We source and ship cars to many countries. Each country has different regulations controlling car import, as well as import taxes and procedures. Restrictions may be based on age, model, rarity, and which side the steering wheel is on.

Before looking for cars to import, it is important to understand the import restrictions, costs and process for your country to ensure it is possible and cost effective to import the car you want.

For example, New Zealand’s regulations are based on age / special interest criteria, the USA has a 25 Year Rule for right hand drive vehicles, while Canada has a 15 Year Rule for right hand drive vehicles.

We specialise in importing cars to Australia and provide a complete end to end service for Australian buyers.

The following information therefore deals with the regulations controlling car import to Australia. For other countries we still provide our same professional service for sourcing and shipping the vehicle to you including all original paperwork, however it will be up to you to handle the clearance and import process in your country. Our service fee varies accordingly.

Importing cars to Australia is controlled by the Australian vehicle import regulations.

NEW import regulations will apply from about the end of 2019. Read more…

The regulations (current and future) allow only some cars for import to Australia, and block others – based on age, specialist nature and other criteria.

They apply on ENTRY to Australia, regardless of which country the vehicle came from.

The import regulations can be confusing for the first time car importer as there is a lot more to importing a car than whether it is technically eligible for import.

QUICK TESTIf the same vehicle year / model / configuration was SOLD NEW in Australia AND it was built from 1989 onwards, then IT CANNOT BE IMPORTED.

The only exception – you are an Australia citizen or permanent resident returning home after living overseas with the vehicle for more than 12 months (see Personal Import below).

There are FOUR viable options to import a vehicle under the current Australian vehicle import regulations – THREE options for road use and ONE option for race / rally use – summarised below.

Skip straight to the new Australian car import regulations

SEVS (Specialist and Enthusiast Vehicle Scheme)

This covers vehicles built from 1989 onwards, that are intended for normal road use.

IMPORTANT – This option DOES NOT ALLOW the import of a vehicle year / model that was sold new in Australia (in full volume) by the manufacturer (in the same configuration).

Providing it was NOT sold here new, a vehicle must then meet two out of the four SEVS eligibility criteria:

  • unusual appearance

  • special design features

  • performance

  • featured in specialist publications

Model information for the most popular SEVS imports to Australia in recent years.

View full list of SEVS Eligible Models

Not every model listed as eligible has compliance available.

Registered Automotive Workshops (RAWs) invest considerable time and expense to add each additional model to their compliance schedule.

SEVS works on a quota system to limit the cars coming in, so each workshop can only comply a certain number of cars every year.

Whether compliance is available therefore depends on consumer demand and vehicle availability. Rare or older vehicles for example may be technically eligible for import but there are so few of them that setting up for compliance is not financially viable.

SEVS vehicles must be ‘complied’ to meet Australian Design Rules (ADR’s) by a Registered Automotive Workshop (RAW) before they can be registered and used on the road.

Compliance requirements vary depending on the age and type of vehicle and include items such as child restraint points, noise and emissions testing, and new tyres.

Once you have bought a suitable vehicle overseas, the RAW applies for the Import Approval using the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). This is generally processed by the Govt. with an Import Approval provided by email within 1 to 2 weeks.

The Import Approval is required for Customs clearance on arrival in Australia.

NO approved compliance workshop = NO Import Approval = NO entry

View List of Approved RAWs

Note that structural damage / repair / corrosion of more than 25mm is not acceptable under the SEVS criteria.  This can result in rejection of a vehicle by the compliance workshop meaning it can never be road registered, so you should only source a vehicle through someone you trust.

“15 Year Rule” (1988 and Older Rule since May 2005)

For normal road use, any vehicle older than December 1988 can be imported virtually without restriction (including left hand drive).  This used to be a rolling 15 year rule, however in 2004 / 05 so many 1989 / 90 vehicles were imported that the Govt. became concerned about import numbers.

As a result, in May 2005 they changed this rule, locking it at 1988 and older only.

When making an application under this rule, it is important to note that there are restrictions on certain modifications. This is mainly to prevent the import of older cars that have been substantially rebuilt with parts from newer vehicles (e.g. late model drivetrain in an old body which are common upgrades for classic American cars). You may need to provide pictures and details of the vehicle when applying for your Import Approval.

