Buying a car in Australia? READ ME FIRST!

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Buying a car in Australia? READ ME FIRST!

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Buying a car in Australia? READ ME FIRST!

By Louise Denton

When arriving in Australia, some people consider buying a car as a way to get around the massive country. Is it worth buying a car? Is it easy to do? This post will hopefully help answer some of those questions, and discuss the pros and cons of buying a car.

Sometimes it can seem easier to just hop on a bus, but in my eyes there is no better way to see the country than having your own vehicle. Australia is vast and with so much to offer, a car can be your perfect companion for the open road, remote beaches and hidden gems. It’s liberating - the sense of freedom as you are cruising around the country is a feeling I can’t explain… You just have to do it!

Price:

The price you pay for a car will depend on a couple of things:

1) If you buy from a dealer or from a private advert:
A dealer will often give a warranty, so you can go back if something goes wrong. Also, they will have done work on the car themselves to ensure it’s roadworthy and reliable. However, you do pay more for the vehicle.

2) Your location:
If you’re in a city like Melbourne or Sydney, then there are a lot of cars around, so the prices tend to be lower.

If you’re in a more remote area, like Darwin, Broome or basically anywhere away from the main cities/towns on the east coast, then you will pay a lot more for vehicles simply because of supply and demand. A used car in these areas that is decent and under AU$4,000 is a score.

If you’re in Sydney or Melbourne, I would say a 2WD station wagon will cost anywhere between AU$2,000 and AU$4,000.

The AU$2,000-end will be in poorer condition, and also from a private ad, not a dealer.
The AU$4,000-end will be from a dealer, or a newer car from a private seller. Or, from a backpacker who is trying to get their money back for the piece of rubbish they paid for in the first place.

Buying from a backpacker vs. buying from a dealer:

I would advise against buying cars from adverts on backpacker noticeboards or websites unless they specifically state that it is the first time it has been a backpacker’s car. Backpackers don’t tend to service their vehicles, don’t tend to fix the little things when they go wrong, don’t tend to look after the car as well as they should, and of course, put a hell of a lot of KM on the clock in a short period of time.

They also are not familiar with the Australian car market and often get ripped off, buying cars in poor condition for high prices. Then at the end of the trip, they try and make their money back when the thing is in even poorer condition.

I would stick to buying cars from a dealer or from the local newspaper. They are more likely to get you to where you want to go, have been looked after and serviced.  You do pay a little more, but it’s worth it, in my opinion.

It’s impossible to say how long it will take for you to find the right car. You could find one in the first dealer you go to, you could find one in a day, or you could take five days whilst you wait for the day that the cars are advertised in the paper.

Another good point -ask the newsagent which paper is good for car sales and what day.

Rego:

Rego - short for registration:
You cannot drive a car without rego. It is like a UK ‘tax disk’. Sometimes you are required to get your car serviced and checked to get the registration - i.e. your car has to be roadworthy to be able to register it. This depends on which state you’re in though.

Rego is different in each state - it costs different amounts in each state and has different requirements. For example, in the NT you have to have a roadworthy certificate (MOT) done every year. I think it is the same in NSW.

No roadworthy certificate is required in VIC or WA, and for WA you can do your registration online. Some say WA is the easiest state to get registration in.

Also, as a tourist the amount of time you can get registration for is different. In the NT you can only get 3 months rego as a tourist. It must be different in other states, because backpackers have their cars for longer than three months! I imagine it would be easier in NSW and VIC.

Sometimes when you buy a car, it will be advertised how much registration is on the car. For example, it could have one month left, or six months left.

When you buy a car, when you hand over the money to the seller, you will be given a slip which you must take to the local Motor Vehicle Registry (MVR). The slip will basically transfer the ownership of the car; it will include the car details, the seller details and the new owner details.

If the registration is due, you will pay for your registration at the same time and get your service done if required. If you are lucky enough to buy a car that does not require registration for months, then you have saved yourself a few hundred $!

At the MVR they will then give you the documents that say you have the car registration in your name. You need to keep the document - when you sell the car the same process will need to be completed. The form to transfer ownership, when you are the seller, is on the document.

If you buy a car with VIC plates on it, and you are buying in NSW and the registration is due, you will have to go to the local MVR and register your car in to NSW. This is a pain in the bum - you are charged for new (NSW) plates, a state transfer fee as well as your owner transfer fee and new registration costs.

