From our Blog

What is the Process for Shipping a Car to and from Australia?

Published by: SEA GO International
May 3, 2024
Topic Overview

Shipping a car to and from Australia involves navigating complex import and export regulations, obtaining necessary approvals, and ensuring compliance with local standards.

This guide breaks down the essential steps, from understanding Vehicle Import Approval (VIA) to choosing a reliable shipping company.

Whether you’re bringing a car into Australia or exporting one, you’ll find key insights to help make the process smooth and efficient.

Table of Contents


Have you ever dreamt of driving your cherished car along the iconic Australian coastline, perhaps bringing a piece of home with you when moving Down Under or looking to export a classic car to your current location?

The good news is that international car shipping is becoming increasingly popular, allowing you to reunite with your vehicle or explore new horizons in style.

This blog post is your one-stop guide to understanding the general process of shipping a car to and from Australia. We’ll break down the key stages involved, from import and export regulations to choosing the right car shipping company.

Whether you are moving to Australia or a car enthusiast looking to import a dream vehicle, this post will equip you with the essential knowledge to navigate your international car shipping journey.

Understanding the Basics

Embarking on the journey of international car shipping involves more than just picking a reliable transporter; it’s about comprehensively understanding the regulations that govern the import and export of vehicles.

These regulations ensure that the vehicle meets the specific standards and compliances of the importing country and that all legalities are smoothly handled to prevent any surprises.

Import Regulations

Due to the Australian market not being de-regulated when it comes to vehicle import, it is not possible to just import any car into Australia.

However, there are different schemes under which you can apply for VIA.

  • Personal Vehicle Scheme

    You can apply for Vehicle Import Approval (VIA) for your personal car, which you have to have owned and used for more than 12 months.

You also have to prove that you are permanently relocating to Australia. You can bring in one personal car every 5 years.

  • 25-Year-Rule Scheme

    If the car is older than 25 years, then you can easily obtain a VIA under the 25-Year-Rule.

The car has to be in its original state. There is no limitation on how many cars you can import under this rule.

  • RAWS Scheme

    This scheme allows for the importation and supply of used specialist or enthusiast cars to Australia.

VIA applications can be lodged through a RAWS dealer

Export Regulations

Conversely, when exporting a car from Australia, the process might seem simpler but is no less regulated.

The key steps include deregistering the vehicle with local authorities, and ensuring the car is cleared through customs. These steps are vital to legally remove the vehicle from Australia and comply with international shipping laws.

Customs Clearance

Both importing to and exporting from Australia require dealing with customs. This involves not only paying any applicable duties and taxes for importing but also ensuring that all paperwork is precisely completed and submitted.

Customs clearance is perhaps one of the most critical stages of international car shipping, as any errors here can lead to delays or additional charges.

By understanding these foundational aspects of the import and export regulations, you are better prepared to navigate the complexities of international car shipping.

Whether you are bringing in a family car or sending a local classic to a foreign enthusiast, knowing these basics is the first step towards a successful transaction.

Need Assistance with Your Car Shipping?

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In a Nutshell

Import Regulations: Strict rules apply, but various schemes (Personal Vehicle Scheme, 25-Year-Rule, RAWS) allow for different types of vehicle import approvals (VIA).

Export Regulations: Deregistration and customs clearance are essential for legally exporting a car from Australia.

Customs Clearance: Critical for both importing and exporting, requiring precise paperwork and payment of duties and taxes.

Understanding these regulations helps ensure a smooth international car shipping process, whether importing or exporting a vehicle.

Importing a Car to Australia (General Overview)

So, you have set your sights on cruising the Australian highways in your own car.

Here is a rundown of the key steps involved in importing a car to Australia:

Step 1: Vehicle Import Approval (VIA) Application

As the Australian market is not de-regulated when it comes to vehicle import, all cars must have a valid Vehicle Import Approval (VIA).

Applications are lodged online using the following link to the ROVER platform:

Applications can be made under the following schemes:

  1. Importing a Personal Vehicle:
    • The shipper has to have owned and used the car for longer than 12 months.
    • The shipper has to prove that he/she is relocating from the UK to Australia permanently.
    • VIA should be obtained before car is shipped.
    • If the shipper has already re-located to Australia, shipper must lodge VIA application within 6 months of arriving in Australia.
  2. Importing a pre-1999 car under the 25-Year-Rule:
    • It is possible to apply for VIA for cars that are older than 25 years.
    • The car must be in its original condition — parts can be renewed, but car must not be modified. 
    • VIA should be obtained before car is shipped.
  3. Re-Import an Australian Plated Vehicle:
    • Cars, that were purchased and previously registered in Australia, and that were exported overseas, can be re-imported as a ‘Returned Good’.
    • A photo of the car’s Australian Compliance Plate has to be attached to the online application.
    • Returned Goods are exempt from Import Duty and GST.
  4. RAWS Scheme:
    • The RAWS scheme allows for the importation and supply of used specialist or enthusiast cars to Australia.
    • A RAWS dealer can be contacted to check if a specific car can be imported under the RAWS scheme
  5. Apply for VIA under Exercise of Discretion:
    • Reasons may be raised with the Department of Infrastructure as to why the application should be approved and why general discretion should be exercised to allow the importation of a vehicle.
    • A letter has to be supplied to the Department of Infrastructure, outlining special circumstances to be taken into account.
  6. Racing or Rally Vehicle:
    • Importer has to prove that the vehicle is suitable / built for racing.
    • Importer has to have racing history and be a member of a racing club.
    • Vehicle can purely be used for racing and will never be permitted to be registered for road use.