Vehicles imported under this rule are subject to minor compliance requirements including fitment of child restraint points for rear seats (if required) and 17-digit VIN plate (for non-European models), as well as an approved engineer’s sign-off. Requirements vary depending on age and type of vehicle and usually cost under $1,000.

Road registration is completely separate to the Import Approval process and is controlled by State and Territory regulations.

Now that vehicles imported under this rule are over 30 years old, registration of LHD without conversion should be possible in all parts of Australia.

Check with the Registration Authority in your State or Territory on the specific regulations that apply to LHD and modified vehicles.

Personal Import

You cannot use this import option if you are living in Australia.

Personal import” means more than just importing a vehicle yourself.  It is only available to Australian citizens or permanent residents living in another country with a vehicle registered in their name for more than 12 continuous months, who are returning permanently to Australia (or apply within 6 months of returning).

One vehicle is allowed every five years and only individuals can apply.

There are significant restrictions on personal car imports, and full evidence is required when applying.

More information about Personal vehicle import to Australia.

Race / Track

Virtually any vehicle can be imported for race use only providing you have a suitable CAMS license and can show a genuine need for the vehicle plus past motorsport participation.  If you are unsure whether you qualify you can query the Govt. directly. Include your reason for needing the car and your race history.

Vehicles imported this way can ONLY be used for racing and never road registered.

View the Govt. website for full details of all import options.

New Vehicle Import Regulations

These have been in planning for the last 4 years and are with the Australian Senate for consideration. They should become law before the end of 2018.

It will then be 12 months before they actually apply – so approx. end of 2019 before we can use them to import cars. However, we can of course buy ahead of the date so that vehicles are ready to ship to Australia as soon as they are eligible for import.

Check current progress of the 2019 vehicle import regulation changes.

The following summary is based on Fact Sheets supplied by the Govt. together with clarifications independently obtained from the Dept. of Infrastructure. We will update once the Regulations become law and the Govt. has provided full details on how they will operate and the associated costs.

Please note that the import of new cars (direct import of any new car from selected markets even those sold here) was originally proposed by the Govt. but they reneged on this in August 2017 under pressure from new car dealers.

So for a new car to be eligible for import – the same make, model and specification cannot be for sale new in Australia from the manufacturer AND it must meet one of the six new SEVS criteria.

The Personal Import and Race / Track import options will remain virtually unchanged.

A new ’25 Year Rule’ will replace the current ‘1988 and older rule’:

  • Vehicles eligible for import once 25 years old (to the month, at time of application)

  • Applies to passenger cars and motorcycles – not buses, trucks or commercial vehicles

  • More flexibility on modified vehicles (specific guidelines not yet provided by the Govt. as to what would be accepted)

There will be many interesting models made available by this rule, that Australia has not previously had access to. However, other markets such as the USA also have their own 25 Year Rule so competition will be strong for the best classic cars.

Road registration is completely separate to the Import Approval process and is controlled by State and Territory regulations.

Registration of LHD vehicles over 25 years old without conversion to RHD will be possible in most parts of Australia. One exception is in Victoria where a vehicle must be over 30 years old before it can be fully road registered as LHD (club permit still possible at 25 years old, with usage restrictions).

Check with the Registration Authority in your State or Territory on the specific regulations that apply to LHD and modified vehicles.

SEVS will apply to all cars newer than 25 years but will be substantially changed in the way it operates.

The vehicle model CANNOT have been sold in Australia new (in full volume) by the manufacturer (unless it is significantly different) AND must meet any ONE of SIX new eligibility criteria:

Performance – must produce 110 kilowatts per Tonne (110 kW/T) + 1 kW/T for every year newer than 1992.

This criteria is set higher than the current SEVS power requirements so will actually REMOVE a number of popular models from the current SEVS eligible list (such as the Toyota Supra SZ non-turbos, V35 Skyline 2.5L 4-door, and about half the M35 Stageas).

