Be legal - the convoluted mess that is car registration in Australia

Be legal - the convoluted mess that is car registration in Australia

Australia is a land of extremes, of animals that want to kill you and nature that wants to hurt you and (despite there only being 25 million people in this wide, brown land), a convoluted mess of state-based registration authorities that will make you want to get intimate with some of those aforementioned deadly creatures. 

MCM is based in Sydney, the capital city of the state of New South Wales, which has a roads department called the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) who control vehicle registrations. They now call it 'Service NSW', it changes names more often than some politicians change their underpants.

Unless you own a car under 5 years of age all NSW-registered cars have to pass an annual roadworthiness inspections (called Pink Slips).

Basically, you take your car to a nominated mechanic who then goes through a list of basic safety checklist to make sure you're not driving a complete dunger on our comprehensively overcrowded NSW roads (which are filled to the brim with drivers who couldn't drive a well-greased piece of timber into the cavity of a... well.. you get the picture). For vehicles new to NSW roads, like Marty's Super Turbo (which is freshly imported from Japan), a more serious roadworthy inspection is required, called a Blue Slip.

A Blue Slip records all the the key details of the car, which sets the base info the RMS uses to register the car. It ensures the car Marty is registering actually is a Super Turbo, records the engine number and VIN, number of seats, and ensures the car complies to all relevant Australian standards. Workshops can qualify for this and then you pay them to check over your car. The system works pretty well, and checks are made by auditors to make sure what goes through the workshops is actually legitimate. These are the same workshops that can clear defects!

CTP, Compulsory Third Party (also known as a Green Slip) is an insurance policy New South Wales requires all car owners to purchase before the RMS will process your registration. This covers you if a passenger, or other third party, is injured in a crash involving your car - thereby covering their medical bills, it's a 'everyone pays' system that ensures the public system has the money supplied by the insurance companies to help fix up anyone who has stacked it!

While you can re-register cars online now, if you have a car needing a Blue Slip then you must visit The Halls of the Cursed, otherwise known as Service NSW... which I'm sure our American friends know the feeling of with their DMV offices. While the experience of visitng Service NSW is painful, it is many millions of times better than the previous bureaucratic hellhole known as the Roads and Traffic Authority, a cursed black hole for time. In recent years, it's improved, like the message finally made it's way up the chain, or more likely, someone who worked there actually tried to rego their car and failed after waiting 4 hours to do so.

Registration fees are calculated on a scale of a vehicle's age and weight, with big old cars charged more than tiny new cars. Cars in the city and metro areas are also more expensive to register (thanks to their CTP cost), and commercial vehicles in metro areas owned by under-25s are more expensive than a scale replica of the moon made out of high-grade diamonds. An average car in Sydney will typically cost approximately $1500 per-year to register.

So all our driving around in the Superturbo was to get a weigh bridge slip. This is required on cars that aren't already in the database (like imports!) and has to be an official part of the engineering paperwork that is also required on a freshly imported car like this one. Engineering is one step further than the aforementioned blue slip and is a deep dive into checking that the car passes all the required Australian Design Rules. If it does, it can then be registered and driven on Australian Roads, which all going well our Superturbo soon will be!

In order to complete some of these steps we had to get ourselves and Unregistered Vehicle Permit, which is a temporary slip that allows you to drive from point A to point B, with temporary insurance cover. Doing a trip like that without pre approval can get you fined close to a thousand bucks or more!

Check out the video of us heading to the weigh bridge here:



  • Tom

    Costs $800 for rego & Traffic Accident Commission (TAC) charge in Victoria, though we are responsible for out own 3rd party or comprehensive insurance.

  • Brad

    Tasmania is a lot more relaxed than NSW, so not all our states are so strict. Rego down here is mostly based on Engine cylinders. My 4cyl costs about $550/year to register where as a V8 from memory is about $700, that includes MAIB, Which I assume is like CTP but is purely based on Injuring someone, not property, covers all a person’s healthcare, transport and other bits and pieces. It’s also law requiring you to get some sort of insurance, minimum being 3rd party, which covers all damage except the drivers vehicle.

    On the up side, no annual vehicle inspections are required, As long as you don’t let it lapse any longer than 3 months you can just register it again and it’s all online. my first car would have never passed any sort of inspection, it was a 1991 Holden Barina/Suzuki Swift, that thing was so unsafe, but a good car to learn how to drive a manual.

    Unsure of the cost to register an EV

    We also have “Special Interest” registration but a lot of restrictions apply on those. Like over 12 months you are only allowed to drive them 104 days and the car must meet certain requirements.

  • Nate

    $1500/year for registration is so high compared to what I am used to!

    Here in Wisconsin it is $60-80 per year, plus an extra $100/year for the EV registration fee on our Tesla.

    Cars over 5 years old need emissions testing every other year, which just consists of them plugging the car into an OBD2 cable and running some quick tests. It is free and only takes a few minutes.

  • Alex (edited)

    Sorry for that. Hit submit with my fat fingers :(

    Since there’s a few Canadians, I’ll chime in as well:

    If you purchase a brand new vehicle, then all that is required is that you either have or purchase plates (about 40$ from what I recall). License plates require a registration renewal every year, due the month of your birthday. This includes the first year. This costs 120$ for vehicles in southern Ontario, 60$ for northern Ontario. These are also required for used cars.

    For used cars, it’s a little bit different. All Used vehicles require a basic safety certification to register. If you’re purchasing from a dealership, theyll often include this service, though if you are purchasing privately, this must be done by a third party mechanic. Previously, all used vehicles required an emissions test upon registration, then every two years after a certain age. Originally it cost 35$, then it was free, then the requirement was removed. Additionally all privately sold used vehicles must come with a used vehicle sellers package which is available for 10$. It details every time the vehicle was registered in Ontario, with an estimated odometer reading, as this information is supplied when you renew your license plates yearly.

    Liability insurance is mandatory for all road vehicles, which is done through third parties. Price is based on the vehicle and the driver. For example, a newer Subaru Legacy cost more to insure than a Civic, which cost slightly less than a Corolla. For full coverage (collision, fire, theft, etc, I pay about 2500$/year)

    There’s also a ton of taxes on our gas that go towards “road maintenance and emissions reduction”

  • Alex

    Since there’s a few Canadians, I’ll chime in as well:

    If you purchase a brand new vehicle, then all that is required is that you either have or purchase plates (

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