Buying a second-hand car in Australia Compared to England

When I left England back in November 2007 I sold my car for £250. That’s around $400 in Aussie money. Not a lot, was it?

My old Volvo

But I loved my old car; I’d had it for about seven years. It was a Volvo Wentworth 940 Estate, 1991. It had done a few miles, around 170,000 if I remember, and it had a slight oil leak that nobody could fix.

But it never let me down and I thought it was worth a lot more, but old bangers in England are 10 a penny. You will see them parked in the streets or on people’s driveways with for sale written on them. They will be in the local free papers, where I lived it was the Standard Recorder or the Yellow Advertiser. They will be written on postcards in newsagents windows.

And, of course, there is the Exchange and Mart and Auto Trader, both in paper form and online.

Second hand cars were everywhere in the UK and they were cheap.

But what about Australia?

For nearly 3 years we have got by with just one car between me and my wife. But just lately we have been thinking we need a second car. An old banger.

But there’s not much on the streets here; there are a few cars for sale in the local free papers, but not very cheap ones; not much happening in newsagents windows; very rarely you might find one for sale on a free ad in a supermarket; but on the Internet we have:

So that’s where I went shopping. After several hours browsing, I had identified a few vehicles I was interested in. And I can assure you, none were as cheap as that old banger I sold back in England.

1) 1998 Toyota Rav4
Auto, 2.0L, 245,000 kms. $4,990.

I checked for a similar vehicle online in England and found one priced at £1,450 with just 61,000 miles on it. That’s less than 100,000 km, so not only had this vehicle travelled half the distance, but it was all so half the price. £1,450 is about $2,500 AUD at today’s money.

Anyway, I phoned the owner of the Rav4 here, and he was no longer the owner. It was sold.

2) 1999 Toyota Rav4
Auto, 2.0L, 170,000 kms. $7,999.

I found several similar models in the UK priced at between £2,000 and   £2,500. Again, that’s about half price and many of them were lower mileage.

I phoned the Australian seller here (on a Saturday) to see if I could go and view his car. “I’m out all day, but I am in all day tomorrow. Call me then.” I did. “I’m out, be back around 4:30 PM to 5 PM. Call me at four o’clock and I’ll be able to tell you when I’ll be back for sure.” I did, almost. I actually phoned him at 4:55 PM after viewing a car about 10 minutes from where he lived. I asked him if he was there, “Yes, I was. But I’ve gone out again.”

“Oh fugeddit!” I said.

And the car I did see 10 minutes from his house…..

3) 1996 Toyota Rav4
Auto, 2.0L, 214,000 kms. $6,500.

Yes, yes, we fancied a Rav4.

Again, I checked for a similar vehicle online in England and found two, one priced at £1,250 and the other at £1,295. That’s under $2,275 so both are almost a third of the price of the Australian equivalent.

As I said, I saw this vehicle and it wasn’t too bad. But it wasn’t great either. A little bit scruffy, a little bit sluggish. Yes, it’s an old banger… ish. I offered $5,750, they wanted $6,000. So I passed.

Other cars that I had picked out but never saw were…

1994 Mitsubishi RVR 2.0L Turbo with 79,000 kms (yes, sure) at $4,990. UK equivalent was a 1995 version with 80,000 miles (yes, sure, again) and that was for sale at £895. Again, about one third of the price here in Australia.

Then there was a Ford Fevista, 1998 with 123,000 kms and a 1.5L engine. The UK doesn’t sell Fevista’s but the Fiesta looks pretty similar to me. And you pick those up, similar age and mileage, for around £600. Here the car was on sale for $2,990.

When I phoned this one up, the guy was very apologetic because he’d made a mistake. It wasn’t an auto. But apparently he did have another car, a Mondeo, that was an auto. He asked me if I was interested. I wasn’t. Seemed to me this guy wasn’t a private seller at all, surely he was a dealer?

So I just said “no” and moved on. Two minutes after we ended our conversation, he called me back. “I’ve just remembered, I’ve got another auto if you’re interested?” “Are you a dealer?” I asked.

“No” he said. “I am a private seller, I just have a lot of cars.”

“Oh, that’s okay then, for a minute there…..”

Needless to say, I didn’t buy anything from him.

I’ve already mentioned before here on this blog that second-hand cars in Australia aren’t cheap. Having gone through this real life exercise to buy a cheap second car for us has reminded me just how much more expensive cars here are. Here, cars without a Road Worthy Certificate (equivalent to the MOT) can actually sell for $1,000 or more.

Yes, there are cheaper cars available here in Australia if you look hard. I found a 1991 Holden Commodore Executive with 303,000 km on it and a Road Worthy Certificate for $700. I just didn’t fancy travelling all the way to South Australia to check it out.

So did we buy an old banger in the end? No, not really. But we did end up buying our Rav4, a 1999 auto, one owner, full service history, 179,000 kms, one full years rego, worth over $600 and four new tyres.

