifestyle compared to living in a house.
After spending four years living in a caravan full-time myself, I’ve pulled together as many tips as I could to get you started on your own journey.
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Living in a Caravan Full-time Australia – LEGALITIES
Can You Live in a Caravan Permanently in Australia?
Yes, you can live in a caravan permanently in Australia, however, you will have to be regularly on the move to comply with the laws.
For travellers, living in a caravan is totally legal as long as you’re not parking or camping illegally.
Each local council will have their own guidelines on the location and duration that people can park and camp in their municipality.
Generally, public car parks (e.g. shopping centres, parks and beaches) do not allow overnight parking. Most of these types of car parks will have signage stating “No Camping Allowed” or “No Parking After 10 p.m.” for example.
To live in a caravan permanently, you must always adhere to the local council laws. The easiest way to do that is by only camping in designated camping areas.
Designated Camping Area Options:
- Caravan Parks
- National Parks (where camping is permitted)
- Showgrounds (where camping is available)
- Free & Low Cost Camps
Some camping areas will come with a camping time limit. For example, many Free Camps will have a 24, 48 or 36-hour stay limit.
Make sure you don’t push the boundaries and outstay your welcome because you may well get fined. Many local councils are very strict with their camping by-laws and ensure that they are enforced so that people don’t take advantage and ruin the opportunity for others.
Can You Live in a Caravan on Private Land in Australia?
The overarching rule for living in a caravan on private land in Australia is no more than 30 days per year. However, this can vary within each local council, so it’s best to do your research as it relates to your local area.
Along with being limited to only 30 days, you will also need to make sure you meet basic living conditions. This includes having your own kitchen, toilet, bed, bathing facilities and the ability to dispose of waste water.
Where to park a caravan on private property:
- 6 metres away from the property’s front door
- 1.2 metres away from any building
In conclusion, no you cannot permanently live in a caravan on private land in Australia, you can only stay for up to 30 days on each plot per year.
Can You Permanently Live in a Caravan Park in Australia?
Many people permanently live in caravan parks around Australia and it is legal as long as the park is complying with the local residential laws.
Each caravan park will have its own rules on having long-term residents, so it’s as simple as just asking the question.
Living in a Caravan Full-time Australia – PROS & CONS
PROS of Living in a Caravan Full-time
Cheaper to purchase than a house
For many Australians, owning their own home can feel like an unachievable dream. With the average suburban house price being close to $1 million in the capital cities, housing pressure is more real than ever before.
Admittedly, the cost of buying a brand new caravan outright has also increased a lot since 2020, but $85,000 for a new self-sufficient caravan sure beats $1,000,000 for a house.
Even if you compare the cost of renting a home versus the cost of caravan park fees, you’ll still come out ahead living in a caravan full-time in Australia.
Less maintenance than a house
One of the main comments from people who switch to living in a caravan full-time is…
“I don’t miss spending my weekends mowing the lawn and cleaning the house!”
While some very important caravan maintenance tasks must be kept up with, it’s nothing compared to maintaining a house.
Some caravan maintenance tasks:
- Regrease wheel bearings
- Cleaning the caravan (interior & exterior)
- Keeping the solar panels clean
- Change the hot water system anode (annually)
Whether you’re a renter or a homeowner, things always need to be fixed, cleaned and maintained around the house. Life’s too short!
When you’re living in a caravan full-time in Australia you cut out a lot of additional expenses, which reduces your overall cost of living.
Expenses that are cut out:
- Home & Contents Insurance
- Mortgage/ Rent
- Insurance & Registration on a second car
However, while many of these costs will be cut (unless you still own property), some will be replaced with a different caravan-related expense, although it will usually be cheaper. For example, instead of mortgage repayments, you may have caravan park fees.
Enjoy the benefits of a minimalist lifestyle
When you live in a caravan there’s just no room (or payload allowance) to be carting around unnecessary items.
This will naturally curb the urge to spend money on items that you don’t truly need or want. It also ensures that you’ll be doing regular declutters as you will only have the space for things that do serve a purpose in your life.
