Tourists at Uluru - www.visitedplanet.comSo you've decided you'd like to travel around Australia under your own steam. You can just see yourself driving past Uluru, through the Red Centre and even up in the Daintree. Sweet!

Now all you need to do is get a car, gear up, choose a route and get underway. But just how do you do all that?!!

Well we've got you covered here at VIP Backpackers. Read on to find out how you find a car, what to look for and where to go for what promises to be a trip of a lifetime.

Getting a car | What to get? | Outfitting the car | Automobile membership and insurance | Maintenance | Driving tips | Popular overland routes

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4wd offroading in Australia - www.visitedplanet.comCars, campervans, 4wds and everything in between are offered for sale on hostel noticeboards and online at sites like carsales, tradingpost and Gumtree. You'll also see cars parked by the side of the road with "For Sale" signs.

Full car specs should be available online or on the advert and then it's up to you to check it out and make your offer. Australian cars must have a roadworthy certificate to enable you to drive, and a new roadworthy must be produced to register the car in your name. It's best to buy a car that has one rather than try to get one later. If you're buying the car off another backpacker it may be well worn so make sure everything is serviced and functioning. Watch out for rust in cars along the East Coast.

If you don't feel confident to check it out yourself then book the car into a mechanic or get a vehicle safety inspection from someone like RACQ.

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4wd doing water crossing -

Where you want to go will determine what kind of vehicle you need. If you aren't undertaking offroad tracks then a 4WD isn't strictly necessarily and besides they are more expensive to buy and run.

Most backpackers opt for a van they can outfit and sleep in (like the Wicked Campers type), or a sedan with a long back area to do the same like a Camry or a Toyota Corolla or Tercel (also available in 4WD). You should be able to find plenty of second hand cars offered for sale already outfitted on the sites mentioned above.

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2wd doing a river crossing - www.visitedplanet.comIf the car isn't already decked out with what you need consider getting:
* gas stove for cooking
* pots and pans for cooking
* washing up area / facilities
* water storage
* cutlery and crockery
* food storage spaces - shelves or boxes that are easily accessible
* additional fuel storage
* bedding
* tent (if you don't plan to sleep inside)
* chairs and table
* spare parts and tools
These items are avaible at camping stores, on Gumtree, tradingpost, Ebay and at hostels.

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Abandoned car -

It's worth joining an automobile association like RACQ or RACV etc so you get roadside assistance as you travel. Different levels of cover are available. It's also worth making sure you have insurance, automobile associations might provide this or you could contact NRMA, Suncorp etc.

These might seem like additional expenses but when you're stuck by the side of the road somewhere you'll be glad of a helping hand, particularly if it gets your vehicle towed and you get accommodation for the night.

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Car repair -

Here's a few tips about making your car go the distance:
* Always fill up with fuel when you can and keep note of where the next fuel stop is. It is not unheard of for backpackers to run out because they did not check this carefully!! We know there are other things on your mind but it's not cool running out in the middle of nowhere.
* Always check your oil and water levels each day  - don't wait for the car to tell you it's out as you may be too far from assistance by then to do anything about it.
* The same goes for the air pressure in your tyres and your spare.
* Know how to change a tyre and have at least one spare with you and possibly a fan belt and some hoses. Those with some mechanical no how might like to take a few other spare parts as well.
* Try to travel in the cooler part of the day. Cars don't like to be overheated either! If the car gauge starts going up, stop and let it cool down.
* More tips here

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Sheep on the road -

* Avoid driving at dawn and dusk when animals tend to be on the move and can stray onto the roads
* Try not to drive at night in outback areas - it's far harder to see animals and they can be big - camels, buffalo, crocodiles, brumbies (wild horses)!
* Avoid driving on soft edges - lakes, beaches, rivers etc
* If you ignore the advice above and find yourself bogged let air out of your tyres - usually works a treat!
* If a road is advertised as closed don't drive on it!! This is for good reason - flooding, broken tarmac etc. If you have to be towed out it will cost you a small fortune.
* Avoid the north of the country during the west season - many roads are often closed and crocs can be on the move.
* Check websites like RACQ for road conditions and road closures before you set out
* Don't do too many kilometres in a day - it's boring, tiring and can be dangerous
* Check the distance in kilometres not how far it looks on the map - Australia is big!
* If you run into trouble don't leave your car - help will find you and you're easier to find by a car!
* Always tell someone where you're going and check in regularly
* Try not to travel alone in remote areas
* And finally... have fun but exercise common sense!!

