Vehicle Certification in Australia

MVSA 1989—Part 3: Certification and Approval

Before a road vehicle can be registered for the first time in Australia it must meet the requirements of the Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989 (the Act), which applies to new and used imported vehicles and locally manufactured vehicles. The Act requires vehicles to meet the national standards covering safety and emission requirements known as the Australian Design Rules (ADRs). When a new vehicle has been certified as meeting the ADRs it can be fitted with an identification plate. The fitment of an identification plate is mandatory under the Act, and it indicates to the registering authority that the vehicle meets all the required ADRs.

Certification Overview

Vehicle certification is the process of obtaining approval to fit an identification plate, as outlined in Administrator’s Circular 0-1-2, titled A Guide to the Certification of New Vehicles—Type Approval PDF: 163 KB DOCX: 45 KB. The Vehicle Safety Standards (VSS) Branch within the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities administers certification in Australia, while State and Territory registering authorities administer the use of vehicles, roadworthiness and approval of modifications for vehicles in service.

The certification system for new vehicles is based on type approval, wherein a vehicle design representing a make-model (the “type” of vehicle) undergoes tests to demonstrate compliance with the applicable ADRs (Australian Design Rules). If the test vehicle(s) complies then all others of the same design, or type, will also comply, provided the production processes are properly controlled.

VSS does not test vehicles for certification purposes. The manufacturer is responsible for ensuring compliance with the ADRs. The Australian certification process allows the vehicle manufacturer (“the Licensee”) to conduct the various ADR tests. The tests may be conducted in a place convenient to the manufacturer provided they are done correctly. In order to demonstrate compliance with all the applicable ADRs, several test vehicles may be required, particularly for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles.

Once the tests are successfully completed, the manufacturer may seek approval to fit identification plates to the vehicles by submitting an application for approval. The manufacturer must support its application with a summary of the evidence to show that all tests were done correctly and that the vehicle complies with the applicable ADRs.

For some vehicle categories, a sample of each of the model variants must be made available for inspection. This inspection also satisfies the registration inspection requirements of the States and Territory registration authorities for new vehicles and is called a Single Uniform Type Inspection or SUTI.

When VSS is satisfied that the vehicle complies, the Administrator of Vehicle Standards issues a document known as an Identification Plate Approval. This is the authority for the manufacturer to fit identification plates to vehicles of the approved make-model and supply the vehicles to the market.

The information provided by the manufacturer is subject to checking using quality assurance audits of the manufacturing facilities and inspection of the test facilities. Together these ensure the vehicles (or parts of vehicles) were built to the approved design and that all tests were done correctly.

Manufacturers that supply limited numbers of vehicles may be able to use the Low Volume Scheme for new vehicles, which caters for manufacturers that supply less than 25 or 100 vehicles per year, depending on the category.

The Registered Automotive Workshop Scheme applies to used imported vehicles.

Vehicles imported into Australia by individuals, or for racing etc. may be able to use the Imported Vehicles scheme.

Individually constructed vehicles are not required to be certified. However, they must meet the requirements of the State and Territory registering authorities.

Further Information

  • The Australian Design Rules (ADRs)
  • RVS legislation

    To support the safety, environmental and anti-theft performance of all road vehicles being provided to the Australian market for the first time, the Road Vehicle Standards Act 2018 replaced the existing Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989 on 1 July 2021. The detail of how the RVSA regulatory framework operates is contained in subsidiary legislation, the Road Vehicle Standards Rules 2019 (the Rules). The RVSA, the Rules and other related legislation are collectively referred to as the Road Vehicle Standards (RVS) legislation.

    Please visit the Road Vehicle Standards legislation implementation page for more information.