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Buying a car in Australia


Buying a car is a big, exciting, step when you migrate. Be forewarned…cars are expensive in Australia. People allege this is due to the small market, costs of shipping, etc, but there is really no one reason. The alternative to a new car is a used one. There are many second-hand cars in the market, so shop around for a deal.

How and where to buy a car

There are many things to consider when buying a car:

  • Size of the car. Unless you have a large family or specific needs, you probably don’t need a large car. A smaller car is cheaper to run, uses less fuel, and is easier to maneuver, especially in cities.

  • Insurance. Some vehicles, such as sports cars, are much more expensive to insure than others. Where you live will also affect how much insurance you pay.

  • Re-sale value. Some cars are worth a lot less than others when they are re-sold. Factors such as the design and the type of engine play a part in re-sale value. Cars of an unusual colour can also be difficult to re-sell.

  • Type of use. If you own a boat, trailer, or caravan you will need a car that is big enough and powerful enough for towing. If you drive on dirt roads you might need a car with four-wheel drive (4×4). If you have young children, a car with a high safety rating might be important to you.

  • Age and mileage. Cars that are older and/or have high kilometres on the odometer will be a lot cheaper than other cars and might seem like a bargain. However these cars are much more likely to need ongoing repairs than newer cars and could end up costing you a lot more in the long run.

  • Registration. Many people will sell their car when the registration is nearing expiry so they don’t have to pay for the renewal. As the new owner, you must pay the cost of renewing registration on the vehicle. If the registration is about to expire at the time of purchase, you may be able to negotiate a cheaper price with the seller to partially cover this expense.

The NRMA has a free car buyers’ checklist that will help you remember what to check for when inspecting a car.

Where to buy a car

The main websites in Australia car buyers are and These sites have listings for new and second-hand cars, sold through both dealers and private sale.

Used car dealerships (second-hand) have good quality vehicles for purchase.

To feel confident when buying a used car OR to be sure a new car has no warranty issues, you might get one of the following: used or new pre-purchase inspection, used or used car warranty inspection, or an owner’s used report. The NRMA offers each of these. 

Test drive the car before you buy it

No matter where you buy your car, test driving the ones your are seriously considering is a must do. This allows you to see if you and the wehicle are a good fit. Do you like the way the car operates? Isthe interior comfortable? Does the weight of the car feel safe? Are there enough cup holders? (one of the main things a female looks for apparently!)

Before you go on the test drive, ask about insurance in case you have an accident, so you know the risks. The seller may or may not want to go on the test drive with you.

Paperwork for car ownership

When you are ready to buy a vehicle, ask the seller to show you the registration papers, a safety check report, and personal identification to prove that they are the owner of the car.

You should record the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number), engine number, and registration number (number plate). Check that the information on the vehicle is the same as what is recorded on the registration papers.

Within 14 days of the purchase you must visit a motor registry to officially transfer ownership. You will need a letter from the previous owner saying they have sold you the vehicle, the registration papers, the pink slip, and personal identification.

Make sure the vehicle is debt-free!

As the new owner, you may be liable for any money that the seller still owes on the vehicle.

Revscheck is a service that will tell you if a car has money owing on it. You will need the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) to work this out. The VIN is displayed on a metal plate in the engine bay i.e. under the bonnet/hood.

Car insurance

A car is an expensive investment, so make sure you protect it. There are 2 types of automobile insurance in Australia. One protects the car, and one protects people. Learn more about car insurance