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:



  • Mike

    Sounds so convoluted and expensive!

    Honestly, I don’t know about our import rules… but in the UK, we have to have an MOT roadworthiness check every year, unless the vehicle is less than 3 years old… that costs £54.85 maximum each year, although garages can charge whatever they like under that. I usually pay about £30 at my preferred MOT registered garage… then we gave Vehicle Excise Duty (or road tax as people incorrectly call it) which is a yearly thing. It used to be based on engine size, so if your engine is less than 1.6, you pay X and if its bigger than 1.6, you pay Y… but in 2001 it became based more around emissions, so there are bands based on how much CO2 your car emits… Really eco cars can be cheap like £25 or even free… but some are much more expensive. My current 2007 BMW 335d costs me £265 a year for example.

    We can find it expensive, but doesn’t sound anywhere near your average A$1500 a year average!

  • Zac

    I cannot believe that it’s that expensive per year to register your car! We bought a brand new C7 Corvette here in America. It cost us 3k US to register it. One time. Then in 7yrs when the tags expire it will cost us $20 per year. $1500 per year is insane!

  • Zach

    Queensland Australia in my experience the “TMR (Transport Main Roads) charge you more per cylinder. Owned 3, 4 and 6 cylinder cars… about $100 more per cylinder… Where as for a motorcycle it’s per seat. It’s double rego if it’s a 2 seater! Most people remove the foot pegs and change the seat (used to have to get this Engineered, but I think that change last year?) Oh yeah, and your car can also be “engineered or Road worthy” in one state, but not meet the standards of another state and you can be defected by law enforcement… Australia has some silly rules! Dont forget you can’t use a mobile phone while operating a vehicle, must be hands free… if your riding an animal They’re also classified as a vehicle… yes people have been fined for riding a horse while talking on a phone. Where do I connect the horse people?? 😂

  • Tristan

    Yea GC if its a bigger fourby probably.
    it ranges from like 900odd for small cars to heaps for heavy cars.

  • Shaun

    NZ registration on average is $120 for 12 months, insurance is optional.

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