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Car Shipping to Australia | Vehicle Shipping | First Base Freight Ltd

Australia Import Guide

Importing a vehicle isn’t difficult, though it’s made significantly easier when you understand the regulations and procedures. The information contained in the following Australia Import Guide is designed to be an overview of the rules, regulations and procedures for shipping a car from the UK to Australia, as at February 2017. If you’re considering importing we recommend reading this, using the web links and checking with us for more specific information than we can include in an overview.

The guide is based on shipping a car from the UK to Australia. Shipping from other countries is similar, though not exactly the same, so don’t hesitate to call us for details on your specific enquiry.

Understanding the Steps, Regulations and Pitfalls

Successfully importing anything is made up of a series of steps from the initial ‘want’ for a particular car through to picking it up in Australia on arrival. Following are the basic steps to complete the shipment in such a way as to minimise cost, and avoid disaster:

1) Homework. Understanding ALL the steps and costs from buying the car through to shipping BEFORE you bid/pay will save money, time and effort later in the process. 2) Shipping agent. Choosing an experienced forwarder like EDI will ensure you’re in good hands from the start. 3) Import Permit. A valid import permit is vital. Shipping without it may result in the car being refused entry, shipped back or confiscated/destroyed – all at huge cost to you. EDI can help with the permit application. 4) Air conditioning. The Australian Government has strict regulations on ALL air conditioning systems. We can assist with this step. 5) Asbestos declaration. The Australian Government do not allow the import of any vehicles or parts that contain asbestos. 6) Customs Import Duty and Taxes. Import GST, Duty and Luxury Car Tax can add significantly to the total cost. It’s important you understand the taxes you will face. 7) Quarantine. All cars imported will be inspected by Quarantine on arrival so where possible ensure the car is as clean as possible. 8) Insurance. Your items are not automatically insured while in transit. We can help with Marine Insurance for all risks in the (unlikely) event of damage or loss. 9) Registration in Australia. Your vehicle will require some level of compliance certification before it can be registered. Know the rules to avoid disappointment on arrival. 10) Shipping documents. It’s very important you have complete and correct documentation before shipment. Documents are required for the Customs clearance process at both ends. 11) Shipping – the process and timeframes

These steps are the basics required to help ensure the shipment is a smooth one. In the following pages we have expanded on these points to give you a better understanding of each and how it will affect you. If you’re considering importing we recommend reading this and contacting us for further information as there’s (far) more to importing than we can put into an overview.


It’s vital you have a good understanding of the regulations and processes for the shipment of your vehicle before you purchase/ship it. Much of what you need to know is on the web and container in the following link:

Go to the vehicle regulation website to check out more information.

We can help with information on all aspects of importing. These links and the following information will give you the guidelines on how to import and what can be imported – and tips on what not to do.

We have been importing vehicles for close to 25 years so can help with information or answers to any questions you may have.

2) Choice of shipping agent (freight forwarder)

Choosing EDI to handle your shipping will ensure you have a partner working with you from the beginning. Experience, passion, financial security and an easy-to-do-business with attitude should be items high on the check list for any decision on who you have on your side.

EDI specialise in cars, bikes, parts, boats, trailers, and all manners of cargo ‘normal’ freight forwarders and Customs brokers can’t or won’t handle. EDI are a strong privately owned Australian international freight forwarder so you can be confident you’re working with a secure and professional organisation. Our name and reputation means the world to us, and making your experience a great one is our goal.

In the UK we work with agents specialising in vehicles, as we do. From the UK we have access to Roll-On-Roll-Off services for larger vehicles and motor homes and container services cars, motorcycles and parts. Our container services are based on a loading warehouse in the London area and we can assist with transport to get your car to our loading warehouse. We can arrange shipping out of other countries like the USA, EU, Japan, NZ, South Africa and just about anywhere you happen to find ‘the’ thing you need.

