Driving in Australia: Know the Law

Before I start this post, I need to publish a disclaimer. There are six states and two territories in Australia, and, as far as I am aware, each has its own set of road rules. I can’t possibly know all of these rules, so this article does not represent legal advice in any way. It’s for entertainment.

I thank you! Okay, here goes…

If you are going to be driving a car in Australia, you’d better be sure to understand all of the rules and regulations. Trust me, there are some strange ones.

It gets worse; each state or territory has its own rules, so if you’re driving all around the country, there are a lot of rules and regulations you’ll need to come to terms with.

Strange rules.

It was some time ago that I wrote my post Buying a second-hand car in Australia Compared to England, and in that post I mentioned that in the UK, second-hand cars seemed to be for sale on every street, with a simple for sale sign stuck in a window along with a telephone number.

Here, in Australia, or certainly Queensland, I hardly ever see a car for sale on the side of the road.

Guess what?

There are laws about that too.

Jeep for sale

for saleI am selling my trusty old Jeep after five years, but before I can do that here in Queensland I need a Road Worthy Certificate (RWC). This is a bit like the U.K.’s MOT, except I’ve not had to do an RWC every year; I am trusted to ensure that my car is in a roadworthy condition.

When selling a car though, I need to MAKE SURE my car is roadworthy, hence this test. By the way, it costs $110.

When I got my roadworthy certificate, it said on the front “… the certificate must be displayed in a conspicuous place on the vehicle offered for sale. Note: failure to display this label or certificate may result in enforcement.

I telephoned Queensland’s Department of Transport and Main Roads for clarification. I explained that I had advertised my car online, but hadn’t, as yet, put a ‘for sale’ sign on it and parked it somewhere in the street. I asked under what circumstances I needed to display the certificate.

I was told that as the car has been advertised online, it is now being offered for sale and the certificate must be placed in that conspicuous place, otherwise I could be fined.

Can I put a for sale sign on it and park it in the street?” I asked.

Yes you can” I was told,as long as you display the certificate as well.” I asked what the fine was for failure to display the certificate…

$550! Kerching!!

So that’s why I don’t see cars for sale on the streets much here, people usually prefer to find a buyer FIRST, before getting the RWC done for their car. It’s pretty difficult to get caught trying to sell a car without an RWC if you haven’t got a for sale sign on it.

I mean, what are the chances?

In some states, as I understand it, it may actually be illegal to put a for sale sign on a car under any circumstances. Maybe some of my readers from around the country can clarify the rules from where they live.

So, now that my car is up for sale, this is how it looks…

for sale signAnd the certificate…

Road Worthy CertificateYou can check out the exact regulation on this page about safety certificates. Do remember to check those other state and territory rules to see what happens elsewhere.

Other strange motoring regulations

Here is a list of just some of the strange rules I came across, along with which state they are apply in and the potential fine. They may apply in all states for all I know, see disclaimer above.

  • Not giving way to a resting horse; QLD; fine $110
  • Running an orange light, that’s to say driving through an orange light when it is deemed you had enough time to stop; Vic; fine $282
  • Failure to leave 1 metre of space in front and behind when parallel parking; QLD; fine $44
  • Driving with any part of your body protruding out of the vehicle, (for example, your elbow); NSW; fine $298
  • Tooting your hooter and waving goodbye, technically, could be two offences; Vic; fine $141 for bibbing your hooter unnecessarily and another $141 for waving your arm out of the window.
  • Back in New South Wales, the same double crime, see above, would be $298 plus $298 = $596
  • Driving with a pet on your lap; QLD; fine $256.30
  • It is even illegal to leave your keys in the car and/or leave the window open if you are more than 3 metres from it; NSW; fine $99 + $99 = $198
  • Splashing a bus passenger with mud after driving through a puddle; NSW; fine $165.

I could go on, I really could, but instead I’ll give you the links to the two websites I got some of this information from. The first is Courier Mail, and the second is Drive.

Many of these offences also carry penalty or demerit points as well, which can ultimately lead to the loss of your license, so it really does pay to know the regulations.

I downloaded a PDF version of the rules that cover Queensland, it’s got 390 pages! You can download your copy here.

There, now we’ve both got something to read today.

Soon, I hope, I’ll be writing a post about buying a new car. Got to sell this one first though.

