Importing A Car To Australia

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Australian Customs heavily regulates the importation of vehicles. Each vehicle imported must have an Import Approval Permit completed and approved by the DoTARs government Agency. A quick overview of the taxes and duties payable to the Australian Customs service as follows:

Vehicle Type
Vehicles over 30 years old, and Motorcycles
New and used Vehicles up to 30 years old
Four Wheel Drive Off Road / Commercial Vehicles

The Customs Value

The Customs value of your vehicle can either be based upon the Original Country Purchase price (which may be subject to depreciation allowance) or rated on the Australian as landed value, which in some cases could be as low as 50% of the current Australian market value. Duties and Taxes are calculated from the Customs value of your vehicle.

Import Duty and GST Calculation

Once the Customs value of the vehicle has been determined, the Duty is applied to the Customs value. The GST component will be applied to the Customs Value and the Import Duty applied. Example 1. You have purchased a classic 1966 Chevrolet Corvair from the USA, with the Original US dollar value of US$ 9,000. The vehicles Australian Customs value is AUD$ 8,000. Since the car is over 30 years old, import duty is not charged (0%), and GST is at 10%.

The calculation is as follows:
Customs Value
Payable Duty / GST
AUD$ 8000
No Duty
AUD$ 800

Example 2. You have purchased a 2005 Jeep Laredo from the USA, with the original US dollar value of US$ 21,960. The vehicles Australian Customs value is AUD$ 28,920. As this is a new car, import duty will be charged at 10%, then GST applied on the sub-total (the Customs value and the import duty):

The calculation as follows:
Customs Value
Payable Duty / GST
AUD$ 28,920
AUD$ 6073.20

The Luxury Car Tax

If the total GST inclusive value of your vehicle is in excess of AUD$ 57,009 (this figure is set by the Australian Tax Office annually), your vehicle either commercial or private use may incur Luxury Car Tax (LCT). Luxury Car Tax is an additional tax, leived at 25% on the amount in excess of a certain threshold, which generally relates to cars with a customs value of over AUD$ 42,999.

Depreciation Allowances

There may be a depreciation allowance upto 76% if you have purchased your vehicle prior to March 2nd 1998.

Seek Advice From Customs And Reputable Import Companies

There may be specific laws, duties and other charges that may apply to certain scenarios of imports and exporting vehicles. Before contemplating any vehicle import, check with Customs on 1300 363 263, or visit the Australian Customs Service website - then seek the services of a competent vehicle importation company, listed under Services, Vehicle Import and Export in our Classic Car Services and Trade Directory.


If your car is less than 30 years old, it will require Compliance Certification. Typically, compliance includes (but is not limited to) the following:
  • Child restraint anchor points.
  • Replace driver side door mirror to correct standard.
  • Weighbridge certificate.
  • Engineer certificate (not all vehicles).
  • Imported Blue Slip (ensures roadworthiness for RTA).
  • Personal import compliance plate.
  • Roads & Traffic Authority (RTA) Visual Identification Unit inspection (not all vehicles).
Again, we strongly suggest you seek the services of a competent company able to assist you with meeting the compliance issues.

Importation Of Converted Vehicles Under The Pre 1989 Scheme

The pre-1989 scheme allows the importation of vehicles into Australia that were manufactured before 1 January 1989.  The scheme is outlined under regulation 17 of the Motor Vehicle Standards Regulations 1989. However, if a vehicle has been modified or converted after original manufacture - so that the vehicle no longer meets original specifications - the date of manufacture is taken to be the later date of conversion. If the date of conversion is 1 January 1989 or later, the vehicle will not qualify under the pre-1989 scheme.  One indication of a vehicle no longer meeting original specifications is where the vehicle acquires a different make, model or category.

To reflect scheme criteria, the Department requests that applicants provide the following supporting documentation with all applications to import vehicles under the pre-1989 scheme: a copy of the purchase document for the vehicle; a photo of the vehicle; and a certified copy of picture ID for the applicant.

Types Of Vehicle Conversions

Vehicle conversions can take different forms. One popular type of conversion is the production of replica cars from components of different makes or models.  An example is the conversion of a Volkswagen beetle into a replica Porsche. Another popular type of conversion is the assembly of vehicles from different parts to create new types of vehicles.  Typical examples include the conversion of a passenger sedan into a drag racing car or a hot rod. Similarly, scooter frames are sometimes assembled with different engines and electrics to produce new types of scooters.  Vehicles can also be modified to change their carrying capacity.  An example is the conversion of a Hummer into a stretch Hummer.

The later date of conversion is taken to be the date of manufacture even where the parts used in the assembly are old or used. Vehicle conversions before 1 January 1989. It is possible for a modified vehicle to qualify under the pre-1989 scheme if the conversion occurred before 1 January 1989.  A variety of evidence can potentially be used to establish the date of conversion.  This includes vehicle registration documents, a statement from the converter or evidence that the vehicle was exhibited in its converted form (e.g., exhibited as a hot rod) some time before 1989.

Vehicle Restorations

On the other hand, a vehicle restoration does not affect the original date of manufacture.  For example, an original vehicle may have new paintwork applied, the mechanical components reconditioned or replaced and the interior reupholstered.  An example is the restoration of a Model T Ford.  Similarly, an original vehicle may be customised (e.g., by unique paintwork) if kept within original specifications.

The Most Expensive Hyundai In the World

There are exceptions to the above, and we stress that you should always contact Australian Customs before embarking on your importation - just in case the rules have changed. A friend of Unique Cars and Parts told us the story of what they claimed was the most expensive Hyundai on the road. Moving from New Zealand to Australia for a 5 year work contract, it seemed a good idea to bring their near new Hyundai Elantra "across the ditch" rather than take a hit on the resale. They were able to get a 5 year exemption from Australian Customs, provided they stumped up $12,000 as a bond refundable when the car returned to New Zealand. They did avoid the Duty and GST, but still had to get the car complianced.

The import costs did not leave much change from $4000 - although there was plenty of furniture loaded into the container as well. And you can guess what happened when the company extended their Australian contract. The Elantra stayed in Australia, and the owner lost the bond. All up, the exercise was more expensive than when he originally drove it out of the showroom. The moral to the story is, unless the car is 30 years old, or is very special, you are much better off sourcing a car from the local market.

Also see: Import and Export Services | Advertise Your Car or Parts For Free | Classic Car Insurance
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