Important a Car to Australia

Guide to importing a car into Australia

With the Australian dollar high and bargains to be found around the world, it's no surprise many Australian's are attempting to import a used car.

It seems that oil – not blood – runs in the veins of many Australians. While we have a wide range of cars available in Australia, there's also a number of us who love and appreciate commercially available European, American and Asian cars. This guide will show you how you can import those cars into Australia.

1. Decide what type of import you need

You'll need to import your vehicle under a specific option. There are a number of options, not all of which apply to those wanting to import a car as a daily driver

  • Vehicles made before 1 January 1989. You can import a vehicle made before this date, which many car enthusiasts will use to import classic cars, older Japanese imports and more.
  • Personal imports. This applies to those moving to Australia who want to bring their cars with them. You must have owned the vehicle for 12 months, 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.
  • Cars exported from Australia but re-imported. If you exported a car from Australia, for example, for an extended overseas trip, you can bring it back into Australia under this option.
  • Cars not available in Australia. As part of the Specialist and Enthusiast Vehicle Scheme (SEVS) you can import vehicles not officially sold here. Each car is subject to approval and must be listed on the SEVS Register.
  • Importing a luxury car. Cars in Australia are much more expensive than their European, Asian or American counterparts. However, if the car is supplied in full volume it's not possible to import it into Australia unless it's a personal import.

The rules for importing a car are going to change in 2018. Find out about the car import changes here.

What costs are involved?

There are many charges associated with importing a vehicle from overseas. To give you an idea, a $30,000 car made before 1 January 1989 leaving from Los Angeles and being delivered to Port Kembla in Sydney could cost approximately $4,400 excluding taxes, duties, GST and vehicle compliance and registration. Charges include:

  • Shipping and customs costs. Shipping costs include the costs of customs both in the country you're exporting from and in Australia, quarantine inspection fees, cleaning, international freight and port service charges.
  • Taxes and duties. These include the luxury car tax of 33% on vehicles with a value greater than $60,316 ($75,375 for fuel-efficient vehicles) and GST. You'll also pay duty for the vehicle, which depends on the type and age of the vehicle. A vehicle under 30 years old will incur 5% duty and 10% GST.
  • Compliance costs. Many cars will need modifications to make them roadworthy in Australia. This can include disabling new light globes and re-gassing the air conditioner.
  • Registration and insurance. Just like with any car you'll need to get this registered once it's compliant and ready to drive. You'll also need to pay stamp duty and insurance.

You'll need to consider the documentation needed for an import, the timeframes needed to receive permits, the requirements of each government agency involved and whether or not the car you're importing will need modifications carried out to make it legal to drive in Australia.

If the car you are buying from overseas isn't for sale in Australian currency, then minimising the costs here could be of benefit to you. Using a low cost international money transfer option, such as OFX, could save you a considerable amount of money.

2. Apply for import approval

The next step is crucial because you must be approved to bring a vehicle to Australia, so here you'll decide from the options listed above and the others listed on the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development website.

You'll then need to fill out the application form and an addendum for the relevant option either online or by printing them out and mailing them in. If the Department requires extra information they'll email you so regularly check your account.

Once you've received approval you'll get a hard copy of the approval along with any conditions.

3. Arrange for your car to be shipped over

Now the expensive part begins. The costs of shipping begin before the car is even at the port. You'll need to have the car steam cleaned to reduce quarantine risks and you'll have to remove air-conditioning gas if this will be a problem.

Next, you'll need to pay for the above-mentioned shipping costs and have the vehicle delivered to Australia.

4. Get cleared by customs

Once the shipping process begins you need to lodge an importation declaration with customs. You can do this electronically, at an Australian Customs and Border Protection Service Branch, or through a customs broker.

When the car arrives you'll need to put your hand in your pocket again. This time for Customs duty, GST and Luxury Car Tax (if applicable).

5. Satisfy quarantine requirements

You'll need to lodge a quarantine entry and arrange an inspection time. The inspection will take into account every aspect of the car. If it doesn't pass the inspection, quarantine will make you clean it again and organise another inspection at your own cost.

6. Meet import approval conditions

You may have to modify your vehicle for it to be compliant. This can include but isn't limited to:

  • Giving the car a complete service
  • Replacing brake fluid
  • Fitting new brake pads if necessary
  • Removing gas headlights and replacing them with halogen lights
  • Replacing seat belts
  • Testing the car to make sure it's roadworthy
  • Changing the car from left-hand drive to right-hand drive.

You'll also need to arrange identification plate approval.

7. Register the vehicle

Once this is done all you need to do is register the car and insure it and it's all yours to drive.

