Australian who loves to travel the world. Loves living in Byron Bay, close to the sand and surf.
A constant stream of backpackers and tourists with a healthy appetite for fun and adventure (but an anorexic budget) eagerly climb into Wicked Campers to travel Australia and other parts of the world.
Sadly for many of them, the dream of a carefree holiday turns into a nightmare.
Here's five ways Wicked Campers ruin holidays. There are risks associated with renting a van from them.
Wicked's Desperate Sales Pitch
The owners of Wicked Campers, an Australian hire company now going global, want you to believe that Wicked is sexy and if you rent a Wicked Camper you'll be having orgies in the van.
They hope you'll accept their misogynistic slogans, ignore the fact that they encourage their staff to be perverts, and simply fall for a desperate sales pitch that implies you're guaranteed a good time. With the right attitude, customers will not be concerned by the thought of catching some kind of exotic sexually transmitted disease—just as they couldn't care less if their van breaks down and leaves them stranded.
After all, that's part of the adventure, isn't it?
Here's the five most common complaints about ways Wicked Campers ruin holidays ... and a few observations from my vantage point here in Australia.
Wicked Campers—You'll Know One If You See One
Problem #1: Upsetting the Locals Spoils a Wicked Trip
If the slogan on the van you are travelling in is obscene, expect to be greeted with hostility. One of the Wicked slogans that springs to mind is 'If sex is a pain in the a##, you're doing it wrong.'
Another says, 'My d*ck died, can I bury it in your a**?'
When you're young enough to still remember the taste of snot from your finger, perhaps you fall about laughing at a slogan like that and feel very grown-up and brave driving such a controversial and in-your-face kind of beast. If you don't have kids and will never have to struggle answering their questions, what's the problem?
You may or may not think your parents will be cool about seeing the photos on facebook, but that's the least of your worries.
Think about this ...
A small town will not welcome that kind of slogan in their main street. Locals are unlikely to point you in the direction of their best swimming hole, and you even run the risk of being turned away by campsites where you pay.
If an Offensive Statement was Painted Outside Your Home
Where Wicked's Campervan Designs Went Wrong
John Webb and his wife started off with a good idea but spoiled it. When Wicked Campers first took to the roads there were many drivers who sped up or slowed down to catch a glimpse of the paintwork. Clever graffiti on a van is definitely art. I welcomed Wicked's designs in the early years. I'm the kind of person who also enjoys artistic graffiti on trains and urban walls.
But an eyeful of obscenity holds no appeal for me and I wonder at John Webb's stupidity. He could have achieved the same amount of publicity and backpacker interest if he'd encouraged his wife and other artists to paint any obscene and controversial slogans inside the vans instead of in public view.
Backpackers would undoubtedly take photos of the 'hidden' gems, tell their friends about them, and display them on social networks. Word would get out and newspapers would write stories.
Clever and funny slogans on the outside, John. Lines that are likely to offend the general public on the inside.
Controversy could rage—as is obviously the goal—without upsetting people in the street and spoiling what might have been a really good holiday for unsuspecting customers.
Wicked Campers Make You a Target
- Wicked Campers causes 'outrage' as advert offers free hire day for cannabis users | Mail Online
Wicked Campers - which also offers vans for hire in Europe and the UK - is promoting a special deal on its Australian site which has been criticised for encouraging pot users to get behind the wheel of a vehicle.
Problem #2: Unwanted Attention Is Not Wicked
Here's a tip. If you smoke cannabis in a territory where marijuana is illegal, you really shouldn't advertise it.
Driving around in a van known by police to appeal to cannabis smokers is asking for trouble.
John Webb's decision to offer an automatic discount to any customer who states they smoke pot may be considered a stroke of genius in terms of marketing, but it is a huge disservice to customers themselves.
Don't be surprised if your Wicked camper is stopped by the police and you are searched.
- Wicked Campervans Complaints, Reviews - Attempt to warn prospective customers of my bad experience
Consumer complaints and reviews about Wicked Campervans. Attempt to warn prospective customers of my bad experience. Cars, Parts & Vehicles
Problem #3: When Wicked's Campers Break Down
John Webb was a mechanic who decided it was easier to make money renting vehicles than fixing them. Unfortunately his determination to stop repairing cars and vans included those in his Wicked fleet.
Instead of apologizing for the state of his campers—many of which have been forced from the roads after being declared unroadworthy—he began promoting roadside breakdowns as 'part of the adventure' and urged customers to request the worst vehicle in the yard.
Breaking down once might be fun, particularly if you are alongside a beach or close to a coffee shop, but breaking down repeatedly—or even one experience being stranded in the middle of the Australian outback—can severely disrupt your travel plans and spoil what should be a carefree, fun holiday.
