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Driving in Australia is a great activity which, not surprisingly, requires a car. This article discusses some ideas for acquiring a car in Australia if you don't already have one.
Buy or Rent?
A very rough rule of thumb can be:
- Less than 3 weeks: Don't even think about buying a car.
- Above 3 Months: It will most definitely be better to buy.
Tips for renting in Australia
You can rent a car in Australia if:
- You're over 18 years old and the holder of a valid international drivers' licence or a current local licence. UK licence holders may drive for 6 months in Australia (after which they are required to take a local driving test), and it is usually accepted by rental companies.
- Some vehicle hire companies require the driver to be over the age of 25. Other companies have lower minimum age requirements, such as 18 or 21, and may require a surcharge.
- You understand and agree to uphold the road rules of Australia. It's especially easy for visitors from the UK to drive in Australia, as traffic drives on the left.
A number of rental companies specialise in providing 2-3 year old vehicles which are offered at substantially less cost than new ones. These can sometimes be pre-booked on the internet and collected from close to international airports. There is really little difference to hiring new vehicles from major rental companies.
It may seem glaringly obvious to many, but make sure your rental has airconditioning!
Tips for buying
Many of these tips are true regardless of where you are looking to buy a car, but there are a few concerns specific to cars in Australia that you should be aware of.
- Don't buy a car you have not test driven yourself for at least around the block. If you are too scared to drive it, ask the seller to take you on a short ride and tell him what you would like him to do: Brake sharp, accelerate fast, etc....
- Don't buy a car (either from a garage or private person) if you do not have at least some basic knowledge of cars and know what to look for.
- Don't buy a car from a dealer unless he is specialized in providing for backpackers and has a good reputation (ask him for feedback from his customers and check the Internet).
- Don't buy a car that is leaking any fluid (black=engine oil/brake fluid, brown=engine oil/brake fluid, red=gearbox, green=radiator or other.), has a oily looking engine head or rust on important parts of the chassis such as the door areas, or near the suspensions.
- Don't buy a car that has problems with the gearbox (automatic or manual) - this time of repair can be very expensive. Don't buy the argument that you will have to use overdrive or use neutral position when parking.
- Don't buy a car that doesn't stop (SHARP!) when you want it to stop. Check all the car lights with the help of a friend. Choose a car with a "roobar" ("KangaROO-bar" also known as bull bar) and spots (also known as Spot Lights) if you are going to be driving in rural or remote areas.
- Avoid buying a car that has not at least 3 months of registration left - you might end up having to rush into a territory where you do not want to go at that time just in order to extend the registration and have a safety inspection ($$$$)- or have trouble selling the car!
- Do buy a car that can easily be fixed in the outback or in a small town.
- Do buy a car with a buy back guarantee.
- Try to get Western Australian registration - they are easy to extend just over the telephone without a safety inspection.