So, if you do buy a car that needs registration, try and get one that has the same registration as the state you are in. i.e. buying in WA, get WA plates. This only really applies if you need to renew your rego immediately.

For example, if you buy in VIC, and your car has NSW plates/rego and will need renewing in three months’ time, but you are going through NSW anyway, and then do it when you are in NSW. Whether it is in two days or 50 days time, you can renew your registration before it is due, but you must not drive when it has run out.

Is this making sense?!

So, registration (rego) is a legal requirement. You get a sticker to put on the window of your car, much like a UK tax disk. It is also your number plates.

In your registration, 3rd party insurance is included. So, if you crash and the accident was your fault and you killed or injured someone else (not you), you are covered.

Registration does NOT cover your car or the other person’s car - just people.
So you still need insurance for the car, e.g - third party, fire and theft… whatever you choose.

It is not a legal requirement to have car insurance. However, it is a bit silly not to have it.

Sooooooo now you have everything sorted for your car…...

Problems:

When on the road, there will almost certainly be some sort of problem. In Australia, you cover very large distances, so you will need to know basic mechanical skills - e.g. topping up all fluids, carrying spare oil and water, knowing how to change a tyre and definitely carrying at least one spare.
The more you can learn, the better. You’ll find plenty of benefits, not just if you get stuck, but to save loads of money too.

You will pay $100+ for an hour of a mechanic’s time, plus parts. If you can do small things yourself it really helps.

It also helps if you can buy a common car - easier/cheaper for parts, easier to sell.

If you can find someone in the hostel that is mechanically minded try and get them to go with you to look at a car - that would be ideal! Most people would be happy to help out in exchange for a carton of beer! It would give you peace of mind that you are not buying a shit-bucket.

It is very unlikely you will get stuck by yourself in the middle of nowhere. If you were thinking of buying a 4WD and going off road, it would be a different story. But on bitumen roads, if you break down, you will almost certainly be able to get help by flagging someone down.

Pros and cons:

My personal thoughts on the pros and cons of a car….

Pros:

1. Much more freedom, freedom to go to places that buses can’t access, freedom to go when you want, stop when you want, get out at any random photo opportunity… you can’t do this on a bus. You are also limited to when you can travel on a bus. i.e. if there is only one bus a day, you might have to sacrifice seeing something you wanted to see, or have to hang around for unnecessary time by waiting for the bus the next day!

2. Save on accommodation costs - if you buy a cheap tent (AU$40-AU$60) or if you have enough space to sleep in the back of your car. There are LOTS of roadside rest areas all around Australia and they’re free.

3. Save on food costs - you can carry all of your food with you, so you can buy supermarket food and cook it. In hostels you have to either eat your supermarket food or throw it away due to it being a pain to transport. You can buy a cheap stove for AU$20 which uses butane gas canisters - I love mine!

4. Roadtrips! Everyone loves a good roadtrip - you can sing, you can have your music loud… you can’t do that in a bus!

5. It is not as expensive on fuel as you might think - other backpackers ALWAYS need lifts! Put up adverts in the hostels and on the net and you will find people to share your journey with and they will pay you money for fuel. This is also another pro - instant friends! Ok, initially they are just using you because you have a car… but you will become buddies!

6. You get money back at the end of your trip when you sell your car companion!

7. Did I mention the freedom!?

Cons:

1. You have to sort out the documents.

2. You have to be prepared to fork out extra money for repairs you might need, and in the same way be prepared for delays in the trip if you need to let your car stay in a mechanics for a while.

3. It CAN become expensive. If you buy something that needs a lot of work, if you need to buy rego, if you need to transfer rego papers between states, insurance, fuel….. This can all be avoided though if you know a bit about mechanics (or someone does), so you can make sure you are getting a good deal.