If you haven’t already seen The Minimalists documentary, I highly recommend watching it for inspiration on your vanlife journey.
Enjoy new locations & scenery
One of the biggest perks of living in a caravan full-time is the ability to change your backyard as often as you like. You can go from having ocean views one week, to being surrounded by bush the next!
When you live in a house, you will always have the same outlook, however, travelling in a caravan can take you to some of the most beautiful locations Australia has to offer.
CONS of Living in a Caravan Full-time
You’ll have to keep on top of your resources
When you’re living in a caravan full-time, you won’t always have the benefit of unlimited tap water (especially hot water), a flushing toilet connected to a sewerage system and unlimited power.
Even if you’re in a caravan park you’ll either need to wander over to the amenities block to use the toilet or empty your own every few days if you are using it. You’ll still be running off a small 30L caravan hot water tank, which means your in-caravan showers will still be short.
Living in a caravan takes a bit more work than living in a house when it comes to sourcing fresh water for your tanks, dump points to empty the toilet and plenty of sun to charge the batteries.
However, once you get into a good routine and make use of WikiCamps, it will all become second nature before long.
I always felt like the trade-off for having a cheaper lifestyle was having to work a bit harder at keeping on top of my resources.
Being regularly on the move can become exhausting
Living a nomadic lifestyle can become exhausting, there’s no doubt about it. That’s why it’s important to make sure you have periods of time where you find a nice camp to call ‘home’ for a while to give yourself a rest.
We used to park up every three months or so and pick up local work while staying in a caravan park. It helped to both top up the funds, plus have a rest from setting up and packing down every other day.
Privacy is a thing of the past
Privacy both inside and outside of a caravan is very limited.
There is no option to go hang out in a different section of the house if you need space. Usually, it’s either inside the van or outside under the awning. Besides that, you can go for a walk or drive if you need to catch some time out for yourself.
If you’re living in a caravan with kids, finding adult time without little ears or eyes around can be very tricky!
Showering and toileting in a caravan ensuite is just not the same as using the bathroom in a house. It’s a tight squeeze and everyone can hear everything.
Even outside the caravan, there are usually other campers around, so you just have to get used to being surrounded by people one way or another.
Living in a Caravan Full-time Australia – GETTING SET UP
Caravan Insurance & Registration
Before even pulling out of the driveway, it’s important to ensure that you’ve got the correct level of caravan insurance to cover any situation that may pop up on the road.
I always recommend going with Comprehensive Cover and opt for Agreed Value.
If you go for Market Value, it may lower your premiums a little, however it gives the insurance company the opportunity to find the lowest comparable van on the market at the time and only offer you a lowball settlement figure. I’ve been there and it’s pretty devastating when your insurance payout doesn’t even allow you to replace the basics of what you’ve just lost.
What Comprehensive Caravan Insurance should cover (with capped prices):
- Accidental damage
- Intentional damage
- Storm or flood
- Towing costs (but only for accident – not for breakdown)
- After accident clean-up
- Emergency accommodation, transport & repairs
- Locks & keys
- Food spoilage
- Animal death or injury
- Caravan park fees
- Counselling fees
- Legal liability
- Optional upgrades (e.g. annex, contents, electrical burnout, business items)
Find out everything you need to know around caravan insurance below.
In addition, your caravan must be registered to your home state and be in a roadworthy condition. Of course, each and every state comes with a different set of requirements for caravan registration.
Check out the article below for the caravan registration costs and requirements for your home state.
Caravan Roadside Assistance
There is a very good reason for ensuring you’ve got your caravan covered for roadside assistance when living in a caravan full-time.
In the event of break-down you need to feel confident that your roadside assistance provider can tow both your car and the caravan to either the nearest caravan park or mechanical workshop.
The last thing you want to be faced with is the car breaking down in the middle of nowhere and having them sort out the car, but leave the caravan sitting on the side of the highway.
You will probably find that whoever your vehicle roadside assistance is through can also cover your caravan. But you need to ring them up and make sure the caravan gets added to the policy.
