How to Import Japanese Automobiles to Australia
There is only one way to get a car that was never sold new in Australia by the manufacturer, and that is to import it. If you want to get your hands on a car that was never sold new in Australia, you will have to import it. Our market in Australia was too small for the manufacturer to justify the time and expense of shipping specialty vehicles all the way to us, so we missed out on a lot of cool cars that were available to other countries.
In spite of this, enterprising people realized in the late 1990s that it was possible to import automobiles to Australia in relatively small batches. Used cars from Japan were especially appealing due to the low prices at which many of them were sold at their local online auctions and Japan's close proximity to Australia, which made shipping them more affordable.
This paved the way for high-performance late-model Japanese cars such as the Nissan Skyline GT-R, Toyota Supra, Mazda RX-7, Nissan 180SX, Mitsubishi 3000GT, twin-turbo Nissan 300ZX, and Toyota Chaser. Other notable examples include the Toyota Chaser. All of these cars had exceptional build quality and dependability, individuality, and scintillating performance that could not be found in regular Australian cars at the time. Furthermore, the costs for the Japanese to keep these cars after a certain age meant that the car value was incredibly low.
As the demand for Japanese enthusiast car imports increased in Australia, the number of other Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) models finding support in Australia also increased. These models included luxury people-mover vans and small quirky micro cars from Japan, both of which were available at reduced costs. Because Australia is an island nation and already imports a great deal of goods and has a large number of companies that are able to manage the process of importing vehicles into Australia, a sizable industry has developed in Australia around Japanese imports and the sale of Japanese automobiles.
However, all of this changed in the early 2000s when the federal government imposed restrictions on the types of cars Australia is allowed to import. These restrictions made the process significantly more complicated and expensive in order to protect the domestic new-car market and guarantee that high-quality vehicles are driven on Australian roads. It was believed that Japanese imports were causing the new car industry to lose an excessive amount of money, and it was rumored that Japanese cars that were for sale had been improperly imported.
While it was practically possible to import any vehicle that was built before January 1, 1989 (yay, more Hakosukas for everyone! ), the rules changed on January 1, 1989. Things were quite different for automobiles that were manufactured after January 1, 1989. The Specialist and Enthusiast Vehicle Scheme (SEVS) prohibited Australians from purchasing vehicles that were already for sale in their country. However, the SEVS permitted Australians to import certain models that were either entirely unique or vastly different from the models that were for sale in their country.
This was enforced through the listing of approved vehicles on a Register of Specialist and Enthusiast Vehicles. Vehicles that were included on this register were eligible for legal importation and registration in Australia after undergoing a modification process at a Registered Automotive Workshop (or RAWS) that brought them into conformity with the regulations governing automobiles in Australia.
Purchasing a car in Japan (typically at a Japan car auction through an agent or representative in Japan), having the vehicle de-registered and prepared for shipping (typically done by the agent), and finally bringing the vehicle into the country are the three steps that make up the actual process of importing vehicles from Japan. and this includes any paperwork that is required to bring the vehicle to Australia), it is then delivered to the docks where it can be shipped (in a number of different ways depending on the budget and which port it is shipping from), and once it has been shipped, it is brought to Australia.
The car is then unloaded by workers at the destination port, and it is inspected by customs as well as the quarantine department (including being cleaned). Once import duties and taxes have been paid, the vehicle can then be taken to the designated RAWS site, where it will undergo a series of modifications designed to bring it into compliance with Australian regulations. After these modifications have been completed, the vehicle can then be collected. The majority of the time, this compliance work entails installing seat belts, tyres, and re-gassing the air conditioning system. In some cases, it also includes installing side-intrusion bars on the doors.
Continue reading to learn why the new import rules will not result in cheaper automobiles in Australia.
RAWS will affix a special compliance plate to the vehicle, which will identify that it has been imported in the correct manner and made legal so that it can be registered for use on Australian roads. This is significant because there are many different methods for importing automobiles into Australia, and a few of those automobiles either cannot be registered for use on public roads or are only legally permitted to be in Australia temporarily (using a document known as a Carnet De Passage).
Smaller turbocharged four-cylinder imports like Nissan's Silvia/180SX and Toyota's JZA80-series Supra were particularly popular back in the day because they offered genuine supercar performance for a fraction of the price of the most recent Porsche or Ferrari. Low-volume enthusiast-oriented imports such as Nissan's legendary Skyline GT-R and Toyota's JZA80-series Supra were also particularly popular. Young drivers looking for an affordable but quick and powerful turbo sports car had the option of purchasing a Subaru Legacy GT, a Mitsubishi RVR, or a Mitsubishi Galant VR-4.
To begin, you need something that's called a Vehicle Import Approval (VIA), and it's the single most important piece of paper you'll need. You are unable to legally import a road-worthy vehicle into Australia if you do not have this essential piece of paper from the Department of Infrastructure of the Australian government. After they have been submitted, the approval process for these takes approximately twenty business days, the fee is fifty dollars, and applications can be made online.
You have to submit an application for a VIA after you buy a car in Japan, but before you book any shipping, and you shouldn't buy an unregistered import vehicle that doesn't have a VIA because you might discover that you can't register it in your home country. They are not overly complicated forms; however, you will need scanned copies of the receipts for the purchase of the vehicle, some identifying numbers from the vehicle (such as the VIN), and your personal information.
The cost of shipping and importing a vehicle will vary depending on the price of the vehicle itself as well as the method that you select for transporting the vehicle (roll-on, roll-off, or in a container; direct port-to-port, or with stops at various ports along the way). If you want to import a small car from Japan to Sydney, you should budget for $5,000, while larger vehicles could cost up to $10,000. On top of that, you'll have to pay compliance costs, which vary from car to car.
In the case of vehicles imported under SEVS, you will be required to pay additional fees once the vehicle reaches Australian docks. These fees include a cleaning fee, as well as duties and GST, which are computed based on the total cost of the vehicle's purchase and shipping, and they must be paid in full before the vehicle can be collected and used for compliance purposes.
Continue reading to learn why buying grey import cars is a bad idea.
Using a company like Iron Chef Imports or Import Monster, both of whom have been bringing awesome JDM cars and parts into Australia for decades, is the best option to use if all of this sounds confronting, convoluted, and daunting. These companies have done so for a variety of customers, including the Japanese car-obsessed guys from Mighty Car Mods. Over the past ten years, Marty and MOOG have been Sydney's go-to importers for Japanese automobiles. Most recently, they brought a rare Nissan March Super-Turbo into the country in accordance with newly amended "classic car" import laws.
In the wake of the shutdown of the domestic automotive industry in Australia in 2017, import regulations were loosened. A rolling 25-year structure was put in place, and it will go into effect on December 10, 2019, for "classic" imports. The prior date of January 1989 was eliminated from consideration. This regulation does not apply to commercial vehicles and stipulates that the vehicle's age must be at least 25 years old in the year and month in which the VIA application is submitted.
These imports that are 25 years old typically have lower compliance costs because they are not normally required to comply with the current Australian Design Rules in the same way that a newer vehicle would be required to do so under SEVS. However, as a result of their increasing age and decreasing availability, prices for "classic" Japanese automobiles that are 25 years old or older are on the rise. This is particularly true in light of the fact that Americans are no longer subject to their country's own import restrictions and can now bring previously banned models into the United States.
You can learn more about the procedures and requirements imposed by the government for importing automobiles by clicking here. You can get an overview of the SEVS program as a whole by clicking here, and you can learn more about RAWS by clicking on this link here.
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