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All you need to know about importing a vehicle into Australia

Shipping a car to Australia has a lot of rules and procedures that you need to know. Australia has strict rules to protect its environment, so it’s important to follow them carefully. The first thing to consider is the safety and emissions standards that your car needs to meet. Depending on where your car is from and how old it is, you might need to make modifications to meet these standards. Some types of cars, like left-hand drive or non-standard vehicles, might have extra requirements or restrictions. You also need to have the right documents, such as proof of ownership and a vehicle identification number (VIN). Before shipping, your car must be thoroughly cleaned to remove any dirt or plants. This is because Australia wants to prevent pests and diseases from entering the country. When your car arrives, it will be inspected by the Department of Agriculture to make sure it meets quarantine regulations. It’s important to understand and follow these rules and procedures to avoid problems and make sure your car is shipped smoothly to Australia.

Get Familiar with the Process, Regulations, and Potential Challenges

To ensure a smooth and successful import process, it’s important to understand the various steps, regulations, and potential problems involved. Importing any item, including a vehicle, requires following a series of steps from the moment you decide on a specific vehicle to finally receiving it upon arrival. Here are the basic steps you should follow to complete the shipment in a cost-effective manner and prevent any unwanted issues or complications.

Following these steps will help ensure a smooth shipment. In the subsequent pages, we will delve into further details on these points and how each aspect can impact your import experience. We recommend studying these points carefully and contacting us for additional information, as there is more to the importing process than what we can cover in this overview.

Shipping a vehicle to Australia typically involves the following steps:

Do Research:

Doing your research is essential before making any purchase or proceeding with the shipment. We can take care of all the necessary aspects and processes involved in the shipment. It’s crucial for you to understand the regulations beforehand. We are here to assist you with valuable information and tips on every aspect of importing, including what can and cannot be imported, as well as what actions to avoid. With over 25 years of experience in importing vehicles, we are well-equipped to provide you with the information and answers to any questions you may have.

Choosing the Right Shipping Agent:

Selecting the best Shipping Agent for your shipment is important as they will work with you from the beginning. It’s crucial to consider their experience, financial stability, and a positive attitude towards doing business when making your decision.

Specializing in Various Types of Cargo:

We specialize in handling cars, bikes, parts, jet skis, boats, trailers, and other types of cargo that regular freight forwarders and Customs brokers may not handle. Our reputation and name are highly valued, and our main goal is to ensure you have a great experience.

Global Transport Services:

We can arrange door-to-door transportation for your vehicle or cargo between various countries such as the USA, UK, Japan, NZ, South Africa, Hong Kong, Singapore, and many more. No matter where you find the vehicle or item you want, we can help you with its transport.

Satisfied Repeat Customers:

Many of our clients are repeat customers who have benefited from our services in the past. If you would like references, we are more than happy to provide them. Give us a call and discover how easy importing can be when you choose the right partner.

Registration of Approved Vehicles/Import Approval for ROVER

A Vehicle Must Have Import Approval Before Being Imported:

It is necessary to get a valid Import Approval before bringing a vehicle into Australia. Without it, the car cannot lawfully enter the nation. If a car doesn’t have import approval when it arrives in Australia, there will probably be a lot of storage fees until the approval is given. You will be responsible for either exporting the car or paying to have it destroyed if it does not adhere to the conditions for import approval.

The Government has different schemes to allow vehicles into Australia, and we can assist with the application and processing for the relevant approval:

25-year rule:

According to this policy, automobiles that are at least 25 years old can be imported depending on the date of manufacture.

Personal Import plan:

The Personal Import Scheme (PIS) is not applicable if you currently live in Australia.

The term “personal import” goes beyond just bringing a vehicle into the country by yourself. It is a special option only available to Australian citizens or permanent residents who are returning home to Australia permanently after living abroad, as well as migrants who are moving to Australia and have a visa (or a pending visa application) that allows them to become permanent residents.

Under this scheme, individuals can import one vehicle every five years. They can apply for import approval either before entering Australia or within six months of entering the country. To be eligible, the vehicle must have been registered in the individual’s name overseas for at least 12 continuous months prior to the application for import approval.
There are strict limitations on personal car imports, and comprehensive evidence is required when applying for import approval.