The internet is peppered with complaints from customers who received no help from John Webb or his team when the Wicked vans they'd rented were not capable of making the journey.
Don't Forget Your Lonely Planet Guide
Problem # 4: Wicked Trips Cost More Than You'd Planned
When you set a budget for a trip, there's always going to be at least a few unexpected costs. However, feeding oil into your rental vehicle shouldn't be one of them.
If you travel in a Wicked van, there's every possibility you'll become so frustrated with breakdowns and poor vehicle performance that you'll decide to abandon the vehicle in the back of beyond and catch a bus, train or taxi to your next planned destination.
Having left your bed behind, you'll then be paying a hotel, motel or backpacker's lodge for accommodation as well.
Take a look at the many complaints about ways Wicked has cost customers more than they'd planned. Here's one site with a variety of examples.
It also includes further evidence supporting other points I have made.
Inside a Wicked Camper—Note He Doesn't Show the Slogan on the Back
Wicked Alienates Women
- Boycott Wicked Campervans
The Australian company that's turned degrading women in to an international business model.
Wicked Campers in the UK and Europe
Wicked's UK/Europe website turns up the heat with an extra special offer for winter.
"Ooooh get cosy doods with these sexy little portable heaters! These babies will warm your camper and let you get cosy for a sexy night in with your significant other/s."
I can't speak for John Webb, but if I was getting cozy for a 'sexy night with significant others' in the back of a campervan, the last thing I'd need would be a cheap heater.
In the back of one of Webb's vans, I'm not sure anyone could have a 'sexy night'. Take a look at the video showing the inside of a Wicked camper and you'll see what I mean.
Yes, it includes the basics that meet the needs of a tourist or two without high expectations, but the construction and bedding are cheap and nasty.
With that in mind, perhaps their cheap little heater is sexy compared to the surroundings.
- Wicked Campers slogan 'It's better to be black than gay cos you don't have to tell
A Wicked van with the slogan 'It's better to be black than gay cos you don't have to tell your parents' written on the back has been banned by the advertising watchdog. (A typical example of one of Wicked's stupid slogans.)
Wicked's Naked Special
Here's a quote from John Webb: "The guys wish they had more girls come in naked, but they get a few so I think...he was complaining today in Melbourne, he’s had more...he didn’t have his camera when he had girls come in. But he’s got his camera now. But even if you’d see, you know, nine naked guys and one naked girl, it'd be worth it for them."
Strip off your clothes to get one free day's hire of a Wicked van and you have to expect the staff will be taking photos.
Now, remind yourself that the person who takes the photo owns the copyright. You have NO control over what happens to that photo. Do you really think one free day's hire is appropriate payment for your nakedness being featured on a website or billboard ... or even just on the internet?
Is it worth it?
Problem #5: Stupid Mistakes That Spoil Your Future?
If you are prepared to drop your gear and be naked when you collect your Wicked vehicle in Australia, you'll get one day's hire free.
Sounds like a great idea—at least it would have been a great idea in the 1970s, before digital cameras and the internet had been invented.
Digital photos on the internet provide a marketing tool for John Webb and Wicked Campers, but there's an inherent danger for keen young customers who fall into the Wicked Webb without thinking through the wider implications.
All those photos appearing on Wicked's websites, on Facebook or blogs—even if they're not your own sites—may one day come back to haunt you (and bite you on your naked bottom.)
Nineteen today and thinking it is just a laugh and good, clean fun to be photographed naked—or in tiny bathers alongside an obscene line of text on the back of a van, but have you considered how you might feel when you are 29 and that embarrassing photo appears on the screen of your potential boss, or your future mother-in-law?
I was reading recently about reverse photo searches, and how a google search using a photo of a face can provide a vast array of likely matches. I certainly wouldn't want all the photos from my youth being available for public view. Fortunately for me, the internet hadn't been invented when I was young and reckless.
Wicked Campers in South America
Until very recently, Wicked's South American website was advertising for wrinkly old people to get naked and work as volunteers washing their vans. You wouldn't get paid but I suppose you could dream you might get laid. After all, Wicked is always sexy.
The volunteer page with images of sunbronzed wrinkly flesh is currently not available. Now that John Webb has taken Wicked internationally, it seems fair to assume he may be getting in trouble with authorities in South America just as he does in Australia. Or perhaps the page is just unable to be found while he updates his photos. lol.
True to form, Webb and Wicked still target potential customers with the dream of lots of hot action, even in the snow..
"Are you a free-reign ski-maniac coming to South America seeking a good time, adventure, and awesome ski-babes?" their website asks—encouraging us all to shout, "Yes I am—and I sure need a Wicked van!"
It makes me laugh when I read their proud page titled Quality & Security. Here's what it says ...
"If you thought that wicked campers were all about Awesomeness and Sexiness you are wrong!