Selling:

Some places to sell your car (and buy, I suppose)

* <a href= “[url=http://www.gumtree.com.au rel=” target=“_blank” target=“_blank”>Gumtree</a>
* <a href= “[url=http://www.globalgossip.com rel=” target=“_blank” target=“_blank”>Global Gossip</a>(I would personally avoid buying from here - solely backpacker sellers!)
* <a href= “[url=http://www.carpoint.com.au rel=” target=“_blank” target=“_blank”>Car Point</a>(a good guide for the approximate value of what cars a worth - a good comparison site)
* The local newspaper (this is my favourite, for buying and selling)

You can sometimes get higher prices for your vehicle in more remote areas. E.g. Darwin or Cairns or somewhere. But it depends on season too, e.g. in Darwin in the wet, the car market definitely slows down. Tourist season (the dry in the North, May to Sept) is better, in my opinion.

Conclusion:

I am completely for having your own vehicle. It is definitely my favourite way to travel.

I loved having my own car, I completely recommend it. Just don’t fall in to the same trap that so many other backpackers do and buy over-priced, run down vehicles and expect to get the same money back. That’s if it even gets you to where you want to go. Don’t rush in to buying a car, look around and see what other similar cars are going for. Get a feel for what you should be paying, and prevent yourself from being ripped off.

Saying that, having your own car is not for everyone. The distances are large, there can be problems and the cost can sometimes be an issue. Some people prefer the reassurance of not having to solve their car’s problems and having to deal with the documents involved with a car. For some people, hiring is better. For some, a tour is better. Hopefully some of the information above helped you to decide, either way.

PS - I don’t know any car insurers. Try googling “car insurance Australia” and get a few sample quotes.

     
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Thanx Lou. Fantastic article. Well written and easy to read - just what we want from our READ ME FIRST posts.

You are the undisputed Queen of Australia and everyone really appreciates your comments and effort. Long may it continue!!!

Come on people, give it up for Lou…

     
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fantastic read! smile

     
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Great article Louise some very valid points I thoroughly enjoyed reading it!

Sounds like you had a great time buying your car and doing your road trip!

Some great points about doing small mechanical work yourself, ie checking fluids etc and this can really make a huge difference!

Regarding insurance, as most of the guys travelling Australia will be non-residents its worth noting that non-residents cannot get fully comprehensive insurance, only 3rd party property (which means the insurance will only cover the damage to another car not their own) - but is definately worth a go becuase it can be cheaper than in Europe and DEFINATELY cheaper than paying for an accident!

     
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Hi there,

Can you let me know if it may be worthwhile buying or renting a car / campervan for farming / fruit picking jobs. I’m heading to Oz soon and will be doing a farm couse with a guaranteed job, but this could be anywhere in NSW or QLD.

So, my question is, if I’m working on a farm should I just sleep in a campervan or find local accommodation. Or, stay in a hostel and then I can drive to the farm each day. I’ve heard some farms are a long drive from town and some farms offer free accommodation but its rough.

Also, I’ve been told shouldn’t drive at night because of kangaroos on the road. is this really true? And, if it is, is it really dangerous if I drive slowly?

Thanks

     
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Debs Ash - 25 April 2012 11:04 AM

Hi there,

Can you let me know if it may be worthwhile buying or renting a car / campervan for farming / fruit picking jobs. I’m heading to Oz soon and will be doing a farm couse with a guaranteed job, but this could be anywhere in NSW or QLD.

So, my question is, if I’m working on a farm should I just sleep in a campervan or find local accommodation. Or, stay in a hostel and then I can drive to the farm each day. I’ve heard some farms are a long drive from town and some farms offer free accommodation but its rough.

Also, I’ve been told shouldn’t drive at night because of kangaroos on the road. is this really true? And, if it is, is it really dangerous if I drive slowly?

Thanks

Personally i think its always good buying a car, especially if going to remote places. ive just spent around 7 months no huge cattle station in outback QLD and loved it, but 2 hours from any town you definately need a car.  I had the mis fortune of buying a toyota surf (huge 4x4) and the engine blowing after 110km from Brisbane (luckily got given the money to fix it by the garage but still!) then swapped it for a Ford Falcon Wagon, get one, there so cheap and amazingly reliable. mine had 399k on the clock and was faultless, 4.0 litre engine, 900k to a tank on cruise control and sold it for only $1250 with all camping stuff, cooking, sleeping, satnav etc etc. 

Oh and as for driving at night, depends where you are, i drove a few times night / early morning without any Roos bars and it was sooooo close to totalling my car so many times, too many Kangaroos, Wallaroos, Wallabies, Pigs and Emu’s to run the risk, but again depends where you are.