Update August 2021: I was recently contacted by the Marketing Manager from ASAP Roadworthys asking me if I would link to an article on his website all about Roadworthy Certificates. Well, the article has some good information on it, I liked it, and I think it will be useful to my readers, so why not…

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{ 38 comments… add one }
  • Rhianna Hawk August 31, 2018, 2:52 am |

    Your list of funny laws really gave me a laugh, and I appreciate you informing us about laws regarding keeping our vehicles roadworthy. I have a somewhat older car that I’m hoping to sell soon and while I consider it roadworthy, it’s good to know that I need to get a special certificate and display it visibly with the car. $550 is a lot of money to lose on trying to sell a car without the inspection first, and definitely not worth the risk.

    • BobinOz August 31, 2018, 4:35 pm |

      Yes, there are some strange laws, and some of the fines are quite high, especially that $550 one. Not funny difficult for it.

  • Trevor March 28, 2018, 5:48 am |

    Modern police forces rely on ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) cameras inside police cars to flag up: a) No tax. b) No insurance. c) No MoT (Roadworthy Certificate). ‘MoT’ stands for the UK’s ‘Ministry of Transport’ which tests private vehicles for safety annually after they reach 3 years old. Lack of tax and MoT, checkable online via the registration number, usually invalidates their insurance too.

    Unless a vehicle is registered as being ‘off-road’ (not in use), the registered keeper can be fined for no tax/insurance/MoT. Problem in the UK is that MoT enforcement can only be made if the car is being driven on public roads and the police have no time to stalk or sting it. That means being detected by an ANPR camera, which could take from years to never, assuming the driver did nothing stupid to attract attention. Any normal country would issue a fine and re-test order to the owner, mailed to their registered address. Not in Britain! Just wondered how Australia and the USA, being well-run countries, enforced vehicle roadworthiness if concerned citizens tried to report their concerns?

    • BobinOz March 28, 2018, 6:58 pm |

      It’s complicated, but here in Queensland, for example, it’s actually worse Trevor. Our roadworthy certificates (RWC) are only needed to sell a car/transfer ownership. So someone could buy a secondhand car with a RWC and then keep it for years and years without the need of having it retested.

      Sounds bad, but then on the other hand, the driver still has the responsibility of keeping the car in a roadworthy condition. If he were to get pulled over and the police decide to check the car out, maybe because the tyres are worn, and then go on to find problems with the brakes, rust, suspension, that sort of thing, they was still get nicked.

      On the other hand, for example, in New South Wales it’s a bit like the UK. You cannot renew your road fund license without a pink slip, which is like the UK MOT. It currently costs about $35 and is done at most garages, but unlike the MOT, it just lasts for 42 days, but you won’t need another one until your tax runs out. With six other states/territories each with their own rules, it’s always best to check with them individually to see how they deal with this.

      Interesting info about that ANPR system, everything seems to be computerised these days and I’m sure that despite some shortfalls, the ANPR thing probably does have a better chance of catching people breaking the law than the police using their gut feeling, as they always did back in the day.

      • Trevor March 28, 2018, 9:05 pm |

        Queensland is like the Isle of Man in the British Isles: it’s the owner’s responsibility to keep his vehicle in a safe condition, regardless of age, but police will prosecute if necessary. Fortunately the island has little traffic which drives sedately, apart from TT-week, but it’s an incentive for cheapskates to skimp on safety. The British MoT test is quite thorough yet still fails to check tyre pressures, so the lazy owner who doesn’t pay for routine services could be running half flat after a couple of years. Strange the clever Aussies don’t have a standardised federal testing system.

        • BobinOz March 29, 2018, 7:05 pm |

          There are quite a few things that are not standardised nationally, so each state and territory sort of does its own thing.

  • Trevor March 30, 2017, 1:01 am |

    Mindless Vandalism

    Brits in the lower socio-economic groups can be a very jealous and vindictive group, damaging cars for no apparent reason, especially clean or well-presented ones. Mine is nothing special but sports several scratches from ‘keying’, namely scraping a key or sharp object over the bodywork in random lines. This often occurs in supermarket car parks and is hard-to-spot, especially at busy times, because the perpetrators just walk past and it’s done in a flash. Hundreds of pounds to put right, except I don’t bother. A sign of the times in the UK. How is Australia?

    • BobinOz March 30, 2017, 8:23 pm |

      Funnily enough, about three years ago my wife left her car in a park-and-ride carpark and it got a small amount of key scratch damage. Not enough for an insurance claim really, not with the $500 access, but we did have to pay the touchup guys to come round and fix it.

      Mrs Bob did telephone the police and they took a statement. Within about six months the park-and-ride facility was fitted with security cameras and also upgraded with some fencing. Not sure if they did that because of this incident, but maybe they did.

