Selling & Buying an Unregistered Car – How to Transfer Ownership of an Unregistered Vehicle?

Buying Unregistered Cars

Buying or selling an unregistered car in Australia is a real game of two halves. For every advantage, there’s a disadvantage. And for every reason why you’d do it, there’s another pretty good reason not to.

Let’s start with buying an unregistered vehicle. Such a vehicle is one that, for the majority of situations, can’t be driven on the road without the law pouncing on you. Cars become unregistered for a whole heap of reasons, starting with the owner having run out of money to pay the rego fees. But more likely is the fact that the car has something wrong with it that makes it either unsafe, or unreliable to drive. And when the owner lacks either the money or the motivation to get those things fixed, there’s your unregistered car for sale.

So your first task is to figure out why the car is unregistered. The second task is to work out what it will cost you to make it roadworthy and reliable again, and subtract that from the market value of the vehicle. Don’t forget to factor towing fees, unregistered permit costs and your own time in that equation.

You’ll also need to do some homework to ensure that the vehicle isn’t stolen nor does it have money owing on it. And that the person selling it is really the owner. The various states and territories have websites that can supply this sort of information. Ideally, you’d also check that the vehicle has never been written-off and repaired, as there can be legal and insurance ramifications over that. Make sure any unregistered car also has all its build-plates, identification tags and compliance-plates still fitted where they’re supposed to be. Without these manufacturer-fitted plates, a car can be very difficult, or even impossible, to register.

Once you’ve done all that, you need to re-register the vehicle, but that’s a whole other story and, again, it varies from state to state. In some states, the seller has to hand the number plates in to the authorities if the car is sold unregistered, and then you collect the plates once the car is roadworthy and registered again.

Selling an unregistered vehicle is, like we said, the flip-side to all this. Offering an unregistered car for sale will immediately have potential buyers working out those repair costs and trying to figure out why it’s unregistered. Which means, of course, that you’ll be offered a lot less for the car than if it was running, registered and roadworthy.

That said, all that running around and paperwork becomes the job of the buyer, not the seller, but you’ll still need to sign some paperwork in some states and provide a receipt to prove that you were the legal owner at the time of the sale, the name of the new owner and that a specific amount of money changed hands.

Even though you’re getting rid of the car, knowing how to sell an unregistered car can be just as tricky as buying one.

The big question for buyers of unregistered car is often: Can I drive an unregistered car home after buying it? In most states, the answer is yes provided you purchase an unroadworthy vehicle permit and swear hand on heart that the car is safe to use on the road when buying that permit. Effectively, however, you can’t let a potential buyer take the car for a test drive on the street. Even if you have an unregistered vehicle permit for the car, the terms of the permit generally exclude any journey not involved in getting the car fixed or taking it to be registered. Which means test drives aren’t covered by that permit.

What you won’t be able to do in some cases, also, is insure the vehicle for those journeys. Some insurance companies can make an allowance for this type of use, others will baulk completely.

In QLD, meanwhile, an unregistered vehicle permit must be accompanied by a compulsory third party insurance slip. However, this only covers you for anybody injured by your car, not their property. You’ll also need to specify in the permit application if you’re moving the car interstate.

In most cases, the permit to drive an unregistered car needs to be obtained in the state or territory from which the journey commences. But from there, it should be good for any state apart from some exceptions in WA which you need to check with that state before tackling the trip.

Interestingly, NSW doesn’t require a permit if you’re driving the car from your home to a motor registry to have it registered. But you do need to take the most direct route and have your paperwork in order.

Like most other states, SA gives you 14 days to register the car in your name from the date of purchase. In Vic, and most other states you’ll need a roadworthy certificate to complete the car’s registration in your name. The exception is WA where you don’t need a roadworthy certificate to re-register a car that has only been out of rego for a short time. But like the other states, once the car has been unregistered for a set period of time (and it varies from state to state) you’ll need a roadworthy certificate and, in some cases, will need to take the car to be inspected by the authorities.


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