If you want to get your hands on a car that has never been sold new in Australia by the manufacturer, there is only one way to get it: you have to import it. We Australians missed out on a lot of cool cars because our market was too small for the manufacturer to take the time and expense to send us specialized vehicles.
However, enterprising souls realized in the late 1990s that it was possible to import cars into Australia in small batches. Japanese used cars were particularly attractive given the cheap price of many units sold at their local online auctions and Japan‘s proximity to Australia for shipping.
This opened the door for high performance latest generation Japanese cars like the Nissan Skyline GT-R, Toyota Supra, Mazda RX-7, Nissan 180SX, Mitsubishi 3000GT, Nissan 300ZX bi-turbo and Toyota Chaser. . All of these cars exhibited excellent build quality and reliability, a scintillating individuality and performance not found in ordinary Australian cars of the time, and the costs for the Japanese to keep these cars past a certain age meant that the value of the car was exceptionally cheap.
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As the import market for passionate Japanese cars increased in Australia, the number of other Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) models receiving Australian support also increased, as luxury vans and original small micro-cars from Japan were available at bargain prices. A large industry has developed around Japanese imports to Australia and Japanese cars for sale as, as an island nation, Australia already imports many products and has many companies capable of handling importing vehicles into Australia. .
However, that all changed in the early 2000s when the federal government imposed restrictions on the types of cars imported by Australia, making the process much more complex and expensive in order to protect the local new car market and ensure that high quality vehicles end up on Australian roads. It was believed that Japanese imports were too expensive for the new car trade, and Japanese cars for sale were imported inappropriately.
While vehicles built before January 1, 1989 were virtually a free import (yes, Hakosukas for all!), Things were very different for cars built after January 1, 1989. The Specialist and Enthusiast Vehicle Scheme (SEVS) has prevented Australians from buying vehicles already on sale in Australia, but allowed Australians to bring in certain models that were unique, or that were very different from models on sale in Australia.
This was controlled by listing approved cars on a specialist and enthusiast vehicle register, and these could be imported and legally registered in Australia once they had gone through a modification process at a registered auto workshop (or RAWS) which made them conform to Australian standards. for cars.
The actual process of importing vehicles from Japan is nominally straightforward; you buy a car in Japan (normally at a car auction in Japan through an agent or representative in Japan), the vehicle is deregistered and prepared for shipment (normally done by agent, and this includes the documents required to bring the vehicle to Australia), it is then delivered to the docks where it can be shipped (in several ways depending on budget and the port from which it is shipped).
Port workers in the destination port then unload the car and it goes through customs and quarantine checks (including cleaning), import duties and taxes are payable and once paid the car is free to be picked up and brought to the nominated RAWS Site where various modifications have been made to the car to bring it into line with Australian standards. Normally, this compliance work involves installing Australian seat belts, tires, regasing the air conditioning, and sometimes installing side intrusion bars on the doors.
The RAWS will affix a special compliance plate identifying that the car has been properly imported and made legal for registration for road use in Australia. This is important because there are different ways of importing cars into Australia, and some of them cannot be registered for road use, or are only legally allowed to be in Australia temporarily (called Carnet De Passage).
Low-volume imports aimed at enthusiasts, like Nissan’s legendary Skyline GT-R or Toyota’s JZA80-series Supra, were particularly popular at the time because they offered true supercar performance for a fraction of the price of later models. Porsche or Ferrari, while being smaller. Imports of turbocharged four cylinders like Nissan’s Silvia / 180SX, Subaru’s Legacy GT, and Mitsubishi’s RVR and Galant VR-4 have provided a cheap entry point to fast turbo sports cars for young enthusiasts.
For starters, the most important document you need is called a Vehicle Import Approval (VIA). Without this crucial piece of paper from the Australian Government’s Department of Infrastructure, you cannot legally import a road car. Once filed, these take approximately 20 business days to be approved, cost $ 50, and can be requested online.
You must apply for VIA after purchasing your car in Japan, but before booking a shipment, you should not purchase an unregistered import car that does not have a VIA as you may find that you cannot save it. These are fairly straightforward forms, which require scanned copies of your invoice for the purchase of the car, some car identification numbers (like the VIN), and your contact details.
The shipping and import charges will vary depending on the cost of the car and how you choose to ship your car (roll-on, roll-off or in a container, and port to port direct, or if the ship stops at ports en route). You can safely budget $ 5,000 to import a small car from Japan to Sydney and up to $ 10,000 for larger vehicles, with additional compliance costs, as these vary from car to another.
For vehicles imported under SEVS, you will also have fees to pay once you arrive at Australian docks, including a cleaning fee, plus customs duties and GST which are calculated on the purchase and shipping prices. together, before the vehicle can be collected free of charge. and taken for compliance work.
If this all sounds difficult, complicated, and intimidating, then the best option is to use a company like Iron Chef Imports or Import Monster, both of which have imported awesome JDM cars and parts to Australia for decades, including for the Japanese car. guys obsessed with Powerful car mods. Marty and MOOG have been regular importers of Japanese cars in Sydney for over 10 years.
Import laws were relaxed following the shutdown of the Australian auto industry in 2017. The previous date of January 1989 was removed for “conventional” imports and a 25-year rolling structure was put in place. , effective December 10, 2019. This means the car must be 25 years old in the year and month you ask VIA to import it, and this does not apply to commercial vehicles.
The compliance costs for these 25 year old imports are generally lower as they normally do not need to comply with current Australian design rules like a newer vehicle would under SEVS. However, with their age and reduced numbers, prices for “classic” Japanese cars 25 years and older are rising, especially as Americans are now freed from their own import restrictions and can import previously banned models. in the USA.