Our 12-Step Guide To Buying A Vehicle in Australia

So you want to embark on that epic road trip across the vast continent that we all know and love as Australia? In 2017 we did just that, setting out from Sydney on a 6 month, 23,000km overland adventure that we can only describe as sensational and more importantly life-changing in so many ways.

To get the wheels in motion, there was just one obstacle, we needed, a vehicle! Although we could have shipped our own perfectly adequate 4×4 off road Sprinter from the UK to Sydney, we chose not to (big mistake, that’s for a separate blog post!).

Instead, we chose to buy a van on arrival, do a quick conversion to a camper and drive off into the sunset…..sounds easy enough? It didn’t quite end up as we’d intended, if you have a read of our Buying a Van in Australia blog piece you’ll get the bigger picture!

For those determined to buy that perfect set of wheels here’s our all important 12-Step Quick Guide to Buying a Vehicle in Australia!

1. Most ads for all vehicle types are found on the website Gumtree, check out Facebook backpacker or buy and sell groups too.

2. Expect lots of walking, public transport & time wasted viewing and searching for the right vehicle for you. If you’re in Sydney like we were, it’s big and the old way of going to one place to view (think Sydney Backpacker Car Market) seems to be dwindling in favour of the many forms of Social Media.

3. Ensure the vehicle has a REGO, this is the registration document and each state is different, it’s best to buy a vehicle registered in the state where you are, otherwise it can be costly to get it transferred, e.g Sydney is NSW (New South Wales), Cairns is Queensland (QLD).

4. The vehicle needs to be free from previous owner liabilities, e.g Fines, HP etc, if buying from a dealer they should have already checked this before selling.

5. The date the next service is due should be shown on the right hand corner of the windscreen, check this to make sure it’s recent.

6. When you make the purchase, you need to take the transfer form and receipt to an RMS office to get the vehicle registered in your name, you can find the nearest office online, there are lots, so it shouldn’t be a problem to find one close to you, (they have a big red sign).

7. Ensure you take with you 2 forms of Identification, showing your full name, e.g Passport and Bank card (as long as the latter shows your full name and not initials). A UK driving license was not acceptable when we registered our van.

8. You need to have an Australian address (we used our hotel accommodation), also an Australian phone number, we got a pay as you go sim from Telstra (take a passport to get this by the way!). There must also be an address where any fines etc can be sent, this bit can be a P.O. Box, we got a P.O. Box address for $35, through an advert on the Backpacker Cars Australia FB Group

9. If you buy from a dealer, register any warranty online, our van came with a 12 month independent warranty from the dealer, as it had over 150,000 KM it came without a dealer warranty, ensure it’s serviced every 100,000km to keep it valid & get the dealer book stamped. Don’t expect this to be foolproof, a warranty may not cover items, we had work carried out and the warranty was useless for this, be realistic and expect to have to pay for any work after buying that may need doing.

10. There’s usually a basic 3rd party insurance with the REGO but don’t rely on this, instead take out a proper 3rd Party, Fire & Theft insurance policy. We used Coles (supermarket) to buy an online policy, costing $358 which included breakdown cover. We couldn’t take out fully comprehensive insurance as we aren’t Australian Citizens.

11. Toll Roads are in some cities, especially Sydney, so before you head off on the road, register online with Transurban Link, you’ll need an address, mailing address ( we used our P.O. Box) and a credit card to submit for automatic vehicle recognition payments of tolls. It’s $1.50 to set up the tag-less option, this covers you throughout Australia and you can input a start and end date so that it automatically stops when you leave the country or sell the vehicle.

12. Unlike the UK, when you take your paperwork to the RMS office, they register the vehicle instantly for you and provide you with your new registration document for you to take with you on your journey!

Australia Camper Conversions


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