Vehicle Import Rules Set To Change

January 15th, 2019

Look back 30 years through the eyes of anyone wanting to privately import a car to Australia and you will find a confusion of rules, requirements and prohibitions existing at Federal and State levels.

At one stage there were seemingly no rules at all. The Northern Territory and ACT both welcomed cars of foreign manufacture when accompanied by people coming to work in Australia for limited periods of time. These were usually staff of foreign embassies or military personnel, resulting in Canberra becoming a showcase for vehicles from all parts of the world.

Likewise, Alice Springs became the place to go for ‘must sell today, flying back to the States tomorrow’ bargains being left behind by departing Americans. The catch was, in order to qualify for registration in other parts of Australia, these left-hand drive models had to undergo expensive steering conversions.

During the 1980s and early 1990s, dealers and private owners could import pretty much whatever cars they wanted and the ‘grey’ market emerged. Rules remained inconsistent though and it was possible prior to the introduction in 2002 of the Registered Automotive Workshop Scheme (RAWS) to comply a car in one Australian state only to have it refused registration in another.

Recent changes to the Road Vehicle Standards Act 2018 make several significant changes and a raft of other minor amendments to the ways in which vehicles are brought into Australia and the range of brands and models that will soon be allowed.

Until now, personal imports of brand new vehicles were very difficult. However, from late 2019 ‘Parallel Importing’ will permit individuals to source from overseas a model which meets the Act’s requirements and have not been added to a Register of Approved Vehicles an overseas manufacturer or the local franchise holder for that brand.

So while Ford Australia may be importing mainstream Mustangs and list various versions on the RAV, a rarer Cobra-Jet version that Ford won’t be bringing to this country will be available to individuals or independent commercial importers.

The criteria that a vehicle must meet to qualify as a candidate for ‘Concessional Pathway’ approval will include one or more of the following:

  • High-performance vehicles significantly superior to mainstream vehicles in Australia;
  • Vehicles originally manufactured as left-hand-drive without right-hand drive counterparts;
  • Vehicles of which only small quantities have been produced;
  • Vehicles that offer environmental performance significantly superior to mainstream vehicles in Australia

Age is another factor that will affect the types of vehicle being imported and the money an owner might need to outlay.

Until now, imported vehicles could avoid full compliance with ADRs only if they were built before 1989 or were to be used under very restricted conditions such as for motor-sporting events.

The revised Road Vehicle Standards Act will apply a ‘Rolling 25 Year’ rule which will allow more recent models greater freedom of entry to Australia and adjust eligibility at the end of each 12 monthly period. From late 2019 when the new regulations become fully effective, North American 1995 models will qualify for full registration without needing to be RHD converted.

Enthusiast Insurance and its forebears have for over 20 years provided cover for unusual and low volume imported models. Our Drive Less….Pay Less cover ensures that even a late-model, quite exotic performance car that travels minimal distance can be insured for a very reasonable annual premium, as can any vehicle coming in under the new ’25 Year’ rule. Take a trip to www.enthusiast.com.au for full details.

Be aware when looking overseas for a vehicle that there is another programme being rigorously enforced.

Due to concerns about asbestos in components such as brake pads, clutch linings, engine gaskets, soundproofing materials and insulation, Border Force may require a vehicle to be dismantled and the owner prove that it is asbestos-free before being allowed entry to Australia.

Owners are finding the most effective way to avoid huge expense is by having the vehicle inspected before being shipped from the source country. Some vehicle transport contractors will arrange this service but in other cases the owner needs to make a suitable arrangement.

In the USA there are numerous contractors who will undertake inspections and some who also arrange to replace affected components before issuing a NATA (National Association Of Testing Authorities) Certificate.

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