I don’t know if this is the right way to do things, but it’s the way that we’re doing it.
As you know, we live in New Zealand and we’re going to be buying a used 4WD and camper trailer when we arrive in Sydney on the 4th July. (One more week, yay!!! Oh hang on, only one week?!? Sheeeeet!!!!)
So is it really that disadvantageous that we’re not in Australia while we go through the process of looking for a vehicle?
I don’t think so.
I don’t think the process is too dissimilar to what you would do when looking for a car in your own city. Chances are, you’ll go straight online to begin your research, and that can be done from anywhere.
Here’s what we’ve found so far…
Disclaimer – here I go with one of my disclaimers again! :-O Hopefully you’ll realise that I’m not a mechanic, car dealer or car anything, heck I’m not even a car enthusiast! I’m just a normal person who knows next to nothing about cars, freaking out that I’ve gotta find us a car, within a strict price range and maintenance budget, that we will basically live out of and do massive kilometres in, over the next 6-12 months. All while currently residing in a different country.
So take this as an information piece, where it can give you some starting points for your own detailed research.
Buying a used 4WD
First step was the research stage. I started with the website www.carsales.com.au
Carsales.com.au has got lots of stock on there, is nationwide and has pretty comprehensive details listed about each vehicle. The advanced filters allow you to filter right down to the specifics (if you want) but you can also stay broad so that you can see a wide range of what’s available.
After spending most of my time on carsales.com.au I thought I’d better check out gumtree.com.au because I’d read a few mentions about it. Doh, I probably should have started there!
I found that Gumtree listings didn’t seem to have as much detail as the Carsales listings, but there were more of them AND the prices of cars listed on Gumtree seemed to be a bit lower. There are quite a few of the same cars that are listed on both websites though.
So I’ve been keeping an eye on both sites for a few weeks now. Both have the option to create a watchlist of the cars that you’re interested in, so I’ve been watching as a couple of prices have been dropped and as they’ve been sold.
The purpose of the watchlist, for me, has been to see what is available, how often new stock is added, and how quickly that stock gets sold. I’ve been keeping an eye on what accessories have been included with these vehicles (bull bar, anderson plug, snorkel etc) how much that generally affects the price and whether many of them become available.
I think it’s been a little bit easier for me since I have limited my search to Hyundai Terracans only. These vehicles were recommended to us by a friend and after lots of internet research, reading reviews of their general road and 4×4 performance compared to the popular Landcruisers, Patrols and Pajeros, we feel confident that this is an excellent choice for us, given our limited time, budget and experience.
Vehicle History Report
For a paltry $29 I’ll be getting this online report of our serious considerations
The thing I like about carsales.com.au is that right under the photos of the vehicle they have quite clear advertising of the Red Book services. You can get a history report and order a vehicle inspection.
The inspection costs $250 and they will call the current owner to organise a time and location for the inspection. This is perfect for someone who’s not mechanically minded (ahem, me) where you can get an independent person to tell you all the little details about the vehicle. The report tells you the mechanical stuff, but they also tell you about the cosmetic stuff like worn seats or scuff marks. Go and have a look at their site and download the sample report to see everything that they will check and compile into a report for you.
We got this service for our last car here in NZ and it just gave us the confidence that we hadn’t missed something obvious.
This week (our last before heading to Aus) I’ll make contact with the owners of the couple of vehicles we’re most interested in, to make sure that the vehicle is still available, ask them any questions I have and let them know that I’m going to book an inspection.
Getting the Vehicle History Report and the Vehicle Inspection has added AU$279 to the purchase price of the car, but for us, that’s a very small price to pay for an (independent) experts opinion.
What if they sell it to someone else?
I am concerned that I may book and pay for an inspection but the owner gets a good offer and sells it to someone else anyway. I don’t know how to mitigate that risk fully, but a quick search on CarSales tells me that they have a new payment system called PayProtect. While this doesn’t lock the seller in until you’ve made up your mind, it does give a very clear indication that you’re a serious buyer.
PayProtect does have fees associated with it (only .8% but still…) and it will still take a couple of days for the money to clear into the sellers bank account. Gumtree doesn’t have the same service.
Final inspection & payment
My hope is that we’ll get the inspection report done a couple of days before we arrive in Australia, and providing it’s all good on the report, we’ll be able to go and do one final visual inspection just a day or so after we land, and hand over cash! (Well, bank cheque actually)
CarSales do have a couple of other Safety Tips for Buyers which I think you should read if you’re buying a 4WD in Australia, from outside the country.
And when we’ve got the 4WD, we’ll immediately jump into the next step of buying a camper trailer.
Wouldn’t it be funny if we found the perfect camper trailer and went to pick it up and then realised we’d forgotten to check if our new 4WD has a tow bar?
And by funny, I mean HORRENDOUS! :-O
Buying a used camper trailer
Same deal here, I’ve been trawling caravancampingsales.com.au and gumtree.com.au for camper trailers and kept a watchlist on both sites. I’ve found this search a little bit harder to do because there are soooo many variables in camper trailers.
Our budget is $5,000 and it’s been a case of going through all the listings to see how much we could get for that amount of money. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to learn that while there is a huge range of quality, age and wear and tear, you can find camper trailers that have lots of the accessories that we’re after.
So many variables…
As you start having a look online you’ll see just how many choices you’ve got to make and which accessories/variables are important to you. These are some of the things that you might want to consider while you’re researching:
- Off-road capable
- Type of suspension (I’ve put this in here but I don’t know what’s good or not. :-O)
- Coupling / tow-hitch (whether it’s off-road or not)
- Electric brakes
- Stabiliser legs
- Storage box, jerry can and gas bottle storage
- Whether the trailer is galvanised or not
- Water tank
- Swing-out or pull-out kitchen
- Tap (manual or electric)
- Storage space
- Fridge (rare, but I have seen camper trailers for sale where they will include the fridge)
- Deep cycle battery
- Number of 12v outlets
- Anderson plug connection to car
- Solar panels
- LED lights
- Size of the tent
- Annex with full walls, and other add-on rooms
- Draft skirt
- Inner spring mattress
- Amount and size of windows
- Hard floor
- Tropical fly
- Portable/chemical toilet
- Shower tent
- Frame to carry a bike rack or boat
- Outdoor mat or flooring
- Camping accessories like chairs, tables, cooking utensils, camp stretchers etc
Other sites to keep in mind
CaravanCampingSales and GumTree aren’t the only sites out there, so I do recommend searching wider than that. Some other examples include:
Inspecting the camper trailer
Ummm, it’s about here that I draw a complete blank. Is it the done thing to ask the seller to set up the tent for you to inspect? Do you ask them to set the whole thing up fully, or just unfold it enough to see what condition it’s in? I don’t know, so we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it!
So for me, the key to all this has been to do as much research as possible, prior to getting to Australia. Obviously, there’s only so much you can do, but being at least a little bit informed about what our choices are will stand us in good stead. I hope.