Are you planning on hiring a motorhome for your next travel adventure? Or perhaps you’re dreaming of owning your own motorhome but lack confidence when it comes to driving a larger vehicle. We have put together the ultimate guide on driving a motorhome in Australia to make things a little easier for you. As they say, practice makes perfect, so take the time to practice driving a larger car before committing to a long drive. With a bit of practice, you’ll be a confident driver in no time.
Australia has a beautiful natural landscape, making it a great place to explore, but it can be easy to get lost. Ensure you plan out your route, sticking to the roads that are safe for motorhomes. Planning out your route allows you to maximise your vacation time and squeeze in as many places as possible.
If you learned to drive overseas, you should familiarise yourself with the Australian road code before hitting the road. Some rules can differ from country to country, so it pays to ensure you are aware of any differences. Remember to map out where you can stop off for petrol along the way to avoid running out of fuel. Nothing ruins a road trip quite like running out of petrol and waiting on the side of the road for hours on end.
In Australia, there are some electronic toll roads where you are required to pay a small fee for using them. Preparing your route ahead of schedule will allow you to check if you’ll be going on any toll roads. If you want to use one of these roads on your travels, simply go online and pay the fee. Remember to register within three days of your travel date.
You won’t be able to park your motorhome everywhere in Australia. Be sure to comply with the local parking regulations and only park in places where motorhome parking is permitted. In Australia, you are not allowed to park motorhomes within the city limits or on the side of the road. Identify the perfect spots to park your motorhome ahead of your travels, so you know you’ll be able to get a restful sleep ahead of your journey.
In Australia, the law requires the driver and passengers to wear a seatbelt while travelling. This includes when sitting in a back cab seat or lounger cab seat. So, before you hit the road, ensure everyone is wearing their seatbelt. Moving about the cabin or house of your motorhome while on the road is not permitted, and is very unsafe.
Children need to be in an approved child restraint that is correctly installed and adjusted to fit. Pets should also be secured in a pet harness or travel seatbelts so as not to move around the vehicle when driving. Not only does this keep your pet safe from injuring themselves, it means they are safe and secure and less likely to distract the driver.
In diesel vehicles, turn the key slowly to the right until all the lights on the dash appear. Before you turn the key any further, wait until the glowing light turns off - this will be on the left-hand side of your dash panel and will be a fluorescent green colour. This means the engine is ready to roll. Then, turn the key further right and start the engine. In the newer Merc models (2019 onwards), it's a start engine button, so simply hit the button to start the engine.
Put the gear into drive and begin to move from your parking spot. If an alarm sounds when you start to drive, stop immediately. You’ll need to check what is making the alarm sound, and it could be one of a few things. Firstly, ensure your handbrake is fully released. If that’s all in order, check that your side step has been stowed correctly (this could be a flick of a switch if it is an electric version). The other reason that an alarm will sound is if your power cord has not been disconnected from the campsite’s power supply.
Knowing how to operate your handbrake is a key to parking your vehicle safely. You’ll also need to find out if your vehicle has a collapsible handbrake. To engage the handbrake, lift the handle upwards and listen for a ratchet sound - like a clicking noise.
To release the handbrake, pull the handle firmly upwards and with the button fully depressed, push the handbrake down to the floor. If the handle can be lifted without the ratchet sound, the handbrake is already engaged, and you can see this on your dash - the P symbol in the middle of your speedometer will be circled by a bright green light.
For vehicles with swivel seats on the driver’s cab, you can easily set these up to face the motorhome's interior when entertaining or for meals. Simply push the engaged handbrake down and slide the driver’s seat forward. Pull the lever at the back of the chair down the bottom - this will allow you to rotate the seat towards the centre of the vehicle and slide it back to give you extra legroom. When you’re driving, the seats can sometimes feel like they are moving, so ensure they are firmly back in position before you head off again.
When it comes to turning your motorhome, ensure you do this with caution. Remember, this will likely be a much bigger vehicle than you’re used to, so stay calm and take your time. The general rule of thumb is to turn a larger vehicle slowly and take the turn wide. Although you are turning the motorhome widely, remember to stick to your lane. You don’t want to take it too wide and cross the lanes into incoming traffic. It may pay to practice in a large, empty parking lot to build up confidence.
If you are travelling with someone else, it is best to ask them to help you park the motorhome. The length of motorhomes makes it difficult to reverse and park. It is recommended to ask someone to get outside the vehicle and guide you into the space. They will be able to tell you how much room you have to manoeuvre the vehicle safely.
Alternatively, many vehicles now come with reversing cameras, and motorhomes are no different. They are super-useful for reversing out of tight spots and, if parked on busy roads, are a great tool to help you command your motorhome safely. However, it doesn’t assist you with blind spots, which are inevitable in motorhomes, so make sure you are mindful of cars trying to overtake you when you're driving. It’s best to stay in the left lane wherever possible and, if necessary, pull over and allow other vehicles to pass.
When you need to merge lanes, ensure you do so slowly. It’s important you keep a safe distance from other vehicles when driving a motorhome ass this will allow you to merge lanes safely. Remember, you won’t have the same acceleration in a big vehicle, so it’s essential you don’t try to manoeuvre the vehicle too quickly as this could be dangerous.
There’s no better feeling than hitting the open road with a loose plan and everything you need at your fingertips. But, remember to prioritise safety above anything else. When you’re road tripping around, ensure you’ve had a good nights sleep before a long drive. It’s important that you break up the driving and stretch your legs. Make the most of your travel time and make regular stops, grab a coffee and see a little bit more of Australia. Remember, that’s half the fun of travelling in a motorhome - enjoy the flexibility of being your own tour guide.
Ensure you are keeping a safe distance from other vehicles on the road. It takes longer for a larger vehicle to come to a complete stop compared with a smaller car. This is due to the weight and length of the vehicle. So, you will need to brake sooner to compensate for this- the general rule is to break twice as early as you would usually.
As a general rule, always stick to the speed limit when driving. In Australia, the speed limit on the open road can range from 80 - 110 kilometres per hour. However, remember that you should adjust your speed in accordance with the weather conditions and the type of road you’re on. Remember that speed limits differ based on the type of vehicle you’re driving. As a motorhome is a much larger vehicle that takes longer to brake, it is expected that you drive below the speed limit. Check with the local state guidelines to ensure you are driving at a safe speed when travelling through Australia.
So, there you have it, the ultimate guide to driving a motorhome safely in Australia. If you’re ready to hire or purchase a motorhome, Speak to a KEA rep and learn more about travelling in a motorhome. Visit your nearest KEA certified dealer or visit us online today.