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Need a roadworthy certificate or pinkslip to sell your car, mate? Damn right you do if you're in Victoria or Queensland. A lot of bureaucracy is involved in car registration or rego, as it's known Down Under. Rego includes third-party compulsory insurance and stamp duty. In subsequent years, your rego fee will include the motor vehicle tax and the third-party compulsory insurance. Roadworthy certificates are only valid for 30 days and cost about AUD 50.

Vehicle Paperwork (And Other Nonsense)

"The Australian system for transferring car ownership is brilliant:  it's another convoluted scheme designed to transfer wealth from the buyer and the seller straight to the government"  Doug Knell, Doug's Republic

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Back where I come from, you advertise your car in a publication that's known to attract those interested in a secondhand car.   Interested parties call, visit, test drive the car, maybe ask if you can take it to a mechanic at their expense, and then decide to buy it.   The government doesn't get involved.

The government in Australia does get involved . . . big time.  Any car, used or new, in Australia must go through the registration process or rego, as it's known Down Under.   Every single year, the rego must be renewed. 

cars keys to an Australia car

If you think getting the keys is so simple in Australia, think again!

It's easy to think that rego is just the license plate renewal each year.  That would not be correct. License plate renewal is just part of the rego process in Australia.  This differs from the United States where license plate renewal is a complete process.   The rego process in Australia consists of the license plate renewal for a year and also the registration transfer fee, stamp duty, motor vehicle tax, and compulsory third-party insurance.  The second year of owning the car your rego fee will include the motor vehicle tax and the third-party insurance only, the bulk of the rego fees.  The insurance and motor vehicle tax are why rego costs run AUD 500 or more annually. 

The good news about all this is that every car in Australia with a valid plate has compulsory third-party insurance along with it.  It doesn't matter who's driving it.  The insurance goes along with the car.  In Australia, it doesn't matter who drives your car for the third-party compulsory to be effective.   This is completely different from the United States where insurance applies to the policy holder driving that car.   This compulsory insurance policy in Australia is not comprehensive insurance.  Not even close!   If you smash your lovemobile into the family Johnson's Holden, your compulsory third party insurance will cover Mr. Johnson's facial reconstruction, Mrs. Johnson's new synthetic leg, and the little Johnson's eye and nose transplants, but that insurance won't cover fixing the Holden itself. The reason you get additional insurance is to cover repairs on their car (and yours) should the accident be your fault. 

Chances are that when you buy your secondhand car, there will be rego left on it.  What that means is that the previous owner paid the motor vehicle tax and third-party insurance for a year and that full year hasn't elapsed yet.    You will know that at the time of purchase how much rego time is left on your car because you will see a registration sticker glued onto the left internal side of the windscreen, documenting the Motor and Chassis numbers, along with a big number which corresponds to the month the registration will expire.  A big 5, for example, would mean a May expiration.  It's nice to think that if you're buying your car in October with a May registration expiration that you're getting 7 months free registration.  That's not altogether true.  The seller will probably factor in the unused registration into the selling price of the car.  Even if the seller doesn't raise the price of the car upon sale, the fact that it has months left of registration on it makes it a more attractive buy for interested parties.

Any person buying a car, regardless of how much rego is left on it, is still responsible for the registration transfer fee, currently about AUD 24 in New South Wales, and the stamp duty.   Stamp duty varies by state and also by the car's value.   The more expensive the car, the higher proportional stamp duty one pays.  In Western Australia, the most extreme example, stamp duty starts out a 2.75% and escalates to 6.5% if the car is valued at AUD 45,001 or more.   Over 90% of visitors to Australia will be buying cars valued at less than AUD 10,000 and need only consult the first column to gauge the stamp duty they will owe. 

  Value of Car/Private Motor Vehicle
State $10,000 $20,000 $30,000 $40,000
New South Wales $300 *- $600 $1200 $3100
Victoria $250 $500 $1000 $4000
Queensland $300 $600 $1200 $2400
Western Australia $125 $550 $2300 $5200
South Australia $340 $740 $1540 $3140
Tasmania $300 $600 $1600 $3200

What happens if your rego from one state runs out a few months after you buy the car, at which time you'll be thousands of miles away in another Australian state?   I can tell you from experience what happens.  You get screwed. 

In New South Wales (NSW), your car is supposed to undergo an annual inspection.  It's not a very thorough test.   The tires, steering, brakes, etc are briefly inspected.   If the car passes, the owner gets a Roadworthy Certificate, otherwise known in NSW as a pinkslip. Without this pink slip, the owner cannot renew his registration.  So how does an owner of a NSW-registered car renew his registration if he's currently traveling through Western Australia?  It's not like he can take his car to a Western Australian mechanic and ask him to perform a roadworthy check that conforms to NRMA (the National Roads & Motorists Association -- the NSW Automobile Association) standard.   The Western Australian mechanic could easily conduct such a test, but being from Western Australia, he doesn't have authority from the NSW government to fill out the proper NSW forms.   The Roads and Traffic Authority, NSW, (the RTA) lists all inspection stations that can perform e-Safety checks which are relayed electronically to them.  No surprises, all are in New South Wales.  The site offers no help if you're currently out of state.  I would venture that you could get your car checked by a mechanic in another state but you'd have to get prior approval from the RTA and then go through a certification process so the document would be valid across state lines, but don't quote me on this. 