Here in Wicked campers Chile we want you to live the experience of your life!. Thats (sic) why we are very strict on our campers (sic) maintenance. If you thought that you were going to find a crapy (sic) old car, we are sorry to tell that all our campers are 2012 to 2014 models, so you can be sure that you will have no problems on the road.
We know that accidents can happend (sic), thats (sic) why we give you 24 hours, 7 days a week roadside assistance, and guess what! its included in the package!!!
Rent a Wicked Camper and fullfil (sic) the dream to travel around Chile and Argentina, Patagonia or Atacama desert doesnt (sic) matther (sic), if you find anyu (sic) problem, we will solve it."
Well, Mr Webb. I find a problem with your spelling, grammar and punctuation. Can you solve it? If you can't be bothered paying attention to details on your website, how can I be confident you'll bother to service and maintain those cars that were once new but are already likely to require attention?
The thought of driving a van with neglected brakes on flat Australian roads is frightening. I doubt my heart could stand the stress of driving with neglected brakes on slippery mountain roads in a country where I couldn't understand a warning from roadside assistance.
A free-reign ski-maniac like me should be able to dedicate all my time and effort to seeking good times, adventure and awesome ski-babes.I might have risked a trip in a Wicked Camper in South America in 2012 or 2013 when your vehicles were new, but sadly I've missed my window of opportunity.
Thinking of Hiring a Wicked Camper?
Behind the Face of Wicked Campers
I've never met John Webb or his artist wife Chris, but I've had a few good laughs with friends about what their vans and business say about them. The general consensus is that John and Mrs John spent their early lives envying those of us who had long hair, loud music and freedom while they were still at school living in suburbia with mummy and daddy.
Little Johnny's hair might have reached his freshly ironed collar as a teen but it was never likely to have wrapped beneath his underarms and made it difficult to swim freely in the surf.
Chrissy's bedroom probably had frills in at least one place (bed, curtains or perhaps dangling beneath her dressing table) and any posters on her walls would have been small and tidy. She may have drawn on her pencil case but never on her walls.
Jimmy Hendrix is unlikely to have featured in either of their childhoods and everyone rejects the idea of a bong being stashed beneath John's bed. Did Chris wear a string bikini or see-through cheesecloth tops with no bra when she skipped barefoot from her family home? Not likely. But she probably watched the kids next door doing it.
Did they squeeze themselves along with six of their friends into a tiny Mini Minor? Lie in the back of a panel van with the flap open as they sped across their local version of the Sydney Harbour Bridge with the music so loud it could be heard on the other side of the water? Watch Monty Python on tv every week in a smoke-filled room lighting cigarettes on home-made candles the shape of wax-lined drink cartons—and stubbed out in alabaster ashtrays? Cram into a Kombi with surfboards and not much else to make a pilgrimage to Byron Bay like baby boomers in the 70s did? We think not.
Of course we might be wrong, but their campervan designs, requests for naked photos, and offers of discounts for stoners reek of frustrated boomer-rebel-wannabes.
The Best Road Trip
John Webb's Wicked Campers are a great idea in theory—but before you get out on the road spending real dollars and trying to create great memories, remember there's at least five ways Wicked Campers spoil holidays.
Do your research, assess your options, and choose wisely.
The best road trip is a safe and happy one. We all expect to encounter challenges and adventures on a road trip, but spending all day every day in a vehicle that is not roadworthy or risks upsetting people you meet along the way should not be among them.
© 2014 Alex Finn
Y Leroy on April 07, 2020:
This is true! DON'T RENT YOUR VAN HERE! This is a very unprofessional company, beware!!!
Our story: it saddens me to write a bad review on our Wicked Van experience. We rented a van for 36 days and paid over 2000euro. You could say we were good customers. On the first day we noticed we didn’t have front lights, that the radio wasn’t working and that the alignment of the van was very bad, even after inflating the almost flat tire they sent us on the road with! We asked roadside assistance if we could fix all this in a nearby garage. We had to pay up front and guess what, a month after we returned the van, we don’t hear back from them to get the costs back. We have now sent them 12 emails and have contacted them via WhatsApp. “We are too busy at the moment” was the only thing we got out of them. We find this unacceptable!!!! So this is a kind of company that sends you on the road with stuff you need to fix and promises you they will pay you back. Only to find out that when you are back home, far away from Chile, they disconnect any contact!! This is a very unprofessional company, be ware and don’t rent your van here! In comparison to other vans we saw on the road, ours was very basic in comfort. See some of our emails in attachment.
PS: we also couldn’t choose our own van, so we got a politically offensive one about South Korea. Asians we met on the road were offended and we didn’t like being the center of attention. One morning we woke up with one of our tires slashed.
