Buying a car in Australia (and then selling it)

So, you’re planning on heading ‘Down Under’; or you’re already there and thinking about the best way to get around. Are you planning a trip up the East Coast and dreaming of the open road? If yes, you may consider buying a car in Australia. We did and it was great…mostly.

There are plenty of ways to travel around Australia; if you’ve got the money and want to rack up the air-miles you can fly. If you’re a backpacker, you’re probably thinking of using the Greyhound. Or maybe hiring a camper van/caravan is more your thing; but if you get it right, buying a car in Australia could be the most cost effective way to travel. However there are a number of pitfalls to avoid and things you should know.

buying a car in australia
buying a car in australia - bruce

The initial process of buying a car in Australia is the same as anywhere else. For the purposes of this post I’m going to assume you won’t be buying a new one (I mean, if you’re just travelling why would you?!). So you find a car, you agree a price and you pay for it. Considerations at this point:-

  • How many seats do you need?
  • Do you need to be able to sleep in it?
  • How long will you need the car for? (relevant for REGO – see below)
  • Has the car been serviced recently?
  • Does it come with a road safety certificate?
  • Does it test drive OK?

If you are in Sydney we suggest you check out the Sydney Travellers Car Market. This is where we found our car. It’s a place for travellers to buy and sell their cars so it’s handy at both ends of the journey.


Rego is the car registration, effectively equivalent to car tax in the UK. The difference in Australia is that the remaining, unexpired registration transfers across to the new owner when a vehicle is sold. Renewing the registration can be quite expensive. Therefore it’s worth buying a car with a long time left on the REGO and avoiding those with little or no time left. If it will have some time on it when you’re ready to sell, even better!

insurancebuying a car in australia - RMS

When buying a car In Australia, the only mandatory insurance is called CTP – ‘compulsory third party’. This only covers other people involved in an accident. It does not cover the driver or any damage to vehicles etc. It is entirely voluntary whether you decide to opt for further insurance cover.

Different states deal with the CTP differently. It can be included with the REGO transfer (i.e. you pay for both at the same time) or as in NSW you have the option of finding your own CTP to ensure you get the best rate. Note: You will not be able to transfer the REGO without having CTP in place.

post purchase admin

Congratulations, you’ve bought a car in Australia! Now there is some admin to be sorted out. The REGO needs to be transferred into your name within 14 days of the purchase. You need to find a Roads & Maritime Service Centre to do this. These are everywhere, so it shouldn’t be too hard. Make sure you have the following with you:-

  • Vehicle details i.e. registration plate number.
  • Details of the purchase –  date & price
  • Evidence of the sale (invoice/sales contract)
  • Completed forms – they will provide these.
  • Money to pay the transfer fee.

You will also need a ‘MyService’ account for the state you are in (i.e. MyServiceNSW). You can do this at the same time as the transfer. However you will need to provide proof of identity such as a passport and proof of your Australian address.

If you’re staying in a hotel or hostel, even if just for a few days, you can use a invoice from them. However if you’re House-sitting or staying in an Air BnB for example,  you can open a bank account with Commonwealth Bank using just your passport (yes a bank will let you have an account with no proof of address, but you can’t register a car!). You can then use the opening account certificate as evidence of your address.

buying a car in australia - open road

Now you’re all sorted. Go and explore the open road! Check out our other posts for ideas on where to go in your new motor:-

Melbourne to Sydney | Sydney to Brisbane | Brisbane to Cairns

Note: It’s a great idea to get the car serviced after each 10,000km of driving. That might sound like a lot but before you know it, the time comes round at it’s servicing time.

Selling your car

You’ve done all the driving you can take. Or you’d love to carry on, but unfortunately the workplace is calling you back home. So now it’s time to try and sell your car.

Photo Credit:

As we mentioned above, if you’re finishing up in Sydney, consider taking it to the Sydney Travellers Car Supermarket. Bear in mind there is a cost to this. If you bought it from a dealer they may offer a guaranteed buy-back option although it will likely be at a substantial reduction of the price (ours was just 40%!). Finally, Gumtree is also a great site to place an advert; it may be worth adding it as soon as you’ve bought it with an ‘available from’ date so it has lots of time to be seen. Other options include placing ads in hostels or on other online forums like lonely planet.

what you need

Road Safety Certificate – In the UK cars need to be MOT’d regularly to ensure that there are no dodgy cars on the road. In Australia there is an equivalent however they differ between states. In Queensland for example, prior to offering a vehicle for sale, you have to obtain and display a Safety Certificate (previsouly called a blue slip). It is valid for 2 months or 2,000km. However as there are no periodic safety checks required in QLD, it is likely to be more difficult for a vehicle to pass. Another thing to note is only authorised garages can provide one.

In NSW however, it is more similar to the UK annual car service. When you renew the annual REGO detailed above, any cars over 5 years old need to have safety certificate first. So it will
probably be easier to get one there and if you’re REGO hasn’t run out yet, you don’t need to worry about it!

buying a car in Australia - notice of disposalNotice of Disposal – Once you’ve sold your car, make sure you let the Service centre know.  You do this by submitting a Notice of Disposal. This confirms the details of the sale, the new purchaser and acts as Proof of Sale in place of an invoice in a private sale.

Submitting the notice of disposal is very important. If you don’t advise that you have transferred ownership you could be held liable for the new owner’s parking fines or road tolls.

Have you thought about buying a car in Australia? Or have you already done it and successfully sold it? Get in touch below, we’d love to hear from you.

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