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Making American Car Imports to Australia Easy: What You Need to Know

Importing American Cars to Australia

Are you a fan of American muscle cars or classic vehicles and reside in Australia? If so, you might have considered importing an American car to Australia. This article will guide you through the process, providing you with all the necessary information to make your dream a reality.

Why Import American Cars to Australia

Importing American Cars to Australia

Popularity of American Cars in Australia

American cars, especially classic and muscle cars, have a significant fan base in Australia. Their unique design, powerful performance, and the nostalgia they evoke make them highly sought after.

Benefits of Importing American Cars

Importing American cars directly from the U.S. allows Australian consumers to access a wider range of models, often at a lower cost than purchasing locally. Additionally, certain rare or classic models may only be available for purchase in the U.S.

Understanding the Import Process

Pre-Import Approval

Before shipping a car to Australia, you need to apply for a Vehicle Import Approval from the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications. This approval is crucial as it allows the car to pass through Australian customs.

Shipping Solutions for Your American Dream Car

We understand that every car has its own story and value, and that’s why we offer a range of shipping solutions to cater to your unique needs. Whether you’re bringing in a classic muscle car, a rare collectible, or a brand-new model straight from the manufacturer, we’ve got you covered.

Roll-on/Roll-off (RoRo) - The Economical Route

roro shipping car usa to australia

Our Roll-on/Roll-off shipping service is a cost-effective solution that’s perfect for any vehicle that can be driven or towed. Your car will be driven onto the ship at the origin port and driven off at the destination port. While this is an economical choice, do note that your vehicle will be exposed to the elements during the journey.

Shared Container Service - Sharing the Journey

Shared container service for shipping cars from USA to Australia

Shared Container Service is a more secure shipping method. Several vehicles are shipped in one container, providing protection from the elements. The costs for processing the container are shared among the clients, making it a more affordable option for individual importers. This service is subject to availability and depends on having other vehicles to share the container.

Full Container Load – Premium Care for Your Premium Car

Full container load method for vehicle transportation from USA to Australia

Full Container Load is the most secure, but also the most expensive shipping method. Your vehicle is shipped in its own dedicated container. This method provides the highest level of security and protection for your vehicle, making it an excellent choice for high-value, classic, or rare cars. However, it comes with higher costs as you are not sharing the container and associated costs with other clients.

Costs Involved in Importing

The cost of importing a car from the U.S. to Australia can vary based on several factors. These include the make and model of the vehicle, the shipping method chosen, and the origin and destination ports. Additional costs may also arise from duties, taxes, cleaning charges, and registration and insurance requirements in Australia.

Asbestos Checks

Asbestos check procedure for shipping cars from USA to Australia

Since 2004 Australia has had an absolute ban of any products containing any amount of asbestos. Asbestos is contained in many cars manufactured before 2004, and maybe found within:

  • Insulation
  • Brake pads and shoes
  • Bituminous and asphalt coatings
  • Seals for fuel tanks, mastic sealants and windows
  • Gaskets for cylinder head, extractors and exhaust systems
  • Bonnet Liners
  • Valve Rings
  • Body Seams
  • Heater/Air Conditioner Housings
  • Fibrous washers
  • Sound deadening material – acoustic padding
  • Clutch linings
  • Firewalls
  • Heat Shields
  • Wiring Wrap
  • Decals

This list is non exhaustive, but represents the common areas where it has been found in the past. Should your vehicle be found to contain asbestos this will result in the vehicle being denied entry past the border. It is of critical importance you can prove a vehicle contains no asbestos through sampling of risk areas and testing at a NATA approved laboratory.

Air Conditioner Checks

If you are importing a vehicle with an air conditioning system installed last century it is of critical importance you check the type of refrigerant gas it is designed to use. Look for a sticker on the hood or compressor, if it shows R134A it is fine to import. However if it shows R11 or another gas then you should contact us for advice. If the system uses R11 gas for example then you need to perform additional work overseas to reclaim the gas and retrofit the system so the system can no longer use R11 gasses to operate. A simple degas is not an option for systems that run on a CFC gas such as R11.

R11 gas is a common CFC gas used from the middle of last century, but was later found to be a significant Ozone depleting substance and later banned from use globally. As a result of the Montreal Protocol being adopted in Australia imports of vehicles containing CFC gas, or equipment designed to use it are prohibited from being imported.

Biosecurity Measures for Importing Vehicles

Australia has strict biosecurity measures to prevent the introduction of non-native pests and diseases. Your vehicle must be clean and free of any biosecurity risk, including soil, plant material, and animal material. If contamination is found during inspection, the vehicle will need to be cleaned or fumigated.

