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Special Australian Customs Exceptions for Importing Cars from the US

There are several rules that allow you to bring your foreign car to Australia. One rule makes exceptions for specialty cars. Another allows you to import vehicles manufactured before a specific year. There is also a provision for Australian citizens returning from the US after a length of time who want to bring a vehicle they purchased back to Australia. Finally, there is a rule allowing competitive race participants to import their car to Australia.

Importing Cars

Method 1: The Specialist and Enthusiast Vehicle Scheme (SEVS)

Commonly used to transfer USA car imports from America, this method is typically used by Australian car importers buying traditional road vehicles. A list of cars eligible for this scheme is available at the Australian Road Certification System (RVCS) website. The system is a portal where car manufacturers can validate that the vehicles they produce meet Australian safety requirements. Alternatively, if you have already hired a knowledgeable importer, they can provide you with this information. It is always a wise decision to hire an experienced importer to assist you with your car import. They can save you from having to research many import process details, such as if Australian customs will permit to import your desired vehicle.

To qualify for the scheme, the car must meet two of four criteria. The vehicle must have:

  • a special appearance.
  • unusual body elements.
  • a high-performance engine.
  • regular highlights in automotive specialty periodicals.

Once you import a SEVS eligible vehicle to Australia, you must have it modified to meet Australian safety regulations.

Method 2: The 15 Year Rule

The 15 year Rule allows you to import any vehicle manufactured before 1988. Cars manufactured before this date are not required to meet SEVS regulations under Australian road laws. Vehicles manufactured before 1972 require a special non-compliance permit because they do not have identification plates. These vehicles also need special safety modifications. This rule makes many desired older model vehicles available for you to import. To import these vehicles — except in the instance where you have already purchased the car — you will likely need financing from a lender who specializes in car loans for USA imports.

Method 3: Import a Car for Personal Use

If you have lived abroad for a year or more, you can use this rule to bring your car back home. The Australian Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development (DOTARS) will require that you prove you have lived outside of Australia for over a year. There are no limitations on the type of vehicle you can import under this rule; however, you must have the car refitted to comply with Australian safety standards. These changes will vary with the car make and model.

Method 4: Professional Motor Sport Use

To use this rule, you must need the vehicle to participate in an event recognized by the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS). This is normally the only requirement to import a vehicle under this rule, with the exception that you must have a license to compete in such a vehicle. The license you must have is a C3 circuit racing license issued by CAMS. The organization issues the licenses to individuals, companies, groups and teams; however, CAMS requires the name on the license match the name used to register the vehicle in CAMS logs.

There are additional requirements to obtain a C3 circuit racing license. License applicants must fill out an annual medical statement. Additionally, they must submit to an examination by a physician that CAMS selects. C3 license holders under 40 years old must submit to a physical examination every two years, while those over 40 must receive a physical every year. In addition, C3 license applicants must attend a training session and take a moderated road test.

Australian customs regulations allow you to import certain specialty vehicles. There are four special rules for importers with special circumstances. By providing these exceptions, DOTARS offers a convenience for importers with these distinct needs.



Jasper enjoys reading automotive news and reviews online. He independently write on auto industry recent happenings.


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