A Beginners Guide To Buying A Campervan In Australia
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Last updated - 09:11 AM
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Traveling around Australia in a campervan looks and sounds like a lot of fun, until you realize that you don’t know the first thing about campervans. You want to buy one, but you don’t know what to look for. Not only that, but you’re also a foreigner backpacking in Australia and you don’t know what the rules and regulations are for owning a vehicle.

If this sounds like you, this guide can help! After reading this you should know all the basics for buying a campervan in Australia.

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    Should You Buy Or Rent?

    Your decision to buy or rent will be based on the length of your trip. If you’re going to be traveling around Australia for a few days, or weeks, it’s best to rent. 

    You should buy a used campervan if you plan on backpacking Australia over a span of a few months, especially if you’re someone on a working holiday visa

    Buying your camper, over renting, gives you the added benefit of selling it afterwards. If you treat your camper with care throughout the duration of your trip , you can potentially sell it for close to what you paid for it. 

    This essentially means that you can do a whole trip around Australia, in a camper, with free transportation and accommodations.

    Where Are The Best Places To Buy A Campervan?

    If you're looking for a good bargain, you will want to avoid buying from dealerships.

    Buying from a private seller on an online marketplace like Gumtree or Facebook is where you will find the best discounts. Some great Facebook groups for buying and selling campers in Australia include Backpacker campervans for sale Australia, Caravans, Motorhomes & Campers For Sale Australia, Campervan Sales Australia, Motorhome, RV And Campervan Sales Australia. There are several other great Facebook groups, simply type “Australia Campervan” in the search bar to browse through them

    If you can get to Sydney, another great option would be the Backpackers Car Market. This is essentially a hub for buyers and sellers to meet and negotiate deals for vehicles. For first time campervan buyers, the Backpacker Car Market is a great place to get advice about your purchase.

    Does The Campervan You Want To Buy Have Valid Registration (REGO)?

    Any vehicle being driven around Australia needs to have valid registration. If the campervan you want to buy isn’t registered, don't buy it. 

    It’s illegal to even go for a test drive in an unregistered vehicle, which should immediately be a huge red flag. Just save yourself the hassle and buy a vehicle that has valid REGO.

    A good thing to verify is how much time is left on the registration. Renewing REGO can be expensive and it’ll be beneficial for you if the camper you’re buying has a decent amount of time left on its registration. 

    Additionally, just to be extra safe, try to confirm that the seller's REGO information is correct, like their name, number plate, VIN, and engine number.

    Transferring REGO

    After purchasing your camper, the previous registration has to be transferred to your name within 14 days (7 days for Western Australia & Tasmania). To transfer the REGO you will need to go in person to a transportation office in the state that the camper was originally registered in. This is why it's always advised to buy your camper in the state that it's registered in. The only state where REGO paperwork can be submitted by mail is Western Australia, making it easier for backpackers to purchase WA registered campers interstate.

    Proof Of Address

    To complete any REGO transfer process, you will need to prove that you have an address in the camper’s registered state. Backpackers who don’t know anyone in the state, and don’t have an address to provide, are known to provide the address of a hostel they've been staying at. Our advice to you would be to let the hostel know that you're doing this because they'll probably get some of your mail. In most cases, if you provide the transportation office with a bank statement that has the hostel address on it, it should suffice as proof. 

    REGO Costs

    When you purchase your camper and are transferring the REGO, the state will charge you the following:

    • A registration transfer fee

    • Stamp duty, which varies with the value of the car purchased

    • Motor vehicle tax, which is paid annually

    Renewing Your REGO

    If the registration on your camper is about to expire, you will need to renew it. You can renew your REGO online or in person for 3, 6, or 12 months. In most cases, when you’re charged your REGO fee you will also be assessed a charge for Compulsory Third Party (CTP) insurance.

    CTP insurance is mandatory for every vehicle driven in Australia and is included in the registration fee for most of the states and territories, except for NSW. In NSW you need to purchase separate CTP insurance (a green slip) from one of the state’s approved providers.

