Buying a car in Australia … Isn’t actually as complicated as it first seems when you start trying to research what you need to do online and you read all about five different papers that you need, along with trying to figure out what all of their abbreviations mean. The main thing to take into consideration when buying a car as a backpacker in Australia is that every state has different regulations when it comes to buying and selling cars; therefore it’s a good idea to specify which state you are buying the car in when doing your research. I’m going to tell you about my experience of buying and selling a car in Queensland, Australia in the hope that it will all become much clearer.
Where do I go to find a backpacker car?
So, there are a few options when looking to by a car, the most popular and easiest being Gumtree (www.gumtree.com.au). Most people selling cars on gumtree are genuine, especially if they’re backpackers as it’s usually a case of them having come to the end of their trip and wanting to get rid of their car pretty quickly, which also means you can get some good deals. There is also Traveler’s Autobarn who have offices in all the major cities and guarantee to buy the car back off of you when you want to sell it. Although this seems like a good idea which offers security, I would say that the cars which Traveler’s Autobarn sell seem over priced in the first place and when you return the car they will give you less than what you paid them for it. I considered them as an option when I hadn’t long been in Oz, but after talking to a few people I realised that I could get a decent car much cheaper and it most likely wouldn’t be a problem at all to sell it. Along with these are your standard used car garages, which I haven’t had much experience dealing with, all I would say is as in England, if you buy a car from a garage you’re most likely going to pay more than if you bought it privately.
I bought my car in Bundaberg QLD, for $1000, off of a lady who’d put an ad on gumtree, her father had died and the car had been his. The car, a 2004 Ford Falcon Wagon, came with some cosmetic damage, no RWC (roadworthy cert) and no rego (registration).
What to do when actually buying the car?
I called the number on the gumtree ad and arranged to go and look at the car, in Australia anyone can drive a car which is registered (as long as they have a licence obviously), unlike in England where you have to be named on the policy or fully comp on another car. This is one of the things that makes buying a car in Oz that little bit easier. I borrowed my friends car and had a look at the Falcon. I know pretty much nothing about cars, but I could see that a couple of things would need doing to it but nothing major as far as I could see. It seemed like a pretty good deal and perfect for a road trip as we could put air beds in the back and sleep In it to save money on hostels. I told Sandy (the seller) that I would take the car, I paid her $1000 cash and she wrote me out a receipt which she said I may need when registering the car as proof of ownership. Once I had paid her, we drove the car to the nearest mechanic to perform the roadworthy test, as the car only had a few days rego (registration) left, Sandy took the plates off in order to return them to the QLD traffic office. Again, unlike in England, it was perfectly legal to leave the car at the garage with no number plates while the mechanic worked on the car.
What is a RWC or Safety Certificate?
A RWC (Roadworthy Certificate) or safety certificate is pretty much our version of an MOT and costs around $77. A RWC in QLD lasts as long as you have the car until you want to sell it, it is the law that no car should be sold without a current RWC but plenty of people sell cars without one. If the car which you are buying is unregistered, you cannot register it until you have a RWC. As it is illegal to privately tow cars on the road, you need to call an insurer such as RACQ or Suncorp and arrange CTP (Compulsory Third Party) insurance for the day to move the car from the seller’s property to the mechanic. Another option if you know more about cars, is to get a mobile mechanic to come to the sellers property and perform the roadworthy, however, you may end up paying more if there are a few things that need to be fixed which can’t be done on the roadside. Once the roadworthy test has been performed and the mechanic has produced a certificate you are then able to go to the local traffic office to register your car.
I took my car to the mechanic who informed me that the car was mechanically very good but would need some things to pass; such as a new tyre, new wing mirror, new spark plugs and few other bits. I ended up paying around $450 in total for the parts, labour and safety certificate.
What is ‘rego’ or ‘registration’?
To legally drive any car on the road it must be registered, when you register a car, for a reasonable fee it will come with CTP (Compulsory Third Party Insurance), which you also have to have to legally drive your car. CTP literally just covers the car to be driven, and if you wish to insure yourself or the car against damage caused by you, you need to contact another insurer such as RACQ or Suncorp to arrange this, otherwise if you cause damage to another person’s car as well as your own, you may end up paying for it out of your own pocket. To register your car in QLD you must take ID, a bank card (which can be a UK bank) and you must have a current RWC (Roadworthy Certificate/ Safety Certificate) dated within the last month. Once you have all of this you can go to the nearest QLD traffic office in person to register your car, when you get there you must fill out a ‘Transfer of Ownership’ form. If the car is still registered in the previous owner’s name they will need to fill out part of the form; which you can download on the QLD government website and take to them if it’s easier. If you are unsure which form you need, just call the QLD traffic department and they will tell you exactly what you need, the number is on their website. If the car is unregistered and the previous owner has surrendered the number plates, you can just fill out a form to newly register the car in your name. Once either form has been filled out and you have produced all the necessary documents all you need to do it pay for the rego and you’re good to go.
In my case, as the previous owner had surrendered the plates, all I needed to do was newly register the car and get new plates (which they will give you at the traffic office). I went to the traffic office with my ID, bank cards, RWC and receipt for the car. I filled out the ownership form while I was there, altogether including CTP insurance it cost me $490 to register the car for 6 months. It would have been cheaper if I had a smaller car, however, considering the size of the car I still think it’s considerably cheaper than it would be to tax and insure that car in the UK.
Selling your car?
We used our car for about 6 weeks to drive up and down the East Coast, altogether we had spent about $2000 on the car; which worked out considerably cheaper than hiring a car for that period of time. When it came to selling the car I was slightly nervous as we only had a week to sell the car before flying home. It turned out that there was no need to worry, within an hour of putting the car on gumtree priced at $2000, I had over 10 calls and 10 separate emails from people interested in buying the car. I was selling the car in Cairns with 4 months rego and all of our camping equipment; which consisted of 2 air beds, a cool box, 2 camp chairs, a gas stove, pillows, blankets, plates, cutlery and utensils. A few hours after I had put the ad on gumtree two German guys looked at the car and said that they would take it. The next day we picked them up to go to the traffic office together and transfer ownership, after they had paid us $2000 cash. When we got there, we enquired as to if we would need a new RWC to transfer the ownership and were informed that as long as the RWC has been done within the last 2 months or within 2000 kilometres (whichever comes first) we wouldn’t need a new RWC. Luckily, although the car had definitely done over 2000 K’s since the RWC, it was a few days within the 2 month limit and we did not need a new RWC to transfer ownership. We were there less than an hour filling out the paperwork and once everything was all sorted, the two German guys dropped us back at our hostel and we waved goodbye to our Falcon as he went off on a new Aussie adventure!
As I said earlier, buying a car n Oz isn’t as complicated as it first appears, if you’re confused or unsure just call the traffic office and they will always tell you exactly what you need to do, no dramas!