Australian car import reforms 2018

Car import laws are changing. What does this mean for you?

The Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989 is being updated for the first time since 2000. A lot has changed since then, and these updates are designed to bring the Act up to date with the modern world, get rid of unnecessary legislation and properly address the fact that cars today are very different compared to 20 years ago. This guide will take you through the changes to importing a car into Australia.

The information included in the article is general advice. If you are thinking of importing a car please read the full guide on the Australian Government website.

What do these changes mean?

In February 2016, following a review into the existing Motor Vehicle Standards Act, the Australian government announced what it had planned. Following extensive industry consultation that resulted in a few adjustments to those original plans, the Road Vehicle Standards Bill was to be introduced into parliament before the end of 2017.

As a result, the following changes are expected to take effect by 2019:

  • You’ll have more access to different specialist, classic, luxury and enthusiast cars.
  • The process of importing a car through the Registered Automotive Workshop Scheme will be quicker and easier, while the quality of these vehicles is improved.
  • A simplified process for importing special vehicles that fail to meet typical standards.
  • Improved supply of new mainstream cars.
  • Clarified supplier responsibilities in the event of a vehicle recall.
  • Vehicle recall provisions will apply to all road vehicles sold in Australia, whether private or commercial.
  • New vehicles will require a secure vehicle identification marking to deter theft and re-birthing.
  • Reduced regulatory burdens for registered automotive workshops (RAWs).

How to import a car into Australia

Importing rare and special cars

You’ll be able to import a wider variety of rare, luxury, classic, collective and special-purpose vehicles more easily with expansions to the concessional arrangement scheme, which grants exemptions to usual requirements when importing certain special vehicles. This is one of the main ways to import vintage or special cars that don’t meet typical new car standards, and the car import reforms are making it easier.

Prior to these reforms, a vehicle could only qualify if it was manufactured before 1989. Naturally, setting a fixed date like this doesn’t make a lot of sense because the number of eligible cars keeps shrinking each year. The reforms will replace the “manufactured before 1989” requirement with a “must be at least 25 years old” requirement.

importing a car into australia

Regulation and costs for businesses

Overall, these updates will shift Australian vehicle standards closer to that of international equivalents to make overseas import of cars to Australia easier, and reduce the costs involved in regulating and managing these imports.

Current regulation includes a $12,000 special duty on imported used vehicles. This is rarely applied but still represents a significant hurdle for importing used cars. The cost of administering this duty is higher than the return, with a lot of the costs borne by automotive businesses.

The removal of this outdated rule is one of the changes businesses should expect to encounter. Appropriately registered automotive workshops and dealerships can expect reduced red tape, additional options and more streamlined approval and registration processes.

Registered Automotive Workshops (RAW) will now be able to import both new and used vehicles of the types listed by the Specialist & Enthusiast Vehicle (SEV) register. As a garage business owner this means you can offer your customers added value with less bureaucracy, and as a customer you can enjoy increased options with better value in more places.

To get on the SEV register, a vehicle must match at least one of the following criteria:

  • Performance. High performance with specifications such as power-to-weight ratio, that are significantly superior to mainstream Australian vehicles.
  • Environmental. Environmentally high-performing, such as vehicles that offer much lower emissions per kilometre travelled than mainstream cars.
  • Mobility. Manufactured with special features to assist people with disabilities.
  • Rarity. One of only a small number, limited editions.
  • Left-hand drive. A left-hand drive car of which right-hand drive versions are not available anywhere in the world.
  • Motorhomes and campervans. A vehicle originally manufactured as a campervan or motorhome.

There are other benefits too:

  • Registering as a RAW will be simplified. Workshops will now only need to establish certain workshop particulars and achieve ISO 9000 quality management systems certification.
  • Sample vehicle testing and modification requirements will be reduced, including removal of the current requirements that serviceable catalytic converters and tyres be replaced, and reduction of emissions testing requirements for sample vehicles that are from countries with similar emissions standards as Australia.
  • The limits on the number of vehicles that can be processed by each workshop will be removed.
  • The industry code of practice for left- to right-hand drive conversions will be updated to take into account for modern vehicle construction and design methods.