A large proportion of our clients are repeat customers who have enjoyed our services in the past and can give you references if you would like them. Call us and see just how easy importing can be when you chose the right partner.

3) Import Permit


All Vehicles must have a valid Import Approval to gain entry into Australia. Vehicles that arrive in Australia without an Import Approval generally incur significant storage costs until an Import Approval is issued. If the vehicle does not meet the requirements for an Import Approval, you will need to either export the vehicle or have it destroyed at your own expense.

The Government have a number of schemes under which vehicles can enter Australia. These are:

Pre 89 Scheme:

This scheme allows private and business importers to apply to import vehicles made before 1st January 1989. There are rules within this scheme that allow only standard unmodified vehicles to enter. We can help with advice and information on any vehicle you may be interested in bringing home.

This scheme allows for an online import permit application and requires a copy of your photo ID, proof of purchase/vale (Bill of Sale) and photos of the car.

Personal Import Scheme

This scheme applies to people who have lived overseas and owned the vehicle for a minimum of 12 consecutive months. Buying a car overseas and leaving it there for 12 months is NOT acceptable under the scheme. You must live overseas and have access to the vehicle for the full 12 months, or more.

Changes to Import schemes – 2018:

The Federal Government have released information on changes they plan to make for 2018/19. The changes, if they come into play, will change the current Pre ’89 schemes fixed date of 1-11989 to a rolling 25 years. There are other changes mentioned and details can be found at the following web link:

Regretfully the Government have decided not to go ahead with changes allowing a person to import a new righthand drive vehicle from markets such as the UK and Japan.

Import Permit – continued

Small Trailers:

This scheme allows for the applicant to apply to import a road trailer with a Gross Vehicle Mass of up to 4500Kg. This applies to small trailers such as boat trailers, box trailers and the like. Please note that the maximum allowable width on Australian roads is 2.5m (8ft 2.5inches)

The link below will bring up the current import application forms for vehicles under the Pre 89, Personal imports and Small Trailers schemes:

RAWS – Registered Automotive Workshop Scheme:

The RAWS scheme allows approved workshops to apply on your behalf to import vehicles made on or after January 1st 1989. There are a very limited number of vehicles that can be imported under this scheme. The following link will allow you to search for approved vehicles and the relevant RAWS:

Please contact us BEFORE purchasing a vehicle to ensure the vehicle you want can be imported!

4) Air Conditioning

Air conditioning gases and systems come under the control of the Department of Environment and those fitted to vehicles/trailers fall under very strict controls. Australia is a signatory to numerous worldwide conventions on ozone depleting and greenhouse gasses and as a result are very strict in the application of the rules. While this is a technical area of the import process the department have not issued specific forms to enable compliance, only a set of guidelines, as follows:

Air conditioning systems and their certification have become more of a challenge to importers in recent times and rank as important as the Import Permit for the car itself. For more information call us and/or visit

R22 based air conditioning systems, like those fitted to many older car, vans and trailers were completely banned mid 2010. Their import is not permitted unless converted to new ‘cleaner’ gasses – we can help with this in the UK

5) Asbestos

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (Customs) have, without industry consultation, added motor vehicles to the list of imported items they now profile / check for asbestos. The import of any items containing asbestos was banned from 1st January 2004 and refused entry into the country.

Customs now require all Customs Brokers to answer a yes or no question when lodging the Customs Import Declaration for motor vehicles:

Do the goods contain asbestos?

Customs pushed out the responsibility for answering the question with ‘due diligence’ to Licenced Customs Brokers like ourselves. To meet the requirement for due diligence the Customs Brokers must receive a declaration from the seller or the importer that clearly states the vehicle (or parts) does or does not contain asbestos in any of its parts or components. Without a clear declaration Customs have instructed Customs Brokers to answer the question with a YES which will trigger a hold of the vehicle and a requirement for ‘samples’ to be drawn for testing at a NATA approved laboratory. Should Customs order a vehicle be tested it will add very significant costs for storage, testing and handling to the overall costs of importing.