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Sydney Harbour Bridge - www.visitedplanet.comEast Coast Sydney-Brisbane
Distance: 922km
Minimum time: 10 hours (best done over at least a week)
This is probably the route that most people follow when they hit Australia as many people end up in Sydney.
Key stops include: the beaches and national parks around Newcastle and Coffs Harbour, beautiful Byron Bay and maybe some side tracks into Nimbin and Mt Warning.

East Coast Brisbane-Cairns
Distance: 1700km
Minimum time: 18 hours (best done over at least two weeks)
Key stops include: the beaches of the Sunshine Coast, the world's largest sandy isle Fraser Island, Airlie Beach (gateway to the Whitsundays) and Townsville.

Top End: Cairns to Darwin
Distance: 2844km
Minimum time: 27 hours (best done over 2+ weeks)
Key stops include: Townsville, Mount Isa mines, Tennant Creek to see the Devils Marbles and spectacular Katherine Gorge.
Don't undertake this route in the wet season

Purnululu (Bungle Bungles) -

Top End: Darwin to Broome
Distance: 1900km
Minimum time: 17 hours (best done over 2+ weeks)
Key stops include: beautiful Kununurra (gateway to the Kimberley), remote Halls Creek (gateway to the Bungle Bungles if you have a 4WD) and the golden sands fo Broome.

West Coast: Broome to Perth
Distance: 2512km
Minimum time: 27 hours (best done over 2+ weeks)
Key stops on this route include gorgeous Broome, Port Hedland, the amazing Ningaloo reef, Shark Bay and Kalbarri National Park. Animals, beaches and amazing coastline.

Nullarbor: Perth to Adelaide
Distance: 2800km
Minimum time: 27 hours (best done over 2 weeks)
Key stops include: incredible Wave Rock, the white sandy beaches at Esperance, the cliffs of the Great Australian Bight and the dramatic Nullarbor Plain. One of Australia's great road journeys.

Red Centre: Darwin to Alice and Uluru
Distance: 2000km
Minimum time: 17 hours (best done over 2 weeks)
Key stops include: the wonderful parks of Litchfield/Kakadu (add additional kilometres), the stunning Katherine Gorge, Tennant Creek to see the Devils Marbles, Alice (gateway to the MacDonnell Ranges) and Uluru itself.

Adelaide to Alice via Uluru
Distance: 2030km
Minimum time: 14 hours (best done over 2 weeks)
Key stops include: Wine tasting in the Clare or Barossa valleys, the superb Flinders Rangers National Park, eclectic Coober Pedy for its underground homes, Uluru National Park and Alice itself (gateway to the MacDonnell Ranges)

Twelve Apostles -

Great Ocean Road: Torquay to Warrnambool
Distance: 243km
Minimum time: 3 hours (best done over several days)
Key stops include: lovely seaside villages of Anglesea and Lorne, surfing at Apollo Bay, Port Campbell for the natural limestone and sandstone rock formations such as the 12 apostles, and the Bay of Islands Coastal Park. One of the world's greatest drives.

Outback tracks
These are a different kettle of fish to the routes we've mentioned above and will require a 4WD, knowledge of offroad driving in varying conditions and better organisation for remote and isolated stretches. You'll need to know more than how to change a tire out here!

But if you want to investigate them they take you into a part of Australia that is so beautiful you won't regret it. Tracks to check out include the Birdsville, Strzlecki, Oodnadatta, Gun Barrell, Canning and Gibb River Road.

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