$8,000.

So certainly not an old banger, I really don’t know where to buy one. Everything half sensible that we looked at was approaching $5,000 or more. So it’s only a small leap to $8,000 from there.

But perhaps I’m looking in the wrong places. Do any seasoned Aussies know the trick?

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{ 30 comments… add one }
  • justin September 13, 2016, 3:58 am | Link

    It’s odd that you wouldn’t get more for that volvo? Does it have anything to do with the cost of living there?

    • BobinOz September 13, 2016, 11:23 pm | Link

      No, it’s probably more to do with the oil leak that nobody could fix, even though I’d spent more money with mechanics trying to sort that out than I actually got for the car in the end. Or maybe it was because the light didn’t work on the gearshift and I was told that the gearbox would need to be dropped to replace the bulb?

      So I don’t think it was do with the cost of living 🙂

  • Hayley Randle July 22, 2016, 9:38 am | Link

    OK really daft Q I have a Vauxhall Vectra 56 plate with only 45k miles on it. looking at Bobs great piece above is it worth thinking about bringing it with me in about 6 weeks time.. or am I nuts? Its currently worth somewhere between £2500 and £2800 over here….

    • BobinOz July 22, 2016, 3:49 pm | Link

      It’s not cheap bringing a car to Australia, quite a few hoops to jump through as well. My understanding is that the whole process will cost you almost $4000 with the shipping, taxes and safety certificate, so it probably isn’t worth it.

      Hope that helps, Bob

  • Shaun April 26, 2014, 7:41 am | Link

    Hi Bob

    I’ve got a different take on this that you might find interesting, and might be worth a look in your cost comparisons. It’s easy to see from your price comparisons that it costs more to buy the same car in Oz compared to the UK, however, the true cost of a car is the difference between price you buy it for, and the price you sell it for later. In Australia it seems that although cars initially cost more to buy, you get more back when you sell them, so the actual cost of ownership may be less?!

    Cheers … Shaun

    • BobinOz April 27, 2014, 9:17 pm | Link

      It is a very interesting theory Shaun and one that has been brought to my attention before, but only once. Somebody else said to me something like “it’s better in Australia, cars don’t lose their value so quickly”.

      At the end of the day, what matters is how much you pay per year, I suspect. If you buy a car for $10,000, keep it for three years and then sell it for $7000, that’s going to be better than buying a similar car or £3000 and then selling it three years later for £800.

      Good point.

      Cheers, Bob

  • Ricky Martin December 15, 2011, 7:45 pm | Link

    A hefty range of Second Hand Cars are easily available in the market and buying Cheap Used Cars saves money as well.

    • BobinOz December 16, 2011, 10:27 pm | Link

      Good one Ricky! Want to buy a banner ad?

  • Used Cars Dealer June 23, 2011, 6:13 pm | Link

    Have you searched in Google? Please search in Google and you find many used car dealers. You can search with city name, and you will get many local dealers as well.

    • BobinOz June 24, 2011, 8:57 pm | Link

      But I really want to buy a Ford, any ideas mate? Just kidding.

  • Chamara May 21, 2011, 4:06 am | Link

    haha !! but all these cars seems cheap to me. In here sri lanka , a rav4 like above will be like Rs2000,000+ (A$20000+). car import is strict in here by doubling trippling tax.it will like 120% per petrol cars & 250% per deisel(Its complex than you can ever imagine).

    • BobinOz May 23, 2011, 6:35 pm | Link

      Wow! a country with dearer cars than Oz?

  • BobinOz February 2, 2011, 3:50 pm | Link

    Yes, I’ve added my thoughts there.

  • Dave the Yank February 1, 2011, 2:08 am | Link

    Thanks for clearing that up Bob and Gordon, and thanks for the well wishes. I did get an official offer and I posted a question about that on: The Cost of Living: Australia and the US Compared.

    So any thoughts are appreciated.

  • BobinOz January 31, 2011, 2:10 pm | Link

    On behalf of Gordon: Apologies to any of you who fell off your motorbikes.

  • BobinOz January 31, 2011, 1:01 pm | Link

    Dave the Yank. I like it. It’s to the point.

    Actually, driving on the left is far less common than driving on the right. I thought it was only England and Australia that use the left, but I checked with good old Wikipedia.

    The sea of red on this world map shows all countries that drive on the right.

    So, we are the weirdos!

    • Chamara May 25, 2011, 3:52 am | Link

      But its still wrong. Countriea like vietnam,Burma and China of course(Big enough to see it) are driving on left side of road. In europe “liechtenstein” also right handed.

      • BobinOz May 25, 2011, 6:44 pm | Link

        Not wrong for those who like driving on the right tho 🙂

  • Gordon January 30, 2011, 9:16 pm | Link

    Dave , the pedal layout is the same as you are used to , and motorbike controls are the same the world over , the only main difference is that in the Southern Hemisphere on a motorbike , you have to lean to the right in order to bank left due to the coriolis effect – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coriolis_effect

    I am kidding ofcourse 😉 but it sounded almost plausible !

