Importing your own vehicle:

 

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Disclaimer: The below information should be used as a guide only. It comes from our own experience of importing vehicles into Australia from the USA since 1989 by the many hundreds and hundreds of vehicles. As always, we invite you to do your own research. This should be used as a reference guide only. We do not take any responsibility for using this information, as you should do your own research as well.  

 

If you want to buy and import your own American vehicle, such as a current Alloy Body Ford F150, Dodge Ram 2500/3500 or Dodge Viper and have our company just do the Right Hand Drive (RHD) conversion and ADR Compliance then this is the section you need to read. This is written to inform our customers that have never purchased a late model (post 1989 Year Model or Brand New) vehicle from the USA before, as well those that may have done that themselves in the past, well you may learn some things here, as laws and regulations both in Australia and the USA have changed in recent times, they are always changing small things which can affect you greatly if you do not import vehicles constantly as we do, so read on. It could save you some or a lot of grief, and money too. 

 

Brief Summary of main points to consider or know: 

*Read this brief Summary first. Once you have read this Summary, and you are still going ahead with importing your own vehicle, then read the very detailed information that is after this Brief Summary, which goes right to the bottom of this page:  

 

*For brand new vehicle buyers, Dealers won’t generally sell to you (who is a foreigner to them) a vehicle for export (see detailed info below about this); 

*For used vehicle buyers: 

        -Don’t buy from a private sale, especially EBay private sales 

        -Try to deal with a licenced USA dealer;  

*Make sure that once you have purchased the vehicle, that you then proceed to contact us about the conversion/compliance agreement as you will need to have that in place to secure your Australian Government issued Vehicle Import Approval, before it leaves the USA; 

*If you don’t have a vehicle loading and shipping company lined up on the USA West coast, we can assist once you are a customer of ours

*For trucking of your vehicle, you can either: 

-Find a reputable, larger trucking company yourself on the internet or the dealer you bought if from can usually assist with a recommended company or: 

        -Have the dealer organise it for you, or; 

-Have your vehicle loader in L.A. (Los Angeles) organise having it trucked from interstate to their premises  

*Remember to have the vehicle loader de-gas the vehicle AC (air conditioning system) before it is loaded and have documentation to say that it has been done (that’s needed when it lands in Australia); 

*If it is a used vehicle, you will need new, factory standard size tyres for it, before it leaves preferably; 

*You pay the vehicle loaders for their job plus pay them for the sea freight to Sydney; 

*A Ford F150, Dodge Viper, Dodge RAM Crewcab/shortbed or Toyota Tundra will fit into a 20 foot container, all other Ram’s will need a 40 foot container (Crewcab longbed or Megacab’s);  

*You will need a customs broker here in Australia, if you don’t have one lined up who does these vehicles often, then once again we can help our customers once they become a customer of ours with that. 

 

Costing: 

*We get asked all the time about what it costs to do it yourself, so: 

-Cost of trucking from the purchase point (where you buy your vehicle from) to L.A. (West Coast USA) can be anywhere from a little up to $1500 if out in Texas and beyond. Sometimes a dealer will throw this cost into the deal if it is close to Los Angeles. 

-Sea freight costs are right just under US$3,000 for a 20 foot container and around $350 more for a 40 foot container (these can vary) 

-Loading/unloading/port charges both ends, drayage and many other charges relating to getting your vehicle from L.A. to Sydney add another approximately $2,400 to $2,900 to the cost of the sea freight (20 foot/40 foot containers) 

        -Tilt tray cost is around $250 + GST (approximately) from inner Sydney to our premises 

-Add our RHD Conversion/ADR Compliance cost

-The above is subject to time of year and shippers and other rates varying from time to time. 

 

Below is very detailed information (once you’ve read the Summary above), if you are still wishing to import your own vehicle:  

DO YOURSELF A FAVOUR AND READ THE BELOW INFO IF YOU ARE GOING AHEAD WITH BUYING and IMPORTING YOUR OWN 

 

We mentioned at the top of this page the ever changing Australian and USA Government laws and Regulations, and the requirements they set on Importers (to Australia) and Exporters (from the USA). There are also other things that can trip you up if you are not doing this constantly.  

