Purchasing a vehicle abroad can be tricky. To simplify the process read our comprehensive guide on buying a campervan in Australia.

A dream of ours has always been to travel Australia with the freedom of a campervan. It allows a unique lifestyle that is hard to find living any other way.

Waking up each day in a new place, cooking and eating surrounded by nature. We cannot recommend the experience enough.

Camper van with table and chairs parked in kangaroo valley
Our van Stella parked in Kangaroo Valley NSW

When we decided to buy our own campervan it was a very new experience for us both. We spent days trying to figure out how to go about legitimately purchasing a vehicle in Australia. Then even longer trying to find one to buy.

This step by step guide is designed to make the process easier for anyone looking to do the same. This is what we wish we knew before going through the experience ourselves.

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Find vans you like

Use sites such as Facebook Market Place, Cars4Backpackers, Travellers Autobarn (for old rental vehicles), Gumtree and even backpacker Facebook pages.

Vans for sale on facebook market place

Take it for a test drive

When you find a van you like the look and sound of, get in there quick. Contact the seller and take it for a test drive.

Make sure you get a feel for the vehicle – check the oil cap for a gooey residue (this is a bad sign for the engine), the breaks shouldn’t be soft and no campervan should make weird noises. Ask the seller questions regarding any work they’ve had done and to see the full service history.

This is an example of what the inside of the oil cap should look like on a sound vehicle

If the van fits your requirements it may be worth making an offer then and there as vans can be in high demand depending on the time of year.

Do a background check on the vehicle

Before handing over any money, it’s worth running a background check. This will show you wether the car has been stolen and if there are any unpaid fines which will be passed on to you. Most importantly a check will flag up any serious mechanical issues the vehicle may have had in the past.

Mechanical Check

When a vehicle is sold in most states, an RWC (Road Worthy Certificate) will need to be provided. This is generally the responsibility of the seller. The certificate will need to be produced by a registered mechanic in the state of purchase. The Road Worthy is essentially like an MOT in the UK, so any issues with the vehicle will need to be fixed before the certificate can be granted.

The Road Worthy is not a comprehensive mechanical check, therefore if you want a more in depth assessment you can ask the garage to provide this for you at your own expense.

Lorna happy with our campervan stella
Lorna with our van Stella in Philip Island

However if you are purchasing a vehicle with Western Australian plates an RWC is not essential for the completion of the sale. We would recommend in this case you organise a mechanical check yourself for peace of mind.

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When you are happy to purchase the campervan, there are a few steps you need to take before you can hit the road.

Once a price has been agreed, both the buyer and seller will need to complete transfer of ownership forms which can be found online. On these forms, it is worth valuing the vehicle lower than the agreed price to avoid paying higher transfer fees.

The Road Worthy Certificate must also be provided to you by the seller, with the check being conducted within 30 days of the sale.

You should also request hand written receipts, one for you and one for the seller including:

. Date of sale

. The seller’s name, address and signature

. Your name, address and signature

. Important vehicle information including make, model, engine number

. VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)

Transfer of ownership and registration (Rego)

With your newly acquired registration forms, you will need to locate the nearest transport office to complete the process.

You will need to provide the transport office with all relevant forms as stated above as well as a valid UK/international driving license (take a copy of your visa grant notice and passport just in case).

Adresses of two transport offices closest to St. Kilda
The location of the two closest offices to St. Kilda where we purchased our campervan

You will have to pay a transfer of ownership fee to change the vehicle registration to your name (the lower the value, the cheaper it will be). The vehicle registration can be extended in the office by 3,6 or 12 months, however, this can also be done online at any time.

If purchasing a WA registered vehicle this process will be entirely different. The registration transfers and payments can all be made online. It is still necessary to register the vehicle to a fixed address however, you can use a hostel somewhere in Western Australia and it should work out.

Tax and insurance

The registration fees include road tax and also third party insurance, however this insurance policy is not comprehensive and could leave you in a pickle if you have a bad accident.

Matt and Stella

We took out a new insurance policy with Commonwealth Bank as it was reasonably priced and easy to set up through our bank account.

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Road side assistance

Before buying your own road side cover, it is worth asking the previous owners if they have existing cover. Changing their policy to your name could save you some money.

Road side cover is not a necessity but provides a level of security should anything go wrong on those long drives.

Ready to go

If you have time before you start your journey, it may be worth taking your new home on a test run. Find a campsite close by and head out for a few days. This will again check for any missed problems that may be a hindrance in the long run. Mechanics in smaller towns charge much more than in cities, so iron out any issues before you leave.

You will also find if there is anything else you need to purchase for your campervan, for example, kitchen utensils you can’t live without i.e. a kettle for your morning coffee or a fan to keep you cool at night. It is easy to overlook things until you need them. We did a test run in a rental vehicle to figure out what we wanted in a campervan. Read more about our experience with Wicked Campers.

campervan in Australia with lots of equipment
All of the equipment we had in the campervan for our trip

If you have any further questions about buying a camper van please get in touch and we will endeavour to help.

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Hi, we're Matt & Lorna. Two travellers on one path hoping to share some of our experiences with you.

One thought on “A step by step guide to buying a campervan in Australia

  1. Thanks for this advice for getting a campervan. You mentioned that you should always take a test drive as well. This also seems helpful if it can give you an idea if you need to get anything else with the campervan based on what your tip will be like.

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