Importing motor vehicles

​​When importing motor vehicles into Australia, it is the importer's responsibility to ensure each vehicle is clean and free of contamination of biosecurity concern, internally and externally, before it arrives in Australia. Contamination of biosecurity concern includes, but is not limited to; live insects, seeds, soil, mud, clay, animal faeces, animal material and plant material such as straw, twigs, leaves, roots, bark.

The Department of Agriculture’s biosecurity officers inspect vehicles for contamination on arrival in Australia. For break-bulk shipments, the inspection must occur within the wharf precinct. For containerised cargo, the inspection must take place at a Quarantine Approved Premises (QAP).

Your customs broker or freight forwarder will have a list of the department’s approved premises. You or your agent must inform the department of your chosen QAP. Charges may apply for unpacking and storage at the QAP. Contact the QAP to establish the exact cost of this function.

New vehicles

New vehicles are subject to surveillance inspection on arrival. If contamination is detected, the vehicle will be held and the contamination must be removed. Biosecurity officers will then reinspect the affected vehicle before it is released. If new vehicles are inspected and are free of contamination, no further inspection or treatment is required.

A pre-loading cleaning guide, New vehicle offshore pre-loading biosecurity risk guide PDF Icon PDF [1.9 MB]  msword icon Word [3 MB] , provides advice on contaminants that may be present and methods for removal or control.

Used vehicles

Department approved offshore treatment providers can process vehicles before they arrive in Australia. Used vehicles processed by approved offshore providers are subject to a reduced level of inspection on arrival in Australia since contamination issues have already been addressed in the country of export.

Used vehicles not processed by offshore treatment providers are subject to full external and internal inspection on arrival in Australia.

Biosecurity officers inspect all areas of the vehicle. If contamination is found, the vehicle will be directed to a QAP for removal of the contamination at the importer’s expense. Biosecurity officers will then reinspect the vehicle before it is released. If the vehicle is found to be heavily contaminated it may be exported from Australia at the importer's expense.

Any decontamination process is to remove contamination, not clean the vehicle.

The importer or their agent is responsible for fees for presentation, inspection and treatment of the vehicle. Treatment for decontamination is performed by third-party providers and is not the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture. Your customs broker or freight forwarder and the nominated QAP can provide more information about fees.

Contact the Department of Agriculture regional office at the port of arrival to arrange a vehicle inspection. They will provide you with more detailed information on the inspection process and required documentation.


Remember that before vehicles can be imported into Australia they must be thoroughly clean and free from contamination.

Important exterior points to check are:

  • wheels, wheel guards and mud guards
  • underside of the vehicle
  • above and around the fuel tank
  • inside chassis rails
  • external vents
  • around window seals
  • sticky protective wheel and bonnet covers on new vehicles.

Important components to check inside the vehicle are:

  • boot area including spare tyre and wheel well
  • engine bay—remove water from the windshield reservoir and ensure the grille and radiator cooling fins are clean and free of debris
  • internal storage compartments including console
  • under seats and mats
  • in seat folds
  • internal vents
  • internal window, door seals and around door locks.

Approved offshore treatment providers

Companies that meet audit and cleanliness standards can apply to the Department of Agriculture for approval to clean and pre-inspect new or used vehicles offshore.

The request for approval must clearly articulate the quality system the company has in place. The system must show an understanding of and compliance with the inspection and cleanliness standards and guides listed below:

Desk audits and offshore site audits of cleaning facilities are required as part of the assessment process for approval as an offshore treatment provider.

Further information

Detailed information on the conditions for importing used vehicles is available from the Department of Agriculture Import Conditions Database (ICON). See:

Further information about importing new or used motor vehicles and about submitting a proposal for offshore cleaning and pre-inspection is available from the Department of Agriculture National Air and Sea Cargo Program.

Other Australian Government agencies may have requirements that must be met when importing new and used vehicles into Australia. Contact the following agencies to find out more:

Last reviewed:
25 Feb 2015