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Buying and Selling a Car

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Buying a campervan or car is a convenient choice for many backpackers. You have the freedom to go wherever you want and spend as long as you want at each place. Camp sites are cheaper than hostels especially if there are several of you to split the cost. Camping in National parks costs next to nothing and you really get to experience Australia at its best. You’ll also get the chance to see the native wildlife up close.

If you manage to sell your camper for the price you bought it for, you’ll only end up paying for the petrol!

There are of course, legalities involved and it isn’t as straight forward as it sounds. Fortunately, we’re here to make your life much easier by telling you exactly what you should know about buying and selling a car or camper van in Australia.

Legalities and Necessities of Buying a Car:

Pink or blue Slip:
This is basically a roadworthy certificate much like our MOT. When buying a car, make sure they have one of these. If you’re selling it’s a good idea to get one as your vehicle will sell quicker. It will show what repairs are needed on the car, if any. If the colour of the slip is pink then it doesn’t need any repairs, if it is white there will be a list of necessary repairs.

Registration (Rego):
All vehicles driven on Australian roads MUST be registered. It is similar to our road Tax. Registration is done by which state you are in and needs to be renewed every 12 months, although in some states 3, 6 or 12 months can be bought. It is well worth buying a car with a long rego, otherwise you will have to purchase one when you come to selling the car which can be pricey. When you buy a car you will need to transfer the rego to your name.

It is also a good idea to buy a car registered in the state in which you intend on selling it. This makes life much easier if you need to renew the rego before selling. If you need to renew the rego before you sell it and you are in a different state to which it is registered, you may have to pay high fees for the rego to be transferred. Plus the car will need to be closely examined possibly leading to high repair costs. In practice transferring a rego should really not even be considered!

Vehicles registered in Western Australia are easier and cheaper to re-register. Registration can be done online or over the phone without the need to even visit the state.

If you do have a long rego left on the car, you can sell it in a different state quite easily. However the people buying it will need to have an address in the registered state in order for them to be able to transfer it to their names.

When you buy a car you need to transfer the registration to your name within 14 days of purchase. If you buy at a backpackers market, the people in charge can point you in the right direction. You will need your passport and drivers licence, the receipt, the last certificate of registration and a permanent address (link).

This can be quite hard to get your head around but it is recommended that you do so to avoid any nasty surprises when you come to buying and selling your vehicle.

Green Slip:
If the vehicle is legally registered then it will also come with third party personal insurance. A vehicle cannot get registration without having a green slip. It basically covers injuries to passengers involved in an accident but in most cases does not cover injuries to the driver at fault. Here is a link to find the best deals on green slips in NSW www.maa.nsw.gov.au

The green slip does not cover you for damage to property, so if you want to be safe it’s wise to buy third party property insurance. Many backpackers don’t bother, but if you have an accident you could end up paying a lot of money for repairs to yours or another’s property, forcing you to cut short your adventure. If buying from the Kings Cross Car Market they can help you with buying the insurance.


You can buy a car or van for anything between $1000 and $5000, however the higher the value the better the quality of the vehicle.

When looking to buy a vehicle there are several options open to you:

  1. Buying from a Backpacker car market

    The biggest and best is in a Kings Cross car park in Sydney, there are usually a wide variety of cars and vans up for sale here. It’s a good idea to take the vehicle for a test drive before you buy it and if you feel it’s necessary, also do a vehicle inspection, although this can cost you over $100.
    Ensure you negotiate the price. If the sellers are getting very close to the date they’re leaving Australia, you may be able to significantly reduce the cost. Be warned though, these cars have probably been round Australia a few times so expect the mileage to be high. You can’t be too picky!

  2. Buying privately

    This is a good option to consider if you or someone you’re travelling with knows a lot about cars and can tell a good ’un from a bad ‘un! It might be worth paying a local garage to inspect it independently. You can find ads for cars in the local newspapers, but you may have to travel out of the city to actually view the cars.

    You will also find that a lot of backpackers advertise their vehicle for sale on hostel notice boards, so that’s a good place to look.

  3. Buying from a backpacker car dealer.

    These people will sell a car or van to you in good shape including a guarantee that they’ll buy it back from you (at a lower price). The vehicles are usually over-priced and the buy-back price is far less than you paid in the first place. However you do get a limited warrantee and a vehicle that’s been serviced. You will have to take responsibility for things like punctures though. Here are some of the main dealers

Buying Continued:

When buying, make sure you ask the following questions:
  • How long have they had it for?
  • What problems, if any, did they have with it?
  • Did anything need replacing / fixing, (if they’ve recently replaced something expensive, that’s one less thing for you to worry about).
  • How many kilometres to the tank? – Obviously this could either save or cost you lots of money.
  • How often did they need to replace the oil?
  • Did they service the vehicle at all?
Check the following things:
  • Oil leaks on the ground and in the engine;
  • Black exhaust fumes;
  • Make sure all lights are working;
  • Does the engine make a strange noise?
  • Mileage (it will be high around 300 000km but the lower the better).

As a general rule, if the vehicle appears well looked after, the engine will be in a similar state.

Make sure you take the vehicle for a test drive. Check the brakes are working and that you can change gear ok.

Types of Vehicles

Station Wagons: ie. Ford Falcon Estate, Holden Commodore and Mitsubishi Magma. These cars are great backpacker cars. They’re reliable, good value for money and won’t need much maintenance. You can fit up to 4/5 people plus their gear and still be comfortable.

Vans are fairly popular with backpackers because they’re cheaper than campers and have lots of room. Vans come in all shapes and sizes and with differing interiors. If you don’t mind basic living then this could be a good option for you. Some come as a completely empty shell apart from a mattress and a couple of storage boxes, others come with a make shift frame for a bed and a storage area for food, but it really can vary.

Camper Vans
Camper vans are a great way to travel around Australia. They offer more comfort than the more basic vans as they usually come well equipped with fold-away bed / sofa, fridge freezer, power supply, sink and more. A Toyota Hiace is a good reliable choice as is the old VW Kombi. Camper vans can be more expensive but remember you should make this back when you come to sell it.

4WDs are a great option if you want to visit the more remote National Parks and gorges in outback Australia. The tracks to some of these places can be extremely bumpy, corrugated which may be too much for older cars and campers. 4WDs aren’t too common on the backpacker circuit but there are some about.

Selling your car:

When it comes to selling your car, it will sell quicker if you’re in one of the main cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns or Darwin. You should ensure you wash it, take pictures and create a nice flyer that you can pin up everywhere including the windows of the car. Backpacker car markets are probably your best bet.
Obviously make sure all the legalities are correct and it could be a good idea to get it serviced as well. The better condition the car is in, the quicker you will sell it.

Good luck and I promise all the hard work is well worth it!