We have been waiting for the restrictions on importing vehicles into Australia to be amended for a long time, and finally these changes will come into effect on the 10th of December 2019.

Unfortunately, the hope that many of the restrictions will be lifted did not eventuate. The changes are minor and in the majority of circumstances cars will still need to have been owned and used for 12 months by migrants or returning Australians to qualify.

Summary of Key changes

There are categories for importing vehicles, either for road use or temporary basis as below.

Road-use vehicles – permitted for general road use and entered on the Register of Approved Vehicles (RAV)

  • older vehicles (rolling 25 year);
  • specialist and enthusiast vehicles (SEVs see below criteria);
  • road trailers (four trailers or less per year);
  • vehicles owned and used overseas for a minimum of 12 months by migrants or returning Australians (the current Personal Import Scheme); and
  • non-compliant plant and equipment where a standard vehicle cannot perform the function (such as drilling rigs, cranes, and city utility vehicles, such as fire tenders, garbage trucks and street sweepers).

Specialist and enthusiast vehicles (SEV) register and criteria

The Register of Specialist and Enthusiast Vehicles (SEV Register) lists vehicles that are of specialist or enthusiast interest, not available in the Australian market and/or require some concessions against the Australian Design Rules (ADRs).

Under the Registered Automotive Workshops scheme, vehicles on the SEV Register can be approved for importation if they have not been provided to the Australian market under a type approval and meet one of six criteria:

  • performance – high-performance vehicles with specifications (e.g. power to weight ratio) significantly superior to mainstream vehicles in Australia;
  • environmental – vehicles that offer environmental performance (e.g. emissions of carbon dioxide per km) significantly superior to mainstream vehicles in Australia;
  • mobility – vehicles manufactured with special features to assist people with a disability;
  • rarity – vehicles of which only small quantities have been produced;
  • left-hand-drive – vehicles originally manufactured as left-hand-drive, of which right-hand-drive versions are not available in any other country;
  • motorhomes and campervans – a vehicle must have been originally manufactured as a campervan or motorhome.

Temporary/non-road-use vehicles – not permitted for general road use, and not entered on the RAV.

The temporary / non-road-use vehicle stream will allow for the importation of:

  • vehicles for exhibition;
  • race and rally vehicles;
  • test and evaluation vehicles;
  • vehicles for the production of a film, video, television program or advertisement; and
  • heavily modified vehicles including custom vehicles and ‘hot rods’.

The use of these vehicles on a public road is at the discretion of the States & Territories, under conditions set by them.