    REGO fee breakdowns for every state can be found in the links below.

    REGO For An Interstate Camper

    If you decide to buy a camper that's registered in a different state, you will have to register the camper as if it were a new registration. A full breakdown of that can be found here

    Roadworthy Checks

    Some states need to verify your vehicle’s safety or roadworthiness before it can be transferred into your name. So if the camper you’re looking to buy is registered in a state that needs a safety check done, but it hasn’t had one in a while, you’d be liable for it. The price do get these checks done differs from state to state.

    Vehicles registered in South Australia, the Northern Territory, and Western Australia don’t require safety checks when they’re sold.

    Click here for a helpful guide on when safety checks are required.

    Is The Campervan In Good Condition?

    If you don’t know your way around cars, it'll be difficult for you to do a proper inspection of the campervan that you want to buy. For this reason, we always recommend hiring a mechanic to inspect it before making your final decision. Hiring a mechanic isn’t too expensive (it’s around $120) and it can save you a lot of money in the long run.

    However, if you absolutely insist on doing the inspection yourself, keep an eye out for things like:

    • Rust 

    • Damage

    • Cracks on the Washers

    • Deflated & Worn Out Tires

    • Oil Leaks Underneath The Camper and/or Under The Hood

    • Cracks in Glass

    • Ripped Upholstery

    When you start the camper & do the test drive, try to ensure that:

    • The brakes work well (including the hand brake)

    • Warning lights are off

    • Air conditioning and heater work

    • The suspension feels strong

    • The lights inside and outside the vehicle are working including the dashboard lights, brake lights, headlights, lights within all of the consoles etc.

    • There’s no exhaust smoke

    • The wipers work

    • The mileage is what they stated

    Additionally, it’s always great to be upfront and ask the previous owner questions like:

    • Why they're selling it?

    • If it has any defects?

    • How often they've serviced it?

    • If they've gotten into any accidents?

    • If they’ve recently topped off the fluids like coolant and oil? 

    • Whether any repairs have been done?

    • What the condition of the battery is?

    Are You Paying A Good Price For It?

    If you want to know whether you’re paying too much (or even too little) for a particular camper, you can use Redbook for price references.

    You can also check out the Facebook groups mentioned above for price comparisons. A lot of experienced vanlifers post in these groups as well, and you can ask them for advice about prices.

    Is There Money Owing On The Campervan?

    If you buy a used vehicle in Australia and there’s still money owing on it from a previous owner, it can be repossessed while it’s in your possession. That’s why it’s always a good idea to do a REVS check before buying your camper.

    Does It Come With Extra Equipment?

    Is there anything extra that the camper comes with that you don’t see advertised anywhere else? Consider it an added bonus if your camper comes with the following items:

    • A Second Battery

    • A Power Inverter

    • Additional Water Tanks

    • Second Fuel Tank

    • Camping Materials

    • Fridge

    • Toilet

    • Sink

    • Shower

    • Rearview Camera 

    Do You Need To Buy Insurance?

    The only insurance that is required by law in Australia is CTP insurance. And as mentioned before, the registration fee in most states will cover CTP insurance, except for NSW, where you will need to purchase a green slip.

    How Should You Sell The Campervan After Your Trip?

    Because of everything we mentioned previously with the REGO, it’s just easier if you decide to sell your camper in the state or territory that it’s registered in. However, just try to be mindful of the seasons. During the winter months more backpackers will head up north, and if you’re in a southern state, you may have a harder time finding buyers.

    As mentioned previously, your camper will also be easier to sell if it still has a good amount of REGO remaining. Also if you’ve taken good care of it, and it’s in similar condition to what you purchased it in, you can try selling it for a comparable price.

    Make sure to give yourself ample time to sell the camper before your visa expires. Facebook and Gumtree, as well as the Backpacker Car Market in Sydney are all great places to sell. 

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