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Buying a Car in Australia

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Written by: Tiff Gilmore

Australia is a big, beautiful country with vast, expansive spaces and not a lot of people. It is a flat, arid land, with peculiar rock formations and a strange, dangerous wildlife. The Outback stretches for mile after mile, baking under blue skies and a bright sun.
Australia is an absolutely stunning country with plenty to see and do. That’s why it’s the number one backpacker’s destination in the world, and it has been for some time. Millions of tourists make the trip to Australia each year, and many of them are backpackers. There’s just one problem with Australia though – it’s size…
Australia is the sixth largest country in the world and travelling around it can be tricky. The transport links throughout the country are excellent , there’s no doubt about that, but if you want to get into the nitty, gritty corners of the country, if you want to experience the outback, if you want the freedom to travel where you want, when you want, then there is only one mode of transport to take, and that’s driving.

How to Buy a Car in Australia

Driving in Australia is unbelievable fun and if you have your own wheels you have your own freedom, so here’s a guide to buying a car in Australia.
Driving is an ideal way to see Australia

Why should I drive?

Discover secluded beaches, unspoilt natural wonders, the bizarre, and the truly hilarious at places the bus companies simply don’t go. And when you’re ready for a bit of civilisation, drive back to the cities and towns to enjoy the warmth and hospitality of the locals. So whether you’re after the full nature experience or whether you want to party hard… with your own wheels, you call the shots!
Buying a car in Australia allows you the freedom to see the country on your own terms. It’s cheap too, a lot cheaper than you might think.

Travellers Auto Barn

One of the market leaders in buying and selling cars for backpackers in Australia is Travellers Auto Barn. They always carry a large stock of vehicles to choose from, ones which are best suited to the type of journey that you’re likely to undertake. This range includes custom made campervans, vans, stationwagons and four wheel drives. And if you have a vehicle more specific to your needs then they’ll do their best to satisfy your needs.

Why would I buy from Travellers Auto Barn?

There are many reasons. Here’s a quick list of why you would buy from Travellers Auto Barn:

  • Most say that they enjoy the peace of mind of having a full mechanical check and service before they take off on their ‘Everest-like challenge’
  • Others prefer the security of the guaranteed buyback scheme and specific warranties
  • Some say it’s the after-sale support on all issues, including 24 hour roadside assistance, a national support network of mechanics, registration information, on-sale handy tips and a lot more
  • But we think it’s because they’re the best value for money…

So what exactly do I get for my money?

All vehicles above AU$3,000 include:

  • Nationwide guaranteed buyback
  • 3 day 100% money back guarantee
  • 2 week total warranty
  • 5,000 km Australia-wide engine and gearbox warranty
  • TAB drive guide – all the information you require to keep your vehicle running plus access to our partner network
  • Full mechanical inspection and service
  • Registration and registration extension solutions
  • Guaranteed title
  • Roadworthy certificate
  • NRMA membership
  • Free call aftersale 1800 support – 7 days a week (business hours)
  • Access to our network of trusted mechanics – Australia Wide
  • Third Party Property Insurance (optional)
  • Maps, discounts and camping gear
  • Stereo
  • End of trip selling advice

Choosing the Right Car

Stationwagons vs. Campervans

First of all before you even start to look at cars you must decide what vehicle best suits your needs. The main factors are how many people do you regularly plan to have in the car, how many kilometres do you plan to do and how much time do you have? These will help you when buying a car in Australia.
Stationwagons vs. Campervans


Australian made six cylinder wagons such as the Ford Falcons are cheap, very reliable and most importantly, easy to find parts for in even the remote regions of the country. These are recommended for:

  • People on a tight budget
  • People travelling for 2 to 3 months and planning to do big distances – Big kilometre’s / short time
  • More than 2 people (up to 6 persons)
  • Guys n’ Girls who plan to meet and travel with new friends

Girls relaxing on the bonnet of a stationwagon
Falcon facts – 12-13 litres/100 km fuel consumption, most have 4.1 litre motors – 80% are automatic. Good quality falcons from a dealer such as the Travellers Auto Barn will cost between AU$3,000 and AU$5,000 and will include NRMA membership, maps, registration, insurance, buyback guarantee and most importantly a reliable fully serviced car.

Vans, campervans & mini-buses

These vehicles are most suited to couples as more than two people are a little too much for these small capacity engines. It’s also recommended that you are travelling at a relaxed pace. You should look for low Kms and preferably nothing older than 1984. It’s generally easier and much cheaper to find a good van than it’s to find a good campervan. Good campervans are hard to find and usually cost AU$10,000 plus.

