I’m looking into buying a cheap car to use for travelling around Australia but have been spending quite a bit of time trying to ascertain the legalities/pitfalls of doing so with a UK issued licence. I’m 22 years old, passed my test four months ago in the UK and have a twelve month working holiday visa. I arrived about a month ago and wish to travel across a number of territories including (but not necessarily limited to) South Australia, Victoria, the ACT, New South Wales and Queensland. I’m presently in South Australia. Additionally, I don’t currently have an International Drivers Permit (IDP) but plan to acquire one soon (since the UK licence is already in English these aren't necessary but I want to get one anyway in case I need one in the future).
When I arrived I assumed that my UK licence would be sufficient to get behind the wheel of a car and drive off into the sunrise. However, I’ve heard a lot of conflicting information about this; some people have told me I’m only allowed to use my UK licence for three months after arriving in the country while other people tell me I’d have to wear P Plates since I’ve had my licence for under a year. And other people tell me that this is all nonsense and I’m good to go as is, without any restrictions. I’ve found a bit of chatter on forums about this but nothing definitive or authoritative.
I’ve been using the following site in an attempt to answer some of my concerns: http://australia.gov.au/faq/existing-licence-driving-in-australia
It’s the government website so obviously seems more legit that other resources, but I was disappointed to see the following written on there:
“As a general rule, you are able to drive in Australia, as a visitor, on a valid overseas driver's licence that covers the same vehicle class for a maximum of three months after arriving in Australia.”
I’m hoping to work for a few months in SA before travelling off to see the rest of Oz by car, so to read that is a bit deflating as it implies red tape I’d rather not have to cut through. However, I’ve set to researching this further and have thus far found very little to substantiate this “general rule”. For example, the ACT website point blank states visiting drivers are not required to obtain a state driving licence. The link to the SA page similarly states “If your visit is temporary, you may drive the equivalent vehicle in Australia as authorised by your current licence issued to you in your home country” with no other restrictions. NSW is a bit more complicated, claiming a state licence isn't required so long as you’re only a visitor but goes on to state “If you are regarded as a temporary overseas visitor and have resided in Australia for a continuous period of at least six months, you may apply for a NSW licence.”, although I’m interpreting this as an optional thing rather than a necessity. Each site I check seems to say similar things.
Essentially, I’m seeing very little to back up the “maximum of three months” general rule claim on the actual websites for the respective Road and Traffic Authority. It appears that I can drive with my UK licence without any restrictions for the duration of my working holiday stay. So why do I keep hearing about this three month limit for visitors given that there seems to be so little to back it up? I’d appreciate if someone could put my mind to rest and advise me on whether or not I am legally allowed to drive in Australia presently or in the future based on my situation (22 years old, UK licence under a year old, 12 month working holiday visa) and whether there are any restrictions I ought to be aware of. It follows that if my UK Licence is acceptable for Aussie driving then I won't need to bother with P plates, but if I'm wrong then please correct me there (I'd rather not wear them if I could help it but I don't want to do anything illegal).
Anyway, I sorry for this question being kind of long.