Importing Cars to Australia

The old SEVS import regulations are ending with the last import approvals to be issued on 30 March 2022. Read the full update…

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

See How Direct Car Import Works

Due to the large increase in import volume from Japan to Australia since 2020, for the foreseeable future we will only be taking orders for Australian clients (and a limited number of USA clients).

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

The following information deals with the regulations controlling car import to Australia.

Our service fee varies according to your needs.

The first thing you need to know is that importing cars to Australia is strictly controlled by the Australian vehicle import regulations – you can’t just import any car you want.

NEW import regulations commenced for Australia on 10 December 2019 with a transition period from old (MVSA) to new (RVS) regulations occurring between 10 Dec 2019 and 1 July 2021.

The vehicle import regulations 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 TEST – If the SAME vehicle year / model / configuration was SOLD NEW in Australia AND it is younger than 25 years, then it CANNOT BE IMPORTED.

There are two exceptions – import for Race or Rally use only OR Personal Import (you have owned the vehicle for more than 12 months while living overseas AND you are returning home to Australia permanently as an Australian citizen or permanent resident).

So, for people living in Australia and wanting a vehicle for normal road use there are just two (2) options for importing vehicles – the 25 Year Rule for vehicles OVER 25 years old, and SEVS for vehicles YOUNGER than 25 years.

All regulations are tightly controlled through the Import Approval process so please be sure to read the further detail about each option below.

Vehicle Import Regulations – four (4) import options

– 25 Year Rule

– SEVS

– Personal Import Scheme (PIS)

– Race / Rally

1)  25 Year Rule

Replaced the ‘1988 and older rule’ on 1 July 2021.

There are restrictions on modified cars and large vehicles.

Latest information – How to apply for an Import Approval under the 25 Year Rule and what is considered significantly modified.

Vehicle must be more than 25 years old (to the month of manufacture) at the time of application AND conform to one of the following classifications (no trucks or buses):

(i) Passenger Car (MA);

(ii) Forward-control Passenger Vehicle (MB);

(iii) Off-road Passenger Vehicle (MC);

(iv) Moped – 2 wheels (LA);

(v) Moped – 3 wheels (LB);

(vi) Motor cycle (LC);

(vii) Motor cycle and side-car (LD);

(viii) Motor tricycle (LE);

(ix) Light Goods Vehicle (NA)

Note – the build date used to calculate age is:

(a) the manufacture date; or

(b) if the Minister is satisfied that significant modifications that comply were made to the vehicle after manufacture – the date that the last of the significant modifications were completed. e.g. A 1960 vehicle with upgraded engine, transmission or brakes from a 2000 model vehicle would be eligible for import from 2025.

Over time, many interesting models will become available under this rule that Australia has not previously had access to. However, other markets such as the USA also have their own 25 Year Rule (and Canada has a 15 Year Rule) so competition will be strong for the best classic cars.

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 around $1,000, although there may be additional costs if side intrusion bars or retractable seat belts are required.

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

Left hand drive (LHD) vehicles are eligble for import under the 25 Year Rule but you should check with the Registration Authority in your State or Territory on the regulations that apply to the registration of LHD and modified vehicles as this varies and may be over 30 years old in some locations.

2)  SEVS

Applies to all vehicle models newer than 25 years where at least 3 months have passed since the model was first made available in another country.

Certain models that were sold here new can still be imported if they are “significantly different” versions of the locally sold model.

Significantly different is defined here

An application must initially be made for each model to be evaluated, approved and added to the eligible model list.

Eligible vehicle models and approved compliance workshops under new SEVS can be viewed on the ROVER system.

NOTE:  The last import approvals for old SEVS models must be applied for by the end of March 2022, and the compliance plate fitted by 30 June 2022.

View full list of old SEVS Models

Many models eligible for import under old SEVS will not be eligible under new SEVS.

1st eligibility test for new SEVS – the same vehicle model CANNOT have been sold in Australia new (in full volume) by the manufacturer during the same time period.

This blocks many standard models of sedan, people mover and SUV sold new in Australia that you may be familiar with such as BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Porsche, Volkswagen, Peugot, Honda, Land Cruiser, Range Rover and so on – ie. if you could have bought the same year, make, model and specification new in Australia, then that vehicle cannot be imported secondhand under SEVS.