While these make it a lot easier for businesses to provide and buyers to purchase imported vehicles, there is still a commitment to actively improving, and not just maintaining, existing quality standards with the introduction of third-party vehicle-by-vehicle inspections. All Registered Automotive Workshop Scheme (RAWS) supplied vehicles will be required to undergo third-party inspection to confirm:

  • Modifications have been carried out appropriately.
  • The vehicle has no structural damage.
  • The vehicle’s identity is genuine.
  • The odometer reading is valid.

Workshops will also have to meet new technical and reporting requirements, but this is also being streamlined with a documentation pre-approval process known as Model Reports which:

  • Are authored by qualified third parties.
  • Provide for the sharing of documentation and design details between multiple RAWs.
  • Provide a standardised way for shared designs, test evidence and modification procedures to be efficiently examined and approved by the Department of Infrastructure.
  • Include a checklist of key specifications to be used to more easily confirm compliance.

How to prepare for the car import reforms

If you run an automotive business, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the changes and think about what it will mean for you. Be ready to hit the ground running by knowing about your new responsibilities and advantages.

If you’re a car enthusiast or are in the market for a vehicle, it might be a good idea to plan ahead.

  • Want a modified or imported car? Consider delaying your purchase until 2019 for more options, better value and an easier time with importing and registration.
  • Need a vehicle in the meantime, but want to wait until 2019 before spending money on a “real” car? You might want to consider saving your money for the real thing, and cheaply financing a used car, or picking up a cheap or low-interest car loan so you have more to spend come 2019.
  • Think you’ll want a good car in the near future, but not right away? If you start planning now you can ensure you’re in a position to take full advantage of these car import updates when the time comes. This might involve budgeting to pay for a new car outright, or comparing new car loans ahead of time to prepare for that instead.

Consider getting car loan pre-approval if you’ll be taking advantage of the 2018 car import changes.

Pictures: Shutterstock

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16 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    MichaelFebruary 10, 2018

    Hi, I’m an Aussie living in America and plan to return to Australia with my small collection of historic motorcycles that I’ve owned for many years. I remember there used to be a rule of “only one personal import of vehicle per person every seven years”.

    Under these new guidelines, am I able to personally import multiple vehicles or is there some caveats around this?


    • Staff
      JoelFebruary 17, 2018Staff

      Hi Michael,

      Thanks for leaving a question on finder.

      You can only import one vehicle as per this page. However, under certain circumstances, a second vehicle can be imported in the name of a spouse or de facto partner, but the spouse or de facto partner is required to meet all requirements of the personal imports option. In these cases, proof of the relationship should be provided.

      If you need anything else, please send me a message.


  2. Default Gravatar
    StevenJanuary 27, 2018

    Will Australians still be able to import vehicels purchased in the UK, that being a new vehicle with no mileage on the clock and not have owned the vehicle for 12 months?

    • Staff
      RobynJanuary 28, 2018Staff

      Hi Steven!

      Thank you for your inquiry. Yes, you will still be able to import vehicles purchased in the UK to Australia. It shows that you are already looking on the correct page for the changes on the Australian car import law. You may also need to check this page which will serve as guide in importing vehicles to Australia.

      If you want to import a new car to Australia, you may be also interested in taking the eligibility assessment test here

      Gentle reminder that ultimately the assessment on whether or not you can import the car the you want depends on the eligibility criteria that you have to meet.

      Best Regards,

  3. Default Gravatar
    JaredDecember 2, 2017

    Hi, I’m due to emigrate from UK to Perth in Sept 19, I’d like to buy a Used Porsche 911 S (MY 14) as they are far cheaper here than in Australia approx £55,000 GBP or $87,000AUD. Couple of questions how long would I need to own the vehicle before I’m eligible to import the vehicle. Would I also need to pay luxury car tax on it? And any other GST?

    • Staff
      MayDecember 13, 2017Staff

      Hi Jared,

      Thank you for your inquiry.

      For personal imports, you must have owned the vehicle for 12 months. Also, it must’ve been garaged at a location close to your home and you must have held a valid driver’s licence in the country. As for the tax, yes, there’s GST involved depending on the type of vehicle and its age. A 30-year old car for example will incur 5% duty and 10% GST. Aside from the tax, there are also other costs to consider like shipping, customs, and compliance costs, etc.

