Australia is one of our favorite countries for a road trip. We love the beautiful landscapes and the diversity. From rainforest to the desert, from mountains to the beach, there is everything in Australia. The best way to travel around this vast country is with your own vehicle. If you like camping and have several months planned for your trip, we highly recommend you to buy your own car in Australia. But how do you buy a car, what are the things to consider, what are the problems you can run into? In this post we will tell you how to buy a car in Australia.
To buy a car in Australia is not difficult. We have just done it again. In fact, we have done it already three times. We have bought and sold vehicles in different states and have learned, that buying a car in Australia is slightly different, depending in which state you are.
And, how does it work? You just have to find a vehicle, buy it, register it and off you go. Sure, it takes a bit of time and there are a few things to consider. We are happy to share our experiences with you. Read on if youl like to know how to buy a car in Australia.
How did we find our dream car in Australia
Before we flew to Australia, we already searched the internet for suitable vehicles. We know what we want. It has to be a 4WD vehicle and because we have been to Australia before, we know exactly what vehicle suits our needs. We want to buy a Toyota Land Cruiser Troopcarrier that is converted into a camper. This vehicle is more expensive than a normal car or campervan but since we like to drive through the deserts and deep into the outback it’s the perfect vehicle for us. On the time of our internet research we find out, that the chance of finding a decent car is the highest in Western Australia.
You want to buy a car in Australia. What is the right vehicle for you?
Before you do search a vehicle, you have to know what you want. Think about what vehicle fits to your travel style. Do you want to drive into the Outback and do some off-road trails? Then a 4WD car is right for you. Do you plan to drive only on paved roads, maybe a campervan or even a normal station wagon is the best car for you.
Is comfort important to you? Do you want to live in the car? Do you want to have the possibility to cook in your vehicle or do you simply just sleep in your car? If you are unsure, you can first rent a vehicle for a few days and try different options to help you select the right vehicle for you. You will learn very quickly what you need and want.
Where can you buy a car in Australia?
You already know what vehicle you want? Great. Then you can start searching for your vehicle. The easiest way to find a vehicle is online or on black boards in backpacker hostels. There are also Facebook groups where vehicles are advertised.
Here are a few sites where you can try to find your vehicle:
If you find a vehicle, contact the seller. If there is a phone number, calling the seller is the easiest and fastest way to arrange a date for an inspection. It’s handy to have an Australian phone number. A SIM card with a prepaid plan is a good investment. You can also rent a cheap car or campervan for the first few days to be mobile and have the flexibility to drive around and check out potential vehicles. We rented a small and very cheap campervan for the first 10 days and saved on public transport and accommodation because we slept in the van.
We started our trip in Western Australia because at the time of our research, most vehicles meeting our requirements, where located in the area around Perth. In every state, the process of purchasing, transferring and registration of a vehicle is slightly different. In Western Australia, the entire process of buying a car is very easy.
What are the things you need to consider if you buy a car in Australia?
First, check if the vehicle has a valid registration. If the vehicle is not registered, you are not allowed to drive it. The registration is valid for a maximum of 12 months and must be renewed regularly.
You have arranged an appointment and can inspect your dream car? Cool. Congratulations.
If you have technical knowledge about cars, you are very lucky and know what to look for. We are not car experts and only have basic knowledge but because we have already bought a Toyota Land Cruiser in Australia twice, we know what we need to look out for and what we need to check. Here are a few tips on what is important if you can inspect a vehicle.
General condition of the vehicle:
- Check the body for rust and paint damage
- Look under the car, if you discover oil leaks or stains from potential leaks
- Check car windows for cracks
- Check all lights for function and cracks
- Condition of the tires, tire tread
- Brakes, brake pads
- Windshield wipers
- Exhaust system
- Instruments, warning and safety lights
- What is the general condition of the vehicle? You see quickly how well the previous owner has maintained the car.
- Ask for the service book and check the following: Was the service carried out regularly? What repairs have been made in recent years? Has the oil been changed regularly?