Small Trailers:

In 2021, the rules for trailers changed. Now, you can import a road trailer weighing up to 4500 kg. This applies to small trailers like boat trailers and box trailers. Remember, the maximum width allowed on Australian roads is 2.5m (8ft 2.5 inches). However, many trailers made in the USA are 8’6″ (2.59m) wide, so they cannot be registered here. Please make sure the trailer meets Australian regulations before buying it.

Gross Vehicle Mass Limit:

From July 1st, 2021, the Government set a limit on the Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) to 3500 kg. GVM is the total weight of the vehicle, including its own weight and what it can carry. This restriction prevents the import of many pick-up trucks and other commercial vehicles in the 250/2500 and 350/3500 series.

1989 Motor Vehicles Standard Act

Under Australia’s Motor Vehicles Standard Act of 1989, all vehicles must adhere to all safety and pollution regulations. This law makes it illegal to import vehicles into the Australian market if they don’t meet all of the requirements of the nation. This restriction does not apply to all vehicles; for example, classic cars are exempt because no modifications are required.

Registered Automotive Workshop System

The RAWS system, which stands for Registered Automotive Workshop System, enables authorized workshops to seek to import a specific number of automobiles that are under 25 years old. You can look for authorized automobiles and the pertinent RAWS to manage the import approval and compliance using the links below:

Specialist and Enthusiast Vehicle Scheme (SEVS):

SEVS permits the application for the importation of particular automobiles if they meet very stringent requirements.
The vehicle had to have been unavailable from the manufacturer on the Australian market at the time in order to meet the fundamental requirements for a SEVS clearance. You can look for SEVS-approved cars using the links below, but keep in mind that this is merely the first stage in the process of potentially importing the car—it is NOT a green light to buy it.

Non-road automobiles Notice:

We can request a judgment that a vehicle is “not a road vehicle” and can be imported under this scheme for off-road vehicles (such as race cars, dirt motorcycles, etc.).
The types of automobiles that can be imported under these programs are restricted.

Prepare the Vehicle:

Clean your vehicle thoroughly, remove personal belongings, and ensure the fuel tank is less than a quarter full to comply with quarantine regulations.

Gather Required Documents:

Collect all necessary paperwork, including the vehicle’s title, bill of sale, export certificate, and any other required documentation. Additional documents may be needed for compliance and customs purposes.

Quarantine Inspection

When you bring a car into Australia, it is important to make sure that the vehicle is completely clean, both inside and out, before it arrives. You should check areas like the mudguards, mufflers, soil around the wheels, trunk, spare tires, and radiator, as well as any seeds, leaves, or dirt inside the car.

After the car arrives in Australia, Biosecurity Officers from the Department of Water, Agriculture, and the Environment will inspect the vehicle’s cleanliness before it is released from customs control. You will be responsible for any inspection fees that may apply. To avoid any quarantine problems, it’s advisable to use a car shipping company.

Australia must be protected, hence quarantine regulations cannot be waived or broken. Understanding regulations will help you avoid costs and disappointment in this and other areas.
Prior to shipping, used tyres that are not inflated on rims must have valid import permission. New tyres may be sent without air pressure, but they will need to pass a quarantine examination when they arrive.

Presence of Asbestos

Asbestos is prohibited from being imported into Australia. So, before bringing a car into the country, it is crucial to make sure that the vehicle does not contain any asbestos materials. If the Australian Border Force (ABF) suspects that your car might have asbestos, they will ask for proof that it is asbestos-free.

If you fail to provide sufficient assurance, the ABF may retain the vehicle at the border for sampling and testing. This can result in delays and additional expenses for you. To avoid such issues and ensure a smooth import process, it is recommended to use a car shipping company like Ship Cars Ltd. They have experience in handling these matters and can help you avoid any delays caused by asbestos concerns.

Customs clearance, import duty, and taxes

Customs clearance, import duty, and taxes are applicable to most items brought into Australia, including vehicles. The specific taxes you have to pay depend on the value, origin, and age of the vehicle. We can assist you in understanding how these tax regulations apply to you and your vehicle.