Step 2: Quarantine Inspection

Once your car arrives in Australia, it must undergo a quarantine inspection.

Australia has strict biosecurity measures in place to protect the local flora and fauna from foreign pests and diseases that could be transported by imported vehicles.

During this inspection, your vehicle will be examined for Biosecurity Risk Materials (BRM), which are contaminants like soil, plant material, or animal substances.

Any vehicle found to be contaminated will be required to be cleaned and reinspected at your expense before it is released from quarantine.

Step 3: Compliance and Registration

After your car passes quarantine, the next step is to ensure it complies with all local vehicle standards. This might include modifications to meet Australian design rules, especially if the car comes from a country with different safety and emission standards.

Once compliance is confirmed, you can proceed with registering your car, which involves getting it inspected by local authorities, obtaining compulsory third-party insurance, and finally, registering it with the relevant state or territory road traffic authority.

Each step ensures that your vehicle not only meets regulatory requirements but is also safe and ready for the roads Down Under.

Need Assistance with Your Car Shipping?

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

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In a Nutshell

Importing a Car to Australia: Key Steps

  1. VIA Application: Apply online for Vehicle Import Approval (VIA) through schemes like Personal Vehicle, 25-Year-Rule, Re-Importation, RAWS, Discretionary, or Racing Vehicle.
  2. Quarantine Inspection: Mandatory inspection to check for biosecurity risks. Clean and re-inspect if contaminated.
  3. Compliance and Registration: Modify to meet local standards, get inspected, insured, and registered.

Exporting a Car from Australia (General Overview)

Exporting a car from Australia involves a series of regulated steps to ensure that the vehicle legally exits the country and meets the import regulations of its new destination.

Whether you are relocating, selling overseas, or simply sending a vehicle to a foreign exhibit, understanding the basic requirements can help you navigate the process efficiently.

Step 1: Deregistration

The first essential step in exporting a car from Australia is to deregister it with the local vehicle registration authority.

Deregistration removes the vehicle from the Australian road system, meaning you are no longer responsible for things like registration renewals or compulsory insurance.

What to Expect During Deregistration:

  • Submitting Forms: You will typically need to submit specific forms to deregister your car.
  • Surrendering License Plates: Depending on your state or territory, you may need to surrender your vehicle’s license plates when deregistering.
  • Pro-rata Registration Refund: If you deregister before your registration expires, you might be eligible for a partial refund based on the remaining unused period.

Deregistration processes and fees can vary by state or territory. We recommend contacting your local registration authority for the most up-to-date information on specific steps and applicable fees.

Step 2: Customs Clearance

Customs clearance is an essential part of the export process, ensuring that the vehicle can legally leave Australia. This step involves submitting the necessary documentation, such as the purchase invoice and passport.

An experienced freight forwarder like SEA GO can handle this process, specialising in navigating these requirements efficiently.

Once the customs clearance is completed, the vehicle is ready to be exported.

Need Assistance with Your Car Shipping?

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

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In a Nutshell

Exporting a car from Australia involves a couple of essential steps to ensure legal compliance and smooth processing. Here’s a quick overview:

  1. Deregistration: Submit forms, surrender license plates, and potentially get a registration refund to remove the vehicle from the Australian road system.
  2. Customs Clearance: Provide necessary documents to clear customs and legally export the vehicle.

Choosing a Reliable International Car Shipping Company

Selecting the right international car shipping company is crucial to ensure your vehicle reaches its destination safely and efficiently.

When it comes to international car shipping, the stakes are even higher due to the complexities of crossing international borders and navigating various regulatory environments.

Here are some key factors to consider when choosing an international car shipping service:

  • Experience:

The experience of a shipping company speaks volumes about its ability to handle the logistical and regulatory challenges of international transport.

Companies with extensive experience in shipping cars to and from Australia are likely to have a solid understanding of the necessary procedures and potential pitfalls.

They are better equipped to handle unexpected issues and can provide valuable advice based on past shipments.

  • Insurance:

Ensuring that your chosen company offers comprehensive marine insurance coverage is non-negotiable to cover for possible damages caused during transit.

A reputable shipping company should provide options for marine insurance, giving you peace of mind knowing that your investment is protected.

  • Customer Reviews:

The experiences of previous customers can provide insights into the reliability and effectiveness of a shipping company.

Look for reviews that detail the communication, timeliness, and overall satisfaction with the shipping process.

These can guide you in making an informed decision and help you avoid companies with a history of customer dissatisfaction.

Check out our testimonials page to see what others have experienced with SEA GO.

Need Assistance with Your Car Shipping?

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

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In a Nutshell

Selecting the right international car shipping company is crucial for safe and efficient transport. Key factors to consider:

  1. Experience: Choose companies with extensive experience in shipping cars to and from Australia.
  2. Insurance: Ensure they offer comprehensive marine insurance.
  3. Customer Reviews: Check reviews for reliability and customer satisfaction.

Final Thoughts

The world of international car shipping might seem complex at first glance, but understanding the key steps and considerations can empower you to navigate the process with ease. 

This guide has equipped you with a foundational knowledge of:

  • import and export regulations,
  • the general procedures for both processes,
  • and the crucial factors to consider when choosing a reliable shipping company.

Remember, a successful international car shipping experience hinges on two key elements: preparation and choosing the right partner.

By thoroughly understanding the regulations and selecting a reputable shipping company with a proven track record, you can ensure your vehicle reaches its destination safely and efficiently, ready for your next adventure.

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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