- Check the engine compartment. Can you see oil leaks? Are all fluids full? Cooling water, engine oil?
- What is the condition of the starter battery?
- Is there visible damage from an accident?
- Why is the vehicle for sale?
- Who was the previous owner? Owner or rental company?
- How often has the vehicle been driven?
- Are there any known defects?
If it is a camper converted vehicle:
- Does it have a second battery for the refrigerator?
- Is there a water tank installed?
- Is there a second fuel tank available?
- Are camping equipment and tools included?
If you are happy with what you see, then ask for a test drive. Check the vehicle for strange noises, vibrations or unexpected driving behavior. How does the vehicle react when you brake heavily? Do all instruments work? Also check the functionality of the headlights, brake lights. Can you shift the gears easily? Is the steering pleasant and easy to use and has no play?
You’re not sure or you are not able to tell if the vehicle is O.K.? Then ask to have the vehicle checked by a mechanic. This does not cost the world, but it helps you to decide if the vehicle is in good condition. Be aware that you are buying a used car and there is always a risk of unexpected repairs. Make sure that you have enough money to pay for regular maintenance and unexpected repairs.
Administrative process when buying a car in Australia
You bought your dream car? Now there is a little bureaucracy you have to go through. The administrative process is relatively straightforward when buying a car in Australia. On the website of the Vehicle Licensing Office (Department of Transportation) you can find the form (Notification of Change of Ownership) that you need to fill out (buyer and seller).
For the forms you will need an address in Australia. You can use the address of a hostel or campsite, or perhaps you have even friends and can use their address.
The seller sends the green part of the form (Notification of Change of Ownership) to the Department of Transport office. The buyer sends the red part of the form (Notification of Change of Ownership) and a proof of ID. Depending on the state or territory, this process can be different. When changing the ownership of a vehicle you, as the buyer, need to pay the stamp duty. The stamp duty is between 3% and 6% of the purchasing price stated on the forms. You can put a lower price on the form but it still has to be a realistic price.
It is important that you send your forms within 14 days of purchase of the vehicle.
Official websites of the information offices of all countries:
- Australian Capital Territory (ACT): www.rego.act.gov.au
- New South Wales (NSW): www.rms.nsw.gov.au
- Northern Territory (NT): www.dlp.nt.gov.au
- Queensland (QLD): www.tmr.qld.gov.au
- South Australia (SA): www.dpti.sa.gov.au
- Tasmania (TAS): www.stategrowth.tas.gov.au
- Victoria (VIC): www.vicroads.vic.gov.au
- Western Australia (WA): www.transport.wa.gov.au
Roadworthiness – Roadworthy Certificate
Depending on the state you will need to check the roadworthiness of the vehicle and need a Roadworthy Certificate when transferring a vehicle. In Western Australia, for example, you will not need a Roadworthy Certificate. That makes buying and selling easy and simple. But this also means that you have to have a close look and make sure the car is in good shape, before buying a car.
What does the registration cost?
The registration is valid between 3 and 12 months. Once the registration expires, you have to extend the registration and pay the fee for the next 3, 6 or 12 months. The cost for the registration depends on the vehicle type and the state or territory. For our Toyota Land Cruiser we pay about AUD 650 for 12 months.
Do I need insurance for my car in Australia?
There is a minimum legally required insurance included with all registered vehicles and it’s not mandatory to have additional insurance. But we highly recommend you to think about additional coverage.
We would highly recommend you to have at least a third party insurance. You are then insured for damages to other people’s vehicles and property but not for damage to your vehicle.
If you want more coverage we recommend you the comprehensive coverage. You are then insured for your car and other people’s vehicles and property. At AAMI (aami.com.au) or Allianz (allianz.com.au) you can request online quotes.
This could be an interesting article for you to:
- How to buy travel insurance. Our experience and why we extended ours
Do you have questions on how to buy a car in Australia? Or do you have your own experience with buying a car in Australia?