Want to test-drive the van life, literally? Travellers Autobarn has campervans for hire. We took one on the road to try it for ourselves.
Living out of a camper is no longer just for dirtbag climbers or travel-hungry globetrotters. People of all ages and from all walks of life have embraced either traveling or living full-time by campervan. And that’s just as true with renting the van life. For those not ready to purchase, there are plenty of great applications to using a van for adventures.
Who are campervans for? Really, anyone. Recent grads, remote workers, seasonal park employees, travel nurses or travel writers, retirees, and more are hitting the road, sleeper-style.
And Travellers Autobarn offers fully built-out campervans — with tons of room for gear — at an unbeatable price. I loved the van itself. But I also liked the services and features the company provides. These include unlimited mileage, access to a campground app subscription, solar panels for off-grid living, and more.
Kuga Campervan Rental: On-the-Road Review
Travellers Autobarn, an Australian company, just upgraded its fleet of Kuga campervans. The company is also fairly new to the U.S. It’s been running in Australia since 1993, but operations began here in 2019.
I lucked out and took one out for a 7-day road trip through California. Here are my thoughts on the experience.
The van excelled in some areas. In others, it was pretty standard.
The overall essentials provided in the van were really great, and they were certainly everything I needed. The company thought of lots of little details, including USB charging ports for phones, a can opener in the kitchen, and exterior lighting for sitting outside at night.
All of the company’s Kuga Campervans were updated in 2020; however, the actual vans date back as far as 2012. This means that the cab, engine, and driver’s area aren’t quite new.
Now, I can’t totally fault Travellers Autobarn on this — the brand does market itself as a budget rental service. Just know that you might get a campervan, fully built out and functional, but older.
Appliances and Functionality
The appliances in the campervan are awesome. I tested every aspect and the features rocked it.
The Dometic gas cooktop sports two burners, and the Dometic fridge worked like a charm. The solar lights, panels, and outlets were all easy to navigate. And the electric hookups did the job as well.
Also worth noting, unlike an RV, the solar batteries are quiet — there’s no generator humming or groaning in the night.
Now, as someone who usually backpacks or tent camps, I only used the electric hookups one night (which power an added 12V microwave). Everything else in the van ran off solar. In my opinion, the hookups are great, but totally optional — with solar power, you can choose whether or not to stay in a developed campground.
The campervan I tested sleeps up to three folks. I never had three people inside, but the length and width of the bottom-level bed are spacious enough for two, and the upper loft (purely for sleeping) is adequate.
There’s not much headroom for the third person up top — about a foot — but hey, it can sleep three. And when the loft is stored away, there’s still plenty of livable space for one or two.
I used the upper loft section for bedding and extra gear storage. It’s worth noting that the max standing height in about two-thirds of the van is 6’5”, more than ample for most travelers.
Gear and Storage
Let’s talk storage, which is arguably the most important part of a campervan. No one wants to take a 2-week road trip or embrace the van life if there’s no room for toys and luggage on board.
There are three storage bins under each bench in the living space of the van: two cubby-sized bins and one large main compartment. I was impressed. This room provided stash space for climbing gear and shoes, carry-on luggage, camp blankets, furniture, chairs, dirty hiking boots, and more.
On this trip, I had a 50L duffel bag, camp chairs, a blanket, a paddleboard, a daypack, a hydration bladder pack, and a travel Dopp kit all stashed away.
That’s in addition to the water hosing and electric hookups, bedding, sleeping bags, pillows, and a full cookware and kitchen set (teapot, mugs, utensils, dinnerware) provided and stored in the van.
For a one-week road trip, I had everything I needed and more. For anything longer, I would have still had ample room for gear, but I would probably have to be more strategic about food storage. (The campervan included a fridge, so I didn’t bring a cooler.)
Based on what I packed, I was able to utilize the storage for both living essentials and my personal gear. Converting the storage benches from a dining area to a bed was also fairly easy, though most days I opted to forgo the interior table. I picnicked, ate, and aprés outdoors instead.
Water, Gas, Solar, and Electric
The Dometic cooktop uses standard propane, and it’s a great size. Additionally, the fridge fit more than I thought it could. Anything not stored in the fridge went into the cupboards, which had extra room for dry goods in addition to the van’s cookware.
The water tank in the Kuga campervan holds an impressive 13 gallons (some van builds have tanks as small as 5), providing plenty of water storage for a week or several weeks.
The hose that came with the van (for refilling the tank, which I never needed to do but did test) is a standard 25-foot hose. The water pressure in the sink was great, and this aspect was seamless to operate.
The solar panels on the roof also worked great, and — thanks to California’s sunny disposition — it provided plenty of power along my trip. And the battery system was quiet.
The solar panels powered outlet and USB charging ports, the fridge, and interior and exterior lighting. In one national park, it took less than 2 hours from sunup for the two solar panels to fully charge. Impressive.
This campervan rental and road trip experience would have been miles different without this awesome solar-powered feature included on the Kuga Campervans.
Travellers Autobarn: Pick Up/Drop Off Process, Customer Service
Picking up my campervan had some ups and downs.
First, the company does an awesome job with communication, namely pre-check-in emails and digital information about your trip. I got an email several days before, a day before, a receipt upon arrival, and several at the end of the trip.
The Los Angeles Travellers Autobarn office, which I assumed would be a sunny and busy mecca, was a fairly low-key van depot. The public-facing company storefront was closed due to COVID, so take the following with a grain of salt. There was only one other person waiting to check in and pick up a van, so it didn’t take long.