GST (Goods and Services Tax):

When you import items into Australia, a 10% GST is imposed upon their arrival. Although there are a few exceptions, they are rare. So, it’s recommended to include the GST when calculating the total cost of the vehicle. The GST is calculated based on the car’s cost, overseas transport to the port, shipping cost to Australia, and insurance cost. It is applied to the overall cost of the vehicle when it arrives in Australia, not just the purchase price. If you need help in calculating these costs for a specific car, we can assist you.

Luxury Car Tax (LCT):

LCT applies to passenger motor vehicles and is calculated based on the total cost of the car, including transport, insurance costs, and duty (excluding GST). The application of LCT is not affected by the age of the car or the length of ownership.

For the financial year between July 1, 2022, and June 30, 2023, the LCT threshold for most vehicles is $71,849.00. However, fuel-efficient and zero-emission vehicles have a higher threshold of $84,916 for the same period. Any amount above these thresholds is subject to an LCT rate of 33%.

Please note that these tax rates and thresholds may change over time, so it’s important to stay updated with the latest information.

Import taxes

Depending on the type and age of the vehicle, the Australian government may impose duty. The following information on current rates:

Boats, whether new or used, are subject to 5% duty unless they were manufactured in a nation with which the United States has a free trade agreement, except for cars older than 30 years, which are exempt from duty.

  • Trailers manufactured in a nation with a free trade agreement are subject to a 5% duty.
  • Unless they are produced in a country with a free trade agreement, auto parts typically carry a 5% tariff.
  • Motorcycles with piston engines and spark plug ignition are subject to a duty tax.
  • Jet skis: the majority of skis are duty-free; if in doubt, check with us.

Items from a nation with whom we have a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) must be accompanied by documentation that “fits” the FTA’s rules.

Vehicle components and accessories bought separately (from eBay, swap meets, etc.):

It is feasible to ship components or other materials along with your vehicle in a containerized service, but it is not possible with a RORO service. For parts transported with or inside a vehicle, there may be additional handling, freight and customs clearance charges that must be paid. Detailed invoices for any parts purchased separately from the vehicle must be provided.

The Bill of Sale MUST include a list of all the parts that are included in the purchase of the vehicle; otherwise, duty and taxes may be applied to any items within the vehicle that are not included by the Bill of Sale for the vehicle itself.

Australian Customs and Quarantine is paying more attention to items bought online websites (eBay, etc.) and swap meets. They now need an invoice or thorough receipt that includes the seller’s name, company, address, and phone number or email.

If you pay cash for products at a swap meet, for instance, it’s crucial that the vendor provide you a thorough receipt that includes their name, address, and phone number or numbers.

They must expressly state on the receipt that you paid cash for the item(s) in question.

You may incur additional expenses for clearance and maybe storage if you don’t preserve or provide thorough invoices or records.

Air Conditioning Systems

The Department of Environment is responsible for regulating air conditioning gases and systems, and those that are installed in cars and trailers are subject to extremely severe regulations. Australia is highly stringent in how the regulations are applied because it has signed various international accords on ozone-depleting and greenhouse emissions. Despite the fact that this is a technical aspect of the import procedure, the government has only provided a list of instructions rather than specific forms to facilitate compliance:

Recent changes have increased the difficulty for importers in certifying air conditioning systems, which is now just as crucial as the import permit for the vehicle itself.

Air conditioning systems that use R12 and R22, like those found in many vintage automobiles, vans, and trailers, are prohibited. The previous system must either be changed to R134a or totally removed because both the old gas and its components are prohibited.

Arrange Insurance:

Obtain comprehensive insurance coverage for your vehicle during transit to protect against potential damage or loss. While your shipping agent will take great care of your vehicle or cargo, it is highly recommended that you get insurance. During the voyage, your vehicle or cargo will be on a ship, and it may encounter severe weather conditions. While the chances of damage or total loss are very low, there are always exceptions. We want to avoid any losses for our clients, so we urge you to consider the importance of insurance. The shipping industry involves complex transport documents with clauses that go back to the time of sailing ships. In rare cases, you could end up having to pay all charges, and repair costs for the ship, and still not receive your cargo. Although these instances are extremely rare, they can happen. Marine insurance provides protection for your investment, covering you from damage to total loss. We believe that having marine insurance for transporting your vehicle is just as important as having insurance for your home, contents, or your everyday vehicle.

