Importing a car to Australia is fraught with difficulties. For most expats, the cost and effort required both in your home country and when your car arrives in Australia far outweigh the benefits of importing a car. Unless you are incredibly attached to your automobile, or have a one of a kind custom or rare car that you love so much that money is no object, it is highly recommended you leave your car in storage and purchase a new one once you arrive in Australia.
Unless you own an Australian business that imports cars (itself a bureaucratic nightmare) there are numerousstringent conditions you must meet:
- You must be either a citizen, a Permanent Resident, or in the process of applying for Permanent Residency.
- The car must undergo specific export inspections and certifications in your home country before you leave (depending on that country’s export laws).
- The car must conform to Australian standards, which means converting it to right-hand drive if needed. The only exception to this is if the car is exempted under Collector Regulations. This means that it is subject to a host of driving restrictions when on Australian roads.
In addition to these regulations, the cost of importation must be considered. These costs can easily reach into the 6 figure mark and will include:
- Customs duties and taxes (both exportation and importation)
- Wharf fees
- Australian Shipping Agent’s fees
- Transport charges
- Quarantine Steam Cleaning
- General processing charges
- Modification costs to make the vehicle comply with Australian and Victorian state requirements
If you plan on bring your car to Australia for 12 months or less, the Australian government has an agreement with several participating countries that allows for temporary importation of vehicles for touring purposes. This scheme is referred to as Carnet, and allows you to bring your car under the following conditions:
- The vehicle must not be lent, sold, mortgaged, hired, exchanged, given away, or otherwise disposed of while in Australia.
- The vehicle must be exported from Australia within 12 months of entry.
- You may not leave the country while the vehicle is currently within Australia.
- A lapse in any of these rules will result in a fine of $12,000 and the rescheduling of the vehicle as an import, subject to the same regulations and taxes as any other import (described below).
For information on countries that have a Carnet arrangement with Australia, or for more details, contact the Australian Automobile Association at http://www.aaa.asn.au/contact.htm
In your Home Country
Depending on your home country, the car you wish to export will be subject to a variety of regulations, fees, and certifications. As the differences in these rules are so great for so many countries, we will not list them here. However, some formalities you will commonly be expected to complete include:
- Obtain a valuation from a Valuer recognised by the Australian Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government (details below)
- Certify mechanical condition of vehicle (this can usually be completed by the Valuer, and if not, they will likely be able to recommend a mechanic)
- Apply for an Approval to Import from the Australian government, supported by documentation (required documentation will depend on country)
- Receive Approval to Import
- Arrange shipping company to transport vehicle
- Arrange shipping agent in Australia to manage Dockside, Quarantine, Customs Duty, and payment of fees and GST upon vehicle’s arrival.
- Deliver car to shipping company, notify local exportation authority of impending export, and provide documentation if necessary.
For full information on importing a vehicle, and the documentation required from your home country, see the Australian Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government’s website http://www.infrastructure.gov.au/vehicles/imports/
For information on meeting the export requirements for your country when exporting a car to Australia, contact the local Australian Consulate or Australian Embassy in your country. For a list of contact information by country, see the Visa: Australian Consulates Abroad section of this guide.
In addition to the maze of paperwork and bureaucracy you will encounter should you chose to import your vehicle, the cost of importation should be considered. Australia places significant tax levies on imported vehicles.
Vehicle Importation Duties and Taxes
|Vehicle Type||Duty and Tax|
|Vehicles over 30 years old||0% duty + 10% tax*|
|New and used vehicles up to 30 years old||10% duty + 10% tax*|
|Four Wheel Drive Vehicles||5% duty + 10% tax*|
*(Tax based on difference between home country valuation and Australian Customs valuation)
In addition to these importation taxes, you can expect to pay additional luxury car tax if your vehicle is considered a luxury car. For more information on calculating the luxury car tax, see the Other Taxes section of this guide.
Once your vehicle has arrived in Australia, the process of obtaining it and fulfilling all requirements is as follows:
- Arrange Temporary Insurance in Australia for the period while you are waiting to get your Registration (“Rego”). Your insurer must be willing to insure a Personal Import.
- Obtain Unregistered Permit (1 month) to drive your car while awaiting formal registration approval. This should be dated to start several days after the cargo ship’s arrival.
- Contact Shipping Agent upon vehicle arrival to arrange payment of Duties and Taxes.
- Once fees, duties, and taxes are paid, Shipping Agent will manage clearance at dockside and transport to Quarantine Station.
- Collect vehicle from Quarantine Station when contacted, and pay any additional fees (such as Steam Cleaning)
- Place Unregistered Permit in car’s window and drive the car to where it will be garaged. You may not drive the car further (unless on the way to or from fulfilling one of the following requirements) until formal registration is issued.
- Contact Insurer to activate insurance
- Contact the Customs department of your home country to complete any outstanding exportation requirements (if necessary)
- Obtain a Roadworthiness Certificate from a local garage.
- Arrange for a Vehicle Assessment Signatory Scheme (VASS) Inspection. Only specific, mechanics recognized by the government are certified to do this.
- Arrange for any modifications listed as necessary during the VASS Inspection to be completed (the most common being a speedometer that lists speeds in Kph).
- Once you have obtained VASS clearance, order a yellow Personal Import Plate (self adhesive metallic sticker) and apply it to the vehicles frame in the engine bay. Most sign makers will be able to provide this service, and one will usually be recommended by the engineer conducting the VASS inspection.
- Within 30 days of obtaining VASS clearance, apply for formal inspection and Registration. This requires making an appointment (several weeks in advance), visiting the appropriate office in person with copies of all documentation related to the vehicle gathered to this point, and submitting the car to an inspection by an official. If all the paperwork is in order, and the car meets the inspection requirements, you will be issued a vehicle registration stickers (to be affixed to the inside window), and license plates will be posted to you.
- Once your License Plates arrive, affix them to your vehicle.
- Australian Customs and Border Protection Service http://www.customs.gov.au/
- Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service http://www.daff.gov.au/biosecurity/travel/moving-emigrating
- Australian Taxation Office http://www.ato.gov.au
- Roads and Traffic Authority, NSW http://www.rta.nsw.gov.au
- Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government http://www.infrastructure.gov.au/vehicles/imports/