Vehicle Compliance

If you are importing newer vehicles on the SEV list or as a personal import, it may be necessary to arrange left hand drive to right hand drive modification on arrival. This type of modification is significant and specialised and there are only a few workshops in Australia who can provide the service.

For older vehicles (25 years old) the need for LHD conversion may vary from state to state, but other more minor compliance works may need to be carried out in order for the vehicle to be added to the RAV. Please check with your local government department on the licensing requirements for classic cars.

Registering Your Imported Car in Australia

Once your car arrives in Australia, you’ll need to register it for road use. This involves obtaining an equivalent of a road worthy certificate (varies state to state) and registering the vehicle in the appropriate State or Territory.

What We Can Do for You

When importing American cars to Australia, you might come across shipping inclusive offers. However, these offers often utilise the most economical shipping service, which may not always align with your needs or timeline. Furthermore, these offers may not account for potential delays or additional costs such as port storage in the U.S. while your car is awaiting a vessel.

At Custom Brokers, we believe in providing our clients with all the available shipping options to get your American car to Australia. We empower you to make the decision on what service best suits your needs and timeline. Our aim is to make the process of importing your American car to Australia as smooth and stress-free as possible.

Pre-Import Services

Before your car even leaves the U.S., we can arrange the collection of your vehicle from the seller or auction house and ensure it’s cleaned in compliance with Australian Quarantine guidelines. We’ll also handle the necessary paperwork to deregister the car in the U.S. and arrange for your Vehicle Import Approval.

Customs Clearance and Import Fees

We’ll handle both the export customs clearance in the U.S. and the import customs and quarantine clearance in Australia. We’ll also take care of paying the import taxes and quarantine fees.

Post-Shipping Services

Once your car arrives in Australia, we’ll transport it to a local partnered workshop in your state for vehicle compliance. We’ll carry out the necessary compliance checks and notify you of any required repairs. Once your car is compliant, we’ll provide you with a compliance certificate, vehicle import approval, and add a compliance sticker to your imported car.

Delivery to Your Door

Finally, we’ll transport your American dream car straight to your door. All of these services can be arranged by us, taking the stress and risk out of importing your car from the U.S. to Australia.

Custom Brokers is committed to providing professional, reliable, and personalised service. We understand the value and significance of your American car, and we’re here to ensure it arrives safely at your doorstep. Get in touch with us for an obligation-free quote on bringing your American car to Australia. Your dream car is just a ship’s journey away!


Some of the common challenges faced when importing American cars to Australia:
1. Quarantine issues: Due to quarantine issues arising from a stink bug infestation (BMSB), all vehicles imported from the USA to Australia and New Zealand must be treated at the port
2. Import approval: It is important to obtain an import approval before importing a car into Australia. If a road vehicle arrives in Australia without an import approval, the Australian Border Force (ABF) will not release it from customs control.
3. Customs delays: Customs procedures and inspections can be time-consuming, which can cause delays in the import process
4. Compliance Costs: Grey imports, which are vehicles imported outside of the manufacturer’s official distribution channels, could pose a safety risk due to design differences. The cost for local compliance can vary from a few thousand dollars upwards of tens of thousand if a LHD to RHD conversion is required.
5. Import approval requirements: The application of the import approval and the requirements to be able to have one granted can be complex and time-consuming.

Some of the potential costs involved in importing American cars to Australia include:
1. Asbestos Related Costs: The cost of sampling, testing and potential of parts/areas containing asbestos products is a very costly process. No one car is the same, so the costs to confirm Asbestos free status varies.
2. Shipping costs: These can vary depending on the make and model of the vehicle, the nearest departure port in the United States, and the final destination in Australia.
3. Insurance costs: These can vary depending on the value of the vehicle and the shipping method used. It’s important to ensure your vehicle is adequately insured for the journey.
4. Customs Duties and GST: These can be significant and vary depending on the value of the vehicle and the country of origin. It’s crucial to factor these into your budget.
5. Luxury Car Tax: A tax calculated at 33% of the amount exceeding the LCT Threshold.
6. Quarantine fees: These can be charged for the inspection and treatment of the vehicle to ensure it meets Australian quarantine standards. This is a key part of protecting Australia’s unique environment.
7. Storage fees: These can be charged if the vehicle is held in storage before or after customs clearance. This could be the case if there are delays in the process.
8. Compliance costs: These can be incurred if the vehicle does not meet Australian design and safety standards.

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