The staff member who checked me in was helpful but didn’t seem the most engaging. He gave a full overview and walkthrough of the van features, answered a few questions I had, and (after a short mixup with a set of keys) I was on my way.
Returning the van at my final destination was a much smoother experience. The staff was super friendly, and the office seemed a bit more organized. Overall, my experience with Travellers Autobarn staff and customer service (in person and over the phone) was positive.
Renting with Travellers Autobarn: Why You Should
Now, I’ll dig into all the behind-the-scenes, fine-print details. Here are the pros (there are lots) and cons of renting a campervan with Travellers Autobarn.
Campervan: Fully Equipped
It’s a campervan! Sure, you could rent a car from Budget and road trip to hit some national parks, or stealth camp in a U-haul.
But really, if you are going to give someone else (or yourself) a road trip adventure, go all out. Bring refrigerated goods, bring your favorite pillow, bring the surfboard, and the trad climbing rack.
Bask in the convenience of solar panels and running water. Glamp it up.
Low Renter’s Age
Unlike Outdoorsy, GoCamp, and several other van rental services, you don’t have to be over 25 to rent with Travellers Autobarn. (There’s no young driver fee, either!) All you need is to be 21 or older.
This is a huge perk for recent grads (like my younger sister), young professionals, and millennials looking to dip their toes into the ever-trendier “living out of a van” lifestyle.
No Mileage Fees
Repeat after me: Free. Unlimited. Mileage. Take that unexpected road detour. Stop at your friends’ house. Don’t stress about how many miles you spend driving around looking for the perfect spot to camp.
Don’t worry about added costs if you go over. Travellers offers unlimited miles on every campervan rental. I love this aspect of its service.
Travellers Autobarn told us that the all-inclusive (campervan rental, insurance, supplies) average cost per trip is $20-40 per day. (My trip came to almost exactly $33 a day.) We’ll do the math for you: A 2-week road trip is about $420. That’s cheaper than most airline costs — and definitely cheaper than a week of lodging.
Even on a DIY road trip, I can see myself spending at least $20 per day on what the campervan provides: a vehicle, lodging, a place to cook and eat (stove and fuel), and a gear room on wheels. Now, the cost does go up when you factor in things like campground fees and gas, but that’s all part of being on the road.
To make the deal sweeter — or if you are on a tight budget (ahem, young professionals) — and worth your while, Travellers tosses in things like discounts for more days on the road, a free subscription to a campground app (with discounts) for all renters, and free 24-hour roadside assistance (which you hopefully won’t need!).
Campervan Cons, Other Logistics
I experienced very few cons with this campervan rental service. But, there were a few.
Driver and Vehicle Safety
Travellers Autobarn is a budget campervan rental company. Its vans are affordable and accessible to nearly everyone. If you are looking for a luxury, $200-per-night van getaway, this isn’t it.
The company discloses that its vans are older (as old as 2012) GMC and Chevrolet vehicles, meaning the cab isn’t the most up to date, and its controls may be manual (side mirrors, windows).
I imagine for renters not familiar with driving 18-foot vans, high-tech vehicle features like smartphone compatibility for directions and automatic controls in all vans would be nice. And that may even make the driving experience safer.
For context, we not only test drove a campervan, but we also took a look at Travellers Autobarn’s whole California fleet for a better perspective. I’d guess a bit more than half of the vehicles had newer, automatic controls.
However, I also had a few issues on the topic of vehicle safety. One, the van I got had over 130,000 miles on it (this is not a con, just more mileage than I expected). And two, I had a few engine/service lights go on and off while driving.
When you are 80 miles from the nearest town or driving up a mountain road, this can be nerve-wracking. I had cell service, and I was able to call the company’s customer service (the team member I reached was helpful and knowledgeable) to determine whether it was safe to continue driving. But no one wants to have to deal with that on a road trip, especially when the company is marketing travel to remote places.
Slightly newer vans should be in Travellers Autobarn’s future plans. And unofficially, they are, as the company told me it plans on updating the vans every few years.
Because these are rental vehicles, Travellers Autobarn does not allow pets. So if you’re a pup parent, you will need to make arrangements for when you’re away.
For a vehicle rental service, it’s cool that Travellers also provides itineraries for those looking for more structure and trip ideas. This takes them up a level in my mind from just a rental service to more of a campervan and adventure company.
It even designs itineraries around specific activities, like climbing and winter sports.
I followed one of its itineraries as I tested the campervan. And while I loved the stops, national and state park recommendations, and pace, I do wish a few more details were included.
Things like two or three recommended options of where to stay, maybe a few “locals’ tips,” and a labeled estimated driving time for each day would be helpful additions.
Limited Pick-Up Locations
If you visit Travellers’ website, the first thing you’ll probably notice is its extensive, nationwide itineraries.
We’re talking Seattle, Los Angeles, Lake Tahoe, Denver, Miami. The contiguous U.S. is your oyster (kind of). However, Travellers’ home bases for the brand new Kuga Campervans are only in L.A. and San Francisco, California, and Las Vegas, Nevada.
This is in addition to Travellers’ home stomping ground of Australia and New Zealand.
So, if you are super set on renting a campervan from these folks, you’ll want to factor travel to those locales in.
I traveled over 1,000 miles around and across California, hit up four National Parks, and a half dozen state parks as well. The van was fairly easy to drive, the interior living space functioned really well, and there was room for gear.
Short of not quite feeling like home (though this rental was better than some other rental “lodgings” I’ve experienced), this van delivered. It gave me comfort, convenience, and access to outdoor spaces.
And given everything that was included, the price is a huge positive that you really can’t turn down. I’d consider renting from Travellers Autobarn again, unless I catch myself buying and building out my own van first.