4wd Camper Hire and the Gibb River Road


The Gibb River Road in the Kimberley region of Western Australia is one of the most beautiful and exciting roads to drive in Australia.

It is a dirt road that runs the 708km (440mi) from Derby in the west to Kununurra in the east. For any tourist traveling to the Kimberley, it should be high on the list of things to do.

But to do it you REALLY do need reliable 4wd camper hire.

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4wd Camper Hire

The nearest places to the Gibb River Road to pick up a rental 4wd camper are Broome and Darwin. If you are up for doing the greatest road trip in Australia you could also pick one up in Perth and drive the whole way from Perth to Darwin. Generally anyone who is going to be passing through Western Australia at all is going to end up in Perth. One thing you might consider is getting a 4wd camper hire in Darwin and driving it as far as Broome via Kakadu in the Northern Territory and then the Gibb River Road in Western Australia and dropping the 4wd off in Broome and swapping for a non 4wd camper hire from there. This may prove to be cheaper as 2wd campervan hire is cheaper than 4wd camper hire but no where near as much fun. Be careful though as dropping the 4wd camper in Broome will incur a one-way hire charge. Normally around $300, but depending on how long the rest of your journey is might be worth it.

 

4wd Camper Hire and the Gibb River Road

There are certain wordings in the major 4wd camper hire company “Terms and Conditions” that fill people with concern when it comes to using a rented 4wd camper on the Gibb River Road. In particular there are certain sections in both the Apollo and Britz campervan hire terms that mention “written permission” being needed before you can go on the Gibb River Road (along with a number of other unsealed roads in Australia). Seeing as I had noted through queries to this site and its associates that this phrase concerned many potential 4wd camper hire travelers, I enquired directly with these 2 companies over the phone as to EXACTLY what they mean. Here is the basics

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Apollo 4wd Campervan Hire

Apollo requires you have written permission and to call in for permission to go on the Gibb River Road 24-48hrs prior to going on the road. Naturally this can be quite concerning if you booked the 4wd campervan some weeks or months ago, paid for it a week ago and only now you can find out if you can drive on it. Well, the default position of Apollo is that you CAN GO on the Gibb River Road unless otherwise stated. So, when looking at booking your campervan and trying to decide on whether to spend the extra money to get the 4wd camper you should consider that you WILL be able to take the Gibb. According to the woman on the phone at Apollo, they only deny permission if the authorities have closed the road due to flooding etc or if there is a big storm coming that is likely to put you (and more importantly to them, their campervan) at risk. The Kimberley region is prone to Cyclones and major storms during the wet season and so this concern is valid.

Another reason they like to have this phone conversation with campervan renter is to remind you about what costs might be involved if you get stuck out there and need recovery assistance. Apollo, like all car and campervan hire companies, have various levels of insurance that you can take out on the hired camper. As explained to me, even if you have the top cover of insurance, there is still likely to be costs to you if you need recovery of your vehicle whilst on the Gibb River Road. There was not a hard and fast $ amount or percentage of cost sharing ratio between Apollo and the renter that could be given, but seeing as recovery can be in the thousands of dollars, it might be wise to see if they can be a bit more specific at the time you have the phone call.
The final reason Apollo want to talk to you before you leave for the Gibb River Road is to let you know if there are any parts of the road that might be closed. There are various off-shoot roads that you can go on and some of these might be off limits. By calling in you get an up-to-date listing of anything that they don’t want to you split off to that might be dangerous or closed.

The Apollo Campervan Hire family also consists of Cheapa Campa. If you are looking at getting 4wd camper hire from them, then the Terms and Conditions will be the same.
Finally, Apollo also own Hippie Campers, but you can’t drive the Gibb River Road in one of them as they have no 4wd campers to rent. In there Terms and Conditions you will see that you are not allowed to drive more than 12km on unsealed road in a 2wd campervan. This goes for pretty much ALL 2wd campervan hire companies nation wide. This is why you MUST get 4wd camper hire to drive the Gibb River Road.

Britz 4wd Campervan Hire

Britz are the other main 4wd camper hire company in this part of Australia. Their Terms and Conditions in relation to driving on lengthy, unsealed roads is similar to Apollo with a few differences.
Like Apollo, the Britz DEFAULT position is that you CAN drive on the Gibb River Road in 4wd campers hired from them. They also require giving you written permission to do this. You can get the written permission when you pick up the camper. You don’t have to phone in 24-48 hours before you start the journey on the Gibb River Road itself. They figure that it will only be a few days or a week until you are going on that road from the time you pick the campervan up. They should be able to judge at the time of pickup if the road is open and safe to go on. It is only a minor difference from Apollo, but at least you know as soon as you get the vehicle if you are going to be able to travel the Gibb.

 

The most interesting difference between Apollo and Britz is related their insurance costs. According the lady on the phone at Britz, they, like Apollo, offer various levels of insurance you can take out on your rented 4wd camper. However, above and beyond the top level of cover that is offered for all campervans they rent out, they also have a special 4wd premium you can opt to take. This is a $350 (at time of writing) once off payment that can be made for 4wd camper hire. It covers all “extra” costs that might happen to a 4wd if assistance in required in remote locations. If you take out this insurance, you WILL NOT have any additional recovery costs if you break down on the Gibb, unlike Apollo that says it will cost-share the recovery. I think this offers better peace of mind, but like all insurances it is a gamble. If nothing goes wrong on the journey, then you have thrown away $350

A word of advice about breaking down on the Gibb River Road – you are much better off doing whatever it takes to try and get assistance from passers by. There are many well equipped people that are going to be traveling this famous road. It is a long road in the middle of nowhere with not a lot of “services” like, say, mechanics. Eventually, someone will come past. See if you can get a tow and offer them some money for it (they probably won’t take it). Get to the nearest homestead that you can get to with a tow. There you can be safe, fed and watered for a while as you suck it up and simply go from campsite to campsite asking if people know anything about mechanics. If there is someone there who knows anything, they’ll help. When you are in locations this remote, everybody helps everybody. Toyota Landcruiers are the most common vehicle in part of the world, it is likely that someone in the campsite will know how to fix them and might just be carrying the spare part you need. If all else fails, call the campervan rental company and get them to send someone, but expect that to be a long time and cost you money in some way, even if it is not your fault the camper broke down in the first place. Of course if you crash it, bog it, or wreck it some way all by yourself, you REALLY want to try and get help from the passers-by as you are probably going to be billed for repairs AND recovery at that point.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, with more risk comes more reward. The Gibb River Road is one of Australia’s most picturesque, challenging and beautiful stretches of road. The main road itself is normally in pretty good condition and it is only the side tracks and roads that will really challenge your 4wd driving skills. The side tracks to the beautiful gorges, waterfalls, ancient aboriginal art and wildlife are what makes the Gibb so much fun and makes it such a truly “Australian” experience.

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