 

BUYING a NEW vehicle from the USA: 

If you want to buy a new vehicle, you may find out about the policy Dodge, Chevrolet (and Ford dealers for that matter) have about selling new vehicles that will be exported out of their country. What they have is a company policy in place with their dealer’s, since the late 1990's, as we found out ourselves firsthand when buying new vehicles back in the mid 1990’s. They have a ‘no export’ policy that the USA dealers must adhere to when it comes to new vehicles that will be exported from the country, even exporting across its borders with Canada or Mexico (or vice-a-versa). If the dealers do sell a new, never been registered before (in the USA they call a registered vehicle as being ‘titled’) vehicle for export, they can and usually are fined and have other nasty things happen to them. We know of fines some dealers have had for selling brand new vehicles which went overseas (exported) which can be quite substantial ($40K). So with that in mind, USA dealers are very wary of foreigners who are looking to purchase brand new vehicles from their dealership.  

 

If you do want a new vehicle, you can get them to title (register) it and it is then usually considered by them to be used, so the no-export policy should not apply. Not all dealers will do this however for foreign nationals such as yourself, and these dealers are usually the ones that have been fined heftily in the past and want nothing to do with selling new vehicles, with or without a title, to foreigners. The next thing with new vehicles in the USA is that in recent years the USA Federal Government has put in place an identification policy, which is now Federal law in the United States, that the dealers must by law adhere to. Basically it says they must sight and obtain photo identification from the new vehicle buyer to determine that the person is a legal American, as in legally living in the USA or even better an American citizen. So that pretty much crosses off most Australian’s from going over and buying brand new vehicles themselves, unless a dealer ignores that, which is very rare, or, if you have a trusted friend living over there legally or a business associate over there, as some customers have used that contact to purchase their new vehicles, and had them title it in the USA for them to get around the above issues. Be aware though, that the above methods generally still attract the State tax. There are only about four USA States that do not charge State tax, the rest do, and vary from around 6% to over 10%. Generally you will pay on average around the 8% to 10% or more in State tax in the USA. So if you are buying a brand new vehicle and even though its being titled, but is the first time it is sold in the USA, and let’s say for example it is US$60,000, then you can expect to pay around US$5,000 to US$6,000 on top of that in State tax, depending on what State it is.  

 

 

BUYING a USED Dodge RAM: 

There’s not any exclusion policy in place however for used vehicles with the USA dealers and their head office, so buying a used vehicle is usually no problem (98% of the time).  

 

Be aware about the State tax. There are only about four USA States that do not charge State tax, the rest do, and can vary from around 6% to over 10%. Generally you will pay on average around the 8% to 10% or more in State tax in the USA. So if you are buying a brand new vehicle and even though its being titled to make it a used one, but is the first time it is sold in the USA, and let’s say for example it is US$50,000, then you can expect to pay around US$4,00 to US$5,000 on top of that in State tax, depending on what State it is.  

 

With used vehicles, you generally do not get charged that in 99% of the cases. Some dealers might try to do it though still. Avoid those if you want to save a substantial and unnecessary amount of your money. You also do not have to be an American when buying used vehicles, you can buy from a dealer directly yourself, and some of our customers have done so even over the phone from Australia many times. They (the USA dealer) will still need you to sign the original purchase documents however, which they send to you for that and have you send them back to them, before they release the vehicle to you (think Fed-Ex or similar). Some dealers may also assist you with interstate trucking to Los Angeles.  

   

Avoid buying from private people who own the vehicles for sale in the USA unless you can trust them, and/or are standing in front of them and doing the deal right there! Dealers, just like here, must guarantee the title, in other words full ownership. With private sellers, they may tell you they have the title (which you must have that for export from the USA, the original, and signed by them, otherwise US Customs will not release the vehicle for export, ever), but sometimes they don’t have the title at all, it could be a stolen vehicle, a damaged and repaired vehicle, and more likely it could still have monies owing on it by the seller to a bank or finance institution. That means you don’t get to export it at all. US Customs checks the vehicle’s paperwork and must sight the original title that you (or your Los Angeles container loader will) give them before they allow it to be approved for export from the USA. You really don’t want to hear the first hand stories of people we‘ve met over the years that have gone down that exact path, only to end up with their vehicles sitting over in the USA for months whilst they are trying to sort it all out. A few even never got to be exported ever.     

 

Using a USA based BUYER / BROKER when buying a vehicle in the USA: 

If you are using a USA buyer (family, friend, business associate or professional export broker) as the contact to buy your vehicle for you, then make sure before you contact them that you know exactly what you want, as in specifications, year model, colour, trim level, etc, and set a budget for it with them. There are various people over there that will be the middle man (export brokers) for you and do all of the buying, trucking, etc, for you, but you need to be organised on your end first with the available funds ready to go, and know exactly what you want to buy (as said, in colour, body style, trim level, year model etc) as wasting their time will not do you any favours with them otherwise. Brokers will charge a fee for this of course, however it saves you time, hassle, pitfalls and of course you don’t need to go over yourself which can save a bundle of money on costs for a trip over to the USA. Trusting someone you found on the internet though, unless they come recommended by a trusted source, is a risk you take. You are better off buying the used vehicle direct from a reputable dealer, preferably a larger dealer by looking on the internet for your vehicle and then talking to the dealer about buying it for export to Australia.  