Here’s everything you need to know about caravan roadside assistance…
Know Your Caravan Weights
When you’re living in a caravan full-time in Australia, it’s imperative that you know your caravan weights and stick within your legal towing limits.
Living in the van rather than just using it for holidays means that you’re going to be carrying a lot more stuff. Trust me, clothing, kitchen utensils and water add up VERY quickly!
When you first start out with caravanning, getting to know all of the weight terms and meanings, especially in relation to your own caravan, can be really overwhelming. I remember it well!
However, practice makes perfect. The more that you keep going over the weights and physically weigh your own set-up, the more that it will begin to make sense.
The article below will take you through all of the weights that you need to know, plus how to calculate your own.
Caravan Packing List
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Essential Caravanning Gear
Without completely nullifying the point above about sticking within your towing limits, there is some essential gear that you’re going to need for living in a caravan full-time.
Caravanning Must Haves:
- Drinking water hose (blue or white)
- Assorted tap fittings & connections
- Grey water hose
- BBQ (unless you’ve got a slide-out kitchen)
- Camping chairs
- Collapsible table
- Outdoor matting
- Levellers & chocks
- Alarms (smoke & carbon monoxide)
- 15 amp power lead
- Articulated tow hitch
- Towing mirrors
- UHF radio
For a more comprehensive list, check out the guide below. Always keep your weights in mind and stick to only the items that you really need. This is a general list to get people thinking.
Set Yourself Up for Free Camping
The best way to reduce your costs when living in a caravan full-time is to make full use of the amazing Free Camps around Australia.
Just to give you an idea, Free Camps provided over 90% of our accommodation when we were living on the road. After the first 12 months of travel our weekly accommodation costs averaged out to be a tiny $34.40 per week.
But, without the conveniences of power, water and amenities on hand for much of the time means that you need to be organised, prepared and fully self-sufficient.
Being able to Free Camp for as long as you like all comes down to being set-up for it. Below is the full guide on getting set up for Free Camping.
Living in a Caravan Full-time Australia – ORGANISATION
Storage Space is Prime Real Estate – Use it Wisely
Let’s face it, there isn’t a whole lot of storage space available when living in a caravan.
While it’s surprising how many drawers and cabinets are built into caravans these days, they will get filled up very quickly once you start to move your stuff in.
This is where you really have to assess what actually deserves to be taking up precious space in your caravan.
A good rule is to favour items that have multiple uses. Rather than packing 3 items to do 3 different jobs, see if you can find a single item that could do the job of all three.
For tips on how to organise your caravan with some simple DIY tricks, check out the article below.
Clothes actually add up to weigh a lot, plus they take up a lot of space.
So, how can you make sure you’ve got all of the clothing you need for living in a caravan full-time, without having your cupboards bursting at the seams?
A few little organisational hacks can go a long way.
Caravan clothes storage tips:
- Cull all items that aren’t unnecessary
- Change the ‘slotted’ caravan hanging rail to an extendable one
- Add in shelves (temporary or permanent) to make full use of cupboard space
- Use drawer dividers
- Fold clothing Kon Mari style (see video below)
Living in a Caravan Full-time Australia – RESOURCES
Finding Resources Becomes a Part-time Job
Living in a caravan full-time means that you will no longer have access to constant mains power, unlimited town water, plumbed sewerage disposal and a weekly garbage truck.
While travelling Australia in a caravan has many perks, resources on tap isn’t one of them.
You will find yourself constantly seeking out the next…
- Dump point
- Potable water tap
- Rubbish bin
- Petrol station
I highly recommend downloading WikiCamps or Camps Australia Wide. Both apps offer the quickest way to find the nearest resources while you’re on the road.
Plus, you’ll have access to user reviews and photos, which can help in figuring out if you can park your set-up there ahead of time and if the location has what you need.
Finding Water While Caravanning
Living in a caravan full-time while travelling Australia means that you’ll constantly be on the hunt for the next potable water tap to refill your water tanks.
