How to buy camper van in Australia

When you’re Down Under on a working holiday visa, taking some time out to explore the varied landscapes of the largest island on earth is an essential addition to your itinerary.

Those with the benefit of time to explore but the restrictions of a small budget, should avoid organized tours and internal flights and instead consider a cost effective and rather more quintessential, Aussie road trip.

Often negating the need for additional outlay on accommodation and public transport, a road trip can provide the opportunity to travel on your own terms and at greatly reduced expense.

In this two part series I’ll be walking through the process of both buying a suitable campervan, and selling it on once you’ve completed your trip.

Understanding the market

winnebago-nsw-australia (Custom)

Crossing into New South Wales by Benjamin Jones

Taking some time to research the current market value for a standard campervan prior to your arrival in Australia may help to determine how you much you will likely need to invest, and where to find the best deals.

There is some debate as to the correlation between geographic location and selling price. Cities such as Darwin and Cairns offer the potential for a more competitive market than the overcrowded tourist centers of Sydney and Melbourne, so you may find prices are more accessible. Having said that the increased number of travelers looking to sell before they fly from the major international hubs can facilitate some good deals.

Wherever you plan to buy be mindful that price is not the only factor that should determine which van you purchase.

Searching for your campervan

Buying from a private seller or at an auction is the best way to secure a good price however a guarantee of title, legal protection and a warranty is provided when purchasing a used vehicle from a licensed dealership.

There are three main outlets for second hand vehicles; Classifieds, used vehicle sellers and car markets.



Used Campervan Sellers


Car Markets


It is also worth keeping an eye out for adverts on community noticeboards in supermarkets and hostels. A bargain can often be found when travelers leaving the country list their vehicles for a quick sale.

Getting to grips with second hand vehicles

night-sky-nullarbor-southaustralia (Custom)

Camping on the Nullarbor Plain by Benjamin Jones

Whether or not you to choose to buy a standard ‘Backpacker Van’ (a converted Toyota HiAce or other Kombi style van) there are a number of things to consider.

The first is the age, history and condition of the vehicle.

  • Always inspect the vehicle during the hours of daylight prior to purchase. Ask the owner to demonstrate that every aspect of the van is in full working order and that the engine is mechanically sound.
  • Check that the VIN and engine number match up with the registration document.
  • Check that there are no outstanding debts owed on the vehicle, that it has not previously been written off or reported as stolen by referencing the VIN number in a REVS Check.
  • Enquire about the vehicle’s history and look over all available paperwork regarding recent mechanical work and new parts.


Ask the seller to show you:

  • A current certificate of registration proving ownership.
  • A recent vehicle inspection certificate.


If you feel it necessary you can carry out an ownership check yourself using this state specific transport resource.

If the vehicle appears to be what you’re looking for;

  • Consider the age of the vehicle and the availability/cost of new parts. Remember the further out into the bush you get the harder it will be to find parts for obscure makes and models.
  • Contact some insurance companies to get a rough idea of coverage costs, remember you will need to add this to the sale price of the vehicle when considering your budget. Don’t forget to find out if you will have any excesses to pay and if the cost includes contents insurance.


If you are considering a purchase take the van to a reputable garage for a full mechanical inspection. The $100 or so you spend on this may save you the expense of future breakdowns and repairs.

Always take a test drive.

State Specific On-Road Costs and Registration


Driving across Arnhemland by Benjamin Jones

There a number of costs associated with the purchase of a second hand vehicle and you should factor these into your budget.


The first is registration. All vehicles sold within Australia must have a valid registration certificate. Each state enforces slightly different regulations and as such the costs involved when buying and selling vary too.

In terms of registration or REGO as it is commonly referred to, vehicles registered in Western Australia are the most cost effective to purchase and those in New South Wales the most expensive. Full details pertaining to each state can be found below.

Victoria –

New South Wales –

Queensland –

South Australia –

Western Australia –

Tasmania –

Northern Territory –

Australia Capital Territory –

Once you’ve bought a campervan you must transfer the registration into your name within 14 days, and it is worth noting that you can choose to register the vehicle in a state different to that which it was registered in when you purchased it. To do this you must register it with the local transport authority in your desired state by providing your passport and driver’s license, proof of your residential address within that state, and proof of CTP/third party personal insurance.

Note that there is a fee associated with the transfer of registration.

If like many travelers in Australia you do not have a residential address, a rental receipt in the form of a campsite/hostel receipt on letter headed paper detailing your name and the number of nights you stayed there will be accepted.

Stamp Duty

You will also be required to pay stamp duty on the purchase. A government tax it is mandatory and varies based on the state in which you register, and the cost of the vehicle. You can utilize this resource provided by the Australian Government to calculate stamp duty here.

Vehicle Inspection Certificate

Commonly known as a ‘pink slip’ or ‘blue slip’ depending on which state you’re in, this is essentially a certificate of road worthiness. In some states it is a requirement that all second hand vehicles have an inspection certificate no more than 28 days old and it is recommended that all buyers ask for this regardless. This is not a cost applicable to you during the sale however you will be responsible for renewing this when you come to sell.

CTP Insurance

To transfer the registration of a vehicle into your name you are required to hold third party personal insurance as a minimum. It is worth calling the major insurance providers to find the best rate as the quoted cost can vary significantly.

Agreeing a Sale

When you’ve finally found a road worthy camper at a great price the next step is to agree the terms of the sale.

Write a receipt detailing any agreed terms and be aware that if the owner is selling the vehicle privately and states that it is ‘sold as seen’, you will have no comeback should the wheels fall off 5 minutes after you hand over the cash. Double check the condition of the interior and engine and then check again.

For those who invest time into finding the right campervan at the right price, there is the possibility of financial reward. Once your Aussie adventure is over, if you’ve maintained it well you might just be able to sell it on for a small profit recouping your initial investment with a small rebate for the fuel you’ve bought along the way.


What about you? Have you purchased a camper van in Australia? What was your experience? Do you have anything to add?

Posted by | Comments (3)  | May 13, 2014
Category: Destinations, Oceania, Vagabonding Advice

3 Responses to “How to buy camper van in Australia”

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