Klaus Roepke on April 29, 2019:
Our car was old (20 years) and consuming a lot of
petrol (15 liter/100km). The engine was too weak to cross the mountains. Finally, Wicked charges both the pick-up day and the return day, i.e. one day more than any normal rental company does.
Deya on March 03, 2018:
Let me go through it so I can explain step by step… the car was always water and oil checked two times a day.
At first when we saw the vehicle we ask the man who gave it, if the car will be able to stand the unlimited we paid for 10 days. The guy told me it will be fine… this were his words.
On the second day, the car started to stop suddenly without any advice the temperature indicators didn’t work and smoke was coming out of the air conditioner. We arrived to the campsite and we call the emergency number, which as it happens during all trip didn’t answer on the first call, we need to call it twice at least. On the second call Jack the roadside assistance answer in a very polite manner and ask us to stay at the campsite overnight over there and the mechanic will be here at 7 am on the next day, because he will be leaving from his city at 1 am. We called him at 1:30 pm
On the next morning we had to call him twice because the mechanic it wasn’t there, (remember on the first call they never answer) That’s were our nightmare started, when we called him he started by saying that he called the manager of the campsite letting him know that the mechanic will be not able to make it at 7 am. We wait until 12 am and they didn’t know where the mechanic was, every time that we call him he kept on saying in 1 hour he will be there, tired than waiting without any good prospects because the guy was obviously lying all the time to us, and the conversation started to go to the wrong way. We manage to find a mechanic by ourselves he told us that was a lack of coolen in the radiator we add some more and we make sure there was not a leak or what so ever.
On the next two days the car worked properly… On the 3rd day we realize that the car deposit was leaking once it was full, as you can see in the image we need to manage something in our own in spite of we paid the full insurance package with them… so far we don’t know what it is, and what it stands for.
Two days after the car started to stop at the highway, any of the two the temperature meters that were in the car didn’t work and were showing normal numbers. In the middle of nowhere we called the emergency number, roadside assistance or just say Jack. In the first time he started yelling at us and hangs up because we didn’t wait for more than 24h a guy that never come and hang up the phone… It was very sad because that’s not the type of service any customer reserves and less than an emergency number. Let me put you an example, if I had an accident in the highway due to the car is overheating and the meters are not working, what I’m supposed to do, call Jack. Once he hang up the phone it was getting dark in a bad area, we manage to cold the car down and make a drive to a hotel… From there we try to call any of the contacts that we had, no one answer. So we start to chat with Australia in an internet shop, we stay over two hours to make sure what were the steps to follow, no one gave us a call at any time and we try to reach the emergency number in more than 7 occasions. The guy from the chat in Australia told us that a mechanic will be coming in the morning.
The mechanic came with some delay, which after all the time we lost is not a big deal and told us that as we knew the car engine was not properly cooled, and they need to take the car for more than two days…we booked the car for only 10 days with unlimited mileage.
In conclusion, we lost 3 days of our holidays we miss places that we will not visit. We didn’t get paid for anything hotels reservations, new hotels booked, activities being booked in advance, and so far we are only waiting if they will reimburse to us the car substitutions that we need to take when the mechanic told us what we already knew.
It’s a shame
Alex Finn (author) on August 19, 2014:
Hello John. The absence of obscenity is an improvement. Don't know if they are maintaining the vehicles mechanically or not in Chile, but I hope so.
John on August 19, 2014:
Actually..... I do believe that Wicked South America is different then the Australian company. They seem to use newer vehicles and don't have these extreme texts on their vans. I can't find many bad reviews for the Chile branch. I would never ever rent from wicked in Australia, but I would be tempted to rent in Chile though.......
Alex Finn (author) on April 21, 2014:
lol. Great idea Sherry. Then you can rent it out and begin creating your own empire.
Sherry Hewins from Sierra Foothills, CA on April 19, 2014:
I've never seen or heard of these, but if I wanted to drive around in a crappy car with obscene slogans on it, I will spray paint my own.
Alex Finn (author) on April 17, 2014:
Thanks BlossomSB. I've passed a few when visiting Victoria.
Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on April 16, 2014:
I agree with LongTimeMother and avoid Wicked vans whenever possible. Thanks for a great article.
Alex Finn (author) on April 15, 2014:
I've captured a few more photos of Wicked's vans since writing this hub. My collection of adult-only images is increasing, but they are not appropriate for uploading.
Thanks for the comments.
LongTimeMother from Australia on February 27, 2014:
I avoid Wicked vans on the roads. Even if I thought the one-liner might be a funny one, I'd be concerned the wheels might fall off and cause an accident. :)
Voted up and shared.
Christy Kirwan from San Francisco on February 26, 2014:
I've never heard of Wicked Campers before, but I certainly won't be renting one after reading your (informative and funny) article! Thanks for sharing. :)