Environmental Performance – must use an alternate power source to internal combustion (of oil or gas) or be in a micro-car subcategory for low power / low emissions vehicles (such as 660cc kei cars):

  • Originally designed and manufactured to use an alternate means of propulsion to internal combustion of gas or oil either exclusively, or in addition to an internal combustion engine

  • Meets or exceeds the current national vehicle standard for emissions (this figure will change over time as vehicles generally become more fuel efficient)

  • Micro-car (kei-class car) with less than 660cc / 47kW, and under 3.4m long x 1.48m wide

This will open up a range of hybrid models such as the Estima hybrid, and many kei cars not available to Australia before.

Mobility – originally manufactured or fitted from the factory with substantive specialist mobility features to assist people with disabilities. Features would include rear ramps for wheelchair access, lift up and out style powered access seats, and portable wheelchair car seats.

Rarity – total worldwide production of the vehicle ‘Make’ < 3000 units per year; or total worldwide production of the vehicle ‘Model’ < 1000 units per year; or total worldwide production of the vehicle ‘Variant’ < 100 vehicles per year.

*The production number thresholds are based on annual average over the life of the model.

*Left-hand drive vehicles imported under the rarity criterion will not require conversion to right-hand drive BUT will still need to meet relevant State or Territory registration requirements prior to road use. In some cases this will mean a model can be imported, but can’t be road registered until old enough to meet the relevant LHD regulations.

Left-hand drive – originally manufactured as a left-hand drive vehicle AND not available as an originally manufactured right hand drive vehicle in another world market. These vehicles will require conversion to right hand drive for safety reasons, at the time of compliance.

Campervans and Motorhomes – originally manufactured as a campervan or motorhome.

Important points to note about the new SEVS 2019

  • A model or specification of vehicle that was sold new in Australia WILL BE eligible for import providing it is SIGNIFICANTLY DIFFERENT to the locally sold model. Such differences would include turbo / supercharged, 4WD, transmission etc. * Badging, decals or computer programming for increased performance would not be sufficient on their own. And REMEMBER, not only must it be significantly different, but it must also meet one of the six new SEVS evaluation criteria above.

  • Standard people movers (Estima, Delica, Elgrand etc.) which are currently imported as campervans will be phased out over a two-year transition period.

  • 18 month requirement for model release to another country before being eligible for addition to the SEVS list will drop to 3 months. This should allow the import of models which were only released quite late in Australia, including the R35 GTR (2007 to February 2009 R35 GTR models should become eligible).

  • Pre-approved Govt. Model Reports will be used – to make compliance “cheaper, easier and more consistent” – operation yet to be determined but catalytic convertors, new tyres and emissions testing may no longer be required for SEVS compliance.

  • No compliance quota for workshops.

  • Compliance plates will no longer be physically fitted to the car, instead they will be searchable by VIN on a publicly accessible online register.

  • Independent Authorised Vehicle Verifiers (AVV) to check all imports to ensure that compliance is done correctly, no structural damage / rust, genuine identity, odometer check – operation and consequences of inspection failure yet to be determined, expressions of interest for AVV’s being sought, inspection cost set by the market.

  • AVV Inspection results to be recorded on the National Exchange of Vehicle and Driver Information Services (NEVDIS) and publicly accessible via the PPSR (Personal Property Securities Register).

So what will the 2019 Import Regulation Changes actually mean for the vehicle import industry ?

The import of standard people movers will probably be replaced in time with similar hybrid people movers.

Other models such as hybrid sedans and SUV’s, and Kei cars that fit within the new environmental criteria will become popular imports as fuel prices rise.

Compliance costs should reduce, while import quality should increase thanks to an independent inspection system coupled with reporting via the publicly accessible NEVDIS system.

With the cost of true collector cars that meet the stringent SEVS criteria rising beyond the ability of most people to afford them, we expect fuel efficient vehicles to form the bulk of imports to Australia from 2019 onwards.

There will still be some interesting classic cars available under the new 25 Year Rule, however for some rare or expensive cars where Australians will be competing heavily with other buyers around the world, it will be necessary to plan ahead for pre-purchase before the required age is reached, and factor-in some storage prior to import.

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