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Importing Japanese Used Cars Into Australia


Australian law allows car importing by different methods. Current regulations allows:

  • Private Importing
  • 1 January 1989
  • RAWS (Registered Automotive Workshop Scheme)

Private Importing:

To be a "Private Import", there are several things you must prove:

  • You owned and used the vehicle overseas for over 12 months.
  • You are a Citizen or Permanent Resident of Australia or applying for.
  • You are of age to hold a license or permit for that vehicle.
  • It is fixed to be roadworthy comply with the road safety standards.
  • You haven't imported any vehicle for the last year.

Note: The administration will consider people who are under the 410 and 457 Visas with addition requirements.

1 January 1989 Rule:

This rule is simply if a car was manufactured before 1 January 1989, there is no need for a compliance plate or test. All you must do is get an "Import Approval", register and license the vehicle, and complete any minor modifications that might be needed for registration.

RAWS (Registered Automotive Workshop Scheme):

If you want to import a car that is manufactured after 1988 and not a private import, you must use a Registered Automotive Workshop (RAW) which will "import" your car, comply it to Australian Design Rules (ADR) standards, then plate it with import and identification plates.

Other Things You Should Know:

  • LHD vehicles usually must be convert which is expensive.
  • Don't import anything less than a 3.5 Inspection Grade, it will cost a lot to repair!
  • In all situations, you must still get an "Import Approval".
    • Cars imported under RAWS you do not apply for, but the workshop.
  • Insurance for imports can be expensive so shop around first.
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The cost of importing a car is not only what you pay to the seller/exporter, there are many other costs you should know before importing. Depending on which method you use to import, costs can vary. Below is the cost for the most common method of import, the Registered Automotive Workshop Scheme.

Import Costs (in Australian Dollars)
Import Approval Application - 50 AUD
Examination + Steam Clean - 165 AUD
Duty - 10% (for passenger vehicles) x Customs Value (FOB price - not including Freight or Insurance)
GST (Goods and Services Tax) - 10% x VoTI (Customs Value + Duty + Freight and Insurance)
LCT (Luxury Car Tax) - for vehicles valued (GST inclusive) over $57,000 AUD.
RAW Compliance - Depends on Car
2.75% Stamp Duty for licensing vehicle (for light vehicles up to $20,000 value)

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For Import Approval

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Importing motor vehicles into Australia can easily become complicated. Knowing what you should (and should not) do will save you time, money, and from getting frustrated. Read this before you being anything!

Determine If Importable

The first thing anyone wanting to import a vehicle into Australia must do is determine if you can import it. Find out if under any of the three methods described above, can your car be imported for road use.

RAW Scheme

The Registered Automotive Workshop Scheme involves using a RAW to make a car compliant to Australian Design Rules (ADR) before getting approval.

In order for a RAW (Registered Automotive Workshop) to make your car compliant, it must be on the SEVS (Specialist and Enthusiast Vehicle Scheme) List (external link) listed as eligible for importing. If it's not listed, it has either not been submitted for approval yet or it is classified as not eligible (external link) for importing.

For a vehicle to qualify through SEVS, it must pass at least 2 of the 4 criteria:

  • Be significantly different in appearance to vehicles sold new in Australia.
  • Have unusual design features to anything sold new locally.
  • Performance greater than 105kw/ton, or unusually good economy.
  • Be featured in specialist publications (eg. High performance imports, Zoom, etc.)

You should search for a Registered Automotive Workshop that is near your Port of Destination (arrival port) that is qualified to "import" your car for you. They will apply for you to get the Import Approval.

Private Import and 1 January 1989 Rule

To determine if your vehicle can be imported through a different method, read "What You Can Import" above. If you plan to use one of these methods, also read "Required Documents For Import Approval" for more information.

Vehicle Arrival

Before your vehicle arrives at port, you must already have a import approval or you may face prosecution and significant storage costs. Additionally, you may be charge by Customs a duty fee of $12,000 AUD.

Any vehicle that has arrival and has been rejected will either need to be exported out of Australia or destroyed.

