An almost unfathomable variety of registration fees across Australian states and territories is putting an unfair burden on caravanners that is not likely to ease any time soon.
While the disparity in fees between states is affecting a growing number of Australians, according to industry representatives, many buyers are unaware of the inconsistencies, which might mean a blue-collar worker from western Sydney is paying far more to register his caravan than a van owner from well-to-do Toorak in Melbourne, despite each registering vans of equivalent weight.
NSW: THE COSTLY STATE
New South Wales shapes up as the most expensive state for caravan registration. That’s despite the local industry reporting a boom in caravanning and camping holidays in that state.
The state government hits vanners between $221 and a whopping $399 for a typical caravan (depending on Tare weight), but heavier vans incur fees in excess of $600. Decide to make a living from your caravan and you may be up for a fee almost double that of private users.
VIC: THE BUDGET STATE
Cross the border into Victoria and the story is quite different. Victoria has the largest fleet of registered caravans in Australia. In fact, almost a third of Australia’s caravans call Victoria home. Yet, to register a van of the same size and weight in Victoria as you would in New South Wales, the Victorian government hits caravan owners a paltry $54 per year for registration of vans less than 4.5t ATM.
TAS: A HAPPY MEDIUM
The system in Tasmania is fairly reasonable. The cost of registering a new van on the Apple Isle is $156.20 (renewal $139.60) if the van has a GTM of between 500kg and 4.5t.
SA & QLD: Out of step
The South Australian state government charges its caravanners around $90. Head north and you’ll find a healthy industry in Queensland that has recently seen the number of registrations rise by around 36%.
Registration in Queensland is $122 for caravans up to 1020kg ATM, while anything over 1020kg ATM is $209.
Clearly, the states are not in step with each other on this issue.
Caravanning Queensland and the CCIA NSW agree that the issue doesn’t seem to be on consumers’ price radar.
Caravanning Queensland’s Ron Chapman says that since the removal of stamp duty on caravans in New South Wales, there were no longer issues with New South Wales residents ‘borrowing’ a Queensland address to register their caravan as a way to save hundreds of dollars.
NSW Transport is currently in the process of reviewing vehicle registration costs, and CCIA NSW has made a submission calling for a reduction in registration costs for privately-registered light trailers and caravans.
Caravan Trade and Industries Association of Victoria chief executive Rob Lucas says the differing caravan registration prices across Australia affected manufacturers as well as consumers.
“Australia is one country and yet has jurisdictions all over the country. States have a range of red-tape and fees and processes to register recreational vehicles which are, in places, vastly different to one another,” he says. “It must confuse consumers but, certainly from a business perspective, for many of our members who operate on a national basis, the red-tape is confusing.
“We have been talking for years about harmonisation and here’s a perfect example of a consumer who can be charged anything from around $50 to $600 for, fundamentally, the same caravan,” he continues. “It doesn’t make any sense. Until we get some major and significant harmonisation across a wide range of caravan matters, governments of all persuasions will continue to be out of step with each other.”
NO RELIEF IN SIGHT
When travelling means finding the fine balance between budgeting for spending money at a destinations and flushing money into your fuel tank, costs to caravanners become an important issue. But it’s an issue that’s not going away any time soon, according to a recent report by Monash University’s Stephen King.
In an article for the university, written in recent times, King wrote: “Long-term trends suggest energy prices will keep hitting the ‘hip pocket nerve’ over the next few years.”
And Mr King should know. He was a member of the ACCC consumer watchdog’s 2007 inquiry into petrol prices.
If that price pressure continues, travellers will keep seeking savings and fairness on items like caravan rego fees for some time to come.
The full feature appeared in Caravan World #535 March 2015. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!