When you are traveling in Australia the cheapest and most flexible way is to buy a cheap car and resell it again at the end. If everything goes well you can resell it for the same price you bought it, you can sleep at free camping sites, and you can leave, stop and drive wherever you like, and nobody is stopping you.
However, this option is only the best option if you stay a minimum of 3 months and if you are willing to undergo all the stress related to buy and sell a car. If you are keen on doing that and taking the risk (because there is always a risk), you can continue reading, and I’ll tell you my experiences and give you some tips.
It all begins with significant online research about how you buy a backpacker car in Australia – and this research will probably end in you clapping your hands over your head and thinking “How the hell can I do this?”. My first advice on this point is that you should start a soon as possible to inform yourself, read blogs (like this one), go on government sites and maybe ask other friends who did the process before you. I started about six weeks in advance to do a little bit of research. There are hundreds of blogs which tell you to step by step what the different rules are for the rego, insurance, roadworthy certificate, and road assistance. And now you’re probably already sitting in front of the screen and asking yourself what these terms mean – I linked some good pages so you can read through and get an overview. There is one simple rule to understand – the better you are prepared, the better you can see if it is a good car and the better is your position when it comes to the price negotiation. After the inspection of a car and the following negotiation with the girl she was speechless and had no arguments left – she agreed to my price and just told me “you f*** did your homework” – I smiled and walked away with a potentially good deal. There is the difference between a person who’s well informed and other people, even if you aren’t good at negotiating you know when people tell you bullshit to sell the car more expensive, and you know what questions you have to ask.
After you have a good overview over the different rules – especially what this rego means and how it works to change the owner of the car – you should make yourself some thoughts about what you want as a car. To do that you have to know your budget, the number of people you are traveling with and the places you want to visit in Australia. If you’re going to travel out in the outback, your car has to be strong 4W, and you need some other precautions. If you only do the east coast as I do it a regular car should do it. Different vehicles also have different levels of fuel consumption and different levels of comfort. You have to see what you want and what your budget allows you. Some cars already start at 2000 AUD, but if you want a big 4W with a rooftop tent, you can pay up to 12000 AUD. Keep also in mind that the rego and the price you are paying while transferring the vehicle to your name changes with the amount. (Secret tip: write down a lower rate on the sheet you handing into the authorities)
When your research is done, and you think you are informed enough you can start the actual search for a vehicle. During the process, you probably need to look up things, and that’s how you get a real pro if your basic knowledge is good enough. Join some Facebook groups who are made specially to buy and sell cars in Australia like this and this group. In there you find hundreds of vehicles on sale, and you can quickly write the owners. Gumtree is also an excellent platform to find backpacker cars, although I found any car I visited on Facebook and nobody repeated on my requests on Gumtree. It’s also important to arrive in a big city where there are a lot of cars. Actually, most cars can be found in Melbourne, Sydney, Cairns or Perth. Brisbane, for example, is not the right place to find a car because most people travel from Melbourne to Cairns or the other way around and don’t sell their cars in Brisbane.
One week to 3 days before you arrive in Australia start texting the owners of the cars you are interested in. Read the full description and think about if everything is right for your journey and your plan (Right rego, price, and extras). Typically people are responsive very quickly and you can arrange visitations very easily. I had five inspections in the first two days and bought my car on the second day in Australia. But even if it isn’t that easy, don’t panic, there are a lot of vehicles every day new for sale. So plan in some time to buy your car – in my case, for example, I only needed two days to buy it but another three days to modify it and built a bed inside.
In the best case, you place all your inspections in one or two days and say to the owners a fixed time where you get back to them with your decision. The whole thing is a gamble, and that’s what it makes it so exciting – everyone wants a good deal, and everything has to happen quickly. So, on both sides it’s a gamble – the owner wants a high price but can’t take the risk of not selling it, and the buyer also wants a good deal, often has more time but don’t want the perfect car to be sold to another person. So that’s why it’s good to make all the appointments on the first two days if it is possible and at the end of the second day you respond to all of them and hopefully your dream car is still available. Also, check as many cars as possible and don’t just take the first one, you have to get a feeling of what is right and what’s not.
In the end, you should listen to your gut feeling and only decide for a car you have a good feeling about, not only take a car because you are unsure if you find another one. But before you buy the car the most important thing is to let it check by a professional one. In every city, you can find independent mechanics who will review your car in every detail, and they will tell you what risks you are taking – are your tires still ok? Are the brakes ok? And are there some cables which will break down soon? At the end of this test, you know all the risks, and you can rethink your decision.
If the test went well and you have a good feeling you shouldn’t hesitate anymore and make the deal, you won’t regret it because if you did all these steps you did everything possible, and you probably get the best you could find! Just lay back and enjoy Australia!
- Total countries I visited until now: 34
- Planes: 8
- Busses: 36
- Trains: 18
- Boats: 20
- Km running: 1541