Beware of old backpacker VW Kombi’s

VW Kombi’s look cool, that’s why they are always popping up in marketing campaigns for anything and everything. Just like drinking Coke will make you good looking, driving around Australia in an old Kombi and having fun is just as unlikely.
Don’t be a fashion victim, OLD VW KOMBI’s circa 1960’s and 1970’s are not a smart choice for a trip around Australia. Simply, way too old, air-cooled (and the air’s not cool in Australia!), and not just expensive to repair but difficult to repair as parts can be quite hard to find. These old kombi’s will struggle the most in the hotter regions of Australia and it’s in these areas that the mechanics have no sympathy for people driving through the outback in a clapped out Kombi.
With the greatest respect to all the local Kombi owners and lovers, your vehicles are not exactly the kind of vehicle we are talking about here. Most backpackers think AU$3,500 for an old Kombi is a lot of money and spending money on them is not part of the equation. Totally opposite to the Kombi enthusiast, which we acknowledge there are many. Even we agree they are one of the classics of modern motoring.

Panelvan’s, 4WD & bushcampers

Ford Falcon Panelvans are excellent vehicles for couples with all the reliability of an Aussie ‘six’ and a comfortable sleeping area for two. One of the best cars for a trip around Australia.
4WD’s and bushcampers are the ultimate way to see the bush, but a fat wallet is essential. Expensive to buy and expensive to run, however the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, as many parts of this amazing country are only accessible to a 4WD vehicle.

Guaranteed Buyback

Whether you are on a gap year, working holiday visa or simply wish to chill out on your tour of Australia, the guaranteed buyback is your insurance policy for return on the investment of purchasing a car and is one of the reasons why buying a car in Australia is such a good idea.
Our rock solid buyback guarantee is considered the best in the business and is a clear and written document you receive with your car purchase. Your car or camper doesn’t need to pass a roadworthy inspection upon return to claim your buyback, as most cars will not after travelling up to 30,000kms. Guaranteed buyback contracts offered by other dealers that require you to pass a roadworthy inspection before the buyback is honoured are worthless!
To claim your buyback with Travellers Auto Barn, all you need to do is simply book your buyback in with us seven days prior, and when you show up with your car you will have cash in your hand within one hour. How easy does that sound?

Why do I need a buyback?

You don’t wish to spend the last 10 days in Australia, underground in the car market (concrete car park) trying to sell your car.
Below is a table of approximate buyback rates. The final price will also reflect the condition of the car and whether the terms of the buyback policy were adhered to.

Less than 6 months Negotiable (you may want to Rent)
Up to 6 months 40% of Purchase
Up to 12 months 30% of Purchase

Buyback policy

The conditions of the buyback guarantee are very simple. The basis of the agreement is that we, Travellers Auto Barn will guarantee to buy back the vehicle you purchase for approximately 40-50%. Apart from the bodywork and the windscreen, the mechanical condition of the vehicle upon return will NOT affect the buyback price.
The mileage or kilometres travelled is also of no concern to the calculation or payment of the buyback price. The percentage buyback is negotiated before departure, so you will know exactly what money to expect upon return. This is a fixed and written guaranteed buyback price.
We ask you to keep the vehicle in a roadworthy condition and to service the vehicle every 5,000 km. Approximately cost of servicing the vehicle should be AU$50 for a simple oil change at 5,000 km and possibly AU$150 for a more thorough service and tune-up at the 10,000 km mark.
You can buy or hire campervans too

Buyback guarantees

The advantage of the buyback system is that you know before you begin your journey what your bottom line is, allowing you to make important decisions regarding your budget and, most importantly, your time.
If you do not wish to spend your last week in Australia worrying about selling your car, a buyback guarantee can give you a way out. If your best attempt at selling the car still proves fruitless then you can fall back on the buyback guarantee.
Most people find it easy to sell their car for more than the buyback price but enough people run into difficulties selling their car to make the buyback guarantee great insurance.
The only dealer offering true guaranteed buyback deals is Travellers Auto Barn. Our 30 to 50% buyback guarantee is fixed and written. No fine print and no games. We do require you to service the vehicle every 5,000km, which should cost you no more than AU$50 and keep the car in good running order, which is more to your advantage anyway. The evidence of this 5,000km servicing should prove very comforting to prospective buyers when the time comes to sell your car.
If you are in Australia for approximately three months and you spend three weeks out of 12 weeks, firstly buying, then selling, and then more likely repairing at some stage, has the whole exercise been good economics or simply a waste of time?
The longer you own the car the better the value if you accept the buyback guarantee. However, the buyback guarantee is most important as insurance to those people travelling less than six months.