    The sun comes up in the East just the same , but facing North
    is facing the Equator .

    In places like Cairns or Darwin , winter is often on a Wednesday though that can vary. Winter up North means daytime temperatures stay in low to mid 20’s ( Celsius )

    Where I live ( Hervey Bay Qld ) it’s roughly the same latitude South as Miami ( USA ) is North . I’ve never been to Miami but it’s a nice climate here , on the coast .
    I mention USA because there is a Miami on the Gold Coast ( Qld ) and NSW has a town called Texas .

    Speaking of Texas , Australia has slightly fewer people than that state but a similar land area to the lower 48 U.S. states.

    From what I understand of U.S. land tax , you pay an annual fee based on the valuation of the entire property and that fee may be several thousand dollars and funds things like schools , here it’s a bit different , the “rates” as they are called are based on unimproved property value i.e. bare land no matter what is built on it , that funds local roads and infrastructure , many other things are funded from state and federal taxes e.g. income tax and G.S.T.

    That means you might find income tax higher here but other things are cheaper or more comprehensive / inclusive ( health care perhaps ? )

    Are there any Americans on this forum who have lived in Australia for 12 months or more ? It’d be great to get some feedback and thoughts from them if there are .

    All the best Dave , I hope things work out well for you. 🙂

  • Dave the Yank January 29, 2011, 12:19 am | Link

    Still the same Dave thats been commenting lately, just added the Yank as I thought I would clarify that my stupid questions are beacuse I am from the only place in the world (I think) that drives on the right (as in not left) side of the road.

    Ok, so the steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car, easy enough. What about the pedals? will I still accelerate with my right foot and use my left for the clutch. And what if I buy a motorcycle, here in the states the clutch lever is on the left handlebar grip and the shifter on the left foot. Man, this is going to be like learning to walk all over again, and I still have trouble with that sometimes…..

    • Chamara May 25, 2011, 4:00 am | Link

      Man USA drives in ” Wrong side” of the car.But we Do it Right!! haha , enyway bikes are all same everyware. In cars its like the whole driver compartment is moving between sides. In USA cars you have your key in right side of wheel, so do we. Clutch is on left side as usual. In my country they used to convert the driver side of cars like in 70s or something. My friend told me he saw a left hand bus. a new one!! so they must be still doing it

    • Kamma October 2, 2013, 2:17 am | Link

      Really? To the best of my knowledge, most of the world has right-hand traffic. At least according to wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right-_and_left-hand_traffic# Just look at all the red on that map!

      Which means that the Brits and the Aussies are out of touch. Hah!

  • BobinOz January 17, 2011, 10:38 pm | Link

    Yes, we have http://www.tradingpost.com.au which may even be national and is just like Exchange & Mart in the UK. And of course, there’s http://www.gumtree.com.au/

  • Steve January 17, 2011, 4:04 am | Link

    Interesting… one thing to leep in mind is that less km’s does not necessarily mean better. UK for instance has much less distance between daily travels but far more traffic congestion with stop/start commuting wheras Australia has longer vast roads with less traffic, the result – less wear and tear on the engine.

    In regards to finding cheaper vehicles, try local community papers, for instance here in Perth there is “The Quokka” http://www.quokka.com.au – sure they may not have photos but you can always google image the description and ask questions on the phone.

  • BobinOz August 10, 2010, 12:41 am | Link

    Hi Marie

    No, I think that’s pretty much a nonstarter. First you have the transportation costs, then I believe import tax to pay.Then there may also be some kind of charge to have it tested to see if it passes Australian safety standards.

    By the time you’ve done all that, you may as well have paid the Australian prices here. Nice idea, but they’ll get your money one way or another.

  • Marie August 8, 2010, 7:19 pm | Link

    Hi, Can I ask then would you bring a car from the uk when you are immigrating?

  • BobinOz August 6, 2010, 11:16 pm | Link

    Thanks for the link englishman, and good luck with the forum. Hopefully some of my readers may join too….

  • englishman August 6, 2010, 7:31 pm | Link

    Hi am also an expat and I have created a new forum for expats. Can you help get it started and simply join it. I like your blogs and thanks a lot. See

    http://livingabroad.freeforums.ms/forum.htm

    englishmaninmoscow
    http://www.blogcatalog.com/blog/english-man-in-moscow

  • BobinOz August 4, 2010, 11:38 pm | Link

    Thanks Francis, yes, a couple more places to look for second hand cars there. eBay is pretty big here in Oz, isn’t it.

  • Frances August 4, 2010, 8:17 pm | Link

    I enjoy reading your blog on your journey through life in Australia
    Try:
    http://www.governmentauctions.com.au/

    http://www.ebay.com.au

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