It took us more than a week, but our ride is finally ready!
Before coming to Australia, Tom spent hours on the laptop researching types of 4WD cars, which were good for backpacking, which fit into our budget, where to find them, etc.
Basically, we pretty much knew every listing on Gumtree in a 100km radius around Melbourne before we even arrived, and it got us…
… nowhere ?
We had a budget in mind of about 10000 Australian Dollars (that’s about 7000 euros). At first sight, that would get us a Landcruiser Prado, Nissan Patrol, or a Mitsubishi Pajero of about 15 to 17 years old, in order of preference ;-). However, when we actually got here and drove those cars, most had some very obvious flaws, mostly with the engine and/or 4WD mode. (Actually, all but one, but I’ll get to that).
We visited private sellers as well as used car dealers, and sadly, the cliche “car salesmen are ALWAYS lying to you” was also true here in Australia. One dealer even tried to convince us a car with an obviously leaking battery and probably a blown out head gasket was “just fine mate”… Luckily, Tom has a 30 year old VW van at home, so he knows what to look for. The private sellers were better, but it soon became obvious that we wouldn’t find a reliable, proper 4WD within our budget. The best option was a cool-looking 2001 Landcruiser from a fellow backpacker, but it would have been slightly over budget, and with some points that needed attention in the near future (read: possible extra costs).
So, after a week of mostly disappointing test drives, we were faced with a choice: do we increase our budget, or do we go for a different, more affordable type of car? A good SUV or “All Wheel Drive” will also get us where we want to go, including unsealed roads, just not the hardcore 4WD stuff.
We decided to look around for cars that fit the latter description, and it seems we lucked out with our timing! Last Saturday, the day we started looking for cheaper cars, a 2005 Mazda Tribute with a powerful V6 3.0 liter engine appeared on Gumtree, just 150 km from where we were at the time. The car had just been serviced, the registration had just been paid for an entire new year, and it only had 126000kms on the odometer, and was well within budget! This seemed too good to be true, but we rang the owners, and they seemed really reliable. So, we immediately moved to Geelong (where the car was), to inspect it. After an hour of scrutiny, Tom gave it the thumbs up!
So, after a very smooth transaction, we are now the proud owners of a beautiful Mazda Tribute, named Toni!
We had plenty of budget left after the rego transfer (which took 15 minutes, including wait time…Are you listening Belgian DIV?), so we outfitted it with an Engel Eclipse fridge, a Baintech Powertop deep cycle battery pack, and an awesome 440 liter Rhino roof box, to hold all our camping gear!
Welcome to the family, Toni!
Tips for other backpackers:
1. Don’t waste your time looking for cars upfront. Just familiarize yourself with the models you like, and start searching when you’re here.
2. Take your time. This will be one of the most important (and expensive) decisions you’ll make during your year.
3. Don’t waste your time with dealers. You’ll pay more than you need to. You’ll also get less information about the history of the car. Just remember: someone made the choice of selling this car quickly & cheap to a dealer, instead of for the right price to another person.
4. ALWAYS take a car that has a Roadworthy Certificate. Never agree to do it yourself after the buy. It’s not only illegal, but you WILL feel it in your wallet afterwards. There’s always a reason the seller doesn’t want to do it, and chances are you end up paying for a new windshield right away.
5. Find a good friend with an address in the state you’re registering the car in. Some hostels and caravan parks will also help you out, but they won’t forward your mail, and your insurance might end up more expensive. We were lucky enough to meet a great guy who helped us out with that :-).
6. Compare insurances online, and use the chat function to clear up details about the policies. We found that comprehensive insurance is actually a lot cheaper here than in Belgium anyway.
7. Enjoy your new ride!