The ‘asbestos declaration’ as we are calling it must clearly identify the vehicle (year, make model and VIN) and state that it does or does not contain asbestos. The declaration can be an email or a written letter/document from either the seller or importer.

This declaration must be received before we can complete the Customs entry on the vehicle, or if one can’t be supplied we will be forced to answer the question with a Yes resulting in delays and costs.

Asbestos was used in brake pads/shoes, clutch plates (manual gearboxes) and in some engine and exhaust gaskets. In many countries, but not all, asbestos in these parts was phased out more than 10 years ago. If a car was, for example, restored or refurbished less than 10 years ago its likely, though not guaranteed, the replacement parts used do not container asbestos. This could also apply for general maintenance carried out in past years on ‘consumable’ parts like brakes, clutches and some gaskets that were replaced as a part of keeping the car in working order.

Our industry association is lobbying and talking with Customs on this matter to discuss the impact and effect on trade and cargo flow. It’s believed Customs have not considered the significant impact on all segments of industry, or what is believed to be the negligible risk to the community posed by imported vehicles.

6) Customs Clearance, Import Duty and Taxes

All vehicles entering Australia are subject to import taxes, regardless of the length of ownership or the age of the vehicle. The import taxes are:


Vehicle/Items imported into Australia attract a 10% GST on arrival and while there are some exceptions they are so rare that for the purposes of doing your homework we strongly recommend you factor GST into the calculation of the ‘landed cost’. The GST is calculated on the cost of the car plus any inland transport in the UK, plus the shipping costs, plus the insurance cost. GST is based on

the total cost of the car, not just the purchase price of the car itself. We can help with these calculations if you’re looking at working out the costs for a particular car.

Luxury Car Tax – LCT.

LCT is applicable to passenger motor vehicles with a landed tax paid value of A$ 66,331.00 or more. LCT is 33% of the car’s value over the A$ 66,331.00 threshold which is calculated on the total landed cost of the car plus the transport and insurance costs plus any Duty less GST. LCT is calculated on more than just the actual value of the car.

Import Duty:

The Australian Government may charge duty on cars depending on their type and age.

  • Cars over 30 years – no duty charged • Passenger vehicles under 30 years attract 5% duty • Boats new or used attract 5% duty • Trailers attract 5% duty • Auto parts usually attract 5% duty • Motorcycles (with spark plug ignition piston engines) are duty fee

This is also a technical area of the import process so please feel free to contact us for further information specific to your vehicle.

Parts and items purchased separately to the car (eBay, swap meets, etc.):

Shipping parts or other items with or inside the car is possible, though we will need a detailed manifest of the items and an invoice detailing them. Additional Customs clearance fees for parts shipped with or inside a car may apply if we are required to prepare a separate Customs entry for them.

Any parts supplied with the car as part of the purchase should be listed on the Bill of Sale. Duty and taxes may be charged on any items inside the car that are not covered by the Bill of Sale for the car itself.

7) Australian Quarantine:

Australia has some of the toughest Quarantine regulations in the world with all cargo subject to some form of Quarantine profiling or intervention.

All used vehicles or used items require a formal inspection by a Quarantine officer. Inspections are thorough and ANY contamination (dirt/leaves/bugs) will result in the vehicle/item being held for cleaning/treatment. We recommend cars are washed and cleaned, inside out and under, before shipping to help reduce any washing that may be ordered on arrival. Spending hours on the car with a pressure washer is not a guarantee of Quarantine passing the car on arrival, but it would reduce the time for washing here and ultimately the cost on arrival.

The inspection and cleaning costs for cars can vary from state to state, but for the purposes of costing work on an inspection costing A$140.00 plus the warehouse fees of A$ 100.00. Wash costs vary but are around A$120.00 per hour plus a second inspection fee and warehouse handling fee.

