Importing and licensing a car from overseas

Below is a brief guide to importing single vehicles by individuals for private use and conditions of licensing vehicles made before 1989 and left-hand drive vehicles in WA.

If you want to import a new vehicle commercially for purposes of sale, please visit the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications website to find an option best suited for your business needs.

  Import approvals

Vehicles can be imported into Western Australia for either private or commercial purposes.

Vehicle import approvals are issued by the Australian Federal Government, namely Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications (DITRC), where a vehicle satisfies requirements set out in the Road Vehicles Standards Act 2018 (RVSA), introduced on 1 July 2021.

To privately import a vehicle an online application must be made through DITRC.

Once approved the vehicle is entered on the Register of Approved Vehicles (RAV), a Commonwealth online database of vehicles suitable for a use on public roads in Australia.

There are two approval pathways for a vehicle to be loaded onto RAV – Vehicle type approval and Concessional type approval, each one tailored to specific user needs and planned vehicle volume production.

Where a personal vehicle will be imported, a person can only apply for a Concessional RAV type approval that considers a vehicle on case-by-case basis, allowing concessions against specific Australian Design Rules applicable to most vehicles.

Vehicles can also be imported commercially in greater volumes with specific import options that enable this, more information can be obtained from the DITRC website.

If your import application was submitted before 1 July 2021 under Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989 and decided upon after that date, you may still qualify to import a vehicle under the RVSA transitional arrangements.

Import approvals cannot be given to vehicles that have already arrived in Australia. Vehicles imported without approval must be re-exported, or destroyed, or the owner may face substantial fines.

Vehicles being imported to the Australian market must meet applicable national standards, unless the Administrator of Vehicle Standards issues an exemption.

Special provisions apply to vehicles temporarily imported to Australia.

External Link Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications: RVSA transitional arrangements
External Link Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications: Importing a road vehicle into Australia

  Export approvals

The process to export a vehicle from Australia will depend on:

  • Whether the vehicle is being exported permanently or temporarily,
  • If the vehicle is being exported for your own private use or to sell and,
  • What country you wish to export to.

If you want to take your vehicle to use while on a holiday or while working overseas, you must contact the Australian Automobile Association (AAA). They can advise if you require a Carnet de Passages en Douane (CPD) document which they issue on behalf of the Australian Government (Department of Home Affairs).  This document is used to identify your private vehicle and allows visitors to a country to import their vehicles for a limited period.

If exporting your vehicle permanently for private use or to sell and you must return the vehicle's number plates to your nearest DVS centre, regional DoT office or agent.  You will need to comply with the requirements of the destination country, and you should contact the relevant department in that country directly.

External Link Australian Automobile Association

Importing a personal vehicle from overseas

Federal and State laws allow residents of Western Australia to import a vehicle that has been owned and used by the resident for a continuous period of 12 months overseas.

Such arrangement was formerly known as a 'Personal Import' however since the introduction of Road Vehicle Standards Act 2018 (RVSA), it is now commonly referred to as ‘Personal Effects’.

For a personal vehicle to be lawfully licenced in WA an applicant needs to meet conditions of an import approval issued under a ‘Concessional RAV entry pathway’, a vehicle to meet set Australian Design Rules (ADR) requirements and applicable WA registration requirements.

Visitors, temporary residents and companies cannot import a vehicle as a personal import.

It is a Federal offence to import a road vehicle without obtaining an import approval.

Requirement for a vehicle to meet Australian Design Rules

New or used vehicles being imported, sold or presented to the Australian market for the first time must meet national standards, unless the Commonwealth Administrator of Vehicle Standards issues an exemption.

The ADRs that apply vary depending to the date of manufacture and category of the vehicle.

The Road Traffic (Vehicles) Regulations 2014 (WA) provides a partial exemption from most of the ADR requirements for vehicles that have been personally imported.

Where applicable to a vehicle of the same type, a personally imported vehicle must be fitted with:

  • Seat belts that meet an Australian Standard or British Standard.
  • Seat belt anchorages that meet the number and location requirements of ADR 5 (second or third edition).
  • Child restraint anchorages that meet the number, location, accessibility, thread size and form requirements of ADR 34 (second edition), or ADR 5 or 34 (third edition).
  • Head restraints that meet the number, location and size requirements of ADR 22 (second or third edition).