 

Pricing and the Internet search: 

Let’s discuss pricing and the internet. So you’ve looked on the internet, and know that there are various sites for finding American vehicles, including EBay of course, but one of the best ones is Autotrader (www.autotrader.com). We get a lot of customers saying that they want to buy their own vehicle, and they have seen the great prices offered on various internet sites. What they don’t realise, until they go to actually do it, is that because the dealer’s in the USA are fiercely competing against one another with basically the same product, some advertise their new vehicles very cheaply on the internet. However, what you need to know is this: a lot of them, nearly all, list the particular price including all qualifying rebates and factory incentives possible, bring the advertised price down, and don’t advertise other fees and charges, such as dealer documentation, advertising cost, dealer prep, dealer delivery cost (yes, they are already sitting in their yard!) and the like, which if they did show these fees and charges up front, it would raise the advertised price way up, above their competitions prices. Even if you speak with the sales person selling one of these new vehicles, he or she may not want to tell you all of this (the extra charges and the fact you may not be eligible for some or all of the qualifying rebates) until you need to send funds over to pay for it, and if he is only a lower level sales person, he or she may not even know about them at all anyway. In bigger dealerships, these lower level sales people don’t handle the costing and associated fees and rebates, they just do the selling, they will hand you off to either their sales manager or someone in their finance department once you are at the stage of wanting to purchase and pay for a particular new vehicle. So let’s say for example, a particular vehicle is advertised for US$55,000 on the internet, well they may not advertise the additional costs as described above, then they may finally tell you that the low price is with all of the particular factory qualifying rebates and incentives available that month (they change month to month), so if you qualify for them, as you may be a returned USA veteran soldier, and a USA student, and something else too, you’ll get all the incentives/rebates, if not the price is higher than the example of $55,000, it could be $1,000, $2,000, and most times much more, plus then add the dealer documentation, advertising cost, dealer prep, dealer delivery cost and anything else they can think of to ‘pad up’ the final cost to you that’s not in the original advertised price. It’s not as straight forward as you might think. You need to be wary and be informed.          

 

Once you have purchased your American vehicle: 

OK, at this point let’s assume you have successfully purchased your American vehicle (new or used) and hopefully have had no hiccups along the way. You now need to get it to the West Coast port of Los Angeles for shipment to Sydney.  

 

Getting your vehicle from the dealer to the West Coast port for shipping: 

So if you are actually going over to the USA yourself to do this, you may have thought about driving it around and taking it to the docks yourself.  

OK, have you thought about registration in your name and full insurance? If you get involved in an accident over there, in a country that leads the world in litigation, then you better have it registered and insured in your name. Secondly, Law Enforcement agencies in the USA are very efficient, and if your pulled over by them, the first thing they will say to you is ‘proof of insurance and registration please’. If you don’t have either, then this most likely will happen to you: The vehicle is taken on the spot from you and impounded, and you get arrested. Now with insurance companies in the USA, most of them do not provide insurance to visiting foreign nationals (that’s you). The one’s that do provide insurance to visiting foreigners (that’s you) you need to find, so try looking on the internet. 

 

 

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The other way of getting your vehicle to a shipping port (Los Angeles/Long Beach is the closest to Australia and has ships sailing weekly to Sydney) is to have it trucked across the States. As said previously, the first place to enquire is the dealer you bought it from. If they can’t or won’t help you then check the internet or whomever you are using to load it into a container and ship it to Australia, most will help you with this. If using a USA based export broker, then they will organise this for you.

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Shipping from the West Coast USA port to Sydney:

You will need to find a reputable and cost effective company to load your vehicle into a container and ship it for you to Sydney. Here are some points you need to know about for the outbound loading/shipping:

*The vehicle loader should be handling all of the documentation processing with US Customs and Border Protection on your behalf. See below for more information on vehicle loading/shipping from the USA. 

