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This article was written by Michelle Makela - Legal Practice Director

Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning.  Michelle has been involved in all practice areas of the firm and in her personal practice has had experience in litigation at all levels (state and federal industrial tribunals, the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, Federal...

Vehicle Registration Offences


In New South Wales, vehicles must be registered with Transport for NSW before they can be driven on a road. It is an offence to operate an unregistered vehicle. It is not uncommon to see motorised or motor-assisted scooters, bicycles or other “vehicles” on the roads (and footpaths) of NSW. It is commonly believed that such “vehicles” are not required to be registered, and that their drivers need not be licensed. In the vast majority of cases this belief is mistaken and as a result there are many people, particularly suspended and disqualified drivers, who are unwittingly committing serious traffic offences. This article deals with vehicle registration offences in NSW.

What Vehicles Must Be Registered?

The legislation relating to vehicle registration is complex. In summary:

  • A “registrable vehicle” includes almost any mode of transport on wheels that is propelled or assisted by a motor that forms part of the vehicle.
  • Certain vehicles are exempt, for example pedal-assisted bicycles where the power of the electric motor is less than 200 watts, and motorised wheelchairs for the disabled.

Vehicles Exempt from Registration

It is a defence to the charge if the vehicle being operated falls within one of the three categories specifically exempt by Transport for NSW from registration.

Electric Power-Assisted Pedal Cycles

To fall under this category the bicycle must:

  • have an electric motor; and
  • not be able to exceed a combined maximum power output of more than 200 watts.

Pedalecs

To be exempted from registration under this category, the pedalec must comply with the requirements of European Standard EN 15194:

  • the motor must be electric;
  • the maximum continuous power output of the motor must not exceed 250 watts;
  • the rider must pedal to activate the motor;
  • the motor must cut off once the speed reaches 25km/hour; and
  • the vehicle must be certified by the manufacturer and specifically contain a label certifying that it complies with EN 15194.

Motorised wheelchairs and similar

To be exempted from registration under this category:

  • the wheelchair or other conveyance must be used solely for the conveyance of a person with a disability; and
  • the wheelchair or other conveyance must not travel at a speed greater than 10km/h;
  • the disability must be one that substantially impairs that person’s mobility.

Prohibited Vehicles

There are certain vehicles that are prohibited vehicles and cannot be registered. If a vehicle cannot be registered because it is a prohibited vehicle, it must not be used on roads or in any public areas, such as footpaths, car parks and parks.

Vehicles under this category include but are not limited to:

  • all petrol-powered bicycles. “Segways” and similar vehicles are also banned. If a vehicle has a motor (electric or petrol) and is not registered, it is probably banned.
  • motorised foot scooters;
  • mini-bikes;
  • monkey bikes;
  • motorised human transporters; and
  • motorised skateboards.

Vehicle Registration Offences

It is generally an offence to use an unregistered and uninsured “registrable vehicle” on a NSW road. A driver whose licence is cancelled, suspended or disqualified may not drive a “registrable vehicle” on a NSW road.

Vehicle Registration Offences: Penalties

If police believe you are operating an unregistered vehicle, they can:

  • issue an infringement, including a fine and demerit points;
  • seize the number plates on the spot; and/or
  • seize the vehicle.

The following penalties apply:

  • Driving an unregistered vehicle: $2200.
  • Driving an uninsured vehicle: $5500.
  • Driving while suspended or canceled for fine default (first offence):$3300, 3-month disqualification, 18 months jail.
  • Driving while cancelled, suspended or disqualified (first offence): $3300, 1 year disqualification, 18 months jail.
  • Driving while cancelled, suspended or disqualified (second or subsequent offence): $5500, 2 years disqualification, 2 years jail.

Vehicle Registration Offences: What You Need to do

If you are charged with an offence the first thing to do is ascertain if you were in fact using an unregistered registrable vehicle. This can be a complex question and is best answered by a lawyer with expertise in NSW traffic legislation.

If you have committed an offence and are required to attend court then, particularly if you are a suspended or disqualified driver, you should seek legal representation. You will not be able to defend the charge on the basis that you made an honest mistake (ignorance of the law is no defence), but a lawyer may be able to convince the court that you should not be penalised and should instead have your charge dismissed pursuant to section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act NSW 1999. If you go to court unprepared the court may convict you and minimum disqualification periods of up to 2 years may apply.

For advice or representation, please contact Armstrong Legal.

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