Buying a Car in Australia for backpackers
Buying a car is probably the most important decision you'll have to make on your working holiday in Australia. With this page, we will fill you in on everything you need to know about buying a car in Australia including:
- Why buy a car in Australia?
- Registering a Vehicle: What You Need to Know
- Roadside Assistance
- Where to buy a Car
- What Type of Car to Buy
- Driving in Australia
- Top 5 Highest Paid Jobs!
- Genuine Experiences of Backpackers in Australia
- Tips on finding work
Having your own car gives you the freedom to travel where you want in Australia, within in reason, of course. It can also come in handy when it comes to finding work, especially second year visa work. Many farming and fruit picking employers will prefer that you have your own car, as you may have to work in different locations each day.
Having your own car also allows you to travel to places other backpackers without their own car can’t get to. This means that you can get off the beaten path and face less competition from other backpackers when it comes to finding work.
When buying a car in Australia, it’s important to know how the registration (or “Rego” as the Aussie often call it) system works. In Australia it is the law that every car on the road should be registered. In most states, the rego fee will also include a minimum third-party personal insurance, which is compulsory in Australia.
If you're buying a car that already has rego, then you will have to pay a transfer fee within 14 days buying the car, this usually costs around $16-$21, depending on the state you are in.
Each state has its own government website where you can look up fees and other rego and insurance information. Do your research before you buy and check out the website for whatever state you plan on buying your car in as they all have different rules and requirements:
New South Wales: Roads and Maritime Services (RTA)
Queensland: Department of Transport and Main Roads
Northern Territory: Motor Vehicle Registry
Western Australia: Driver and Vehicle Services
South Australia: Transport Vehicle Registration
Australia Capital Territory: Rego.act
Tasmania: Transport Tasmania
Buying roadside assistance in AUstralia could be a good investment. A yearly basic membership starts at around $150, but you will have to pay extra of you need to be towed from a remote area.
You can buy roadside assistance in any state in Australia and use it anywhere in Australia, as all states have a reciprocal agreement between them - so it really is worth buying! Check out the roadside assistance motorclubs for each state below:
New South Wales and ACT: National Roads and Motorists Association (NRMA)
Victoria: Royal Automotive Club of Victoria (RACV)
Queensland: Royal Automobile Club or Queensland (RACQ)
Northern Territory: Automobile Association of the Northern Territory (AANT)
Western Australia: Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia (RAC)
South Australia: Royal Automobile Association of South Australia (RAA)
Tasmania: Royal Automobile Club of Tasmania (RACT)
There are a number of different ways you can go about buying a used car in Australia:
Backpacker Car Dealers:
There are some used car dealers in Australia who specialise in selling backpacker cars. Most are only based in the bigger cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Darwin, but the best thing about them is that they usually offer buyback guarantees. This means that they are guaranteed to buy your car back off you once you’ve finished with it (for an agreed lower price, of course.) The best thing is, you don't actually have to sell the car to them, so you could still sell your car privately for a lot more if you can. The most popular backpacker car dealers include:
Regular Used Car Dealers:
There are plenty of used car dealers in just about any big town or city in Australia. With these, take your time and don't rush into buying the first car you see and don't forget to haggle with them.
Backpacker Car Markets:
Backpacker car markets can be another great way to buy a used backpacker car. Some of these markets even have onsite staff who can assist you with information about registration, insurance and what type of car you should buy. Popular backpacker car markets include Sydney Travellers Car Market and Kings Cross Car Market.
You can buy a car privately through hostel notice boards, online noticeboards like Backpacker Car Club, Gumtree or other private ads like Trading Post. While you can find good bargains buying privately, you really need to know what you’re doing too. If in doubt, pay a mechanic to come with you can check it out and always take it for a test spin!
The most popular models in Australia are Ford and Holden, so spare parts for these will be much easier to come by. However, Toyota and Mitsubishi are also very good, in fact they're probably better in terms of reliability and affordability, just don’t let the Aussies hear you say that!
Wagons (or estates) are the cheaper option (instead of vans) if you plan on buying a car you can sleep comfortably in. They can cost anywhere between $3,000 and $8,000. A good backpacker van should cost anywhere between $8,000 and $15,000 - so it really depends on how much you want to spend!
Driving in Australia is pretty straight forward, but there are a few important things you need to take into condieration:
- If you are from a certain country, including: the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy and New Zealand, you can get an Australian driver’s licence without sitting any other test. All you need to do is fill out a form and pay a fee.
- Many travellers don’t realise this, but the Aussies drive on the left, which is quite handy for those of you from the UK, Ireland and New Zealand!
- Driver fatigue is one of the major killers on Australian roads – so make sure you rest regularly when driving for long distances.
- You need to be alert while driving in outback or in rural areas, as there are plenty of animals that might wander out in front of you. Kangaroos are notorious for this, so you really do need to be cautious, partiularly during dawn and dusk when the ‘roos are at their most active. It is recommended that you buy “roo bars” for you car or van if you plan on doing a lot of driving in the outback.
- During the wet season, many roads can be closed for weeks, even months at a time due to flooding. Always check the weather if you plan on driving through the outback in summer.
- In Australia, distance is measured in kilometres, not miles!
- While driving in the outback be prepared to go long distances without anything – this means taking lots of water and enough food should you break down. It’s also a good idea to bring a jerry can with you, just in case that service station you thought you could stop at is closed on a Sunday!