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Buying a car

How to prepare for an outback road trip

19 February 2019

Road trips are a part of the modern-day Australian experience – it’s undoubtedly the best way to see our great country. 

In particular, our outback is unlike anywhere else in the world, and the perfect place to plan a grand adventure. With that being said some areas are extremely isolated, and, depending on the time of year, can present extremely challenging driving and weather conditions. By taking the time to prepare now, you’ll make the most of your trip.

1. Do your research

Preparing for a road trip in the outback requires a lot of planning. Some things to think about ahead of time include:

  • Where will you sleep?
  • Will you prepare food for yourself or make the most of the odd pit stop along the way?
  • What’s your final destination?
  • Do you know what the weather will be like?
  • Have you made playlists or found podcasts for the drive?

Having a sense of the areas you’d like travel through will help you to answer these questions – and it’s important that you’re able to comfortably do so before you set off. Otherwise, if you leave things to chance, you might find yourself driving in the middle of nowhere with no food or place to lay your head for the night in sight.  

You’ll also get to know which areas your vehicle can handle. Some roads – such as the highways connecting Alice Springs with Uluru – will support a 2WD vehicle, whilst others will only be suitable for 4WD. 

2. Be prepared for anything

There’s a good chance that during your trip you’ll be in and out of phone coverage areas. It’s advisable to make sure you have a physical map, a compass or hand-held GPS and, if you’re intending to head off the grid completely, a satellite phone. Don’t forget to tell someone at home about your travel plans, so they’ll know not to worry if you can’t contact them for a few days.

Another way to prepare for your trip is to have your vehicle serviced before you leave. Consider this about one month before you set off to ensure that, if need be, you’ll have enough time to get things fixed or replaced. Give your tyres special attention, too. Not only will you want to have a spare with you, you’ll need to check tyre pressure and tread. If you’re in doubt of their ability to get you where you need to go, think about replacing them.

This is also where extra cover can come in handy – like car insurance and roadside assistance. Suncorp has a number of different options that could be helpful for you on your road trip adventure (and when you’re back home, for that matter).

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3. Pack smart

You need to make sure that you have everything you need for your road trip – and we’re not just talking about some great outfit changes. Don’t leave home without packing an emergency car kit that includes first aid, food, water, tools that fit your vehicle, a spare tyre, puncture repair kit and extra fuel. Just be sure you don’t go overboard – packing too  much can impact your vehicle and the way it handles while driving. 

So that you don’t pack everything (and the kitchen sink), limit yourself to essentials and be smart about weight distribution so that your vehicle isn’t overbalanced.

4. Familiarise yourself with basic vehicle maintenance 

There are areas of the outback that are very remote, and towns can be separated by hundreds of kilometres. For that reason, it’s worthwhile familiarising yourself with the basics of vehicle maintenance. It’s handy to know things like how to cool your engine down, change your oil or swap out a flat tyre so that you can be on your way again quickly in the event of a breakdown.

It’s important to note that if a breakdown occurs, and you’re unable to fix the problem right away, that it’s often best to stay with your vehicle rather than attempting to walk and find help. Your vehicle will be more visible to other motorists, and provide you with shelter from the weather. 

Suncorp’s Roadside Assist, which can be added to your Comprehensive Car Insurance policy, allows you to call on professionals to come to you and help you out with things like restarting your battery, topping you up with emergency fuel, changing your tyre, and more. If it’s unsafe to fix your car where it is, or a roadside assist technician can’t do the repairs themselves, we’ll tow your car to the nearest repairer (up to 20km metro or 100km regional). 

5. Remember to include days off in your itinerary

With so much to see, it can be tempting to cram your schedule full and not factor in time for recovery. But driving can be surprisingly tiring, and having planned days off periodically throughout your trip can make a huge difference. 

Not to mention, it’ll give you the freedom and time to explore your surroundings. Don’t forget to be respectful of the environment and to read up on or ask about the local Indigenous history. Indigenous Australians have known this land for tens of thousands of years!

If you’re travelling for long stretches of time, avoid driving at night and make sure you take a decent break every few hours. Whether you have a snack or a snooze, it’ll make sure you’re more refreshed and alert to the challenging road and weather conditions you might experience in the outback.

If you underestimate the amount of preparation required for a road trip through Australia’s outback, you might find yourself tackling unexpected problems than taking in the remarkable, and world-renowned, red landscape. Keep these tips in mind when you’re getting ready to head off and make sure your trip is memorable for the right reasons.

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Insurance is issued by AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 trading as Suncorp Insurance. Information provided is general advice only and has been prepared without taking into account any person's particular objectives, financial situation or needs so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it. Please read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement before making any decision regarding this product. Suncorp Roadside Assist is provided by Digicall Assist Pty Ltd. For full coverage details, please see the Suncorp Insurance Roadside Assist Terms and Conditions. This advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situation or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it. Terms and conditions for coverage apply.