Buying a vehicle in Australia

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Buying a vehicle
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Buying a vehicle

Owning your own car will give you the freedom to travel where and when you want. However, you should also take into account the following information if you want to buy a vehicle in Australia:

General considerations about owning a vehicle

Basic considerations when buying a vehicle

Checklist for when you are buying a vehicle

State & Territory Government requirements when buying and selling

Motor vehicle insurance

Auto Clubs (roadside breakdown service)

Options from where to buy a vehicle


General considerationsGeneral considerations about owning a vehicle

  • You will need to ensure you buy a roadworthy vehicle that will get you to where you want to go with hopefully very little trouble.

  • You will need to get it registered and have a roadworthy certificate.

  • You will need to insure it.

  • You will need to maintain it.

  • You will need to sell it at the end of your trip. Some dealers may offer to buy it back at an agreed price as part of the conditions of buying it. Make sure you get a written guarantee if they offer this.

  • You will also need to have some reasonable level of navigation to know how to get to where you want to. GPS navigation devices and Google Maps are a great way to navigate around Australia.


buting considerationsBasic considerations when buying a vehicle

  • Has it had any previous accident damage, if so how good were the repairs?

  • Does it have any rust?

  • How is the engine condition - does it make any odd sounds when it runs, is there any smoke coming out of the exhaust? These are potential warning signs of engine problems.

  • Is the water in the radiator clean and oil-free?

  • Is there any presence of a creamy white substance in the oil? This could mean that water from the cooling system is getting into the oil.

  • Let the car stand for a while after it has been running and see if there is any oil dripping from under the engine.

  • Is there any windscreen damage, even a small chip can lead to a major crack?

  • Is there decent tread on the tyres?

  • Does the vehicle have a roadworthy certificate?

  • Take it for a test drive.

  • Get it inspected by a qualified mechanic.

  • What is the history of the car in terms of any money owing on it, has it been previously written off, is it stolen, has it had any flood/storm damage? You can check this information at Car or


ChecklistChecklist for when you are buying a car

The following links provide more information about checklists you should consider when buying a car:

NRMA car buyers checklist

RACQ buying used car information

RACV car buyers tips


State requirementsState & Territory Government requirements

States and Territories around Australia have different requirements for when you are buying and selling vehicles. These mainly relate to registration and road worthy certificates when buying and selling vehicles. It is a good idea to check this information first before you buy or sell a vehicle.

The different road transport authorities for each State and Territory are:


Car insuranceMotor vehicle insurance

Third-party personal injury insurance is compulsory in Australia. This will either be factored into the cost of your registration, or in New South Wales, you need to arrange this separately.

It is also advisable to take out third-party property insurance, because it could end up costing you a lot of money if you do damage to someone else's vehicle or property.

You could also take out comprehensive insurance if you want to cover any cost for damage to your vehicle (this can be quite expensive).

It is always a good idea to read the fine print of insurance policies, for example, often you will not be covered by insurance if you travel on dirt roads (unless you are in a 4WD). Also, windscreen damage is not often covered unless you pay extra.


Auto clubsAuto Clubs (roadside breakdown service)

These motoring bodies can be a great place to obtain information about driving around Australia, buying and selling cars, insurance and various driving rules and regulations.

They also offer 24-hour national roadside assistance (breakdown service), which is highly recommended if this doesn't come as part of the deal when buying your vehicle.  

The various clubs are:

  • New South Wales - NRMA (National Roads and Motorists' Association), phone 13 11 22

  • Victoria - RACV (Royal Automobile Club of Victoria), phone 13 72 28

  • Queensland - RACQ (Royal Automobile Club of Queensland), phone 13 19 05,

  • South Australia - RAA (Royal Automobile Association of South Australia), phone (08) 8202 4600

  • Western Australia - RAC (Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia), phone 13 17 03

  • Northern Territory - AANT (Automobile Association of the Northern Territory), phone (08) 8925 5901

  • Tasmania - RACT (Royal Automobile Club of Tasmania), phone 13 27 22


Car salesOptions from where to buy a vehicle

Backpacker specialised motor vehicle dealers

There are several specialised backpacker car dealers in Australia. The benefits of buying a vehicle through these companies is that they generally:

  • Know the requirements of backpackers

  • Offer buy back arrangements (they will buy you car back from you at an agreed value at the end of your trip)

  • Have registered the car

  • Have done a full mechanical inspection and service on the vehicle

  • Ensure guaranteed Title

  • Have a roadworthy certificate for the vehicle

  • They can provide a national road service network for breakdowns

  • They can help you with insurance

  • Offer limited warranty

Backpacker specialist motor vehicle dealers include:

  • Travellers Auto Barn - Phone 1800 674 374
    Locations in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Cairns, Perth and Darwin.

  • Travel Wheels - Phone 1800 289 222
    Locations in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and Cairns.

  • Backpackers Auto Sales - Phone (03) 9372 5077
    Locations in Melbourne.


Backpacker car markets

This is where backpackers can come to sell their vehicle or buy a vehicle from another traveller. Australia's largest market is in Sydney at 110 Bourke Street Woolloomooloo. There are staff on hand to help both buyers and sellers with good advice about what is involved in buying or selling a vehicle. Phone 1800 808 188


Buying a car privately

You can pick up some good bargains by this method, you could also purchase a dud. If you go for this option you should have a good understanding about the mechanics of cars and be competent about inspecting the vehicle. It is also advisable to get the car independently inspected by a local garage (preferably one that is recommended by State Motoring Bodies such as NRMA, RACV, RACQ).

There are several online backpacker car sales notice boards, where you can search for vehicles for sale, or list your vehicle to sell.

Cars 4 Backpackers

Backpacker Car Club

Car Market

Travellers Car Market

Other popular online sites for buying and selling cars include:




Trading Post


Car auctions

This is probably the cheapest place to buy a car, as this is often where used car sales dealers buy their cars. However, this can be a risky option if you don't know what you are doing. Auctions in Australia usually do not have a reserve price and you cannot pre-drive them or even do a thorough inspection on them. So you really should be an expert about cars if you want to pursue this option.