Importing and Exporting Cars
and Vehicles to and from Australia

Do you have a vehicle with sentimental attachment that you wish to be shipped into or out of Australia? Are you thinking of importing or
exporting a luxury car?

Let Smith Lewis help you with this complex process.

Smith Lewis are experts at importing and exporting cars and vehicles to and from Australia. Our licensed brokers and experienced freight forwarders have a wealth of experience and are customer focused. We make it simple and convenient for you. Talk to us and our friendly Import and Export team will be more than happy to assist you.

Things You Need to Determine before
Importing Cars and Vehicles to Australia

Before you begin the process of importing cars and vehicles to Australia, there are some things you need to determine.

Is it Worth Importing or Exporting your Car or Vehicle?

The process of importing or exporting a car or vehicle can be complex and expensive. The team at Smith Lewis will work with you and determine the most cost effective way to do this. We understand the sentimental value your car or vehicle may have so call to hear how we may best help you.

Prior to Making the Decision to Import or Export

Prior to making the decision to import or export a road vehicle you should take into account the likely costs you may incur during the importation process such as:

  • Freight and Insurance
  • Customs Duties, GST and LCT (if applicable)
  • Customs Brokers
  • Entry Processing Charges
  • Steam Cleaning for Quarantine Purposes
  • Logistics Service Provider, Transport and Other Wharf Charges
  • Storage and Delivery Charges
  • Any costs of having your road vehicle meet state or
    territory registration and insurance requirements

What not to do when Importing a Car or Vehicle

It is important that you do not initiate importation for road vehicle until after a Vehicle Import Approval (VIA) is issued to you. Without a valid VIA, you should not make arrangement to import your road vehicle to Australia.

If your road vehicle is shipped to Australia before you have received the
VIA and your road vehicle arrives before your application is processed,
you may incur significant storage cost and other charges until your road
vehicle is cleared.

A VIA is required regardless of the value of the vehicle. Speak to us for advice on how this is to be handled.

Obtain the Vehicle Import Approval (VIA)

The most important document you need to obtain before importing a car or vehicle to Australia is the Vehicle Import Approval (VIA) from DOTARS. Without this the process of clearing your vehicle or car for delivery will be delayed. We can help advise you through this process.

Classes of Vehicles that require a VIA include:

  • Road tractors for semi-trailers
  • Buses and passenger coaches
  • Trucks and Lorries

Special Permits Vehicles Including:

  • Ambulances
  • Fire fighting vehicles
  • Mobile cranes and derricks
  • Cement mixes
  • Mobile workshops
  • Road Sweepers
  • Garbage Collector trucks and lorries
  • Self-powered vehicles for disabled

Classes of Vehicles that may be non-transport equipment include:

  • Forklifts and other material handling vehicles
  • Golf vehicles
  • Vehicles for the use on snow
  • Agricultural tractors
  • Vehicle designed and built for off road use
    (not meaning recreational, sports or four wheel drive vehicles)
  • Bulldozers, graders, rollers, and earth moving equipment
  • Tracked vehicles of any kind

Other equipment that may require VIA (Outside Chapter 87 of the Tariff) includes goods such as:

  • Mobile light towers
  • Mobile compressors
  • Mobile generators
  • and other equipment if mounted on wheels and
    that can be towed or driven on the road
    may require VIAs

How long have you owned the vehicle?

If you wish to import vehicle into Australia, you must have proper documentation showing you have owned the vehicle in the overseas country for no less than 12 months before your arrival in Australia.

You have the option to import vehicles that are less than 12 months, but you have to pay the relevant duty fee.

What is your citizenship?

Only Australian and New Zealand citizens or those who have applied for Australian citizenship or Australian permanent residents are allowed to import cars into Australia.

If you have any further questions about this, please talk to us.
We are committed in importing your vehicle with less convenience
and minimal delays.

How does the Car or Vehicle Importation Process Work?

Do you know that getting the vehicle importation process wrong could cost you thousands of dollars and several months of expensive delay? Smith Lewis will ensure nothing like this will happen and will import your car or vehicle smoothly into Australia with minimum delay.

Talk to us and we will advise and guide you with the vehicle importation process before you begin.

Must have a Vehicle Import Approval (VIA)

The first step you need to do is have the VIA from DOTARS. See our section on Obtain the Vehicle Import Approval (VIA) for more information.

Arrange and Coordinate the Shipping

We will work with our international partners and organise the most cost effective carriers to safely ship your car or vehicle to Australia. We help you choose the best shipping option for the import of your vehicle into Australia. We can ship cars and vehicles by:

Once we have worked out your best choice, we then book shipping and help finalise aspects such as Marine Insurance, if requested.

Calculate the Amount of Duty and GST Payable

You will need to supply us an invoice for the purchased car or vehicle that you are importing into Australia from which our customs brokers will then determine the amount of duty and GST payable.

Onsite Representation (if required)

We provide onsite representation at the port of arrival of your car or vehicle to ensure it has arrived safely and is carefully unloaded without damage.

Customs Clearance

Our experienced customs brokers are well-versed with customs rules and regulations in importing and exporting cars and vehicles. We will organise your car or vehicles to be customs cleared quickly and efficiently in
Australia or overseas.

