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Driving an unregistered vehicle: Penalties and permits

Is driving an unregistered vehicle illegal?

Driving an unregistered vehicle on a public road anywhere in Australia is illegal and carries heavy penalties, but there are some exceptions.

“I forgot”, “I didn’t get the thing in the mail” and “I was only just going around the corner” are not exceptions and if you are caught (and be warned fixed and mobile cameras in some states can detect unregistered cars) you could be up for a fine.

First up, it’s not illegal to let the registration on your car expire and it’s fine to sell an unregistered vehicle. You can also drive an unregistered vehicle on private property and you can tow one on a public road using a trailer. It’s driving the vehicle unregistered on a public road which is against the law.

In New South Wales if you drive an unregistered vehicle on a public road you’ll be fined $607; in Victoria it could cost you $758; in South Australia it’s $374; Tasmania slaps you with a $285.25 penalty; it’s $250 in Western Australia and in the ACT it’s $660.

In the Northern Territory you’ll get a fine that increases with the amount of time the vehicle has been unregistered: so, $300 if the rego has been expired for a month; $800 if it’s been longer than a month but less than 12 months, and $1500 for more than a year.

If that’s not enough to put you off driving an unregistered car on a public road, then think about the consequences of having a crash while doing so and not having a CTP green slip (third party insurance). If you have an accident with another car in which you’re at fault you could be up for tens of thousands (possibly hundreds of thousands) in medical and repair bills.

If you are caught driving without third party insurance you will also be given another fine on top of the one for driving an unregistered vehicle.

There are some exceptions to driving an unregistered vehicle. The allowances in which you can drive an unregistered vehicle on a public road depend on the state or territory’s laws.

In NSW, the NT, Vic, Tas, WA, and QLD you are allowed to drive an unregistered vehicle if it is for the purpose of getting it registered. This lets you drive it to a workshop to get a safety check (pink slip) or have inspection required to attain your rego.

You must drive it straight to the inspection station, workshop or motor registry taking the most convenient route. Don’t stop at the shops, don’t visit your mate, don’t get drive-through.

Make sure you pay the third party insurance before you drive the unregistered car as well – remember an accident and the costs associated with one could change your life forever.

South Australia and the ACT require a permit to drive an unregistered vehicle, even if it’s just to get registration.

That brings us to the other exception – permits. All states and territories offer permits allowing you to drive an unregistered vehicle on the road, but be advised these are temporary and for a one-off situation.

The permits will usually cover you for travelling interstate as well. Again, make sure you have third party insurance.

The cost of a permit varies. In Victoria a one-day permit for a sedan costs $44.40.

An example of when you might use a permit to drive your vehicle is to be repaired.

Is it a criminal offence to drive an unregistered vehicle and will you go to jail? No, it’s highly unlikely you will be sent in jail for driving an unregistered vehicle. Not unless you break some serious laws at the time – such as driving dangerously or while disqualified, or putting lives in danger or driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.  

Whether driving an unregistered vehicle is a criminal offence or not depends which state or territory you are in and how this traffic offence is classified. You will not usually lose demerit points either. A fine is normally the most serious penalty, although the matter could be taken to court as well.

Each state and territory’s motor registry and police force has a website and we advise all drivers to check the laws and requirements before driving an unregistered vehicle on the road.

Do you think the fines for driving an unregistered vehicle should be heavier? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

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