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Camper Van or Car and hostel/motels

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We are planning a 2month trip up the East Coast of Australia from Melbourne up to the Gold Coast, We will have surf boards...and are on a tight budget. I am wondering which will be cheaper and more efficient! Backpackers camper have the most reasonable priced campervans for hire...how is free camping up the coast and how safe is the van left unattended if we are in the water? also comparing this with the cost of car rental and hostels...any help tips or advice would be appreciated - thanks

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