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sleeping in your car for camping and vehicles designed for this

see also:

  • I don't sell any of these nor do I receive any remuneration if you buy them, and I have not personally reviewed all of them, they are listed here to give you perspective
  • it may not be legal to sleep in your car in some areas of Australia due to local council laws
    • this is particularly strict in Queensland, and many beach areas or tourist spots - councils often place timed parking limits to stop people sleeping overnight
      • as of 2023, in Queensland, the fine varies from region to region with some notable inclusions being: Brisbane: $550 fine. Cairns: $275 fine. Gold Coast: $150 fine.
    • you can generally do so in designated camping areas
    • you can generally do so at rest stops (in Qld, these have a max. 20hr stay)
    • you can generally do so if your blood alcohol level is too high to permit driving - but don't be in the driver's seat or near car keys as this may be construed as intent to drive
      • NB. in Qld it is also illegal to have an open container containing an alcohol beverage in your car!


  • sleeping in your car can be a quick and easy approach, and for some the most secure feeling way of camping albeit at loss of amenities
    • even I have felt insecure in a remote 2P hiking tent hearing the howling of a pack of wild dogs / dingoes and have resorted to the cold of my car
  • ideally there will be enough space to stretch out while lying flat and this usually means a station wagon, 4WD, or a ute with a canopy
  • for those who wish to take this to the next level, there are taller vans which provide much more amenity but usually at greater cost, greater fuel cost, less road handling performance and generally poor off road capabilities, usually with low clearances and lack AWD or 4WD capability
  • sleeping in a cramped small sedan is not conducive to a good night's sleep!

SUVs, and 4WDs


  • better sensation of security than tents or swags
    • especially from wild animals - although these are generally not an issue in Australia (except in crocodile country)
    • the security from bad people may be not as great as one would think - fortunately, this is a rare issue when camping - see risk management when camping
  • easier and faster packing, set up and take down
  • less costs as no tent or swag needed
  • no need to dry anything out when you get home - this is a major benefit for those living in flats or units with no where to hang a tent to dry it out
  • more storm proof than tents especially if very strong winds (but obviously not even a vehicle will keep you safe in a tornado)
  • more lightning proof than tents


  • you can't stand up and you need to crawl inside
  • vehicles tend to be cold at night (as they lose heat readily) and very hot during the day if it is sunny
  • condensation can be an issue as well so ventilation is usually needed - but with this one usually also needs flying insect protection unless it is winter in southern parts of Australia
  • the many windows also need covering for privacy and to reduce the morning sun waking you up too early
  • less luggage space for additional amenities unless the vehicle is designed for these amenities
    • you may have to leave your fridge at home!
    • where will you put your gear when its time to sleep?
    • consider a car roof pod to hold your gear
  • poor amenity and potentially unbearable when it is raining for long periods or when it is hot and sunny
    • you could have a side awning to sit under if it is not really windy but then you would have to have space to dry it out when you get home
  • you may accidentally flatten your car battery
    • leaving rear hatch open in some vehicles
    • internal lights
    • excessive use of power devices
  • poor connection with nature
  • no amenity to entertain guests
  • have to open and close vehicle doors at night to go to toilet - the van sliding doors are generally the worst and the noise from doors can really irritate other campers
  • rear hatch may not be able to be opened from inside

Non-converted station wagons

  • can just put a thick mattress in the rear
  • gear can be to one side of the mattress, on the front seats or in a pod
  • a 100Ah 12V LiFePO4 battery will sit on floor of passenger front seat or behind fridge in rear if fridge is going there too
  • some smaller fridges may fit on passenger seat (need to put seat belt on to stop seat belt alarm while driving!) - or you may need to have them next to the mattress - or not take one (eg. winter or just an overnighter)
  • need ventilation and privacy as per below

SUV station wagon / 4WD conversions for sleeping inside

Camper vans

  • generally do not have a toilet or shower
  • usually allow standing height
  • most have very irritating noisy sliding doors
  • the original favorite was of course the Volkswagon Combi Van - a favourite amongst the surfers and hippies on the 1960s and 1970s
    • these are still cool to have although reliability can be a massive issue and they are not cheap!
  • modern vans have varying amounts of head room and amenities available, and generally 2400kg-3000kg and less than 6m long (MWB ~6m)
  • Toyota Hiace based campervan conversions
  • VW T6.1 campervan conversions
  • Mercedes Sprinter campervan conversions
  • Fiat Ducato van conversions
    • Avida Escape
  • slide on truck demountable campers
    • a slide on truck camper is a demountable RV that you slide on and off the bed of a full-size or mid-size pickup truck.
    • eg. Toyota Hilux Turbo Diesel 4WD Off Road Adventure Camper
    • DIY truck caravan builds
      • some will remove the wheels of a caravan and perhaps shorten it then drop it onto and mount it securely to the top of a tray truck
      • you will need a ladder to get into it and it will cost a lot in fuel but you gain better off-road capabilities given the much higher clearance and you are not towing anything
      • it can often be designed so that the tray is essentially self-leveling and addressing one of the bug bears in setting up a caravan on a site
  • large 4×4 all terrain truck modifications


  • unlike a “campervan”, usually include a built in shower, toilet and grey water tank
  • VERY BIG and EXPENSIVE with poor maneuverability
  • Recreational Vehicle (RV) motorhomes
    • all in one large vehicle which generally are 2-6 berths
    • often used to tow a small car for when going into town to get supplies or local touring is needed
    • VERY expensive and uses LOTS of fuel
    • prices tend to start at ~$AU180,000 and are over 3000kg and 6m or more in length
    • VW Crafter Motorhome conversions
    • Mercedes Sprinter LWB Motorhome conversions
    • Class C Motorhomes
      • caravan-style body which is mounted onto a van or truck chassis usually with a double berth over the driving cab.
      • Explorer 4×4 Motorhomes
    • Class B motorhomes
      • low profile caravan-style body which is mounted onto a van or truck chassis but no berth over the driving cab and usually has a fixed double berth in the rear
      • Avida Leura - Fiat Ducato chassis; storage only over driving cab
      • Avida Birdsville B type - Fiat Ducato chassis; storage only over driving cab
      • Avida Esperance B type - Iveco 50C-18 E6 chassis; storage only over driving cab
    • Class A Motorhomes
      • solid body with the driving area integrated into the standard living accommodation
      • approx 7-7.7m long:
        • Avida Birdsville C type Fiat Ducato chassis;
      • approx 8m long:
        • Avida Esperance C type - Iveco 50C-18 E6 chassis;
      • over 9m long:
australia/car_sleeping.txt · Last modified: 2023/08/27 09:07 by gary1

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