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Buying a second hand trailer or caravan should bring excitement. Unfortunately we have recently seen an increase in people buying a second hand trailer or caravan, that at the time of purchase is unregistered, and then being told that it can never be registered in Australia.

Here are some critical things to remember when shopping for a second hand trailer or caravan that is unregistered.

1. Compliance Plate

Make sure the trailer or caravan has a compliance plate – also known as a VIN plate. As a minimum, the compliance plate lists the vehicles VIN number, GVM and Tare weights, manufacturer name and date of manufacture. It will also often list other information like tyre pressure, wheel and tyre size and axle ratings. On a boat trailer this is most commonly found on the drawbar up towards the coupling. For a caravan the compliance plate is often located inside the front boot. If the trailer or caravan was manufactured prior to 1989 it may not have a compliance plate.

2. VIN, Chassis Numbers and TR Numbers

Every trailer and caravan is issued with a VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) at the time of manufacture. Caravans are also issued with a chassis number. The VIN is the primary source of ID for the trailer or caravan and is always 17 characters long. Trailers and caravans manufactured prior to 1989 that have remained in registration should have been issued a TR or chassis number as a source of ID in place of the VIN. A VIN, TR or chassis number is required to register a trailer or caravan. VIN, Chassis Numbers and TR Numbers are required to be punched into the chassis of the trailer or caravan – usually on the drawbar.

3. Old Registration Paperwork

Always try and get the old registration paperwork for the trailer or caravan, even if it is 10 years old. Make sure that the details on the registration paperwork match the trailer or caravan you are wanting to purchase. If you can’t get a copy of the old registration paperwork it’s not the end of the world – but you must have all the other identifiers on the trailer or caravan.

4. “Homemade” Registration

Buying an unregistered trailer and hoping to get it registered as a “homemade’ trailer is now a thing of the past. To get a trailer registered as a homemade trailer you need:

  1. An appointment with an RMS inspection station like Bold Trailer And Caravan Repair Centre. The RMS examiner will view the trailer or caravan to verify its construction confirms it is a homemade trailer or caravan and not made by a company.
  2. You need to show the RMS examiner the receipts for the majority of the parts used to build the trailer or caravan.
  3. You will need to sign a declaration for the VIN’s unit applying for a VIN for the trailer or caravan.

As you can see – it’s not as easy as it use to be. Even if the trailer or caravan is 10 years old, homemade and has never been registered – without the 10 year old receipts for all the parts purchased to build the trailer or caravan it won’t be able to get registered.

5. Imported Trailers And Caravans

Imported trailers and caravans require an import permit from the Department of Infrastructure in Canberra. This is especially important to check when buying a second hand imported boat trailer as sometimes the importer has brought the boat trailer to Australia as a “cradle” for the boat rather than aa a trailer for road use to save themselves money. Without the official import papers from the Department of Infrastructure you will not be able to get the trailer registered. You can find more info on import permits from the Department of Infrastructure.

You also need to make sure that the imported trailer or caravan you are interested in buying meets the ADR (Australian Design Rules). The ADR sets out the national standards for vehicle safety. You will also need to make sure it complies with VSB1 (Vehicle Standards Bulletin 1) which contains the information required for building trailers with a GVM/ATM of less than 4.5 tonnes.

ADR: https://infrastructure.gov.au/vehicles/design/adr_online.aspx

VSB1: https://infrastructure.gov.au/vehicles/vehicle_regulation/bulletin/vsb1/index.aspx

6. Number Plates

If the trailer or caravan you want to buy has an old number plate on it – leave it there. If the trailer or caravan is missing some of the other information, the registration inspector can sometimes work backwards to look up a vehicles details by using the old number plate. Once it is confirmed your trailer or caravan passes it’s unregistered vehicle check you can then remove the old number plate and take it to your local RMS where they will swap it for a current NSW number plate. This still applies for an interstate number plate.