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Importing Used, Salvage or Damaged Cars for Sale and other Vehicles to Australia from the US

By Mike Richards Updated: 08/17/2022 Posted: 12/07/2016

Importing Used Salvage Vehicles Australia

When importing used or salvage vehicles from the United States into Australia, there’s both good and bad news. The good news is that thanks to a free-trade agreement between the two countries. There are generally no import duties and very minimal taxes. The bad news:  on import of damaged cars for sale Australia has a number of restrictions governing. Especially when it comes to safety and environmental regulations.

Below, we’re going to cover everything you need to know. We’ll outline the restrictions that Australia has placed on the import of used vehicles. And we’ll also review the process for clearing your vehicle through both U.S. and Australian customs. In the end, you’ll be armed with everything you need to know in order to import used U.S. vehicles into Australia without a hitch!


Australian Restrictions on the Import of Used Vehicles

The import of both new and used vehicles into Australia is heavily regulated. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection oversees these regulations and ensures that those who are importing used vehicles into Australia are in compliance.

The most important restriction is this: Prior to exporting a used vehicle to Australia, you must apply for and be granted a Vehicle Import Approval (VIA). There are a number of different manners in which one can apply for and be granted the VIA, and these manners are handled by the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development. To learn more about this, you will want to consult the following website. There you can learn which option is best for you and can conduct research into whether or not your VIA will be granted. To access the system for filing your request for a VIA, go here. Note that a $50 AUD fee applies.

Australia also has special requirements for vehicles that contain air-conditioning systems, and most specifically those that use refrigerant gas. Prior to exporting your vehicle to the country, you will want to ensure that your vehicle is in compliance with these regulations. To learn more about them, please consult this guide provided by the Australian Department of Energy and Environment.

In addition, all vehicles imported into Australia are required to conform to Australian Design Rules, also known as ADRs.

These rules can be incredibly detailed depending upon the kind of used vehicle you’re seeking to import. However, you will find that most U.S.-manufactured automobiles are in compliance. However, there is one notable exception. All vehicles imported into Australia must be converted to right-hand drive, if they are not already before they can be operated on Australian motorways. To learn more about the ADRs and to ensure that the vehicle you are seeking to import is in compliance, please visit this website.

With respect to the ADRs, do note that there are exemptions for vehicles that were manufactured in 1989 or earlier. In these instances, though, early versions of the ADRs may apply to the vehicle. And whether or not they do will depend upon the state in which the vehicle will be registered. Also, individuals are permitted to import one vehicle per every 12-month period that does not comply with the ADRs. However, the individual must be a citizen or in the process of becoming one, and the vehicle must have been owned and operated outside of Australia for at least one year.

There is one crucially important step that must be undertaken before you export your used U.S. vehicle to Australia:

You must obtain a quarantine clearance from Australia’s Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. In an effort to protect Australia’s environment, the government has put in place a number of safeguards to prevent foreign diseases, weeds, animals, and other biological elements from entering the country. As such, you will be required to ensure that your vehicle is thoroughly cleaned prior to export, up to and including removing all traces of dirt in the vehicle. Upon arrival, your vehicle may also need to cleaning further prior to clearance by customs. To learn more about receiving your quarantine clearance, please visit this website.

Given the complexities involved in importing a used U.S. vehicle into Australia, you may wish to use a checklist. Thankfully, there is a handy 8-step guide provided by the Department of Infrastructure Development that you can consult.


Purchasing Used Vehicles at U.S. Online Car Auctions

The best way to purchase a used car in the United States is undoubtedly through an online car auction. Through a website that provides this service, you can participate in used car auctions that had previously only been available to those with dealer’s licenses. Because of this, you can often save up to 70% or more on the total cost of a used or salvage vehicle.

Aside from the savings, convenience is a big selling point for online car auctions. To start, you merely need to create an account and make an initial deposit. This deposit will establish your bidding power with the online car auctions site, and its size will typically correspond to 10% of what your maximum bid can be. (For example, a $500 deposit will yield a maximum bid of $5,000.)

After you’ve gotten set up, you’ll be able to browse an extensive database of used cars from the comfort of your own home or office. To help throughout the process, there will assign an auction agent or broker to you. He or she can assist with everything from bidding strategy to locating car auctions not on display online. Because of this, you’ll find that online car auctions are the best way to get a great deal on a used car in the United States that meets your needs.


Shipping a Used or Salvage U.S. Car to Australia

A major trading partner of the United States, finding a U.S. port that offers shipping service to Australia should be a straightforward affair. You’ll merely need to choose your preferred shipping method. First, you could ship your used vehicle via container. Second, you could consider RORO shipping.

This latter method offers one benefit that should be music to your ears: it’s much cheaper than container shipping. This is because your used vehicle will merely roll onto the ship at the port of departure and then roll off once it arrives in Australia. Because this involves very little labor and overhead, the process is much more efficient and much less expensive.