 

*You also need to have the air conditioner in your vehicle de-gassed of all refrigerant before it leaves, and keep the documentation from that exercise to bring back with you as the Australian Federal Government requires that all vehicles imported into Australia have that done, and you need to provide proof of that to them, or risk having your vehicle held up here for a length of time, whilst this is happening you’ll be charged a bond storage fee that can be extremely expensive (we’ve heard of some being in the thousands of dollars) and also risk being fined by the Federal Government here for not getting it done also. The vehicle loader (who loads it into the container) should be able to do that for you and supply you the documentation once done. The fee is generally around the US$80 to US$130 on average. 

 

* Which method of shipping should you use, direct or trans-shipped or roll-on/roll-off? We do not recommend shipping by the ‘trans-shipping’ method, meaning that the ship goes to Asia first from the USA, drops the container at the docks somewhere in Asia (it varies), then a different ship comes along that is bound for the East coast of Australia and picks it up at a later date to bring it to Sydney. The shipping companies will tell you it’s only between nine and fifteen days longer that way than a direct service from the West Coast USA direct to Sydney, which direct shipping is usually three weeks on the water by the way, but we’ve seen trans-shipped containers take up to three months to get here, because if the ships are full going from Asia to Sydney, your container will sit there on a dock somewhere in Asia and you have no recourse with the shipping line if it does happen that way.   

    

*Also, we do not recommend shipping the ‘roll on-roll off’ method (or ‘Ro-Ro’), as the vehicle does not go into a container for security and protection, it just gets driven into the hull of a ship with hundreds of other vehicles, and is subject to the salt air, corrosion from the elements and you also have security concerns as you can’t (you are not allowed and certainly would not) leave anything in the vehicle of value and also it gets driven by the dock workers in both countries at the port. Once again, we’ve heard the horror stories, and actually witnessed a vehicle being lifted up by a large forklift because the battery went dead and the dock workers couldn’t start it!  

 

*With regards to getting the vehicle loaded, once you are a customer of ours with the RHD conversion and ADR compliance agreement in place, if you do not have a company in Los Angeles to load and ship your vehicle and do the paperwork on the USA end regarding the shipping and US Customs for you, then we will supply you with all the information of whom we use to do that for you, but we only do that once you are a customer of ours. That is all part of our customer service. That way you are paying the vehicle loader for the export documentation to be processed, the loading by them, vehicle degassing cost and documentation, drayage to the port (trucking the container to and from the port to the Los Angeles based container loaders), USA/Los Angeles port charges, USA customs charges, and other charges, to ship it, including the sea freight charges. A 20 foot container, just for sea freight, is generally around US$3,500 or just under. This can change from time to time. A 40 foot container is around US$1,000 more. An F150 or RAM Crewcab/short bed will fit into a 20 foot container if they take the bumpers and grille off (the loading company will do this for you), all other RAM trucks won’t fit into a 20 footer and will need a 40 foot container to fit into. The vehicle loading company will want your details, plus the original of the vehicle Title (which you get back from them once its sailed). Also, be careful what else you may want to send with it, as it all has to be on the containers manifest, and declared to Australian Customs here. Any ‘special’ items you may need licence’s for, which if you are in any doubt, then speak with Australian Customs before the container is loaded. All vehicle’s, including motorbikes, race cars, etc, require a Vehicle Import Approval from the Australian Government just like your vehicle does, in order to clear Australian Customs upon arrival here. Without that Vehicle Import Approval, your vehicle and any other vehicle/s in the container will go into Customs Bond here, you can also be fined up to $12,000 by the Australian Government as well (although that’s rare), but bond charges at the port here can be very expensive, they can be around $250 per day or more, at 7 days per week, and they will charge you for that.          

 

Documentation required for entry into Australia: 

Next, before your vehicle leaves the USA (that’s important), you need to have the Vehicle Import Approval (VIA) in hand. This is issued by the Australian Federal Government. That’s where we first come in to it. You need to contact us before it ships from the USA to do the RHD conversion and ADR compliance agreement that is needed to be signed (but we cannot do that RHD conversion and ADR compliance agreement until after you have purchased it of course as we need the VIN of the vehicle). Usually at that point in time once having purchased and paid for the vehicle, that then is the time to contact us to make arrangements with us for the Right Hand Drive conversion and ADR Compliancing and have that agreement in place with us. Once we have a contract to do that with you in place (which is required under our ISO 9001:2008 accreditation and which is required by the Federal Government here) then we obtain the necessary documents and information from you regarding yourself and the vehicle, which include: 

-Your full name and/or business name (if using your business to be able to claim back GST), address, and phone numbers to do the agreement and first invoice;  

-the seventeen (17) digit VIN (Vehicle Identification Number);  

-a copy of the title;  

-a copy of the purchase document; 

-any other relevant information from you (we may need the month and year of build of the vehicle, which is located on the left hand front door within the Vehicle Identification label, however usually once we have the VIN we can decode it as we have access to the American system which provides us with that information about your vehicle straight from the VIN). 

