A Traveler’s Guide to Car Buying in Australia
Australia is best explored by land, but travelers on a budget might not be able to afford public transport between each town or city within this massive country along with $20+ hostel fees every night. If you’re restricted to flying from city to city, or using the bus or rail system, you will miss all the cool little towns and experiences only one can gain from hitchhiking or road tripping in their own automobile.
You might be asking yourself a few questions;
How can a foreigner buy a car in another country like Australia?
Do I need an Australian drivers license?
What would be the better option; buying a car/van, or renting one from one of the many backpacker friendly van hire companies?
Can I just park anywhere and camp in my vehicle?
Luckily for you I have provided some answers and opinions that should help lead you in the direction you feel most comfortable with.
To my knowledge there is no issue with buying or selling a car if you are in Australia on a working holiday visa. As we all know, cash is king. I have no idea about actually trying to finance a car in Australia as a traveler. So save that money and buy it like a boss.
As a citizen from the USA, I did not need to get an Australian drivers license. You are only required to get a license if you plan to be here for over a year. My working holiday visa only allows me one year in Australia, so there’s no need for an Aussie license.
As for camping locations, there are heaps in Australia. I would recommend finding a budget campsite book, available at most bookstores or camping stores. There are loads of Australia National and state parks with facilities (sometimes showers and toilets), which are cheap or free. You can also legally park but illegally camp in any neighborhood you feel, which is what we’ve done all the way from Melbourne to the Gold Coast. Be warned, you can get ticketed for camping! Just use your head and don’t be obvious. As long as you don’t mind showering in cold beach showers with old ladies watching and cooking at parks on your little propane kitchen, you will survive and save tons of money.
This last question I juggled with until I did the calculations. To either buy my own car from a private seller or to rent one of the many backpacker vans that are offered all over the country.
Buying my own auto facts
I run the show
It doesn’t matter if I puke in it after a long night
I can sell it when I’m done and recoup some money
I don’t drive an obvious backpackers van, and can park and sleep anywhere without a being as obvious
I have to remove that puke smell before I sell it
If it breaks down, I’m responsible for all repairs
I have to deal with registration, insurance and roadworthy certificates
At the end of the day it all comes down to preference and ease of mind. Without risk there is no reward. I was willing to take a gamble and pay the $3000+ to buy a car and use it without any restrictions. I also get to sell it at the end if it survives the 2000+ mile trip and potentially recoup some of my initial investment. If I had gone with the backpacker van rental I would have spent $4000+ for 6 months of use, and gotten nothing when I turned it back in. But I wouldn’t have to worry about repairs, registration or insurance to name a few. Either option is suitable though. If you lived out of your auto for 6 months you would save $3600 per person in hostel fees (180 days X $20/day).
Each state in Australia has its own buying and selling rules. I have provided the links to each state’s informative website. Research each to determine which option works for the direction of your trip. To my knowledge Western Australia is the best place to buy or sell an auto. Some states have Roadworthy Certificates, or equivalents, which will always be a pain in the ass when trying to sell.
Buying or selling a car in Victoria:
Buying or selling a car in New South Wales:
Buying or selling a car in Queensland:
Buying or selling a car in South Australia:
Buying or selling a car in the Northern Territory:
Buying or selling a car in Western Australia
Drifter Tip: Don’t be Captain Obvious and “blow-up the spot” for other backpackers living out of their cars. I love nothing more than a shanty town, but illegal camping tickets can be very expensive, so leave all your junk in your van and don’t advertise to the world that you live like Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite.