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Illegal Registration and insurance

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(see my further postings below.  I believe that this issue is now clear - you invalidate your insurance if you register a van in one state and garage it in another state, because your van is not legally registered).

I have taken delivery of my Top Ender and have had our first fantastic holiday around Queensland. My van came with QLD rego plates and Kedron give no option for a NSW registration. I tendered my son's QLD address for registration purposes and the QLD certificate issued with this warning "Contact your insurer if towing with an interstate vehicle".

My Compulsory Third Party insurance for the LC is with NSW GIO. I contacted GIO and was told by a supervisor (after some terse argument by me and insisting to speak with a supervisor) that an interstate registered trailer is definitely not covered for CTP insurance under the GIO CTP policy.

This becomes somewhat academic when it is realised that my van, with its QLD plates will be garaged in NSW. Under both QLD and NSW law, (I am advised) the trailer is required to be registered in NSW. If I were to maintain the QLD registration, I would, in effect be towing an unregistered trailer.

Can someone who has legal knowledge on this point please advise whether or not this is the case. Because most caravans are manufactured in Victoria or QLD, there are many NSW caravaners who retain their caravan registration with the state of purchase of the van, particularly as NSW is the most expensive state in which to register a van - for me an annual weight-based fee of $730 plus $40 for plates, a weighbridge certificate of tare weight and a brown slip (roadworthy certificate for a heavy vehicle - yes, the same category as a semi-trailer).

If I am correct in suspecting that a caravan normally kept in one state but registered in another state is not, in fact, legally registered, what are the consequences?

Having had many business dealings with insurance companies over 30 years, I have no doubt that any insurance company, if it discovered that an accident involved the towing of an unregistered van, would refuse any claim connected with that van. This would include a claim for damage to the van or caused by the van as well as a third party personal claim for injuries.

Would an insurance company discover the truth about the registration and place where the van is kept? When large dollars are involved, insurance companies investigate claims to the nth degree. They would only have to bring a person from the registered address (or a neighbour) into court under oath to testify whether or not the van was kept at a particular place in the state where the van is registered. The caravaner's claim for proper registration would soon be in tatters.

Imagine this scenario: Whilst towing your van, you are run off the road by a road train. Your van starts to sway a little and side-swipes an oncoming car following the road train, sending it off the road and into a tree. Your van writes off the on-coming car (which just happened to be a $500,000 Mercedes sports) and causes the driver of the Mercedes to become a quadriplegic. That leads to a TP claim of $10 million. Where do you stand with the insurances you have in respect of your (unregistered) van?

Up sh*tters ditch, I suggest. Could someone please tell me I am wrong. There are a lot of people out their with their heads in the sand on this issue. For me, it is just not worth the risk. In addition, why pay for insurance which has no value?

Best regards

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Technically you are to arrange a permit for the van (cost and time allowed to tow back to your home state I am not sure of, I think it was $25.00 per day and there was a limit to the amount of days allowable) where you first register it, this also applies to motor cars. What is happening is a bending of the rules and is not endemic to QLD but also Victoria where you are right to say most vans are built. It is also a money spinner for the State of original registration. The best way around it has always been to registered in your home state very shortly after your return. Saves any hassles as you are now finding out about. Just make sure you have all your paperwork particularly the weigh bridge docket when first weighed. No State Registration Authority will register a vehicle etc sight unseen in another State this can and has lead to many undesirables getting involved in shonky deceptions.

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  • 2 months later...

G'day Geoff

We have a Qld registered TopEnder & NSW registered tow vehicle. I spoke with the Qld Transport Operations (equiv to NSW RTA) & they said the CTP falls onto the tow vehicle.

Our CTP is with Allianz & I spoke to them, & they said it does NOT matter where the caravan is registered (as long as it is registered) it's covered by the NSW CTP from Tow Vehicle. They did say if the van is in NSW most of the time it should be registered here, but as our van is mostly "on-the-road" out of NSW it doesn't seem to matter where it's registered, even though it's garaged in NSW.

The grey area is where the van is garaged, but as it's not actually on the road in NSW the most, it's a fine line & an arguable point.

I hope this helps.



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Why don't you register the tow vehicle in Qld also???? Thats what we did

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  • 2 months later...
On ‎21‎/‎10‎/‎2012 at 4:47 PM, Steve & Kez said:

Why don't you register the tow vehicle in Qld also???? Thats what we did

If the tow vehicle or the towed vehicle has a "garage address" in NSW, NSW law requires it to be registered here. If you reside in NSW, and have your vehicles registered in QLD, the first question an insurer would ask is were the vehicles properly registered. It would not be difficult to prove that they weren't if you registered in QLD to avoid the NSW provisions and normally kept them in NSW. You would then be unregistered and have no enforceable property or personal injury insurance. To me it is a no brainer and not worth the risk. If you are intent on not complying with the law, why waste your money on insurance premiums.

The following is the definition of "garage address" in the NSW Road Transport Act

"garage address" of a vehicle means:

(a) if the vehicle is normally kept at a depot or base of operations when not in use-the principal depot or base of operations of the vehicle, or
(b ) if the vehicle is normally kept on a road or road related area when not in use:
(i) where the vehicle has one registered operator-the residential address of the registered operator, or
(ii) where the vehicle has more than one registered operator and one or more of the operators reside in New South Wales-the residential address of the registered operator residing in New South Wales whose address is nearest the road or road related area, or
(iii) where the vehicle has more than one registered operator and none of the registered operators reside in New South Wales-the suburb and road or road related area in New South Wales where the vehicle is normally kept, or
(iiiv )if the vehicle is normally kept at a place (other than a depot, base of operations or road or road related area) when not in use-the place where the vehicle is normally kept.
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  • 3 years later...

I have now done a bit more research and received advice from RMS in NSW.  The following is the text of an email I sent some time ago to Tom Smith, Chairman of the Australian Caravan Club.  I urged Tom to circulate this advice to club members but have not seen a satisfactory response from Tom.  Many caravanners seem to prefer to keep their heads in the sand on this issue.

Kind regards


Geoff Ward


"I am here addressing the question of a caravan registered in Victoria, but used and normally kept in NSW.


Once the right areas of the laws of each state are found, it doesn’t need a lawyer to see that the correct answer is blindingly obvious.  I can only suggest that the ACC legal team you refer to has not looked at the correct area of the law.  I will outline my review of the relevant legislation so that you can forward it on to the legal team.  I will also include the text of the email I have received from RMS which confirms my interpretation.



Under section 68 of the Road Transport Act 2013, it is an offence to use an unregistered registrable vehicle on a road in NSW – penalty $2,200 (20 penalty units).  Under section 7 of the Act, a “registered vehicle” is a vehicle registered in the “NSW registrable vehicles register”.  By implication, although not defined, an “unregistered registrable vehicle” would be any registrable vehicle not registered in the NSW register.


Section 4 of the Act defines “registrable vehicle” as including a trailer.


Therefore, in the absence of an exemption for interstate registered vehicles, a vehicle registered in another state is not permitted to be used on NSW roads.


There is, of course, an exemption for certain interstate registered vehicles.  The exemption can be found buried very deeply in regulations – Clause 9 of Schedule 1 of the Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Regulation 2007. 


The exemption applies to a registrable vehicle that:

a )      is temporarily in NSW; and

b )  is registered in another State or Territory.


The example being considered, namely, a caravan registered in Victoria but used and normally kept in NSW, fails to qualify for this exemption on 2 counts:

1.       it is not temporarily in NSW, if it is in NSW for most of the time and is only taken outside NSW for the occasional caravan holiday; and

2.       it is not validly registered in Victoria if it is kept for most of the time in NSW – see later analysis


Now a smart lawyer might wish to argue before a judge about the meaning of “temporarily” and there will be grey areas – for example, where the caravan spends most of its time on the road and most of its time outside NSW, but that’s not the example we are here considering.  For the more black and white case, ie, yours and mine, I wouldn’t wish to bet my farm in a courtroom battle with an insurance company and its SC, particularly where there could be millions of dollars at stake for third party injury.  I don’t think I need to address the question of whether an insurance company would try to avoid a claim in respect of damaged caused by the use of an unregistered vehicle.



Victoria has a definition of “garage address” in Regulation 56 of the Road Safety (Vehicles)Regulations 2009.  The definition of garage address, in relation to a caravan that is not a heavy vehicle, means:  “(c)… the place nominated by the applicant for registration as the place where the vehicle is normally kept; “.

The relevance of garage address (and this is the same in NSW) is that the Roads Corporation in Victoria may not register a vehicle unless it is satisfied that the vehicle’s garage address in in Victoria – section 6A of Road Safety Act 1986.

At first sight, it might seem that a NSW garaged caravan might be able to be validly registered in Victoria just on the basis that the owner says it is “normally kept” in Victoria.

However, under sect 71 of the Roads Safety Act 1986 “A person who by any false statement… obtains or attempts to obtain any… [vehicle] registration… is guilty of an offence and is liable to a penalty of not more than 10 penalty units [$1,476.10] or to imprisonment for a term of not more than 2 months, and any… registration… so obtained is void and of no effect.”.


Consequently,  person who states that a caravan is normally kept in Victoria when, as a fact, it is normally kept in NSW is guilty of an offence and the Victorian registration thereby obtained is “void and of no effect”.


The following appendix is the reply I have received form NSW RMS on the matter.


Kind regards


Geoff Ward”



“Dear Geoff

Thank you for taking the time to discuss the issue of caravan registrations and garaging with me last week. To provide you with  a short answer to your query please note below:

While we broadly agree with your concerns, we believe that the answer to your question can be found in clause 9 of Schedule 1 of the Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Regulation 2007. As you are aware, this clause  protects an unregistered registrable vehicle that is:

a )      Temporarily in NSW, and

b )      Registered in another State.

As you have correctly pointed out, the caravan is not temporarily in NSW, because it is kept in the state the owner likely lives in and has a home address in - NSW.

In short, if the caravan is kept in NSW or has a garage address in NSW, while it may be registered in Victoria, it clearly does not satisfy the requirement to be in NSW temporarily. The caravan is therefore technically ‘unregistered’, and may not be towed on a NSW road.

We also accept that the legislation and the above explanation may not be readily and easily understood. As such Roads and Maritime, and Transport for NSW are developing a policy position and will publish this on our website in the near future (I am still waiting on some more info about when this might be).


Kind regards


Joe Prater
Customer Liaison Case Manager

Customer & Information Services | Government Information Services
T 02 8588 5953 F 02 8588 4171
Every journey matters

Roads and Maritime Services
101 Miller Street North Sydney NSW 2060 “

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NSW Roads and maritime Services now has definitive information on its website.  This would seem to me to be the end of the matter.


Interstate vehicles

Any vehicle (including a caravan or trailer), which is driven on NSW roads must be registered in NSW. An exemption to this requirement applies when the vehicle is:

  • temporarily in NSW, and
  • currently registered in another state (‘the home state’), and
  • displaying all the number plates and registration labels required by the home state.

Interstate vehicles kept or garaged in NSW

A vehicle that is kept or garaged in NSW may be in breach of its home state registration provisions. For example, if an interstate authority requires the vehicle to be garaged in its home state, that authority may take action to cancel or suspend the registration.

Vehicles kept or garaged in NSW are required to be registered in NSW. If not, they are considered to be unregistered and cannot be driven (or towed in the case of a caravan or trailer) on NSW roads. You should also be aware that substantial penalties apply if you drive an unregistered or uninsured vehicle.

NSW Police hold the view that interstate registered vehicles kept or garaged in NSW are not 'temporarily' in NSW and are therefore 'unregistered'. As such, if the operator of that vehicle holds a NSW driver’s licence or is resident in NSW, and drives or uses the vehicle on NSW roads, they may be issued with a penalty notice.

General requirements in Australian jurisdictions

The common view in Australian states and territories is that any vehicle should be registered in the state or territory in which the owner/operator lives and where the vehicle is generally kept.

Where you are a genuine visitor, or temporarily in NSW, and you drive a vehicle that is registered in your home state on NSW roads, you will not require NSW registration.

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  • 4 years later...

Imagine living in an apartment in Canberra. One doesn't have space to store the caravan. A friend just over the border in NSW offers to house your van. Should the van be registered in ACT or NSW??


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