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Shipping a car to Australia: Costs and what you need to know

Shipping a car to Australia will require adequate planning and paperwork. Don’t wait until the last minute as a number of government agencies will be involved in the process. You’ll need to allow yourself enough time in the beginning to avoid unpleasant surprises in the end. These tips should help.

Budget generously for costs

Every situation is different. How much you pay will depend on the size of your car (larger cars/trucks cost more) when you travel (more volume may mean greater discounts) and how you ship. Expect to pay more if your car travels solo. Roll-on, roll-off, where cars are driven onto the ship, and container shipping offer better deals. Generally, you should expect average prices for standard cars to be in the $5,000 range. Expect to pay more if you don’t live in a departure city and have to drive or ship your car to one. Remember to factor in taxes, duties and fees.

Determine eligibility

Know if your car is eligible for entry into Australia, which has different standards than the U.S. Find eligibility information here

Assemble applications and documents

You will need to apply for Vehicle Import Approval (VIA) via the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities.  Your car cannot be cleared from customs without the VIA. Consequences can include involuntary storage, export or destruction, all at your expense. Apply here

You must first register with the Department. You may register and apply as an individual or via an agent. You may choose to work with a shipper who can handle this part of the process. The application fee is $50. Tourists, temporary residents and some military personnel may not need to apply for the VIA. Know before you go.

Be sure your car is clean

After you have been granted approval you will need to prepare your car for shipping. Steam clean it carefully to remove biohazards and avoid quarantine by the Department of Agriculture and Water Sources. Check air conditioning fluid to be sure it is in compliance and test for any other unallowable materials, such as asbestos.

File appropriate documents and pay fees

You will need to complete an import declaration and pay customs as well as Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Luxury Tax. Contact the Department of Home Affairs for more information. You will also need to arrange for an inspection by the Department of Agriculture.

Is your car compliant?

Remember that Australia has different standards than the United States. If your car is not compliant you will need to make modifications before you can legally drive. Once you get this task checked off the list register the car and apply for your plates. State Road and Transport Authorities can help.

There are a number of agencies and steps involved with shipping a car to Australia. Consider working with a reputable shipping company that has strong experience handling these critical tasks. Get recommendations, ask questions and read contracts fully. Research carefully and avoid any deals that seem too good to be true. In the end, you will spend far more money than you thought you were saving.

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