There’s nothing more comforting than having FULL water tanks!
If you’re doing loads of washing, your water tanks are only likely to last 2 – 3 days, depending on the size of your family and how much water storage you’ve got.
But, if you need to stretch the water out a lot longer, you can definitely skip the laundry and keep showers quick (or use a wet washer instead).
Where to fill water tanks while travelling:
- Information Centres
- Petrol stations (ask when you pay for your fuel)
- Potable water taps (found on WikiCamps)
- Caravan parks
Towing with FULL vs. EMPTY Water Tanks
There are pros and cons to travelling with full caravan water tanks versus empty tanks. What you decide to do will come down to each individual’s set-up and situation.
Here are some factors to consider:
- How far away is your next camp?
- Can you fill up the water tanks when you get there?
- Are you going to be travelling in high winds?
- Are you trying to save fuel?
- Do you have enough payload for full water tanks?
|FULL Water Tank Benefits||EMPTY Water Tank Benefits|
|• Provides a lower centre of gravity|
• Increases caravan’s stability
• Ensures most of the weight is over the axles
• Can help with load distribution
• Can help with tow ball weight
• Eliminates water ‘slosh’
• Always have water on hand
|• Better fuel economy|
• Less wear & tear on the vehicle, caravan and suspension
• Eliminates water ‘slosh’
• Frees up payload for other items
It often comes down to how much payload capacity you’ve got, your caravan’s stability and if you need to be prepared for the next camp. Get the full run-down below.
If You Have a Toilet On-board, Use It!
I get it, using the toilet in the caravan can feel super weird in the beginning. Plus, the thought of having to empty it isn’t appealing. In fact, some people even avoid pooping in their caravan toilet because the thought of emptying it is just too much.
However, I’m here to tell you that while it’s not the most fun job in the world, emptying the toilet isn’t so bad (and yes, it somehow ended up being my job in the van).
If you want to be able to camp off-grid and make the most of Free Camping, you will be ever so grateful for having your own toilet on board. Enjoy the fact that you’ve got it!
Many Free Camps around Australia either don’t have a toilet or if they do, it’ll be a drop toilet.
If you’ve never emptied a caravan toilet cassette, check out the article below for step-by-step instructions.
How to Get Mail on the Road
The easiest way that I found to keep on top of mail and parcels on the road was with the Australia Post 24/7 Parcel Locker app.
You can keep changing your address to be the next town ahead as you’re on the move. Plus, if a small town doesn’t have Parcel Lockers, the local Post Office will hold the parcel for up to two weeks for you. If you ring and let them know you’re a bit behind, they will usually hold it a bit longer if need be.
Four main ways to get mail while you’re travelling Australia:
- 24/7 Parcel Lockers (Australia Post)
- Local Post Offices
- Caravan Parks (if you’re staying for a while – but always ask first)
- Family & friends
Are Caravan Park Memberships Worth It?
I do not recommend signing up to any caravan park memberships until you need them. While some can save you a fair amount of money, others just won’t be worth it for you.
Plus, you might hit the road with great intentions of staying at plenty of BIG 4s as you travel, but then find that you haven’t stayed in one all year! That would have been $50 down the drain.
Quite often, it can be worth signing up for the membership about 2 minutes before you’re about the make the booking and you’ll find that the membership has just paid for itself.
However, it always pays to check out the online deals and ring for a quote first, because sometimes the price you get is the same as if you had the membership anyway – therefore, you didn’t need to purchase it after all.
Have a look at the 9 caravan park memberships below with their pricing and terms to see if any will be worth it for you.
Living in a Caravan Full-time Australia – LAUNDRY
How to Do Washing in a Caravan
The reality is, it doesn’t matter whether you’re living in a house or living in a caravan, the washing pile will be there regardless.
By far, the most convenient way to stay on top of the laundry in a caravan is by having your own washing machine. When you’ve got plenty of power and water, use those opportunities to empty the dirty clothes basket.
The biggest considerations for getting washing done in the caravan with an on-board washing machine are power and water.