      You may like to read more about car importation to Australia on this page.

      Hope this helps.


    • Default Gravatar
      SteveJanuary 20, 2018

      This is great from the Feds but you can not get registered until the states and Territories make changes! Currently LHD is only in NT , WA if 15 years old and for the rest 30 year old! Some exceptions for street sweepers etc. foreigners for up to one year then take it out of the country and lastly foreign defence force people and diplomats . So our state laws are discriminatory against Australians!

  4. Default Gravatar
    OmarSNovember 26, 2017

    I’ve got a low volume 2011 Porsche 911 GT3 RS in the US which is a LHD car. Is there a way to import this vehicle as a permanent resident of Australia. I’ve owned the car for more than two years and it’s considered a collector car due to limited production. Thanks!

    • Staff
      AsiaNovember 27, 2017Staff

      Hi Omars,

      Thank you for your inquiry.

      Yes, there is a way you can import your car to Australia. Personal import allows migrants to bring their personal road vehicle with them, where the vehicle has been owned and used for a period of 12 months or longer.

      Based on what you have mentioned, you have already met one of the requirements to import. To know more about this information you may refer to this page.

      I hope this helps,


  5. Default Gravatar
    JerryOctober 11, 2017

    km on the clock. I have owned over 10 years. The other 2013 corvette convertible, 7 litre engine. I bought new and is the European spec version. Am I dreaming or is this not so complicated ? Thank you

    • Default Gravatar
      GruOctober 12, 2017

      Hello Jerry,

      Thank you for taking time to go through our page.

      You are actually correct, with the Australian Car Import reforms for 2018, there will be simplified process for importing special vehicles that do not meet typical standards as well as reduced regulatory burdens for registered automotive workshops.

      Feel free to read through this page again to get more information on the changes.
      You may also find this page helpful for information on How to import a car into Australia.


  6. Default Gravatar
    GaryAugust 26, 2017

    If you purchase an American new car in 2018 and have it converted to Right Hand Drive by an authorised conversion work shop in the USA can you import it under the new 2018 importation scheme .

    • Staff
      ArnoldAugust 27, 2017Staff

      Hi Gary,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      Yes, you may, according to the new importation scheme, You are allowed to import modified cars as long as the car is less than 12 months old and have less than 500 kilometers on the speedometer.

      Hope this information helped.


  7. Default Gravatar
    BANDITJuly 21, 2017

    You can forget about importing classic and rare cars into Australia now that customs are enforcing laws banning imported cars with asbestos. All cars manufactured during the 80’s and before had various forms of asbestos in the body or/and mechanical parts. Recently someone imported a 1966 Mustang GT and it was totally stripped down and damaged as all asbestos had to be removed. The cost was extreme and the repair bill to put it back together is going to be something else. Thanks to this stupid regulation it’s going to be very expensive to import an older car into Australia. I know the politicians don’t get it but surely you guys do. There is no way I will ever own a computerised electric self driven people mover and it seems like that’s what the government is trying to push for. I don’t want to live in that world and if I have to I’ll pack my bags and move out into the country and go back to horse and carriage then so be it. I don’t just speak for myself but for a lot of people I talk to and they all agree what I say. Once again the government is not listening to the people.

  8. Default Gravatar
    TerryJanuary 11, 2017

    I want to bring my jaguar x type station wagon back to Australia when I return in 2018. However the car is not fitted with rear isotonic seat belts, which I have been told is a legal requirement. Can anybody tell me 1) is this true, 2) can these be retrospectively fitted, 3 if this is a requirement is it in all states. Thanks in advance.

    • Staff
      MayJanuary 11, 2017Staff

      Hi Terry,

      Thank you for your inquiry and for contacting – a financial comparison website and general information service designed to help consumers make better decisions. We are not importation experts so can only provide a general advice.

      The government has actually a set of minimum safety standards when it comes to importation of vehicles to Australia. You’d be best to visit the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development website for more information on the requirements of individual import options.


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