      When the touchup guy fixed the car, we asked him if he gets much of this key damage stuff, and he said no, hardly ever at all.

      Seems we were unlucky.

      We live in Brisbane, whether it’s worse in other cities I don’t know, but I don’t think Australia has as bad a problem as it appears you have in the UK.

      • Trevor April 1, 2017, 1:29 am |

        I’m glad to hear that the Aussies have better things to do than scratch cars out in the hot sun. The British police would laugh you off if you tried to lodge a ‘keying’ complaint with them! In Australia (pop. 23.5m) residents are of a generally-higher social calibre than the British (pop. 65m + unknown illegals) on average, so petty crime like vandalism is likely to be lower. This especially applies to Australia’s immigrants who, apart from criminal refugees like the one who murdered MP John Newman, are vetted far more rigorously. A current complaint of Brexiters here is that doors are open to all-comers, so a visa/work-permit system is necessary to raise standards and keep out those who come to beg, scrounge off welfare or pickpocket in ‘treasure island’.

        Owing to the more-substantial long-distance vehicles, I expect you found Aussie car parking spaces larger than those back home in England, where we are crammed in like sardines, resulting in numerous parking scrapes and dents from opening doors.

        • BobinOz April 4, 2017, 5:53 pm |

          Yes, generally speaking car parking spaces are much wider as aremost of the roads. Some very busy shopping mall multi-storey car parks are switching to smaller spaces though, just to squeeze more people in. So some spaces in some car parks are massive, others noticeably tiny.

  • Trevor February 8, 2017, 3:07 am |

    Built-in cruise control to set speed is an essential in Oz to avoid the extortionate speeding fines.

    Do you have Satnavs which alert to speed cameras like in the UK? Or just no speed cameras?

    • BobinOz February 8, 2017, 10:59 pm |

      Oh yes, there are plenty of speed cameras in the UK, don’t worry about that 🙂 I’m pretty sure they also have satnavs to warn them about these cameras, just as we have.

      I agree as well, cruise control is crucial on our roads, it’s so easy to lose concentration and creep over the maximum limit, much better to set and (almost) forget on those long straight journeys.

      • Trevor February 11, 2017, 4:25 am |

        In the UK fixed speed cameras must, by law, be visible, so alert drivers can brake in time. One cheeky chappie, on his motorbike riding down the A12 in Essex, whips off his single rear number plate, attached by velcro, just before passing well over the limit! There’s also a scam whereby number plates can be sprayed in a reflective coating which renders them invisible to the cameras.

        Watching Australia’s ‘Police Patrol’ on Freeview in the UK today (from 2013) I was impressed with your police technology when a young lady attempted to impersonate her sister (not a twin) to evade another speeding ticket. The officer instantly pulled up both the sisters’ driving licence images on his computer, via the police radio network, and busted the lying lass instantly! The court took a very dim view of the attempt to pervert justice and fined her a massive A$1731. Don’t mess with the police, customs or immigration in Australia. However the result is one of the world’s ethnically-purest, cleanest and most law-abiding countries in the world. Some might call their methods harsh but I respect a tough approach where all are treated equally but fairly.

        • BobinOz February 12, 2017, 8:00 pm |

          Yes, I remember the speed cameras were always painted yellow when I lived in the UK. Here in Australia we often see signs saying ‘Speed cameras ahead’ and for anyone who has a satnav, it will give a warning when a speed camera is around.

          The painted lines in the road are also an obvious giveaway.

          Not sure what you mean by ethically-purist, not really sure I want you to explain it either 🙂 I wouldn’t call Australia one of the most law-abiding countries in the world though, we have crime here, and quite a bit of it. See…


          • Trevor February 15, 2017, 12:30 am |


            I tripped myself up on the rapidly-changing ethnic balance down under. Since the revocation of its white-only migration policy in 1966, Australia is now 5% less white than Britain. However, whereas the UK encouraged menial workers from the developing Commonwealth, Australia was far stricter: insisting on higher skills or financial investment. The result is clear to see today.

            • BobinOz February 15, 2017, 8:53 pm |

              Australia’s immigration policy is non-discriminatory when it comes to race. They do though target highly skilled people as a general rule. The result is, by and large, a more successful multicultural society.

              But then, we are getting way off subject here Trevor, this post is about driving in Australia, which is why I didn’t really want you to explain it 🙂

  • Todd December 18, 2014, 6:19 am |

    Hi Bob,

    To follow on from Tony I got a $113 fine on the Gold Coast under their local law for parking on a council road and displaying that my car was for sale, I also had a safety certificate displayed. So I would be ok to drive it around but not to park on a council road or land. It is not fun finding out the hard way when you are trying to do the right thing!