My 3kg Sphere washing machine would run off our 350 watt inverter, no problems, as long as nothing else was plugged into it at the same time. It would max out when the spin cycle kicked in, so I wouldn’t recommend using an inverter any smaller than that.
As long as there was plenty of charge in the batteries and the solar panels were going to get enough sun for the rest of the day to top back up, I’d put a load of washing on mid-morning most days (if we had enough water).
Here’s how much water my 3kg Sphere caravan washing machine used per load (without using the rinse cycle):
• 18L – small load
• 20L – medium load
• 22L – large load
Our water tanks held 180L, so then I could check how much water was left (and consider when we would fill them up again) before doing a load of laundry.
If you’re not able to keep up with the washing in the caravan (or don’t have an on-board machine) then you will have to utilise caravan park laundries and laundromats. The benefit of those are that their machines are bigger, so you can get more done in a load. Just remember to always have a stash of $1 coins on hand.
Getting the Washing Dry
Okay, so now you’ve got the clothes washed, how the heck do you get it all dried when your house is the size of half a garage?
Luckily, there are plenty of caravan washing line options to choose from or even mix and match.
My personal favourite is to attach a permanent clothesline to the awning. That way, as long as the awning is out, you’ve got a nice long line to get things dry on. I also had a piece of rope with springs on both ends that could be strung up for extra line space.
The Pegless Clothesline is very popular for adding in an extra clothesline as you need it. Simply attach it from the awning to car’s bullbar or whatever else is around at the time.
In addition, I always like to have a little ‘smalls hanger,’ that you can hang things on both inside and outside the van. This saves having the socks and undies taking up precious line space, plus you have the added benefit of being able to chase the sun around with it.
Living in a Caravan Full-time Australia – HEATING & COOLING
Living in a caravan full-time around Australia means that you will be experiencing all sorts of climates. From the hot, humidity of the north, to the bracing cold winds of the south.
Here’s how to make sure you’re always comfortable inside your caravan, no matter where you are in the country.
Install a Diesel Heater
There’s no doubt about it, the most popular way to stay warm while caravanning is with a diesel heater. Many people are opting for one to be installed during the caravan build process now.
However, if you’ve got a van that doesn’t have a diesel heater, do not despair. They are relatively easy to install yourself if you’re handy on the tools and can be found on eBay for under $200. Otherwise, you can get one installed professionally.
And if you’re wondering if they’re worth the bother, I can absolutely say that they are!
Diesel heaters are brilliant at heating up the caravan very quickly and maintaining the temperature for you. They are also cheap to run and don’t require any power besides tapping into your 12 volt system.
You can see the step-by-step install process below with pics.
Install 12 volt Fans
If you’re plugged into 240 volt power at a caravan park, then go for gold and switch that air conditioner on during the sweltering hot days. However, if you’re camping off-grid, the air con won’t work without plugging into a generator.
The best option for staying cool in a caravan without power is by using 12 volt fans.
We had four Sirocco fans in our caravan, one directed at each person’s bed. With three speeds, 360º manoeuvrability and a timer function, the Siroccos were worth every cent!
There are a variety of styles and brands around these days, so if your caravan doesn’t already have 12 volt fans installed, put them on your ‘must add’ list.
Living in a Caravan Full-time Australia – MAINTENANCE
Dealing with Caravan Mould
The reality of living in a caravan full-time is that mould will pop up from time to time.
Whether it’s because the outside environment is super damp or humid, or because it’s too bloody cold to air the van out, so it’s been shut up for the past two months.
Mould inside a caravan is part and parcel of lots of bodies breathing in a small confined space, as well as moisture being produced from cooking and showering.
The most important thing you can do to prevent mould from taking hold inside the caravan is to keep the air as dry as you can.
Mould Prevention Tips:
- Open up the windows as much as you can
- Turn on the heater to dry the air out
- Keep surfaces clean and dust-free
- Always use exhaust fans when showering & cooking
The article below delves right into mould causes, prevention and removal within caravans.
