Importing Vehicles into Australia

Import car to AUS Image WillShip NZ

To protect our Australian car market our government has set up a complex set of rules and regulations to heavily restrict the import of vehicles into Australia. To try and understand the laws in full would take pages and pages of information so we will do our best to summarise the basics below.

You first step when importing is to gain an import approval, the type of import approval depends on the circumstances surrounding the import. For the purpose of this article we will focus solely on vehicles intended to be registered for use on Australian roads.

  • If the vehicle is manufactured before the 1st of January 1989 then there are no restrictions, you will simply need to apply for a vehicle import approval which should be granted on the basis that the vehicle is pre 89. See the following link –
  • If the vehicle is manufactured after 1989, then it needs to be imported under the Australian Governments ‘Registered Automotive Workshop Scheme’ (RAWS) ( – It means the vehicle MUST be on the RAWS list ( and then if you choose to import, the import approval will need to be arranged by one of the Registered Workshops approved by the Australian Government who will also need to be the workshop that complies the vehicle for use on Australian roads.
  • The exception to this rule is if the vehicle has been owned and used by you as an individual for in excess of 12 months in a foreign country. If this is the case, then you can apply for a ‘personal import approval’ which allows you to import a vehicle and bypass the RAWS requirements on newer model vehicles. More information on personal imports on the following link –


Unless the vehicle is a returning vehicle, then there is no way to bypass paying Australian import tax.

If the vehicle is less than 30 years old, then both duty of 5% and GST of 10% will be applicable. If the vehicle is worth more than AUD 75,526 (The 2017 luxury car tax threshold) then it will also incur LCT at a rate of 33% for every dollar over this amount.

If the vehicle is older than 30 years old then no duty applies, although GST of 10% will still be applicable along with LCT if the value is above the LCT threshold.

Confused yet?


The customs value is ascertained by using the Bill of Sale in the event of an overseas purchase, although when it comes to personal imports the value is ascertained via a customs valuation on the vehicle. The valuation itself costs AUD 300.00 and then tax is payable on the assessed Australian market value.


There are other factors you need to consider when looking to import as well, our government restricts in the import of pre charged gas, meaning that depending on the year, make and model of the vehicle the air conditioning may need to be degassed prior to export from the foreign country.

They have also recently introduced new laws regarding asbestos, you now need to check to ensure that no part of the vehicle contains asbestos (brakes/clutch plates/gaskets etc) and you will need to sign a declaration confirming this. If you find that any part of the vehicle contains a part which contains asbestos, this needs to be removed and changed prior to shipping.


In short, under specific circumstances it is possible to import vehicles into Australia however there are a lot of hoops to jump through, there are no tax concessions and the whole process can be quite costly. It was originally set up in this manner to protect our Australian car market (Holden and Ford) but since they have both since stopped manufacturing vehicles on Australia soil all these hoops to us seem to be pointless. This issue is currently being debated through Australian Parliament but for the moment this complex, outdated system is what we need to work with.

How to Prepare a Car for Shipping

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When shipping your car overseas there are plenty of things to keep you busy. You have to set your dates, choose your method of shipping and work out the approximate shipping costs. Once all this is booked and taken care of, the final thing you will have to do is prepare your car for shipping. This can generally be done a few days before you set off.

Here are some of the things you will need to sort out when you start to prepare a car for shipping.

Wash Your Car WillShip NZ Icon Image


First off you should wash your car. As well as making sure your car arrives at its new destination looking in tip top condition, this also has a number of practical uses.

Many countries will not allow cars to enter if they are unclean as they could have plant material or insects that could have a negative effect on the local environment. Not washing your car can cause the vehicle to fail its quarantine inspection upon arrival and can lead to additional cleaning and re-inspection costs and delays.

So, make sure you thoroughly clean any grass, cobwebs and other plant material from your car before it gets shipped.

Unfortunately, there is no way to ‘guarantee’ the vehicle will pass its inspection in NZ, it always comes down to the officers discretion on the day so you just need to do the best you can to get it clean, and then cross your fingers it passes its inspection. If it does fail however, it’s not the end of the world – cleaning and re-inspection fee’s generally only total around NZD 300.00 and this can be completed within 24 hours or so.

Remove items from inside you Icon


This checkpoint only applied when shipping via roll on, roll off…When your car gets shipped using this method there can be no personal goods inside your car. Because of this make sure to remove everything from your car, trunk and glove compartment. Things that belong with the vehicle, like logbooks etc can remain with the car.

Remove or secure any loose parts icon


If your car has any removable parts such as bike racks, antennas etc make sure you remove or fully secure them before your shipping date.

Empty your gas tank Icon


This only applies if you choose to ship the vehicle inside a container. To meet dangerous goods regulations we need to ensure the vehicle has minimal fuel, and the battery is disconnected. If choosing to ship via roll on, roll off then the vehicle can contain any amount of fuel. See the differences between roll-on / roll-off sand container shipping here.

Make sure you have an extra set of keys Icon


While not 100 percent necessary it is good practice to make sure you have a spare set of keys. As you will be leaving one set with your car it is always nice to have an extra set just in case something happens to the ones you left with the car.

If you are considering shipping your car, please feel free to use our INSTANT ONLINE QUOTE CALCULATOR or feel free to give us a call on 07 3267 3694 or email us at to discuss your requirements. For information on shipping vehicles to New Zealand please visit this page.