    • BobinOz December 19, 2014, 6:22 pm |

      That’s harsh Todd and as you say, really irritating to get stuck with a fine when you are trying to do it the right way. In the above article I say “In some states, as I understand it, it may actually be illegal to put a for sale sign on a car under any circumstances.” – Sounds like it’s not just some states, but maybe some individual councils?

      Irritating though, you have my sympathy. Hope you sell the car for full price to help you claw it back.

      Cheers, Bob

  • Leon May 2, 2014, 5:05 am |


    I’m assuming with the window down law, there’s some leeway if there is a dog in the car the the window being open is so the said dog doesn’t turn into a baked spud

    Interesting read nonetheless 🙂


    • BobinOz May 2, 2014, 8:54 pm |

      None at all, I’m thinking three fines in a situation like this 🙂 dog in car, window left open with car unattended, and I’m sure there will be something else 🙂

  • Tony March 12, 2014, 1:38 pm |

    Hi Bob
    l received a Parking ticket on the Gold Coast, for parking on the road with advertising or sign that the car is For Sale or Hire that was the Offence.
    In Fact, all the sign said was, Want This , no Price just a phone No.
    l have researched the meaning of the words Want This ! and in no way do they relate to For Sale or Hire.
    Do you think l can fight this ?
    Also do you have any other suggestions, that people may use instead of Want This.
    Thanks Tony

    • BobinOz March 13, 2014, 1:24 am |

      Tony, with a good lawyer, who knows? From a personal perspective, ‘want this!’ suggests to me that the thing is for sale. A lawyer on top of his game though, I’m sure would have a different interpretation.

      It would cost you for that interpretation though. What you should have got was that certificate 🙂

      Cheers, Bob

  • pete February 27, 2014, 3:26 pm |

    Just like to point out there is no such thing as road tax in the uk. Roads are paid for out of general income taxation. The little disc is vehicle excise duty, linked to car emissions.

    • BobinOz March 1, 2014, 1:25 am |

      Have they changed it then Pete? It used to be called the RFL or road fund licence, so what’s it called now? Sounds like they’ve made a tactical switch, still collecting the tax but on the pretence of saving the planet instead of building roads.


  • phil April 30, 2013, 11:18 pm |

    Hi BOB
    as you know we have Road Tax & MOT over here i see that you have a RWC in place for the MOT but is there anything we will have to pay in the way of road tax.

    • BobinOz May 2, 2013, 12:26 am |

      Hi Phil

      Yes, we have rego, which is the same as road tax in the UK, but does include very basic insurance. The cost varies according to which state you register the car in and the size of the car. On top of that, when you buy a second-hand car, you have to pay 3% tax to the government.

      Is that enough taxes, do you think?

  • john February 27, 2013, 6:08 am |

    Hi, yes I was exaggerating with the ‘no brakes’ analogy. But, are there other things that are not obvious that can cause a car to be un-roadworthy and cause accidents, that might not be picked up in a visual scan if a car is stopped by the police, issues with suspension for example.
    I used to fear the UK MOT when I was a kid, cos I knew that the cost of one MOT might nearly equal the value of the car I was currently driving and render me skint for months.
    What will the average younger QLD car owner spend their money on? Going out and being a teenager, or potentially very expensive safety improvements to their vehicle that the law will not be able to detect one way or the other?
    Equally, not everyone gets stopped by the police, someones tyres, or brake pads might be wafer biscuit thin, but operating for months, then one day in heavy rain, or a sharp turn after a few beers….
    So, If human lives are really as important to policy makers as the road traffic fines in QLD imply, then introduce an MOT, and ‘real’ driving lessons for Queenslanders. Hypocrisy.
    This is word of mouth, but in the UK I think the police use discretion with the 30mph rule, you will get a few mph grace over the limit and not get a fine even with speed cameras, here its not so, If you are 1 km over the speed limit here you will be fined and get de-merit points.
    I think I might make my next big life move from Queensland to communist North Korea, there might be less rules and bureaucracy there.

    • BobinOz February 28, 2013, 12:23 am |

      Well, yes, I do agree it’s not the safest of systems. Like yourself, I used to dread the MOT when I was younger, but at the same time even though I knew it would cost me money it did make sense.

      If there was something wrong with my car that made it dangerous for me to drive, yes, I wanted to know about it. So I do agree, it is a crazy system.

      North Korea though? No, I’m staying here.

