Importing a Recumbent into Australia

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So, you have seen the trike of your dreams on the internet. It is overseas and the manufacturer doesn’t have a dealer or distributor in Australia.  Maybe you could import it……Airfreight Image

That is possible, but it is not quite as straight forward as buying something on Amazon or eBay with one click to your credit card.

Let’s go through some things to consider before you make that decision.

Importing Rules

You do not require a licence to import goods into Australia. Some goods themselves require permits, but these are usually the logical things like weapons, drugs, and organics etc. There are no restrictions on Bikes, Trikes or their parts.

(Freight carriers have some restrictions on the carriage of dangerous goods like batteries, so it may be wiser to get your e-kit retro fitted in Australia)

Cost

  1. Trike Price – Most of the time your price will be in a foreign currency, the most common being USD (United States Dollar), EUR (Euro) and GBP (Great British Pounds). Get your exchange rate from one of Australia’s big banks, eg. Westpac, Commonwealth, etc. Just Google it.  DO NOT USE THE RESERVE BANK RATE as this is not what is available to the public. Your bank will usually also charge a foreign transaction fee.
  2. Freight Price – Your seller will give you that, but be prepared for a shock, especially if your trike is coming from the USA. In this Covid19 era, we have seen international air freight prices double in the past 18 month. As a rough guide, don’t expect to pay anything less than A$1000 for a trike to be airfreighted to Australia.
  3. Import Fees – This is a bit Hit and Miss. Sometimes the goods are screened by ABF/Customs to go straight through, sometimes they are identified as needing an Import Declaration. If your Trike is coming with TNT, FedEx, DHL, or UPS they will be in contact with you if a Declaration is required, and advise that they can do it for you (for a Fee). TAKE THEIR OFFER or engage a Customs Broker. It is not worth the hassle to try and do it yourself. They will send you a bill, you pay and the goods eventually arrive.

If you do need to do an Import Declaration, there are a wide range of import fees applicable. Most are covered on page 12 of the Import Declaration Guide

  • Customs Duty (on the Value of the Goods):
Bikes 8712.00.00 TCO 0104891 Duty Free
Trikes 8712.00.00 Duty 5%
Parts 8714.9 Duty Free
  • GST (on the value of the goods + freight & insurance + duty)
  • Other charges: Entry Fee, Broker Fee, possibly freight terminal fees.

On a trike worth A$5,000 with A$1,000 in freight costs, you would be paying $250 in duty, $625 in GST = $875 + approx. $200 in other Entry/import Fees = $1,075.

So your trike worth A$5,000 will  end up costing you A$7,075.

After-market support, including parts & accessories

Most trike & bike manufacturers have their own range of accessories, made to fit their models. The popular accessories are: headrest, mirrors, rear rack, assistance handles and mudguards. These can be very very hard to create from scratch, and most off-the-shelf versions will not fit without some sort of modification. Think carefully about accessories, and if something appeals, order it with your trike/bike.

Accessories like mirrors, lights and bike computers are pretty universal, as long as you have something to attach them to. E-kits are also fairly generic and can be fitted to almost any trike/bike.

Replacement parts are not so straight-forward. Some are generic or have local equivalents, but most are unique to their manufacturer. Fine if you are dealing with a large multi-national supplier with good support or a retail web site,  a problem when you are looking at smaller or custom builders. Even worse in 5 years time when your model is no longer current.  And that is just parts availability….then there is the freight to get your replacement part out…..!!  These days, freight can easily exceed the price of the part.

If you really want that Velomobile from Europe, or that Trike from USA, go for it, but do your research first. Know what your getting, what costs are involved, and where you can get support if you need it.  Many bike shops in Australia won’t touch recumbents and have little experience in setting them up correctly, so it pays to have some mechanical know-how for the little things.

About the author: Mrs DT Recumbents spent 15 years working for Australian Customs (ACS), now Australian Border Force (ABF), including time in Air Freight & Postal Import departments.

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