From our Blog

Quick Guide to Car Quarantine and Customs Clearance

Published by: SEA GO International
June 5, 2024
Topic Overview

This guide explains the process of importing a car to Australia, focusing on quarantine requirements and customs clearance.

It covers what to expect during inspections, how to meet biosecurity standards and the required documentation for customs clearance. It also highlights the importance of planning and cost considerations.

Table of Contents


Importing a car to Australia can offer many benefits, whether it’s a vehicle you know well or a new acquisition. But before you hit the open road, there are some important steps to take regarding quarantine and customs clearance.

Understanding quarantine inspections and customs regulations is crucial for a smooth import experience.

Let’s dive in and get your car ready for its Australian adventure!

Understanding Quarantine Requirements

When importing a car to Australia, it’s crucial to understand the quarantine requirements to prevent biosecurity risks.
Vehicles can carry contaminants like live insects, seeds, soil, and plant material, which can threaten Australia’s environment.
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) ensures these risks are managed by enforcing strict import regulations.

These regulations mandate thorough inspections to identify and mitigate any potential biosecurity threats.

Inspection Types and What to Expect During Quarantine

Imported vehicles undergo different levels of inspection based on their condition

  • New Vehicles: New vehicles typically receive a less intensive external inspection upon arrival. However, if biosecurity risks are identified during this initial check, further treatment and a re-inspection may be required.
  • Used Vehicles: Used vehicles are subject to a more rigorous inspection process. This involves a thorough examination of both the interior and exterior of the car upon arrival in Australia.

There’s an exception to this process: if your used vehicle has been treated by an offshore provider approved by the Department, it will receive a less comprehensive inspection on arrival.
These inspections are comprehensive and designed to identify any potential biosecurity risks. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect:

  • A Meticulous Examination: Your car may undergo a detailed inspection, both inside and out. This includes the engine bay, boot, undercarriage, and crucially, the tyres.Inspectors will look for contaminants, including soil, dirt, insects, seeds, and animal products.
  • Biosecurity Decontamination: If the inspectors discover any contaminants, the following options may apply (at the importer or owner’s cost):
    • your vehicle may require professional cleaning or even fumigation to meet biosecurity standards.
    • Removing the Vehicle/s from Australia in extreme circumstances.
    • Destroying of the Vehicle/s.

Meeting Biosecurity Standards

To ensure a smooth inspection process and avoid delays or penalties, it’s essential to meet biosecurity standards before shipping your car to Australia. Here are some steps to help you comply:

  • Prioritise Cleanliness: Give your car a thorough cleaning, paying specific attention to the undercarriage, wheel arches, and tyres. Remove any visible soil, dirt, or plant material.
  • Empty the Interior: Don’t leave behind any food or plant products inside the car. These items can harbour unwanted pests or diseases.

Failing to comply with quarantine regulations can lead to delays, penalties, or even refusal of entry for your car. Properly preparing your vehicle beforehand saves you time, money, and frustration.
By following these guidelines, you can ensure an efficient quarantine inspection process for your imported car.

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In a Nutshell

Importing a car to Australia involves strict quarantine checks to prevent biosecurity risks. Here’s a quick summary:
New vehicles get less intensive inspections, while used ones undergo thorough checks unless pre-treated. Inspectors look for contaminants like soil and insects, possibly requiring cleaning or fumigation.
To prepare:

  • Clean thoroughly, especially the undercarriage and tyres.
  • Remove all food and plant products.

Proper prep avoids delays and penalties.

Navigating Customs Clearance

The primary purpose of customs clearance is to collect duties and taxes on imported vehicles.

This process helps regulate the import of vehicles and ensures that all imported goods are correctly declared and compliant with Australian laws.

Duties and taxes are calculated based on the vehicle’s value, its country of origin, and other relevant factors.

The Australian Border Force (ABF) oversees customs clearance, ensuring that all imported goods, including vehicles, meet the necessary legal and regulatory requirements.

Required Documentation

To successfully clear customs, you need to provide specific documentation, including:

  • Proof of Ownership: This could be a title deed or registration certificate.
  • Detailed Vehicle Specifications: This document should outline the car’s make, model, year of manufacture, engine size, and any unique features.
  • Purchase Invoice: The original invoice showing the purchase price of the vehicle is crucial for calculating duties and taxes.

The Costs Involved

Importing a car to Australia involves several costs:

  • Import Duties: A 5% duty on the customs value of the vehicle.
  • Goods and Services Tax (GST): 10% GST on the customs value plus import duty and other applicable fees.
  • Luxury Car Tax (LCT): If the vehicle’s value exceeds the luxury car threshold, a 33% tax is applied on the amount exceeding the threshold.

Once calculated, these amounts need to be paid before the vehicle can be released from customs.

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In a Nutshell

Importing a car to Australia involves paying duties and taxes. Key documents needed are proof of ownership, detailed vehicle specifications, and the purchase invoice.

Costs include:

  • 5% Import Duties
  • 10% GST on customs value plus import duty
  • 33% Luxury Car Tax on amounts exceeding the threshold

Ensure all documents and payments are ready for smooth customs clearance.

Final Considerations


The timeframe for quarantine inspections and customs clearance can vary depending on several factors, including the condition of the vehicle and compliance with regulations.

Generally, quarantine inspections can take a few days to a couple of weeks. Customs clearance also varies but typically ranges from a few days to several weeks, depending on the thoroughness of documentation and any issues that may arise during the process.

Cost Considerations

The total cost of importing your car will be influenced by several factors:

  • Determined Vehicle Value: The customs value of the vehicle, which includes the purchase price, shipping, and insurance costs.
  • Cost Variances: If your car requires additional cleaning to meet biosecurity standards, these costs will add to the overall import price.
  • Inspection Fees: Fees for biosecurity inspections and any additional treatments needed to comply with regulations.
  • Origin Country: Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) exist between Australia and some countries, which can reduce or eliminate import duties for vehicles originating from those countries.

Prohibited and Restricted Goods

Certain items are prohibited or restricted from being imported in a vehicle. These can include:

  • Food Items: Certain foods may carry pests or diseases.
  • Plant Material: Seeds, soil, and plant parts can pose significant biosecurity risks.
  • Animal Products: Items such as fur, feathers, or untreated hides may be restricted.

Ensuring your vehicle is free from these items helps prevent delays and additional costs during the import process.

For more detailed information, consult the relevant guidelines from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

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In a Nutshell

Timeframes: Quarantine inspections and customs clearance can take from days to weeks, depending on vehicle condition and documentation.

Costs: Influenced by vehicle value, biosecurity cleaning, inspection fees, and Free Trade Agreements.

Prohibited Items: Avoid importing food, plant material, and animal products to prevent delays and extra costs.

Need Assistance with Your Car Shipping?

Contact SEA GO International today for expert guidance and a seamless experience!

Call us on:
In a Nutshell
Need Assistance with Your Car Shipping?

Contact SEA GO International today for expert guidance and a seamless experience!

Call us on:
In a Nutshell
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