Buying a car in Australia

If you’re planning on traveling in Australia for anymore than a month or two it might be most cost effective for you to buy a vehicle instead of renting. Camper van rental prices in Australia are very high, particularly if you’re travelling one way. When we started to look at the cost of renting a campervan for a few months we quickly realized it would make more sense to just buy one. So that’s what we did!
There’s a whole host of backpacker vehicles out there, from vans to four wheel drives to sedans. But the process of buying a car in a new country can be a bit daunting! So here are our top tips for buying a car in Australia.


Gumtree is your best friend

Gumtree is a nationwide buy and sell website. Just search for backpacker cars and you’ll find a huge amount of cars kitted out for travel. People often sell their cars with stoves, tents, camping chairs and lots of other travel accessories included. Our four wheel drive came with a roof rack, Jerry cans, a stove, camping chairs and lots of cooking equipment. The price of backpacker cars varies, with vans and 4x4s costing a fair bit more than station wagons. Our 1997 Pajero cost us $3,500.

Buying a car in Australia

Our 4×4 already had a bed in the back!

Registration is important

Registration (or rego as it’s unaffectionately called) is what legally allows you drive on the road. It’s a fee you pay every 3,6, or 12 months that includes third party insurance. If a car’s rego expires and isn’t renewed within a certain frame of time it needs to undergo a safety inspection to be re-registered. These safety inspections tend to be very strict and for this reason buying an unregistered car is a pretty big risk-you have no idea how many things you’ll need to fix! Because of this unregistered cars sell for just a few hundred dollars.

Buying a car in Australia

There’s nothing like the open road!

Registration varies from state to state

Unfortunately, registration is not a nationwide program. Each state has its own rules and regulations about registration. This can be annoying for travellers driving one way-trying to sell a car that’s been registered in a different state can be difficult! That’s because if someone wants to re-register if in that state they will usually need to get it inspected.

When we bought our Mitsubishi Pajero it was registered in the state of Victoria. We could have transferred the Victorian rego into our names but we would need to have a Victorian license number to put on the forms. The other option was to visit a Victorian department of transport in person and register it there. Because we weren’t travelling for a while we decided to just re-register it to the state of Western Australia.

Buying a car in Australia

To register the car in our state we needed to undergo a safety inspection. This didn’t bother us much as we’ll be travelling for a year and we don’t want to have any major problems with the car anyway! It is a bit expensive though, as each inspection costs around $80. We failed the first inspection because of a few small issues but passed the second one with flying colours šŸ˜‰ we then got new license plates and paid the registration fee for 12 months. The cost of registration varies based on your car and state-WA is apparently the cheapest state and has the added bonus of being able to renew your rego online. Some states require you to undergo yearly safety inspections. Read more about each state’s requirements in the links below.

Western Australia

Victoria

New South Wales

South Australia

Tasmania

Northern Territory

ACT

Ask the right questions

Obviously no matter where you are in the world it’s important to ask the right questions when you buy a car. Ask to see the service history, ask what issues the previous owners had, ask what the fuel economy is like. Check what kind of thread the tyres have-especially if you’re travelling for a short time, tyres are an expensive thing to replace! If you’ll be travelling to hot desert areas it’s important to ask if the engine has issues with overheating. When you test drive the car check the windscreen wipers, cruise control, and listen for any unusual noises.

What to do once you’ve bought your car!

Once you’ve bought your car you have two weeks to transfer the registration from the previous owner’s name to yours. You can download the registration transfer forms from the relevant state’s website or visit the department of transport and register there. Once you’ve registered you have nothing else to worry about! Just be sure to renew your rego before it expires!

Be aware of the local driving laws- speed limits can differ from state to state! Try not to drive late at night in rural areas as you run a serious risk of hitting a kangaroo or other wildlife, which can seriously damage your car. Remember that by taking care of your car you increase your chance of selling it. I’ve heard of travelers reselling their cars for a profit at the end of their trips!

Have you ever bought a car in a foreign country? What was your experience? Be sure to let us know in the comments!

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