Quarantine Services

If necessary, we arrange quarantine inspection and can organise cleaning/fumigation if directed by DAFF (AQIS) in Australia or the relevant quarantine authority in the destination country.

Pick-up or Delivery

We give you the option to pick-up your car from the depot or we can have it delivered to your home or nominated delivery address via specialised carrier.

If you have any questions about the import and export process, please contact us. We are more than happy to help.

How to Prepare your Car or Vehicle for Shipping

How to Prepare your Car or Vehicle for Shipping

  • The car must be empty and have no personal effects inside it if you are shipping using the Roll On Roll Off method. If your car or vehicle is transported using full (FCL) shipping container you may be able to ship personal effects although it is not recommended. Please refer to Can I Ship Personal Effects with my Car? for more information.
  • Ensure that there is no leaking fluid.
  • Fuel tank should be no more than 1/8 full.
  • Clean the engine bay and under body of your vehicle. Have its interior vacuum cleaned and its exterior cleaned with warm soapy water.

Contact us for more advice on how to best prepare your car or vehicle for importing or exporting.

Specialist on Importing your Car or Vehicle
from the United States (USA)

Smith Lewis specialises in the importation of your car or vehicle from the USA into Australia. You will need to obtain a clear title of your vehicle from the USA to ensure your car is free from any loans and without any encumbrances. Call us if you need assistance or you have any further questions.

Exporting cars and vehicles from Australia

We are well-versed with specific customs rules and regulations implemented in various countries. Exporting a car or vehicle to another country is more complex than importing one into Australia. Import requirements vary greatly from country to country. We can help you with this and ensure your car or vehicle is allowed to enter the country once exported from Australia.
Please call us if you are planning to export your car or vehicle anywhere around the world.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for Importing and Exporting Cars to and from Australia

What is a road motor vehicle?

A road motor vehicle as defined in the Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989 ( MVSA) is a vehicle designed solely and principally for the transport of people, animals or goods, or a partly completed road motor vehicle.

Will I have to pay an import tax and/or GST on the value
of my vehicle for importing it to Australia?

Vehicles over 30 years old are not required to pay duty, however 10% GST is payable. Vehicles that are under 30 years will have to pay 5% Duty and 10% GST. Please speak to our licensed customs broker to confirm what import tax and/or GST you may have to pay.

Can I import a car or vehicle that has a left-hand drive?

Yes. The same rule applies to a left hand drive vehicle as for right hand drive vehicle for issue of import permits. Generally a left hand drive vehicle can be registered in most states only if it is in excess of 30 years old. Please contact us for further advice. We are happy to help.

Can I import a car or vehicle that has no
seat belts in the back seat?

Yes. However, a vehicle without rear seat belts can be registered in
most states only if it is in excess of 30 years old. Please contact us
for further advice.

Do you import luxury cars? What is the
Luxury Car Tax (LCT) rate for that?

Yes, we handle the importation of luxury cars including the LCT payment of your car or vehicle.

The LCT rate is 33 % (commencing 1 July 2008, prior to that date the rate was 25%). While the LCT threshold is GST-inclusive, LCT is only payable on the GST-exclusive amount which exceeds the threshold value. Please see the table below for guide on how it is calculated.

Imported New Luxury Car Calculation Amount
Customs Value (CV)   $56,000.00
Customs Duty = 5% x CV = 0.05 x 56,000 $2,800.00
Transport and Insurance (T&I)   $1,500.00
VoTI (CV+Duty+T&I) = 56,000 + 2,800 + 1,500 $60,300.00
GST = 10% x VoTI = 0.10 x 60,300 $6,030.00
Luxury car value (LCV) = (GST+VoTI) = 6,030 + 60,300 $66,330.00
LCT = (LCV-LCT threshold) x 10/11 x 0.33 = 66,330-60,316 x 10/11 x 0.33 $1,804.20
TOTAL PAYABLE (Duty + GST + LCT) 2,800 + 6,030 + 1,804.20 $10,364.20

Go to the following page on the Australian Customs website
for more information.

Can I have personal effects inside my car or vehicle?

Personal effects can be placed inside your car or vehicle if and only if it will be shipped using a full (FCL) shipping container. However, it is not recommended and not common practice as it can add further expense and complexity to the shipping. Please see our section on What are Personal Effects for more information or call us for advice.

What happens if I have an Australian Carnet?

Vehicles that are returning to Australia after leaving Australia on Australian Carnet do not require a VIA if the vehicle is returning within the expiry
date of that Carnet. However, if the Australian Carnet has expired
then a VIA will be required.

Why Choose Smith Lewis over other Companies Importing and Exporting Cars and Vehicles
to and from Australia?

Personalised Service

Judy Reynolds is happy to help you with all of your car and vehicle importing and exporting questions and will be your single point of contact.

Wealth of Experience

Our Import and Export Teams have a wealth of experience and are highly knowledgeable in moving your imported and exported cars and vehicles efficiently and cost effectively.

Worldwide Network of Transport Providers

Our worldwide network of transport providers and brokers allows us to timely and reliably handle your imported and exported cars and vehicles.

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