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Taking Your Car

Importing a car into Australia is a complex issue with many rules and regulations. It also involves a great deal of paperwork. Unless the car you wish to import has great personal value or is a classic vintage vehicle, it may well be better to leave it at home. This is especially true if your contract to work in Australia is a short one.


The Australia government body responsible for monitoring the importing of cars is the Department of Infrastructure and Transport. They work in conjunction with the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.

Importing Your Vehicle to Australia

To give you some idea of the complexity of importing a vehicle into Australia, the Department of Infrastructure and Transport have produced a 35-page booklet called Importing Vehicles to Australia.

A shorter leaflet giving the very basic information on importing your car is available through the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.

Import Approval Permits

Both the Department of Infrastructure and Transportation and the Australian Customs Border Protection Service state categorically, “Do not import a vehicle into Australia before obtaining a vehicle import approval.” If the car or any other vehicle meets certain criteria, this permit is available from the Department of Infrastructure and Transport. The Department of Customs then imposes a levy on the car. This has two components – Duty and Goods and Services Tax (GST). The following table gives the figures:

Vehicle Type Duty GST

Vehicles over 30 years old and Motorcycles 0% 10%
New and used vehicles up to 30 years old 10% 10%
Four wheel drive off road/Commercial vehicles 5% 10%

The Customs Value

There are a few ways to calculate the value used to determine the duty on your car.
  • Original Country Purchase Price - A depreciation factor is added to help determine the actual value of the vehicle.
  • Australian Landed Value - This can sometimes be a good choice as it may be up to 50% of the market value. The value can vary enormously so you are advised to check this route carefully.

Luxury Car Tax

If the car you want to import has a GST inclusive value of $57,466 or more (as of 2011), it will be subject to Luxury Car Tax (LCT). This tax is in addition to the other charges listed above and is levied at 33% of the value above the $57,466 threshold.

How to Calculate the cost of Duty and GST

The way to calculate Duty and GST is dependent on the specific car and can be quite complex. Let’s examine several different scenarios.

Classic Car

You have a vintage MG built in 1960 purchased in the UK. You originally paid the equivalent of $20,000 for the car. Since it is a classic car, it has not devalued. Customs value the car at the original price. Because the car is more than 30 years old, there is no Duty to pay on it. However, there will be GST to pay. This will be 10% of the value of the car, or $2,000 in GST.

Summary for Classic Car Import Fees

  • Value = $20,000
  • Duty = $0
  • GST=$2,000
  • Total Cost to Import = $2,000

Everyday Vehicle

You want to import a 2008 Ford Focus. Its original price in America was $15,000. It has depreciated to a value of $8,000 as estimated by the Customs Guidelines. It will incur a Duty of 10%. This is $800.

The Customs value of the car is now $8,800 (car value + duty).
This figure is now used to calculate the GST, at 10% GST = $880.

Total cost to import = $800 (Duty) + $880 (GST) = $1680.

Summary for Everyday Vehicle Import Fees

  • Value = $8,000
  • Duty = $800
  • GST=$880
  • Total Cost to Import = $1,680

Luxury vehicle

You wish to bring in a car valued at $70,000 by Australian Customs.

  • Duty = 10% of 70,000 = $7,000
  • GST is calculated on $77,000 (value + duty) = $7,700
  • Total value of car subject to LCT = $70,000 (value) + $7,000 (Duty) + $7,700 (GST) = $84,700

Luxury Car Tax payable on: $84,700 (Total value) – $57,466 (Allowance) = $27,234.
Luxury Car Tax is 33% of $27,234 = $8,987.

So, your total charges are: $7,000 (Duty) + $7,700 (GST) + $8,987 (LCT) = $23,687.

Summary for Luxury Vehicle Import Fees

  • Value = $70,000
  • Duty = $7,000
  • GST=$7,7000
  • LCT = $8,987
  • Total Cost to Import = $23,687

Compliance with Road and Health Standards

Another factor to take into account when deciding whether to import your car is that it has to meet strict safety and pollution standards for it to be given an Import Approval Permit.

These include a range of requirements including but not limited to:
  • Seat belts
  • Child restraint anchor points
  • Personal Compliance Import Plate
  • Replacing the driver side door mirror to Australian standards
  • Emissions standards
If your car is less than 30 years old and meets all the requirements of the Department of Infrastructure and Transport, it will be awarded a Compliance Certificate.

How to get a permit

To obtain clearance to bring your car to Australia - an Import Approval Permit - you will need to supply to the Department of Infrastructure and Transportation a collection of documents. These include:
  • Weighbridge Certificate
  • Engineer Certificate (for some vehicles)
  • Imported Blue Slip ensuring the Road Transport Authority (RTA) that the vehicle is roadworthy
  • RTA Visual Identification Unit inspection (for some vehicles)
The requirements for importing a car are laid out in a publication produced by the Department of Infrastructure and Transport called: Circular 0-1-2, ‘A Guide to the Certification of new Vehicles- Type Approval’.

For more information on this, visit Vehicle Certification in Australia at the Department of Infrastructure and Transportation.

Special Cars – Muscle Cars

The Department of Infrastructure and Transport and the Australian Customs Border Protection Service have strict rules about the importing of customised vehicles and restored or converted cars built before 1989. These departments are particularly cautious with respect to vehicles made more powerful than the original or do not meet emissions or safety standards. For more information on this complex issue, the Western Australian government has produced helpful guidelines for cars with major body modifications.

Visit our Life in Australia section for more articles related to the subject Relocating to Australia.
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