-we eventually will need (just a copy of) the ‘Bill of Lading’ that you will receive from the shipping company or USA container loaders once it is on the water and the ownership title. 

  

Once contracted by you, as said above we then can apply for the Vehicle Import Approval to the Australian Federal Government. You cannot do this yourself, unless it is a pre-1989 vehicle, which is not the case here. The turn-around time is usually within a couple of weeks, even though their service charter is 28 days, but if they ask for certain paperwork and we cannot get that from you for any reason quickly, then it could take longer, hence that is why this part needs to be completed before the vehicle leaves the USA. However, in nearly all cases we get them back from the Government in two weeks or less, generally speaking.  

 

Be wary of what some other companies in Australia offer: 

*Be wary of companies here offering to do the conversion and shipping as an ‘all up’ deal. There are some who will not tell you that they have their RHD conversion performed overseas in foreign, even third world Asian countries and done on the cheap using low skilled locals. Countries like the Phillipines, Sri Lanka and Indonesia and others. It’s not like an Asian vehicle that gets manufactured on a computer controlled robotic assembly line, conversion work comes down to skill and especially experience (we have been performing RHD conversions since 1989). Also some companies advertise or tell you they ‘can do it all for you’ but do not even hold the Federal ADR compliance to do it, and may use your vehicle as a ‘guinea pig’ for them to get that ADR compliance that they don’t currently have yet. That process, besides being the vehicle of that model that they have done, can take twelve months and longer usually by others, both in their conversion prototyping and them getting their ADR compliance. Don’t be fooled and don’t fall into that trap. We’ve spoken to people with these horror stories.  

 

We hold ADR Compliance for a lot of vehicle’s, in fact we hold more Dodge ADR compliance than any other company in Australia, and have imported and RHD converted / ADR complianced literally hundreds of vehicles since 1989. No one can beat us on our conversion experience level. No one. 

 

 

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Australian Customs agent: 

Moving along, let’s assume you’ve successfully purchased, transported and shipped your vehicle and it is on its way to Sydney but it’s still on the water coming over. By now you would have had made contact with us and had us contracted to do the RHD conversion and ADR Compliance on this end. So from this point it’s all nearly easy sailing. You do however need someone (a licenced Australian Customs agent or Freight Forwarder) to ‘clear’ the vehicle through Australian customs for you on this end. Once again, need a reputable and cost effective company here to deal with to take care of that for you. They will need all of the paperwork from you, plus the paperwork from the container loaders in the USA, plus the Import Approval from us, plus the paperwork from the shipping company (that goes direct to you from them). If you are a customer of ours and have completed the agreement and have the first invoice paid, then we can give you information on whom we use ourselves if you don’t have a customs broker/freight forwarding agent at your disposal here. 

 

Once your vehicle arrives into Sydney, you pay your Customs broker for the unloading, and any duties (if we are doing it, it will be zero duty applicable, all legally, and not all can do that for you), plus GST (10%) which goes to the Australian Government but is redeemable if you are putting it through a business that is registered for GST, port charges and all other associated fees (if it is a passenger car it may be liable to LCT -Luxury Car Tax which can get expensive). It then needs to be trucked to our facility. We can arrange that for you using a tilt tray company that we use. The F150's, and Dodge Ram 2500 & 3500 plus Toyota Tundra's we import do not attract LCT (Luxury Car Tax) or FBT.  

 

 

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Once it is in Sydney: 

Once your vehilce is at our facility in Sydney then the RHD conversion and ADR compliance process begins. We invoice you for the second invoice at this time, and the third/final one is when the vehicle is ready to be picked up from our RHD conversion/Compliancing facility here in Sydney, ready for registration by you in any State or Territory of Australia. 

 

Conclusion: 

The above should now give you a good understanding of what’s involved, what to do and what to avoid. It is not everything that may come up along the way but for 99% of the time, the above should assist you greatly in knowing what to do and more importantly, what not to do. Once you are a customer of ours, we are there to assist with advise. Other companies in Australia either don’t have the experience that we do and haven’t been involved in every facet of the above or just don’t want their customers to know all of this information we’ve listed above, to hide things from you and/or make more money out of you. With us though, we like our customers to be informed.