There is one interesting exception here – if an overseas model has design characteristics that are ‘significantly different’ to the locally sold model then it may be considered eligible for import as a different variant.

So if the manufacturer decided not to offer all variants (or perhaps a special commemorative model) for sale in Australia, you may be able to import one of those, either new or secondhand.

This allows the import of a large number of models that have never been possible to import to Australia before.

Differences will be evaluated on a case by case basis, and an application form will need to be submitted to the Govt. together with supporting evidence.

What does significantly different mean ?

For vehicles of 12 tonnes or less (ie. regular passenger vehicles):

(a) the capacity, configuration or induction of an internal combustion engine;

Examples – 2L engine vs 1.8L engine, turbo / super charged vs normally aspirated.

(b) the type of motive power driving the engine or motor;

Examples – plug-in hybrid vehicle vs standard hybrid is considered significantly different, but running on unleaded petrol vs premium unleaded petrol is not.

(c) the transmission or drivetrain system;

Examples – different number of gears such as 6 speed vs 5 speed, manual transmission vs automatic, all wheel drive or rear wheel drive vs front wheel drive.

(d) the body shape;

Examples – different number of doors, coupe or sedan vs hatchback or wagon.

(e) the vehicle category;

(f) where the application is made on the basis of the mobility criterion – features designed to assist people with a disability;

Examples – disabled access vehicles with factory-fitted powered chairs for entry, rear ramps etc.

(g) or any other differences in the discretion of the Minister

A model may also be considered a significantly different variant if it exhibits differences in more than one of the following design characteristics:

– colour, upholstery, trim or other cosmetic features;

– same engine but different engine tuning or software;

– marketing name;

– other differences in the discretion of the Minister

Once a model passes the initial tests above, to be approved for import it must then meet any ONE of the following SIX criteria:

Performance – power to weight threshold

Must produce at least 110 kW/T (kilowatts per Tonne) if manufactured before 1 January 2020, or if manufactured after 1 January 2020 must produce at least 130 kW/T.

Environmental Performance – low emissions, alternate power source to internal combustion (of oil or gas), or micro-car (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, e.g. hybrid or fully electric;

  • Meets or exceeds the national road vehicle emissions standards at the time of application (or as determined by the Minister). 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 allows a range of hybrid models such as the Toyota Estima hybrid and many kei cars not available to Australia before.

Browse the current hybrid electric import options

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 (these vary between 0 and 30 years). So 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 for that location.

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.

Must be in one of the following vehicle categories:

(i) Passenger Car (MA);

(ii) Off-road Passenger Vehicle (MC);

(iii) Light Goods Vehicle (NA);

(iv) Medium Goods Vehicle (NB);

(v) Heavy Goods Vehicle (NC);

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 OR suitable for such modifications as would be necessary to convert it into a campervan or motorhome in compliance with the applicable standards determined by the Minister.

3) Personal Import Scheme (PIS)

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 returning home to Australia (permanently) after a period of living overseas AND migrants moving to Australia with a visa (or visa application) which allows permanent residence.

One vehicle is allowed every five years and only individuals can apply – either before entering Australia or within 6 months of entering.

The vehicle must be registered in the individual’s name overseas for more than 12 continuous months prior to the application for import approval.

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

More information about residency / visa requirements and Personal vehicle import to Australia.

4) 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 not road registered.

Important points to note about the new SEVS

  • Standard diesel or petrol people movers (Estima, Delica, Elgrand etc.) which were imported as campervans under old SEVS are being phased out and will no longer be possible to import after March 2022.

  • A model is eligible for addition to the SEVS list once available in another country for 3 months (was previously 18 months).

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

  • 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 in practice, inspection cost will be 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).

The import process under SEVS.

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 if required.

Once you have bought a suitable vehicle overseas, the RAW applies for the Import Approval using the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). Govt. processing usually takes a number of weeks.

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

NO approved compliance workshop = NO Import Approval = NO entry

View the list of approved RAWS and vehicle models on the ROVER system

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 / AVV meaning it can never be road registered, so you should only source a vehicle through someone you trust.

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