Any wood, straw, plant material or other Quarantine risk material should be removed from the car before shipping. The cost for treatment or destruction for these items can be very high so it’s best to remove them before shipping.

Quarantine rules for importing cargo are not unlike those you face when entering Australia, so work on the assumption that if you can’t bring it in with you through an airport, you can’t bring it in as cargo with/in your car.

If you’re importing new items it is possible to reduce Quarantine involvement if the supplier provides a ‘New and Unused’ declaration for the item/s. We can supply that form if and when required

Note 1: Quarantine rules are in place for the protection of Australia and can’t be bent or broken. We can and will help with any issue before the car/item is shipped, but once it’s been shipped Quarantine rules will apply. This is another area where understanding will avoid cost and disappointment.

Note 2: The importation of tyres is controlled by Quarantine. Any clients wanting to import used tyres not inflated rims must have a valid import permit for the tyres before they are shipped. New tyres can be shipped uninflated but will be subject to a Quarantine inspection on arrival.

For more information you can visit:

8) Shipping documents:

It’s very important that all documents are complete and correct BEFORE the car is shipped.

Following is a check list of the documents required for export from the UK and entry into Australia. Please be sure you have checked off ALL these items:

  1. A) Import approval for a vehicle or trailer from Canberra. B) Authority to Act authorising EDI to act on your behalf for export and Australian import. C) Bill of Sale – provided by the seller/previous owner. D) Copy of the photo ID page of your passport or drivers licence. E) Insurance – confirmation if you will be arranging insurance, or if you want EDI to handle on your behalf. F) Air conditioning certificate/s – EDI can assist here – if required G) Invoices and details of any costs involved prior to the car being exported – these could be for transport you arranged or work done on the car before it arrives at our loading depot. H) Manifest/list of any parts/items being shipped and invoice/s listing the items.

Shipping process and time frames:

In shipping by sea from the UK there are 2 main options – containerised or roll-on-roll-off (ro/ro) vessel. Cars and bikes are shipped in containers while some trucks, trailers and larger boats are shipped on the ro/ro vessels

Containerised: Your car/bike/parts will be packed into a container in our London depot, along with other client’s cargo. During this part of the process our London office will need the original V5 and ownership paperwork to clear the car through UK Customs.

For a containerised shipments it normally takes around 7 – 10 working days to have the container off the wharf in Australia, unpacked and cleared. Prior to the arrival of the ship we process the Customs and Quarantine entries and at this stage we will send you an invoice for the shipping and handling charges so you have time to process that and pay it.

After the container is unpacked Quarantine will inspect it and if required order if for cleaning. Those charges, if and where applicable, will be the final costs and we will require payment before the car is

released. Unpacking depots around Australia give 2-3 days’ free storage of the car after QUARANTINE release it, so the timing can be tight right at the end of the job. Prompt payment and collection will ensure there are no storage costs incurred.

Ro/Ro: These are specialist vessels where the cargo can be driven / towed onto the ship. This is especially suited to trucks, motorhomes, boats and trailers that are too large to be loaded into containers. There are ro/ro services our of Newcastle and Southampton to Australia and transit times are in the order of 50+ days.

After the ro/ro ship arrives in port it normally takes 2-3 working days to have the vessel unloaded and the cargo ready for Quarantine inspection which is done on the wharf. If the item is cleared by Quarantine it can be collected from the wharf after payment of the charges. If the item fails Quarantine inspection it must be transported to the nearest Quarantine cleaning facility for cleaning and reinspection. These costs are not known at the time of the initial quotation and will be passed on when if and when applicable. Depending on the item and Quarantine this could add an additional week or more to the process. Like the containerised option the wharf only give 3 days free time so it’s important that payment is received to reduce the risk of paying any storage, which can be VERY costly.

These steps, if followed correctly will ensure that 99.9% of shipments are smooth and straightforward.