In addition to ADRs, a personal vehicle might need to meet additional safety standards prescribed in WA and depending on a vehicle age converted to a right-hand drive before considered for a vehicle licence by the State licencing authority.

Contact us to ensure your personal vehicle is fully compliant prior to arranging for a vehicle importation.

External Link Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications: Australian Design Rules
External Link Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications: Vehicle Standards Bulletins (VSB)
Opens in a new window Department of Justice: Road Traffic (Vehicles) Regulations 2014

  Importing vehicles manufactured before 1989

In order to license an imported vehicle manufactured prior to 1989 in Western Australia, the following conditions must be met:

  • The vehicle has a valid Concessional RAV entry approval and satisfies the requirements or conditions specified.
  • The imported vehicle complies with relevant Australian Design Rules (ADRs) for the vehicle category and year of manufacture and applicable State requirements (refer to documents below).
  • Proof of ownership must be supplied.

In some cases, where it is not feasible to demonstrate compliance with ADRs, it may be acceptable to demonstrate compliance with the intent of the ADRs.

The documents below provide more information on importing pre-1989 vehicles, including:

  • Vehicle compliance.
  • Vehicle importer requirements.
  • Audits.
  • Vehicle dimensions.
  • State requirements for registering imported vehicles.

  Licensing left-hand drive vehicles

Australian residents: eligibility

If you are a resident of Australia and you import a left hand drive vehicle manufactured up to 15 years ago, you may need to convert the vehicle to right hand drive before it can be licensed.

Refer to modify or construct a vehicle for information on licensing a left hand drive vehicle.

If your left hand drive vehicle is less than 4,500 kg, and was manufactured more than 15 years ago, it may be possible to license it without the need for a right hand drive conversion. It must however be intended for personal use only.

Immigrants: eligibility

An immigrant who imports a left hand drive vehicle may be able to conditionally license the vehicle for a period not exceeding 12 months. This applies only if the vehicle is imported by the immigrant as personal property.

The left hand drive vehicle may need to be converted to right hand drive before the conditional vehicle licence will be renewed, depending on the age of the vehicle.

We may also approve the issue of a vehicle licence to returning nationals provided they have worked overseas for a considerable period of time (more than 12 months). Written applications must be made to Driver and Vehicle Services for consideration.

In all cases you will need a temporary movement permit to move your unlicensed vehicle on Western Australian roads to a place of repair or examination location.

Vehicles built for use in Australia must comply with standards known as the Australian Design Rules (ADRs). The ADRs that apply vary according to the date of manufacture and the category of the vehicle in question. The Road Traffic (Vehicles) Regulations 2014 provides a partial exemption from most of the ADR requirements for vehicles that have been personally imported. Exemptions apply for certain ADR related items.

More detailed information on licensing left hand drive vehicles can be found in the bulletin IB106D below.

You should also refer to the Department of Infrastructure,Transport, Regional Development and Communications' Vehicle Standards bulletin, Steering conversions for left hand drive vehicles (VSB4). It describes various methods of steering conversion and the minimum standards of workmanship expected

Please go to Modify a vehicle for information on licensing a left hand drive vehicle.

Conversion from left-hand to right-hand drive

Left-hand drive vehicles may need to be converted to right-hand drive before a conditional vehicle licence will be renewed, depending on the age of the vehicle.

Vehicles manufactured up to 15 years ago, may need to be converted to right-hand drive before they can be licensed.

If your left hand drive vehicle is less than 4,500 kg, and was manufactured more than 15 years ago, it may be possible to license it without the need for a right hand drive conversion. It must be intended for personal use only.

For more information, please read the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications' vehicle standards bulletin 'Steering Conversions for Left Hand Drive Vehicles' (VSB4), which describes various methods of steering conversion and the minimum standards of workmanship expected.

External Link Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications: Vehicle Standards Bulletins (VSB)
Opens in a new window Department of Justice: Road Traffic (Vehicles) Regulations 2014
Page last updated: Mon Feb 7 2022 9:46:09 AM