Buying a used van in Australia is different than the process we are used to in the States. Here are a few things you should look into before you make a purchase you could potentially regret.
Finding your Wheels
Your best place to find a vehicle is on Gumtree, basically a Aussie version of Craigslist. I would shy away from travelers, as most are on a budget and mainteniece is low on the todo list and most have little have knowledge of cars, and they end up treating their vehicles like shit. So stick with the locals.
Look into a tradesmen aka "tradies" vehicles. For two reasons, they are very inconspicuous and have no side windows so you are less likely to be a target for council and other authorities. Also, tradies rely on their vehicles for their income. So, the vehicle will be well maintained and looked after. It may be messy with paint all over the inside, but a small clean up will be the biggest of your problems.
Any vehicle that you buy must pass a roadworthy test (RWD). Basically, what this means is that the vehicle has to be safe for the road. Here are a few things to check out.
Indicators - Blinkers, whatever you want to call it, they must be flawless. No chips and no broken pieces. If there are chips in the indicators, be ready to buy an entire new piece for the busted indicators. This can be tough because most vans are a bit older and out of production, which means, you'll be at the junk yard hoping you can score a flawless indicator.
Tires - Tyres, as they would spell it in OZ, must be pretty much perfect. Any wear and you can kiss your RWD certificate good-bye. We highly recommend buying second hand tyres from a scrap yard they can only sell you tires that have enough tread to be RWD.
Brakes - Obviously, you will take the car out for a spin. Give the breaks a good test. Make sure they aren't squeaking. Also, inspect the pads. Do they look worn? Rusted? All this will effect your RWD. Although new brakes won't break the bank, they will be something you will have to replace if they are too worn.
Rust - If the car has any body rust, it will basically be impossible to get RWD. Give the under-body and body a good inspection. Rust is proabably the main contributor to not getting a RWD certificate.
All the small things - Even wiper blades and mirrors are on the list. Make sure the wiper blades are in good condition and that the water dispenser works all this will be checked. Also, cracked mirrors are a no-go.
Make sure to pop the hood (aka bonnet) and look at the engine. Is it clean? Check the underneath for oil leaks? How does the battery look? Check the fluids. Low fluids can be an indicator of a careless owner. We had bought a vehicle with barely any water in the radiator. Had we checked that out and seen that red flag we wouldn't have basically threw all our New Zealand travel money away for a laundry list of repairs that almost made us cut our adventure short due to low cash flow. Take time to look at it. If there are any signs that say no-go with your gut, there are plenty of fish in the sea. Don't go biting on the first car you look at.
If any of these issues pop-up and you really want the vehicle, use these to your advantage to get the asking price down. We've talked owners down hundreds of dollars from their original asking price just from the list of items we knew we would have to fix in the near future.