So, how hard is it to buy a car from interstate? Would you do it, could you do it, should you do it? Well, the fact is that Australians, all across this vast country, are doing it every day. So be not afraid, and just read our handy guide below on how to buy a car interstate, the pros and cons and the pitfalls to watch out for.
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Can I buy a car from interstate?
Absolutely you can, yes, and the reason you might want to is that being willing to do so increases the number of cars you can look at and might therefore secure you a better price. Just be sure to consider the extra costs that might be involved in transporting the car to your home state when working out the size of that discount.
In some cases, cars might also just be a bit cheaper in other states, so it’s definitely worth at least having a look.
Would buying interstate only be private or can I buy from a dealer interstate?
You can buy from an interstate dealer, although it’s worth checking—even if you’ve found a particularly great price—whether your local dealer can match it, particularly if you’re buying a new car. It seems unlikely you’d be able to get a new car from a dealer interstate that’s so much cheaper than your local dealers that it would make up the costs of shipping etc. Although a motivated dealer interstate might be motivated to ship the car to you.
It’s more likely that you might find the particular second-hand car of your dreams at a dealer interstate, with just the right spec, colour or mileage. The good news is, particularly if you’re not going to be physically able to go and check the car out in person because of the distance, that any car bought interstate from a dealer should be protected by a warranty.
Used-car dealers are required by law to provide a three-month/5000km warranty as long as the car you’re buying has less than 160,000km on the odometer and is less than 10 years old.
What about buying a car interstate through an auction?
With online auctions increasingly common this is away a lot of people are now buying cars, and the good news is that the same second-hand-warranty laws apply to any vehicle bought from a licensed auctioneer. If you buy from an auction and the car does not come with a warranty, the auctioneer must inform you of that, at which point you can either walk away from the deal or sign up for the fact that you’ll be stuck with any costs from any defects you’ve been unable to spot because you weren’t even in the room with the vehicle.
How do I inspect a car that’s in a different state?
Yes, if you’re in the ACT and looking at a car in NSW, you might just want to drive there and get your hands on it, and your bum in it, but if the distance involved is just too great, you’re going to want, indeed need, to pay someone else to have a look at it for you.
Once you’ve done all the obvious online checks into the vehicle you’re looking at – making sure it’s not stolen or encumbered with debt, all of which you can do through the Personal Property Securities Register—you’ll want to take advantage of pre-purchase vehicle inspection service in the state where the car is for sale, like German Precision in Melbourne, Victoria.
Do not be tempted to forgo the cost of one of these inspections—usually between $250 and $300—and buy a vehicle sight unseen. The risk is too high, and the saving versus potential loss equation makes no sense.
How are you going to get the car home once you’ve bought it?
Obviously, the cost of freighting your new car back to your home state is going to vary enormously, based on where you’ve bought it—Perth to Cairns, for example, is going to be an expensive proposition.
That’s why you’ll want to consider that cost when making your choice, and get a quote on transport fees before you buy. Be sure to get more than one quote from more than one company before making a choice as prices can vary. The costs can be as low as $250 but can be as high as $1500, depending on the size of the vehicle and the distance travelled.
What about the paperwork?
When you buy a new car you have to sort the insurance and the change of registration into your name. Buying a car from interstate simply adds a little complexity to that process, and possibly a little bit of cost as well.
Australia does not like to have consistent laws and rules for such things between states so you’ll need to check what applies to the state you’re buying from and bringing the car into.
You’ll need to transfer the registration from the state of origin, where the vendor is, to your home state. If you’re intending to drive the car from one state to another, you’ll also have to secure a form of temporary registration, typically called an Unregistered Vehicle Permit, which you can apply for at your state authority. This form will mean you have CTP insurance while transporting the vehicle.
If you’re moving the vehicle by freight, of course, and thus keeping the unnecessary kilometres off the clock, you don’t need to worry about this.
And the number plate?
Each state and territory in Australia has its own unique rules and regulations when it comes to selling a used car.
In Victoria, the trickiness level is raised because you need an appointment, the process is all explained here.
Some states and territories allow you to keep number plates when they are no longer associated with a vehicle:
Queensland: You may keep all special, personalised, custom and prestige plates
South Australia: You may keep some special plates, Grand Prix, Jubilee and Numeral-only plates
Victoria: All plates may be kept
Tasmania: All personalised plates may be kept.
Western Australia, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory do not allow you to keep plates.
What about selling a car interstate?
If you’re the seller, you want to cast your net as far and wide as possible, so being willing to accept offers from interstate is a good idea. Just be aware that you’re going to get a lot of questions from someone who’s worried they can’t eyeball the car themselves, and be accommodating when they want to send someone around to do a pre-inspection on your car.