Importing a vehicle when you move to Australia, or to bring in a classic vehicle or a specific work vehicle is often possible, but there are some limitations and the process is convoluted.
Some vehicles can be imported as left-hand drive (LHD), but most vehicles would need to be converted to right-hand drive (RHD), which is a costly process for newer vehicles with specific crumple zones, airbags and expensive technology behind the dashboard and in the windscreen. Even the suspension needs to be altered for the different road camber.
There are eight steps to go through, and because it involves multiple government agencies, you’ll need to have some patience, ensure you are eligible and check you have all your documentation 100% correct. The steps below are the basics to give you an overview of the process.
- Is the vehicle eligible to be imported into Australia?
- Do you know which approval type you should apply for?
- Do you know how much it will cost – there will be the application fees, taxes, customs duties, quarantine cleaning and inspection, shipping, storage, asbestos testing, modification costs, registration, insurance and more.
- Can you get the approval done in time?
- Do you have all the right documentation and information for each government agency?
- Are you going to use a broker?
- Will any modifications need to be done to meet national road vehicle standards (Australian Design Rules)?
- Are you aware of other risks, such as the risks of buying a car sight-unseen?
Applying for an approval to import a vehicle
The importation process starts with you creating an account in ROVER, completing the application form and paying the fee. This can take up to 60 business days (12 weeks).
Receiving the approval
You’ll receive an email with the approval attached that may contain specific conditions for use of the vehicle
Arranging the shipping
All vehicles must be steam cleaned before shipping to neutralise any materials that are a quarantine risk. Air conditioning gas must be removed. The vehicle must be tested for asbestos and it must be removed if found.
Getting customs clearance
Meeting the approval conditions
If the vehicle needs to be modified, arrange for this. Conduct any tests and provide evidence of compliance, if applicable. If the vehicle must be on the Register of Approved Vehicles, apply for entry.
Register the vehicle
Apply to register the vehicle in whichever state or territory that you intend to use the vehicle on a public road.
What types of vehicles can be imported
There are two categories:
- Concessional RAV (Register of Approved Vehicles) entry approvals
- Non-RAV entry import approvals.
Concessional RAV approvals include:
- Vehicles that will be modified by a registered automotive workshop
- Vehicles over 25 years old
- Vehicle imported by a person immigrating to Australia
- Special purpose vehicles
- Some trailers.
Non-RAV approvals include:
- Race cars and rally cars
- Vehicles for public exhibition, or to be used in film, TV or advertising
- Vehicles being tested (e.g. hot weather testing in the desert)