My car was plated in Victoria.   I had no problem extending my rego online.  Vic Roads would only mail the new sticker to the address in Victoria where my car was registered.   This was actually my friend's house and he had to mail the sticker to me in Darwin, Northern Territory.   Although I called Vic Roads and explained that I was a foreigner and only needed a few more months of rego extension before I was to leave the country, Vic Roads cut me no slack.   They let senior citizens renew for 6 months at a time, but not me.  I had to fork out for another year of registration and essentially threw AUD 270 into the toilet.  Queensland, Tasmania, and New South Wales permit owners to renew for 6 months at a time.  If you pass by a Vic Roads often while in Australia, flip them off for me. 
 roadworthy certificate Australia
There's More Paperwork And $$$ To Spend To Get Rid Of Your Vehicle

The Australian government gets you coming, and you can bet they'll get you going, too.  That's what governments are for.

Vic Roads definitely dips their hands into your pockets with more regulations.  Victoria and Queensland also won't let you sell your car until you get your hands on a Roadworthy Certificate.  The car must be checked by a mechanic licensed to perform these tests in the state in which the car is registered.  If the car passes, you're handed the Roadworthy Certificate, which costs around AUD 50 and is valid for just 30 days.  So if you don't sell your car within 30 days, you have to hand over more Aussie bucks to get the car checked again by a mechanic and still more Aussie bucks to buy the new certificate. 

My car did not pass the roadworthy tests.  I was told I needed one new light, a few minor exhaust repairs, a seat belt adjustment, and all four tires replaced.  Replacing four tires in Australia is not cheap -- AUD 400 plus labor.   All said, the mechanic told me I'd need to shell out another AUD 1,000 -- he was vague exactly how much, so it probably would've been more -- to bring my car up to roadworthy standard.   I found out later, once I declined his offer, that my transmission was defective.  Either the mechanic was an idiot and failed to spot that or, more likely, the roadworthy test focuses on only a few areas and not the fitness of a car's engine.  It just goes to show a roadworthy car can still be a lemon. 

  selling a car in Australia  
Sorry, mates.  Visualizing this image and achieving the results won't spare you any of the fees.

The condition of my transmission played no role in whether the car was roadworthy.  Had the transmission been in stellar shape, I still would've needed to spend AUD 1,000 or maybe even AUD 1,500 to make my car saleable within Victoria.  The car's tires were not bald.   The mechanic admitted they didn't need replacement to make the car driveable.  They needed replacement only for Roadworthy Certificate considerations.  The bottom line:  Don't Buy A Car Licensed In Victoria or Queensland.   Any car driven 20,000 km or more around Australia is going to need at least what the mechanic told me I needed.  No one sane would spend AUD 1,500 on a car priced at AUD 4,500 to be able to sell it at a further loss.   You'll be left having to dump your car at a dealer, since dealers, by law, can buy a car off you without you having to produce a Roadworthy Certificate.

Sydney (NSW) is the most popular international gateway in Australia, and NSW-vehicles also seem to be the easiest to buy and sell.   You do need to go through an annual roadworthy check, but you don't need to procure a Roadworthy Certificate to sell your car.  This is how NSW-plated backpacker mobiles can keep circulating through Australia. Any Victoria-plated backpacker mobile would require an infusion of AUD 1,000-1,500 after a backpacker was finished with it in order to roadworthy it.  The car's cost would constantly be inflated each time a driver transferred it and no one would buy it.

Western Australia is an even easier place to sell a car.  Once a Western Australian car is registered, it doesn't need a yearly road safety certificate.  But most travelers don't start and end their trips in Perth.   I remember being surprised when I saw foreign travelers in Western Australia-plated cars.  It was rare.   And I never saw travelers with a South Australia plate.   Adelaide, South Australia is not an international gateway into and out of the country.  Nor is the Northern Territory or Tasmania

Buying Your Car In One State And Selling It In Another Can Be Problematic.  There are expensive costs associated with transferring the rego from one state to another.  That is why most travelers sell their car in the same state they bought the car in.   Having said that, I can see the appeal of buying a car in Melbourne (Victoria) or Brisbane (Queensland) and selling the car in a state like Western Australia.   Since Victoria and Queensland will ream you with the roadworthy requirement before you can sell your car, it may actually be more cost effective to transfer the rego to another state and sell it there. 


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Fascinating Ideas You Could Care Less About

 Find out all about car registration or rego, as it's known in Australia, right at Doug's Republic. Your rego will include motor vehicle tax, stamp duty, and third-party compulsory insurance. Stamp duty varies with the price of the car. Roadworthy certificates or pinkslips (known in NSW) are required annually or, in Victoria or Queensland, in order to sell the car. Good luck with your rego and roadworthy certificates, mates.