Options for international payments and car loans

Rates last updated November 22nd, 2017
Name Product Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Services Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description
TorFX International Money Transfers
AUD 200
1 day
Online, Phone, Agent
TorFX guarantee to beat any competitor's exchange rate for a transaction. Conditions apply.
Send money overseas in 45 currencies. Once registered, you'll be assigned an Account Manager who can provide support and guidance.
Exclusive: OFX (Ozforex) International Money Transfers
AUD 250
1 day
Online, Phone, Agent
Exclusive offer: Discounted exchange rates for your first and ongoing transactions. $0 transfer fee.
A higher exchange rate applies to non-finder customers. Send money in 45 currencies.
Exclusive: WorldFirst International Money Transfers
AUD 2,000
1 day
Online, Phone
Exclusive offer: $0 transfer fee and discounted exchange rates for your first trade only.
A higher exchange rate applies to non-finder customers. Send money in more than 130 currencies.
FC Exchange International Money Transfers
AUD 3,000
1 day
Online, Phone, Bank Account to Bank Account
FC Exchange can save you money with its Best Exchange Rate Guarantee. Conditions apply.
No transfer fee when transferring more than £10,000 or equivalent. Send money in 43 currencies.
XE International Money Transfers
AUD 0
1 day
Online, Phone, Bank Account to Bank Account
Enjoy fast, secure and fee-free international money transfers from global payments provider XE.
HiFX International Money Transfers
AUD 50
2 days
Online, Phone, Agent
Make your first transfer for free
Send money in more than 40 currencies.
Exclusive: Sable International Money Transfers
AUD 0
1 day
Online, Phone, Bank Account to Bank Account
Exclusive offer: $0 transfer fee and Price Beat Guarantee
Quote "finder" when your Sable International account manager calls you - guaranteed to beat any competitors exchange rate.
Foremost Currency Group
AUD 1,000
1 day
Online, Phone, Agent, Bank Account to Bank Account
Trade over 40 currencies with no transfer fees with Foremost Currency Group.
Moneycorp International Money Transfers
AUD 2,000
Same day
Online, Phone, Bank Account to Bank Account
The longest standing and largest full service specialist currency provider in the UK.
Compass Global Markets International Money Transfers
AUD 1,000
1 day
Online, Phone
Send money overseas in at least 140 currencies.
The ‘Rate’ and ‘Amount Received’ displayed are indicative rates that have been supplied by each brand or gathered by Finder.

Exchange rates are volatile and change often. As a result, the exchange rate listed on Finder may vary to the actual exchange rate quoted for the brand. Please confirm the actual exchange rate and mention “Finder” before you commit to a brand.

Compare up to 4 providers

Rates last updated November 22nd, 2017
$
Name Product Interest Rate (p.a.) Comparison Rate (p.a.) Min Loan Amount Loan Term Monthly Service Fee Application Fee Monthly Repayment Product Description
IMB New Car Loan
From 5.99% (fixed)
6.34%
$2,000
1 to 7 years
$0
$250
Borrow up to $75,000 for a new car up to two years old. Competitive 5.99% p.a. rate available to all approved applicants.
RACV New Car Loans
From 6.49% (fixed)
7.03%
$15,000
1 to 7 years
$0
$380
Enjoy this fixed rate new car loan offer from RACV. No ongoing fees.
Beyond Bank Low Rate Car Loan
From 5.69% (fixed)
5.97%
$25,000
1 to 7 years
$0
$175
A great rate for cars under 2 years old.
Stratton Finance New Car Loan
From 5.49% (fixed)
6.62%
$18,000
1 to 7 years
$7
$499
Benefit from a car broker with over 25 years experience
Bank Australia Car Loan
From 6.45% (fixed)
6.66%
$1,000
7 years
$0
$150
A competitive rate and the ability to offset your car’s carbon emissions for the loan term.
bcu Car Loan
From 5.9% (variable)
6.82%
$5,000
1 to 5 years
$8
$250
Borrow up to $65,000 for a car up to 5 years old. The New Car Loan from bcu allows you to make extra repayments and access a redraw feature
Latitude Personal Loan (Secured)
From 12.99% (fixed)
14.2%
$3,000
2 to 7 years
$13
$250 (Loans under $4000 - $140)
Can be used for whatever purpose: renovating, buying a car, booking a holiday. Funds can be in your account in as little as 24 hours.
Freedom Finance Car Loan
From 5.1% (fixed)
5.94%
$35,000
1 to 5 years
$0
$380
If you meet all the requirements you could get access to a range of lenders to finance a new or used car up to 4 years.
AutoCarLoans
From 5.16% (fixed)
6.64%
$15,000
1 to 7 years
$5
$381.80
AutoCarLoans can match you with a lender from its panel with rates starting from 5.16% p.a. Suitable for vehicles up to 2 years old.
IMB Secured Personal Loan
From 7.39% (fixed)
7.74%
$2,000
1 to 5 years
$0
$250
All approved applicants can access this competitive rate and use the loan to finance a range of purposes. Loan amounts up to $60,000 available.
RACV Personal Loan
From 7.49% (fixed)
8.04%
$5,000
1 to 7 years
$0
$380
You could use this personal loan offer from RACV to help finance a renovation, holiday or project.
bcu Secured Freedom Loan
From 9.08% (variable)
9.99%
$4,000
1 to 5 years
$8
$250
A competitive, secured personal loan that you can use for a variety of purposes.
NRMA New Car Loan
From 5.99% (fixed)
6.53%
$15,000
1 to 7 years
$0
$380
Purchase a new car with an NRMA Car Loan with a fixed rate term and no monthly fees. NRMA Members could save 1% on loan rates.
St.George Secured Personal Loan - Fixed Rate
From 8.49% (fixed)
9.6%
$3,000
1 to 5 years
$12
$195
Get behind the wheel of your perfect car with a competitive interest rate from St.George. Get an application response within 60 seconds.
Bank of Melbourne Secured Personal Loan
From 8.49% (fixed)
9.6%
$3,000
1 to 5 years
$12
$195
A low rate personal loan from Bank of Melbourne with variable or fixed option.
Westpac Car Loan
From 8.49% (fixed)
9.67%
$10,000
1 to 7 years
$12
$0 (On new loan applications before 31st January 2018.)
Apply for a Westpac car loan and enjoy a great interest rate when you purchase a new or used vehicle.

