Project Van

Since before coming to Australia we knew we wanted to do this trip in a van. Our wish was to buy it from the beginning, but money issues complicated that plan, so we had to stay for a while in Melbourne working to get the money for both the van and at least a couple of months. And three months later we finally had it.

I went back to Spain to spend Christmas and then Pierre and I were gonna meet each other again in Sydney to buy the van. We thought it was going to be really easy, such a big city with so many backpackers leaving the country from there. Easy peasy. Well, we were wrong. The market was not that bad, but we didn’t quite anticipate on one side, the number of new backpackers looking to buy a van as well and, on the other, the mechanical state of most of the vans. Either they looked good on the outside but mechanically they were almost dead, or they were ok both outside and inside but it was way to expensive for us. Our budget was approx of $6000 and most of them exceeded.

Finally, we come to the conclusion that the best option was just to buy an empty van, not a backpackers one, in a good mechanical condition (so we wouldn’t have to spend more money later on possible fix ups) for less money, and just do it ourselves as well as buy any camping stuff we needed.

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It took us more time than expected and the hospitality of my dear friends Krystina and Edu  in Manly as well as a few days in a couchsurfer’s  house in Sydney, but in 2 weeks it was almost finished and ready to hit the road.

After everything, the final cost were over our budget as well, but at least we know we have a better vehicle that (hopefully) is not gonna drop dead in the middle of nowhere and, also, adapted to our needs.

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This is an approximate budget of what we spent:

  • Mitsubishi Express 2004: $4000
  • *Rego transfer & new plates: $100
  • Fixings: $300
  • Second battery: $650 (expensive but really useful if you are going to be living in the van for a while)
  • Roof basket: $150
  • Camping stuff (including cooker, kitchenware, mattress): $400
  • Raw materials and other tools for the transformation: $1000

Though it was a big investment, we hope to save a lot in accommodation so most likely it’ll have been worthy.

Tips to buy a new vehicle in Australia:

  • Check where the last/current Rego is from. Some states like NSW ask you to go in person to renew or transfer the Rego, while others like West Australia allow you to do it online or by mail.
  • In order to renew or transfer the Rego (depending on the States) the car needs to be checked and approved by a mechanic. This is not mandatory for Western and South Australia, which makes it easier to buy and sell but it’s at your own risk.
  • You can check if the car has been stolen, has fines or was in a major accident online (ppsr.gov.au) for less than $5. You just need the VIN number of the car.
  • The cost of the the Rego transfer depends on the price you bought the car for, or at least, the price stipulated on the Rego transfer sheet, if you can come to an agreement with the seller.
  • Changing the state of the Rego is not a good idea as it’s very expensive and you have to go through a deep mechanical check.
  • Always drive test the car yourself and ask for the tax invoices of any mechanic repairs
  • Depending on the state, the Rego usually comes with a third party insurance, but you should think about getting a comprehensive insurance to cover your car in case of any damage.
  • As well, it’s important to get Roadside Assistance (NRMA in NSW for around $150 or NRCQ in Queensland from $89) as if something happens to your car in the middle of nowhere and you don’t have road assistance coverage, they won’t come to your rescue, even if you are willing to pay for it in the moment.
  • More than 300.000 kms probably not a great idea.