There are a number of major container ports along Australia’s coastline. These include the Port of Sydney, the Port of Brisbane, and the Port of Adelaide. In addition to these major container ports, there are a number of smaller ports that offer services for used U.S. vehicles arriving via the RORO shipping method. If you’d like to learn more about any of Australia’s major container ports or any of the country’s smaller ports, please consult the website for Ports Australia.


Clearing Your Used Vehicle Shipped to Australia Through U.S. Customs

Before your used vehicle can load onto a ship that’s enroute to Australia, it must first pass a check by U.S. customs. To pass this check, you will need to gather the proper documentation and submit that along with your used vehicle to U.S. customs at least 72 hours in advance of your ship date. (To find out where U.S. customs is based at your chosen port of departure, simply contact that port’s director.) If you will not have all documents, delivery will be void.

As far as documentation is concerned, you will need to have the Original Certificate of title along with a certified copy or two complete copies. Once U.S. customs has these documents and your vehicle, they will cross-reference the VIN numbers to ensure that they match one another. In addition, they will also conduct an inspection of the vehicle to ensure everything is on the up and up.

Once the check and inspection are complete and satisfactorily, your used vehicle will load onto the ship by your chosen method. And sent on its way to Australia. Should you have any additional questions about this process, simply consult U.S. Customs and Border Protection.


Getting Your Used or Salvage Car Through Australian Customs

As already mentioned, the most important thing that you’ll need to have in order to clear your used car through Australian customs is the Vehicle Import Approval (VIA). For more information about this, please consult the section above regarding Australian restrictions on imported used vehicles.

Provided that you have obtained the VIA, the process for clearing a used vehicle through Australian customs is straightforward, if a bit time-consuming. You will first need to provide the following documentation to Australian customs once your vehicle arrives in port:

  • The Original Certificate of Title
  • The Original U.S. Vehicle Registration
  • Vehicle Import Approval (VIA)
  • Proof of Payment for Taxes and Duties (See Below)
  • The Original Bill of Landing

Do note that depending upon the method by which you secure your VIA, you may need to provide additional documentation to the list above.

After Australian customs has reviewed your documentation, you will then need to present your vehicle for its quarantine inspection. The Department of Agriculture conducts the inspection and can take some time. In addition, you or the person taking possession of the vehicle may be required to be present while the inspection is conducted. For more information about this, please consult the Department of Agriculture and Water Services here.

Should you have any additional questions or concerns regarding the process for clearing an imported used U.S. vehicle through Australian customs, please consult the official website for the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection. You might also contact the Embassy of Australia in the United States.


Import Duties and Taxes for U.S. Vehicles Imported into Australia

Due to the U.S.-Australia Free-Trade Agreement, imported used vehicles from the United States may be eligible for a significant reduction in import duties and taxes. In order to be eligible for these reductions, though, the vehicle must meet the Rules of Origin requirements established underneath the agreement.

Generally speaking, this requires that at least 50% of the value of import used vehicle should comprise of parts that from either the United States or Australia. For a more detailed assessment of the Rules of Origin, please consult this guide provided by the U.S. Department of Customs and Border Protection.

Vehicles with coverage by the Rules of Origin are exempt from import duty.

However, they will be subject to taxes. These taxes include a Goods and Services Tax (GST) of 10%, which you assess on the value of the vehicle plus the cost of shipping and shipping insurance. In addition, a Luxury Car Tax (LCT) may apply. If the total of the vehicle’s assessed value plus the GST is greater than $63,184 AUD, then a 33% LCT applies. Also, if they consider the vehicle as fuel efficient, then the threshold for paying the LCT moves up to $75,375 AUD for the total value of the vehicle plus the GST.

If the Rules of Origin don’t cover the vehicle, then a customs duty applies. For used vehicles that are 30 years old or younger, this duty is 5%. If the vehicle is older than 30 years, then there is no customs duty. Calculate taxes as above. However, the customs duty payment adds to the vehicle’s value. For the purposes of calculating both the GST and the LCT.

Should you have any additional questions about customs duties and taxes paid on used cars imported into Australia from the United States, please consult the official website for Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection.


Popular Used and New Vehicles in Australia

Until recent years, smaller passenger vehicles have been the most popular kind of car sold in Australia. However, as technology has improved and they’ve been able to become more fuel efficient, SUVs have been gaining traction. For the first time, the sale of SUVs has overtaken that of smaller passenger vehicles in Australia in 2016. Given the availability of U.S.-manufactured SUVs, which can be imported into Australia with minimal duties and taxes. The potential for profit is obvious.

Overall, though, Asian auto makes dominate the Australian market. As you’ll discover in most other countries around the world, Japan is on top. Owning a 17% share of the used and new auto markets in Australia for 2016. Following close behind in popularity are Mazda and Hyundai. Of note is that Ford remains one of the most popular brands in the country. Due in no small part to the domestic production of Ford automobiles. As such, Ford vehicles would be an attractive target through online U.S. used car auctions if you’re seeking to import used vehicles into Australia.

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