Compare up to 4 providers

Rates last updated November 22nd, 2017
Name Product From Price Per Week Insurance included Membership Fee Excess km cost Product Description
Splend Car Rentals
$269
Yes
$275
$0.10
Rent an Uber-ready vehicle from Splend and get access to fuel discounts, referral bonuses and member only benefits. Rent-to-Drive and Rent-to-Buy options available.
DriveMyCar Uber Rentals
$179
Yes
$100
$0.20
A peer-to-peer ride-share platform that includes insurance, maintenance and 24-hour roadside assistance. You'll get access to discounts if you rent longer than six months.
DriverLend
$77
No
$0
$0
Driverlend is a finance broker. You can lease or buy a car with Driverlend and you could get up to 20% discount on dealership prices for a new vehicle.
Europcar Uber Rental
$185
No
$0
$0.25
Kickstart your Uber career with a Europcar rental car. You get 24/7 roadside assistance, a wide range of vehicles and no sign up fee. A minimum four-week rental period applies.
Hertz Uber Rental
$217
Yes
$0
$0
You can Rent a car from Hertz get access to 24/7 roadside assistance, no lock-in contracts and no joining fees. Limited areas.

Compare up to 4 providers

How to find assistance with your import

If the above process sounds long and arduous, it's because it is. Our government wants to protect the public, industry and the environment from the impacts imported vehicles can have, so has introduced the steps above to ensure dangerous vehicles don't enter the country. If you need assistance with your import, consider the following:

  • Import agent. Many companies are available to act as an agent in the event that you wish to bring a car to Australia from overseas. The company take care of all the groundwork for you until it arrives in Australia.
  • Buyer's agent. An option popular among the Japanese and American car import scene are buyer's agents. These agents can source the car on your behalf, send you correspondence and then arrange for the required steps to bring the car if you're happy with the car.
  • Online forum. You can get advice and find out about other people's experiences by heading to an online forum. Popular forums include Skyline Australia, USMuscle, Whirlpool, Might Car Mods, BritsInOz and PomsInOz.
  • The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development. These guys have the final say on whether or not you can bring a vehicle into Australia, so you'll want to intimately know how the legal requirements work.
  • Redbook. Redbook is a free resource which lists the prices for a huge range of cars. This can help you decide whether or not it's worth importing a car as opposed to buying it in Australia and will tell you how much your car should be worth.

Why would I want to import a car?

There are many reasons why you may want to bring a car from overseas to your doorstep:

  • You want to import a car not available for purchase in Australia
  • You've recently moved to Australia and want to bring your car over
  • You want to import a car which you've seen available cheaper overseas

The benefits for these reasons include:

  • You can pay much less than buying the same car in Australia
  • You can drive a car not often seen on our streets
  • You can save money not having to sell your car overseas only to buy the same model in Australia

However, there are some disadvantages of importing a car too. It may be a struggle to source parts for your car if you're having any mechanical problems and experience long waiting times - so there may be a period when you can't get from point A to point B.

The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development lists eight steps which need to be carried out before you can drive your pride and joy on our roads.

Click here to learn about which import option is best for you.

Matt Corke

Matt is a publisher and editor of personal finance content at finder.com.au. He is committed to genuinely helping consumers find a better deal from their financial institution.

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Borrow up to $75,000 for a new car up to two years old. Competitive 5.99% p.a. rate available to all approved applicants.

Beyond Bank Low Rate Car Loan "Special Offer"

A great rate for cars under 2 years old.

RACV New Car Loans

Enjoy this fixed rate new car loan offer from RACV. No ongoing fees.

Latitude Personal Loan (Secured)

Can be used for whatever purpose: renovating, buying a car, booking a holiday. Funds can be in your account in as little as 24 hours.

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