Dealing with Ants in the Caravan
Sometimes, when you park the caravan up for a longer period of time, you’ll quite often find that ants will begin to move in.
Ants will use any point of the caravan that is touching the ground as a highway up into the van as well as falling down from the trees above.
Ways ants can get up into the caravan:
- Caravan wheels
- Awning ropes
- Jockey wheel/ stand
- Bikes & furniture leaning against the van
It’s important to regularly walk around the caravan and check for ants so that you can catch them early. Using fly spray or an ant gel, such as Talon, is the quickest way to get on top of the problem. You can find more tips below.
Replace the Hot Water System Anode Annually
You may or may not realise, when you first consider living in a caravan full-time, that many of the hot water systems contain an Anode.
The Sacrificial Anode Rod is a part installed in your caravan hot water system, which does just as its name suggests. It quite literally ‘sacrifices’ itself to prevent corrosion within your hot water system.
Every 12 months or so, that Anode Rod needs to be replaced, which is a simple enough task for anyone who’s handy with a few tools.
You can change the Anode anywhere, but it’s easier to change when you’re hooked up to mains water (like in a caravan park) because you’ll need to let a fair amount of water flush through the tank.
The full instructions with pics can be found below.
Caravan Maintenance & Service Log
Log and track all of your caravan maintenance and servicing requirements.
- 7-page Planner (digital & printable)
- Caravan Service History Log
- TICK OFF checklists
- COMPLETE maintenance tasks
- ADD in extra tasks
- RECORD maintenance & service dates
Living in a Caravan Full-time Australia – SAFETY
Caravan Security Tips
Keeping yourself and your belongings safe while living in a caravan full-time is extremely important for personal well-being.
My biggest advice when pulling into a camp is to listen to your gut feeling. If the camp looks dodgy or just doesn’t feel right (even if you can’t put your finger on it), then pull back out and keep driving.
Once you do find a nice camp to set up at, the first thing you should always do as soon as you’ve unhitched the caravan from the car is to lock up the hitch with a hitch lock. This stops anyone from being able to reverse up and drive off with your ‘home.’
When you’re leaving camp to go out exploring, be sure to pack any loose items away or wrap a security cable through them. Think chairs, tables, BBQ, bikes, generators and camping fridges.
Having said that, security cables are merely a deterrent. If you really want to keep your stuff safe, then pack it away when you’re out.
Out of sight, out of mind.
Check out the article below for more tips and security devices to ensure that your investments are safe on the road.
UHF Radio for the Car
A UHF Radio is an essential caravanning travel tool to have for short range communication between other vehicles. It’s the main system that outback drivers, farmers, station workers, truck drivers, mining staff and emergency workers all use.
Here’s why you need a UHF:
- Communicate with truck and road train drivers
- Communicate with other drivers
- Get the heads up about oversized loads that are approaching
- Hear about accidents, road works and road conditions
- Announce yourself going up and down mountain ranges
- Emergency help
It’s also helpful to have an additional handheld UHF so that the passenger can help guide the driver while reversing into camps and carparks.
First Aid Kit + Snake Bite Bandages
A well-stocked First Aid Kit will be your first port of call for any injuries while living on the road in a caravan, whether it be minor or major.
If medical help is not just around the corner, then having the right tools on hand may just save someone’s life or prevent a bad situation.
I always recommend having three (3) First Aid Kits:
- Car – large kit
- Caravan – medium kit
- Hiking backpack – travel kit
In addition, anyone who’s travelling throughout Australia should always have at least two Snake Bite Pressure-immobilisation Bandages.
Snake bite bandages are designed with little rectangles on them, so all you need to do as you wrap the limb is pull the bandage tight enough that the little rectangles stretch out to become squares. It’s the easiest way to ensure you’re applying the correct pressure for the bite.
Pressure-immobilisation Bandages are only for:
- Australian Snake bites
- Funnel Web Spider bites
- Cone Shell stings
Hopefully after reading these tips for living in a caravan in Australia you’re ready to get started on your own journey!