It is your responsibility to hire a RAW capable of importing your vehicle before the car arrives and getting Import Approval through them. If you are using one of the other methods, you must apply for an "Import Approval" yourself from DOTRS (Department of Transport Regional Services). The application can be found on DOTRS Importing Vehicles Page.

It is strongly recommended that you give 17 days for application processing and also wait for Import Approval before you ship.


Once you have Import Approval and the vehicle arrives, you will need to pay Customs and have a Quarantine Inspection. You must pay Customs:

  • Duty
  • GST (Goods and Services Tax)
  • LCT (Luxury Car Tax) if applicable

For more information about costs, view the "How Much It Will Cost" section above.

Quarantine Inspection

All vehicles imported into Australia must go through an inspection to verify there are no "Quarantine Risk Material" (QRM). This process can produce additional costs if there is a need for cleaning.

It is important that you have the vehicle cleaned (meaning "clean as new") from any soil, water, and animal or plant material before it arrives. This means from the roof to the cracks in the tyres, the vehicle is free from any QRM.

Additionally, all water reservoirs (excluding engine radiators and water used as ballast in tyres) must be emptied before arriving. (e.g. windscreen cleaning reservoirs and water collection points)

Important areas to be checked for contamination are:

  • Wheels, muffler and muffler surrounds, wheel guards, and mud guards
  • Spare tyre(s) and boot
  • Engine bay and radiator (from debris in cooling fins)
  • Underside of Vehicle
  • Above and around fuel tank
  • Inside chassis rails
  • Interior of Vehicle

Additionally, if you import with a container, it will also be subject to inspection. All vehicles shipped via container must be inspected at a Quarantine Approved Premises (QAP). If your vehicle is shipped Ro/Ro method, it must be inspected within the wharf precinct.

After inspection, if your vehicle is found to be clean, it will be released from quarantine. If the vehicle is found to be unacceptably contaminated, it will not be allowed entry and will have to be re-exported. If the vehicle is contaminated with low levels of quarantine risk material, it will will be subject to one or more of the following treatments:

  • Steam Cleaning
  • High Pressure Cleaning
  • Disinfecting
  • Vacuuming

If water reservoirs (beside those exempt) were not emptied before arrival they will be subject to the following:

  • Water collection points will be treated with a residual surface spray.
  • Water-holding bottles will be subject to treatment with chlorine.

If there is a need of any treatment, the vehicle will be reinspected after treatment is completed. All costs associated with quarantine inspections, storage of goods, and any treatments will be at the importer's expense.

The process to complete a Quarantine Inspection is:

  • Lodge a Quarantine Entry at the AQIS Regional Office.
  • Make an Appointment for vehicle inspection.
  • You or your broker goes to the inspection.
  • Once necessary steps are completed, you may continue the import process.

ADR Compliance

ADR (Australian Design Rules) is complied with by a Registered Automotive Workshop for those requiring it under the RAWS Scheme. Common things that need for JDM cars to pass the over 80 point ADR are:

  • Anti Intrusion Bars fitted if missing.
  • New Seat Belts
  • Child Restraint Anchors
  • Catalytic Converter if needed
  • Rear vision mirror may need to be replaced.
  • New Tyres (usually not included in quoted price)
  • Filters and Fluids Replaced

Note: All of this will be done by the RAW you choose to import through. Take the time to search for competitive quotes before you choose to avoid being fooled into an over-priced RAW.

Also Note: A RAW cannot comply a car that is damaged or rusted if it reduces the vehicle's structural integrity. Also, each RAW is only allowed to comply 100 vehicles a year.

Once the vehicle is ADR complied, a used import plate is placed on the vehicle. With that plate you can register your vehicle within your State or Territory. Cars imported under the 1989 Rule or are personal imports can be registered without a used import plate.


Registration rules vary between each State/Territory. You should find out before importing what regulations your State/Territory may place on import and your vehicle. If you are using another method of importing other than RAWS, you may have to replace certain parts before registering.

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Government Agencies

Department Of Transport Regional Services Import page ("Import Approval" PDF at top)
  Road Vehicle Certification System (SVES List of Importable Vehicles under the RAWS scheme)
  DOTRS RAW Search
Australian Customs Service
  Customs' Importing a Motor Vehicle Page
Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service
  AQIS Importing Motor Vehicles Page

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