Thousands upon thousands of young travellers take this option each year, meaning that there is a large and buoyant market in backpacker vehicles. Kings Cross in Sydney is the epicentre of this market and there you will find a wide variety of vendors and mechanics to help you make your choice and where necessary, get your purchase road-worthy.
Cars in Australia are comparatively cheap and the typical cost of a backpacker motor ranges between $2000-$5000. The second hand car trade is notoriously risky the world over and you have to know your limitations and act with due diligence. We can not recommend strongly enough the sense in having any vehicle, that you are considering buying checked out by a mechanic. It really is money well spent and the chances are, they will find something that will help you negotiate $80 off the asking price and if not, congratulations you've found a great motor.
Registration and Pinkslips
You also need to understand the Australian car registration system, or Rego as it is known. By law every car on the roads should have current registration papers, which are renewed annually. The car has to undergo a Rego inspection, if it passes the garage issue a pink slip which then entitles the car to get its papers. The registration fee covers the vehicle's road tax and compulsory third party insurance. Rego charges vary greatly across Australia; in NSW it can cost over $800, while in WA it can be half that. In an ideal world, your safest purchase would be registered in the state you are buying the vehicle, with at least six months of Rego left to run. But of course, life is rarely that simple...
Cars that fail their rego inspection are issued with a white slip, which is a list of improvements that need to be made before the car reaches the minimum legal standard. These cars are frequently available as backpackers have completed their journey, the rego has expired and they are reluctant to pay for repairs to a motor they no longer have use for. White-slip cars are obviously cheaper as they are not roadworthy but you must be sure you have reasonable idea of how much work (and money) will be required to get your rego papers. Buying a car without papers, which hasn't even undergone an inspection is, quite frankly, lunacy and like car auctions, is to be avoided at all costs.
You should stick to licensed car dealers; King's Cross Car Market and Travellers' Auto Barn are well respected businesses, that deal almost exclusively in the backpacker market. If your budget runs to it a $3,000K + car from Travellers Autobarn offers a certain amount of security.
- 3 day 100% money back guarantee
- 2 weeks total mechanical warranty within the Sydney area
- 5,000 km engine and transmission warranty
- Full mechanical preparation for a road trip around Australia
- NRMA Membership with 24-hour road side assistance
If you are feeling brave and believe you can get the best deal from a private sale, here are a few essential check-points. You should always check the vendor's driving license or passport against the name on the ownership papers. If they don't match then you could be about to buy a stolen vehicle or one whose registration has been cancelled due to non-payment of traffic offence fines. Lastly, before buying an Interstate car, you should check that it will be possible to register the vehicle and transfer ownership to your name.