Q. My boyfriend and I graduate this summer and want to meet up with my sister on her gap year in Australia. To give us freedom and flexibility, we have been investigating a camper van to combine accommodation and travel in the Cairns area. But our research has uncovered horror stories of badly maintained vehicles and deposits of several thousand dollars being withheld for a chipped windscreen or other minor defect. How do we find specialist vehicle hire that is economical, trustworthy and regulated? Grace Clement, Derbyshire
A. To explore Queensland's ocean coast and to venture into the sparsely populated Outback of Australia's far north, a camper van provides great flexibility – but at a price. Through one of the reputable motorhome firms, Britz, a week's rental in July of a "HiTop" sleeping costs A$896 – about £500. Unless you are able to put up a bond of A$7,500 when you pick it up, you will need to factor in the A$45 daily "liability reduction" charge.
When you crunch the numbers, this works out at about £50 per person per day before you've driven an inch. You would certainly be financially better off hiring a car (for as little as £20 a day) and staying at some of the excellent hostels in Queensland; double rooms are easy to find at around the £30-£40 per night mark.
For the most robust consumer protection, consider booking flights plus a camper van through a specialist such as Austravel (0808 159 7254; austravel.co.uk) – which may offer good-value packages.
There are also two options to cut costs, each with a fair amount of uncertainty attached: buy a cheap camper van and sell it at the end of your trip, though you could end up losing heavily; or seek a "relocation" – delivering a camper van to a depot elsewhere in Australia. You pay a token A$1 a day and may get a fuel allowance.
Apollo, a leading operator, shows availability at bit.ly/relocs and tweets new options @ApolloCamper. There is no guarantee you will find the right ride, and you may be constrained for time, but it could be a great way to have an Australian road adventure on the cheap.