How to Import a Car From America To Australia

Roberto Efflandrin

For classic car enthusiasts and bargain hunters alike, buying and importing a car from America might be the best way to find a unique vehicle that is not available within Australian borders. If this is something you are thinking about but aren’t sure if it is possible, then you’re in luck - it is possible - but there are a whole bunch of regulations and steps that come with facilitating such an endeavour.

Through this article we will discuss the ins and outs of how to buy and import a car from America and introduce you to Wise, a way to help you save on international fees associated with your international purchase.

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Is it worth shipping a car to Australia from America?

There is no definitive answer to the question of is it worth shipping a car to Australia from America. This is because it really comes down to the type of car someone wants to import. What can be answered definitively is that the process to import a vehicle to Australia from America takes time and for some people, involves a process that is far more complicated and costly than it is worth. If you are still eager to learn more, let’s start with what the specific Australian car import laws are.

What are the Australian car import laws?

The first thing to know is that anyone is allowed to import a car to Australia for personal use. There is one catch though, and that is you must get approval from the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications (Department of ITRDC) before you can actually import a car to Australian shores.¹

One of four approval types must be attained to import a car to Australia and is required regardless of value or model. A brief overview of each approval type is as follows¹:

For commercial importers

  • A vehicle type approval

For single vehicle imports

  • A concessional Register of Approved Vehicles (RAV) entry approval
  • A non RAV entry import approval
  • A Reimportation import approval​​

Car Import laws are governed by the Road Vehicles Standard Act 2018, and if you don’t get an approval, you are committing an offence and will be subject to a fine worth 120 penalty units³, equivalent to $26,640⁴ - with storage costs at customs at the border on top of this.²

Is there an approved list of vehicles that can be imported?

There are approved lists of criteria and standards that vehicles must meet to be legally imported into Australia. However, you can search pre-approved vehicle types if you input a valid VIN number here.

If a specific vehicle is not on the list, you can apply for a Concessional RAV entry approval. This means that it could still be eligible to be added to the RAV list if and imported if it meets one of these criteria¹:

  • Be modified by a registered automotive workshop
  • Be more than 25 years old
  • Imported with an applicant who is moving to Australia
  • Be a special purpose vehicle
  • A certain type of trailer

If a vehicle is not going to be used on public roads but serves a specific purpose, you will need to apply for a Non-RAV entry approval to be eligible to be imported. Some purposes for vehicles that fall under this permit could include¹:

  • Racing or rally cars
  • Public exhibition vehicles
  • For use in film, TV or advertising
  • For Testing and evaluation for the Australian market
  • Heavily modified vehicles with approval

For specialised vehicles or specific modifications, you can check ROVER for approved criteria here.

What are the types of fees and costs to import a car from America to Australia?

When looking to import a car from America to Australia, there are several fees and costs that will be incurred on top of the actual purchase of the car. These can be differentiated between mandatory government import fees and third-party costs associated with the import itself. Below we will discuss some fees and costs that you should be aware of.²

Mandatory Government Import fees and costs

  • Approval permit and import processing fees
  • Custom duties, Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Luxury Car Tax (LCT)
  • Registration and insurance costs of the car (State dependent)

Third-Party Import costs

  • Pre-shipment costs including cleaning, asbestos removal, removal of gas from air conditioning
  • Freight costs and Shipping Insurance
  • Logistics service providers
  • Storage and Delivery charges
  • Custom broker charges
  • Wharf and transport charges

What you should also keep in mind are international conversion and transaction fees which can be incurred depending on how you actually pay for the car and any logistical services used.

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What are the steps to take to import a car into Australia?

There are 8 steps outlined by the Department of ITRDC to import a car into Australia. The steps are as follows⁵:

  1. Researching vehicle eligibility, associated costs, timeframes and the risks involved
  2. Applying for an approval permit can only be done through the Department of ITRDC ROVER platform by completing and paying an application fee
  3. Wait for the approval via email from the Department of ITRDC
  4. Arrange the shipping of the vehicle, which must include organising adequate cleaning, removal of gas in air conditioning and testing or removal of asbestos to help avoid quarantine risks and seizure on arrival
  5. Lodge a customs clearance declaration with the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) which includes paying associated taxes
  6. Lodge a quarantine entry application and organise an inspection appointment with the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
  7. If necessary, arrange for modifications, conduct testing for compliance evidence and apply for the vehicle to be added to RAV
  8. Apply for registration of the vehicle at your state's corresponding road and transport authority

Buying a car abroad? What are the steps

The first step towards buying a car abroad is to start looking. Some sites that are popular to buy new, used and classic cars in America include:

The next step that can also act as a starting point is finding a broker or third-party provider that can help you with sourcing, buying and importing a car from America to Australia. Some options for this include:

Of course there are many other options to these listed, but it's important to do your own research to ensure that you find the best deal possible and avoid any scams when buying a car abroad.

The ports that can be used to import car from America to Australia

The shipping port that your car can be shipped from in America depends on which third-party logistics and freight provider you choose. This same logic applies to the port you want your car shipped to in Australia. Some popular ports in America include Los Angeles, New York, Houston and Miami. Entry ports in Australia include Sydney, Brisbane, Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne, Geelong and Port Kembla.⁶

How long does it take to ship a car from America to Australia?

A decision by the Department of Department of ITRDC for an approved import permit can take up to 60 days¹. Shipping times can vary but can take anywhere from 1-2 months depending on if the car is shipped from the East or West Coast of America⁶

Country specific information to watch out for

If you are buying and shipping a car from America to Australia, you will be required to pay some costs in America’s local currency of USD. It is important to keep this in mind when working out estimated costs if currency conversions are required.

The second thing to keep in mind is that all vehicles in America are manufactured with left-hand steering. Any car that does not meet the criteria to be deemed a historical vehicle, will have to be modified into a right-hand drive vehicle to meet vehicle safety standards.⁷

Wise - Paying internationally the right way

Whether you are going to buy a car abroad staying on Australian shores or want to travel overseas to make the purchase in person, then you are going to need a cheap and easy way to make international payments. If you are looking for a way to send money to the USA, Wise could be an option.

Try our pricing calculator below to see how much you can save with Wise.

Wise makes this possible by offering its customers low and transparent upfront fees for sending money overseas and making international payments, while ensuring they get the best rate on currency conversions by using the mid-market rateeverytime.

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Sources:

  1. Department of ITRDC importing a road vehicle
  2. Australian Border Forcecosts for car imports
  3. Australian Government Section 22 of Vehicle Road Safety Act 2018
  4. Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) Civil penalty fine table
  5. Department of ITRDC 8 steps of importing a car
  6. CFR Rinkens Ports for USA and AUS for car imports
  7. Queensland Governmentleft hand drive
    Sources checked on: 18 March 2022

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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