Buyback example:

Ford Falcon Stationwagon 1987
Purchased price: AUD$3600
Buyback price after 8 weeks: 50% (AUD$1800)
Buyback price after 6 months: 40% (AUD$1440)
Buyback price up to 12 months: 30% (AUD$1080)

Warranty and Insurance


All vehicles above AU$3,000 have a 5,000 km engine and gearbox Australia-wide warranty. If your engine or gearbox needs replacing within 5,000 km Travellers Auto Barn will pay for a replacement engine and the cost of fitting. Conditions apply of course


The minimum legally required insurance is included with all registered vehicles. This is the compulsory third party personal (CTP) insurance. Known as the ‘green slip’ only in NSW. As long as the vehicle is registered it has this insurance and you do not need to sight the green slip.
CTP insurance covers the driver for liability with regards to claimants health and medical costs. It may not cover the driver who should have his or her own travel or health insurance.
In Australia third party property insurance is not compulsory. Third Party Property Insurance covers you against liability for damage your car might cause to other people’s property, usually the other car in an accident.
It’s strongly recommended that you take Third Party Property Insurance when you buy a car. The Travellers Auto Barn has insurance tailor made for overseas drivers. At AU$210 for three months up to AU$400 for 12 months and EXCESS FREE: it’s exceptionally good value.

Compulsory Insurance

The minimum insurance required by law is included under the registration of all vehicles in Australia. This is the compulsory third party personal injury (CTP Greenslip) insurance. Vehicles cannot be registered without this certificate, so every car with a current registration sticker has this insurance CTP insurance covers everyone involved in a motor vehicle accident, except the driver who caused the accident, for medical and disability costs that result from the accident. We at Travellers Auto Barn strongly suggest that everyone travelling to Australia take out his or her own travel/health insurance.

Driving around Red Centre

Third Party Property Insurance

It’s not required to have any other type of insurance in Australia. However, you may also wish to purchase third party property damage Insurance that will cover you against costs for damages your car might cause to other people’s property, usually the other car in an accident.
We strongly recommend that you take this third party property insurance when you buy a car. Travellers Auto Barn offers insurance tailor made for overseas drivers. You are allowed up to five drivers, are covered for AU$5,000,000 (yes, that’s five million dollars!) damage, and for drivers over 21 there is no excess (deductible). At AU$210 for three months, this is exceptional value that can save you money and in the worst-case scenario, save you having to return home early.

Travel Insurance

We recommend our friends at World Nomads for travel insurance. These are the guys who we’ve teamed up with for the World Nomads Ambassador.
You can buy, extend and claim online from anywhere in the world, 24/7, even if you’ve already left home! Recommended by Lonely Planet, World Nomads travel insurance is designed for adventurous independent travellers and covers overseas medical, evacuation and luggage such as iPods and digital cameras.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Where can I find all the information I need and how can I contact Travellers Auto Barn?

A: Our website provides comprehensive information about buying a vehicle with Travellers Auto Barn. You are most welcome to contact our friendly and professional sales and reservation staff by email, fax or telephone. If you have special requirements or need specific advice or assistance, we would be happy to help you with relevant information.

Q: How many people can fit in each vehicle?

A: Seat belts are mandatory in Australia. The number of passengers depends on the number of seat belts – which depends on the vehicle. Driving/riding in a car without a seatbelt or driving with more passengers than seatbelts each result in on the spot fines.

Q: Do I need a special license?

A: You may travel with a valid international driver’s license or any full, valid license from your country of residence. A translation of your national driver’s license may be required.

Q: Is it legal for a people who are not Australian residents to own a car?

A: There is no problem for visitors to Australia to own a car and you must abide by the same laws as Australians.

Q: Do I need to carry spare parts for the car?

A: You might want to carry a couple of hoses or belts, but unless you are mechanically minded these won’t do you any good. All warranty vehicles come with 24 hour, Australia wide roadside assistance. On top of this, you can count on the generosity of the Australians to help you out of a bind.

Q: How much does petrol cost?

A: If you’re coming from Europe, you’ll find our petrol prices quite affordable. Unleaded fuel is currently $.99/litre in populated areas, and leaded and diesel is each within $.05. In more remote areas, petrol prices do rise and they follow the laws of supply and demand. However, even in the most remote areas it’s still about half price when compared to European prices.

Q: Do I need a 4WD to travel Australia?

A: No!!! Most people spend less than 5% of their Australian holiday in 4WD conditions. You’re better off buying a less expensive car for the 95% of the time you spend on sealed roads, and then renting a 4WD for trips to Fraser Island or Cape Tribulation, where a 4WD is required.

Q: Can I get a list of cars for sale?

A: The list of cars for sale at Travellers Auto Barn is between 40 and 60 vehicles, mostly models that would be unfamiliar to you. In order to save you time and make sure you make the right choice, it’s recommended that you fill in a Booking/Enquiry Form and send it into us. When we know all the facts, we can narrow down your search by suggesting a few vehicles which are appropriate for your trip.

Q: What happens if I buy a car over the internet and I don’t like it?

A: We try our very hardest to ensure that you make the right choice the first time, even if you’re buying a car you’ve never even seen. In addition, every warranty car comes with a Three-Day Money Back Guarantee. Consider the first three days a test drive. If you aren’t happy, bring the car back for a full refund.

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