If you're going to be travelling around Australia for several months it may be worth the trouble to buy your own car and sell it before you leave. Cheap reliable cars are generally large cars such as the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore, which can cost a lot to run but are generally cheap to fix and service.
Ideally it's a good idea to check hostel notice boards and buy your car from another traveller as it may come with camping equipment and you should be able to get a good bargain, considering that other travellers have a flight home to catch and are in a hurry to sell. Other good places to look are the classified ads in Friday’s Sydney Morning Herald and Herald Sun (Melbourne) and Saturday's Age (Melbourne). The Trading Post (website www.tradingpost.com.au) is also a good spot to find a bargain. Buying a car privately, either from another traveller or through classified advertisements is usually the cheapest option, but it's not always the best choice if your time is limited. Buying from a used car dealer is easier and the dealer will organise the paperwork to get the car transferred into your name. There are loads of used car dealers in the suburbs of the big cities.
Some car dealers that do a lot of business with backpackers offer a buy-back guarantee, where they offer to buy the car back from you at an agreed (lower) price at the end of your trip. You can usually get a much better price selling the car yourself but a buy-back guarantee is handy if you don’t want to waste precious time trying to sell the car when you have finished with it. If you buy from a car dealer that offers a buy-back guarantee, read the fine print and make sure that you are not required to pass a roadworthy inspection. Very few vehicles can pass a roadworthy after a trip around Australia and a buy-back guarantee with this condition is virtually worthless. The main car dealer that offers a buy-back guarantee is Travellers Autobarn (tel 1800 674 374; website www.travellers-autobarn.com.au).
Used cars need a certificate of roadworthiness before they can be sold – don't buy a car without one as you’ll need to show it when you transfer the registration. You will also need to get a certificate of roadworthiness before you sell the car at the end of your trip. Many mechanics can assess your car and issue the certificate.
Once you have a roadworthiness certificate, take it along with the receipt, your driver's licence and passport to the local department of transport; this department is known by different names in different states (refer to the list at the end of this paragraph). You will need to pay a fee, which is calculated according to the value of the car. If the annual vehicle registration is due, or if you are buying a car in a different state to which it is registered, this will also need to be paid. The registration (or rego) includes the minimum legal third-party insurance. You can count on these fees running to several hundred dollars. Each state's laws vary, check with the department of transport in the state where you plan on buying or selling your car.
18 Goyder Road, Parap
Tel 1300 654 628
Open Mon-Thu 8am-4pm, Fri 8am-5.30pm
Service Tasmania, 134 Macquarie Street, Hobart TAS 7000
Tel 1300 135 513
Open Mon-Fri 8.15am-5.30pm
Centennial Plaza Motor Registry, Ground Floor, Centennial Plaza, 260 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010
Tel 13 22 13
Open Mon-Fri 8.30am-5pm, Sat 8.30am-noon
229 Elizabeth Street, Brisbane QLD 4000
Tel 13 23 80
Open Mon-Tue 8.30am-4.30pm, Wed 9.30am-4.30pm, Thu-Fri 8.30am-4.30pm
Dickson Motor Registry, 13-15 Challis Street, Dickson
Tel 13 22 81
Open Mon 8.30am-5pm, Tue 8.30am-5pm, Wed 8.30am-5pm, Thu 8.30am-5pm, Fri 8.30am-5pm
Ground Floor, EDS Centre, 108 North Terrace, Adelaide SA 5000
Tel 13 10 84
Open Mon-Fri 9am-5pm
Corner Troode Street & Plaistowe Mews, City West, West Perth WA 6005
Tel 13 11 56
Open Mon-Fri 8.15am-4.30pm
459 Lygon Street, Carlton VIC 3053
Tel 13 11 71
Open Mon-Thu 8.30am-4.30pm, Fri 8.30am-5pm