Register your car in Australia

In order to register your car in Australia, it is highly likely that some adjustments or modifications will be needed to meet Australian regulations. Before registration, the car must undergo compliance or roadworthy checks. It’s important to note that these regulations can differ from state to state, so it’s advisable to consider this as part of your preparation. Each state has its own specific rules for registering imported cars. We can provide recommendations for specialists in each state who can help you ensure that your vehicle meets the requirements and can be legally driven on the road.

Shipping paperwork:

Before the vehicle is transported, it is crucial that all paperwork be accurate and complete.

The list of documents needed for admission into Australia and export from the USA is provided below.

  • Please confirm that you have completed ALL of the following:
  • Approval for the import of a car or caravan.
  • Vehicle shipment guidance
  • The vendor or previous owner’s original title document for the vehicle(s). All road-going cars with an engine that are not made in the USA must have an original title.
  • Bill of Sale, Invoice, or Receipt, furnished by the vendor or prior owner.
  • A photocopy of your passport and your driver’s license’s photo ID page.
  • Air conditioning certificates; insurance; confirmation that you will arrange insurance; and a check-up, test, or declaration for asbestos.
  • Bills and information on any expenses incurred before the car was exported.
  • Manifests, lists of any components or objects being sent, and invoices for those items.

The shipping process and time frames

The shipping process and time frames can vary depending on the method chosen:

Roll-On-Roll-Off (RoRo) or Container.

RoRo – Roll-On-Roll-Off: This method is suitable for vehicles, trailers, and boats that are too large to be loaded in containers. RoRo vessels are designed to carry these types of vehicles. Not all locations offer RoRo services, and transit times can vary significantly depending on the country of origin. Once the RoRo ship arrives in port, it usually takes 2-5 working days to unload the vessel and prepare the cargo for quarantine inspection, which is done directly on the wharf. If the cargo passes the quarantine inspection, it can be transported from the wharf after payment of the charges. However, if the vehicle fails the quarantine inspection, it must be cleaned on the wharf or taken to the nearest quarantine cleaning facility for cleaning and re-inspection. The costs associated with cleaning and re-inspection are not known at the time of the initial quotation and will be passed on to you if applicable. This process can add an additional week or more to the overall timeline. Similar to the containerized option, the wharf provides only 3 days of free storage, so it’s important to make prompt payment to avoid incurring storage fees, which can be quite costly. It’s important to note that storage charges apply at the RORO terminal in Fremantle while waiting for quarantine inspection, impacting clients in Western Australia who use the RoRo method.

Container Shipping:

If your vehicle or cargo is being shipped in a container, it may be packed alone or with other vehicles or cargo, depending on its origin. The transit time can vary depending on the country of origin. Once the container arrives in Australia, it typically takes around 7-10 working days to unload it from the wharf, unpack it, and clear it through customs. Before the ship arrives, we will process the necessary customs and quarantine entries and send you an invoice for shipping and handling charges, giving you time to process and pay it. After unpacking, the cargo will be inspected by quarantine officials. If cleaning is required, additional charges may apply, and these costs will be invoiced separately. Any cleaning costs must be paid before the vehicle or cargo can be released or delivered. Storage at unpacking depots in Australia is typically provided for 2-3 days after quarantine release, so it’s important to promptly make payment and arrange for a collection to avoid costly storage fees.

Shipping a car to Australia from another country can have different costs based on various factors. These factors include the type of car you own, the size and weight of the car, how it will be transported to the port in Australia, where your car is currently located, and the method of transport you decide to use. However, on average, the price to ship a car to Australia falls between $2100 and $4025 USD.

Cost of Shipping:

It’s important to note that the exact steps and requirements may vary based on factors such as the type of vehicle, origin country, and individual circumstances. Consulting with a shipping agent or customs broker experienced in vehicle imports to Australia will provide you with accurate and up-to-date guidance tailored to your specific situation.

We want to make sure you have a good understanding of how shipping a vehicle works, so we’ve provided you with all this information. It’s important to be prepared and familiar with the process to make sure everything goes smoothly and to minimize any potential problems or extra expenses. By being well-informed and knowing what to expect, you can take the necessary steps to ensure a successful shipment and minimize any potential risks or complications. We hope that this knowledge will help you feel more confident and prepared as you go through the process of shipping your vehicle.

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