  • john February 25, 2013, 7:27 am |

    I got a $220 fine coming off the Story Bridge doing 73kms, when I should have been doing 60kms, how many demerit points did I get? I’ve no idea, they won’t write to you and tell you, you have to fill in a form and and either post it or visit a Dept of Transport office to find out, the fee is $40 to find out how many demerit points you have. What??!! For a supposedly laid back state, there is almost overkill of all kinds of bureaucracy here on QLD.
    Traffic fines are in no realistic proportion to the offense. And yet as you mention in your piece, you don’t need an MOT here! you can drive a car with no brakes if you like.
    Their justification for heavy traffic offense fines predictably will be road deaths caused by speeding, But I think most accidents here will be caused by bad driving, I’m not precisely sure of the rules for attaining a drivers license, but I think generally people only see a licensed driving instructor once or twice before their test in QLD, peoples parents teach their kids to drive here, perpetuating bad driving habits, such as using the inside land as the fast lane, which is standard road behavior.

    • BobinOz February 26, 2013, 7:45 pm |

      Well, you are absolutely right, some of the traffic offence fines are simply extortionate. I don’t think you need look any further than the above quoted $550 fine for putting a for sale sign on your car without displaying the safety certificate.

      $550! What danger have you created by doing this for other road users? None, I think is the answer. So why $550?

      I do need to correct one of your statements though, you CAN’T drive a car with no breaks here if you like. Although we do not have a yearly MOT, it is the responsibility of every driver to make sure that his car’s roadworthy. If you get stopped by the police and your breaks do not work, or you have bald tyres or if they find any kind of problem that makes your car unroadworthy, you will be fined.

      As for learning how to drive, I did do a post about the system here some time back, click on Driving in Australia. Not sure if what I said then is still current now, but at the time learner drivers needed to clock up at least 100 hours of supervised driving, yes, that could be with a parent. Then they are able to take the test.

      The traffic police here in Queensland and in other states are hot, if you speed, or drink drive, or break any of the road traffic regulations, you will be caught and you will be fined.

      So no, not laid back!

      Thanks John


      • Trevor March 28, 2018, 6:00 am |

        Brakes slow or stop a vehicle by means of a central or left-hand foot pedal.
        Temporal breaks permit the driver to rest and recuperate at intervals during a long journey.


        • BobinOz March 28, 2018, 7:01 pm |

          Well spotted, I use dictation software, sometimes these things happen and if I don’t reread what I have dictated, mistakes happen. I’ve got far worse than this in other comments elsewhere, I’m sure of that.

          Still beats typing though 🙂

          • Trevor March 30, 2018, 2:47 am |

            Bob, I find it just as easy to type directly and then re-read my script. Modern web pages highlight many mistakes immediately which is useful, except one has to over-ride their suggestions twice sometimes when uncommon words are intended.

            When I first started using the Internet in 1996-7, I was struck by the poor spelling of our American cousins, such as ‘your’ for you’re (you are), and it’s (it is) for the possessive ‘its’ (no apostrophe needed). When I tried to help them out I was branded a ‘Grammar Nazi’ by some; others just carried on spelling as they knew best.

            • BobinOz April 2, 2018, 6:36 pm |

              No, I couldn’t go back to typing now, I’ve been using dictation software for about 10 years and it is super fast. It’s just that now and again I forget to proof read some of my comments and mistakes happen.

              Spellchecking the internet is not recommended though, it would take up an awful lot of time 🙂

  • Tina February 20, 2013, 7:51 pm |

    Hi Bob,
    interesting article, but I can not imagine the meaning of a “resting horse” in terms of motoring regulations.

    Best regards,

    • BobinOz February 21, 2013, 12:44 am |

      No, I struggled with that one a bit as well Tina. I think it’s when a horse is knackered, which I think is the correct technical term for a worn out horse, and wants to stop. The rider, realising the horse is “resting” must then hold his hand up to signal to any oncoming motorists that he has a “resting horse”.

      And that’s when us motorists have to do what we have to do or we get fined.

      If any horse riders that can clarify this one up better than I already have :-), please do let us know.



  • Eike February 18, 2013, 9:17 pm |

    interesting read Bob, and looks like a nice car. shoudln’t have any problems selling it. what are the specs for the car? KM etc?
    Cheers Eike

    • BobinOz February 19, 2013, 10:20 pm |

      The car is a beauty, although she’s been around the block a few times. 206,000 kilometres so far, but she still drives like a dream. It’s a 2002 Jeep Cherokee Limited, auto, leather seats, cruise control, the works.

      I’ll miss her when she’s gone.



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