Buying a Car in Australia

Backpackers: One Tip to Save Money in Australia

This page, tells you what you’ll need to know about buying a car in Australia if you’re interested in seeing as much of this huge country as you can.

buying a car in Australia, budget travel, outback Australia

Buying a car here isn’t as expensive as you might think, and there’s quite a few places where you can find reliable bargain cars.

However, before you buy your freedom machine and hit the open roads (!), there’s a few things that you must do by law in Australia and some things that you also need to know.

The Bare Essentials

Buying a car here might seem challenging at first.


There are 8 states / territories in Australia. (NSW, QLD, NT, WA, SA, VIC, ACT and TAS) and they all have different laws for buying cars.

In Australia, cars are registered to a state or territory. If you look at the number plate of the car, you’ll be able to figure out instantly in which state the car is registered.

Then, double check the windscreen sticker (this is the real proof of legal registration). By looking at this sticker, you’ll be able to see how long the registration has left to run.

buying a car in Australia, budget travel, outback Australia, travel

Do not just take the windscreen sticker as proof of legal registration!!!

There are also registration papers that go with the car.

Make sure the car has these, because if it doesn’t, it might be stolen and you’re going to need these papers.

If you transfer registration from one person to another, you will need to let the registration authority know. Some states are easier than others in this regard.

If you don’t do this and you are stopped by the Police or Transport authorities or even have an accident, you will face severe financial or other penalties.

How to Buy a Car

First, you need to know that all used cars sold by a used car dealer must have a certificate of roadworthiness (sometimes called a ‘pink slip’) before they can be sold. It’s the law.

Do not buy a car without one.

Some states also require that you have a certificate of roadworthiness before you sell the car at the end of your trip.

Depending on where you finish up, most mechanics can assess your car and issue the certificate.

Buying a car in Australia is generally a straightforward process. There’s just a few critical pieces of paper you’ll need:

  • The certificate of roadworthiness
  • Purchase receipt
  • Your driver’s licence
  • A visit to the local department of transport/motor registry office (see links below).

buying a car in Australia, budget travel, outback Australia, travel

Once you get to the motor registry, you will find they are very happy to relieve you of your cash! You’ll need to pay a registration transfer fee, which is calculated according to the value of the car.

If the annual vehicle registration is due, or if you are buying a car in a different state to which it is registered, another fee will also need to be paid.

It’s a good idea to only register the car for 6 months (some states let you register for 3 months), so you can save a bit of money!

In some states, the registration (or ‘rego’) includes the minimum legal third-party insurance. In other states, you’ll need to find your own Third Party Insurance. You can count on these fees running to several hundred dollars.

Each state’s laws vary so check with the department of transport in the state where you plan on buying or selling your car.

If you end up buying a car in Australia privately, there are several things to consider to make sure you are 100% legal!!

At the very least :

  • Before you buy it, have a mechanic check it out to make sure it’s not a lemon
  • You need to register your new car in your name
  • You need to make sure you have proper insurance
  • You need to know how long the vehicle is registered for
  • Get the vehicle serviced by a mechanic and get a safety check

Other Useful Information

If you’re buying a car in Australia, remember:

  • You must transfer the ownership of the car, or you might end up in trouble with the police.
  • Each state or territory has slightly different rules, so you really must check with the local motor registry department.
  • The easiest and the best thing to do is buy (and sell) a car registered in the state where it is registered.
  • You will need a permanent address in the state where you’re planning to transfer the car’s registration into your name, as the registration document will be posted there.
  • Our suggestion is to call a hostel in that state and make sure they’re happy to hold your mail until you arrive.
  • Private interstate sales of QLD and VIC cars are the hardest, but if the car has a valid safety certificate, it can be sold anywhere.
  • NSW cars have an annual safety check, however you must still attend the registration office in person within 14 days of buying the car.
  • WA allow transfer of registration over the Internet. This makes WA by far the easiest place for buying a car in Australia.

Motor Registry Agencies Around Australia

Transport Roads & Traffic (Australian Capital Territory)

Dickson Motor Registry, 13-15 Challis Street, Dickson, ACT, 2602

Tel: 13 22 81

Website: www.canberraconnect.act.gov.au

Open: Mon 8.30am-5pm, Tue 8.30am-5pm, Wed 8.30am-5pm, Thu 8.30am-5pm, Fri 8.30am-5pm

RTA (New South Wales)

Centennial Plaza Motor Registry, Ground Floor, Centennial Plaza, 260 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010

Tel: 13 22 13

Website: www.rta.nsw.gov.au

Open: Mon-Fri 8.30am-5pm, Sat 8.30am-noon

Motor Vehicle Registry (Northern Territory)

18 Goyder Road, Parap, NT, 0804

Tel:1300 654 628

Website: www.nt.gov.au/transport/mvr/

Open: Mon-Thu 8am-4pm, Fri 8am-5.30pm

Transport (Queensland)

229 Elizabeth Street, Brisbane QLD 4000

Tel: 13 23 80

Website: www.transport.qld.gov.au

Open: Mon-Tue 8.30am-4.30pm, Wed 9.30am-4.30pm, Thu-Fri 8.30am-4.30pm

Transport SA (South Australia)

Ground Floor, EDS Centre, 108 North Terrace, Adelaide SA 5000

Tel: 13 10 84

Website: www.transport.sa.gov.au

Open: Mon-Fri 9am-5pm

DIER  Transport Division (Tasmania)

Service Tasmania, 134 Macquarie Street, Hobart TAS 7000

Tel: 1300 135 513

Website: www.transport.tas.gov.au

Open: Mon-Fri 8.15am-5.30pm

VicRoads (Victoria)

459 Lygon Street, Carlton VIC 3053

Tel: 13 11 71

Website: www.vicroads.vic.gov.au

Open: Mon-Thu 8.30am-4.30pm, Fri 8.30am-5pm

Transport Western Australia

Corner Troode Street & Plaistowe Mews, City West, West Perth WA 6005

Tel: 13 11 56

Website: www.dpi.wa.gov.au/licensing/

Open: Mon-Fri 8.15am-4.30pm

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