     
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Will definitely be buying a car when I go out there. Thanks for the thread. Very informative.

     
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Do you have any recommendations for any particular cars which are best for driving around oz ? Myself and my boyfriend are planning on travelling around oz next year for 3-4 months.

Thanks,

Louisa

     
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In terms of what is “best” for driving around Oz…. it really depends on you and your budget.

The “best” car is something mecahnically sound and reliable, not a particular brand.

In terms of access, if you are going to be remote or spending a lot of time in the northern third of the country, a lot of the roads are unsealded. A 4WD would be the best option. However, they are thirsty, expensive to buy and more expensive for parts. And overkill if you are sticking to the main roads.

In terms of popularity, Ford Falcons are popular. I don’t personally like them, but they are big station wagons for storing stuff, they are ok to run and easy to find parts for.
Toyotas are popular, and again easy to find parts for.
Station wagons are good for storing things, and can give you the option to sleep in the back if you need to.

Short answer is, there is no answer to that question! You want something reliable, not a particular brand.

     
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A couple of other things to consider…

Rego - If you purchase a vehicle in the NT not only will you pay alot more than some of the larger cities but if the rego expires during your travels you may be required to have the vehicle inspected before it can be renewed as this is required every year for vehicles over a certain age. I don’t think this is required in most other states but it’s worth trying to ensure the rego will cover your travel period if possible.

Wet Season - The wet season in the north of Australia is around November to April depending on the year. If driving in the north during the wet season be extremely careful and check road conditions prior to departure to ensure roads are passable. A number of tourists are rescued from the roof of vehicles trapped in swollen croc inhabited rivers because they thought it looked ok. The rivers are generally very turbid (can’t see the bottom) and fast flowing which can eith wash vehicles off road crossings, hide the fact that the road crossing has been washed away or result in water damage to the vehicle. If unsure wait until the flood water subside and be very wary of unsealed roads during the wet season.

Fuel - Check the distance to the next fuel station as this can be a substantial distance and be aware that fuel prices in remote area is substantially more expensive.

Water - Take spare drinking water, particularly if camping in remote area. If something happens to your vehicle your most important asset is drinking water.

Spare parts - If you have a basic knowledge of cars i would recommend at least having basic tools and a spare fan belt, it’s a cheap investment but can easily immobilise you if it snaps, particularly if in a remote area they may not have many parts in stock. Also spare coolant and oil worth taking.

...that’s all I can think of atm….

If anyone want any advice about this, Australia or particularly the NT and Darwin feel free to PM me…Darwin local.

     
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Drinking water of course - I believe the recommended is about 4-5 litres a day per person? This also covers cooking, teeth-cleaning, dish-washing as well…..

I’m about to go out to Kakadu for about 7 days and will be carrying 20l between two and we’ll be refilling. You can pick up a 5l container from the supermarket for $5 (including the water!)

It is also worth putting a few bottles of water for the car - I kept mine with the spare tyre (under the carpet in the boot).

     
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I know no-one’s posted on this thread for a long while, but I hope this’ll get answered…

We’ve been looking at a vehicle for when we come to Australia in November this year. Obviously a 4x4 drive would be the best for handling anything Oz has to throw at us road/terrain-wise, but failing that, is forward or rear drive the best?

     
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KatieandPhil2 - 03 May 2014 02:17 PM

I know no-one’s posted on this thread for a long while, but I hope this’ll get answered…

We’ve been looking at a vehicle for when we come to Australia in November this year. Obviously a 4x4 drive would be the best for handling anything Oz has to throw at us road/terrain-wise, but failing that, is forward or rear drive the best?

I would’ve thought front wheel drive is better, I think of how it is in this country when I see rear wheel drive cars struggle completely in the snow while front wheel drive cars get through it fine.

     
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Thanks Matty - that was our logical reasoning, but it never hurts to be sure!

We’re looking at campervans and converted vans more than cars, so it’ll save us on Accommodation (and food as long as we buy a cooker or one comes with it)!

     
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don’t blame you, where there is money to be saved it will help somewhere else down the line.  when are you two going?

     
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We’re all booked in to be arriving in Sydney on the 13th of November! We’re counting down the days at the moment, and it seems to be going so slow until we look back at how long it’s been since we decided to go (February 2013)!

Are you in planning?