E-scooters have become a common sight in some Australian cities over the past couple of years. They rival bicycles as a convenient way to avoid traffic jams in peak hour and save on parking fees.

Various capital cities have started e-scooter hire trials and in Canberra you can already hire them off the footpath using an app. But, rather than paying per minute, people have started buying their own.

There are plenty of options to choose from. Some buy locally, but many are looking overseas. However, some e-scooters you can buy from overseas could be classed as road vehicles in Australia and if the right steps aren’t taken, your e-scooter may be held by Australian Border Force (ABF) when it goes through customs.

Here are a few tips to follow when looking to buy an e-scooter from overseas that could save you costly delays and disappointment.

Is an e-scooter classed as a road vehicle?

The Australian Government has new laws regulating the importation of road vehicles. You’ll need to find out whether or not your e-scooter is classed as a road vehicle.

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Communications and Regional Development (the department) website has a useful pre-screening questionnaire that can help you find out whether or not the e-scooter you want to buy is classed as a road vehicle.

It covers a range of non-road vehicle classes, including golf carts, miniature motorbikes, motorised mobility devices, agricultural machinery, recreational mobility devices and personal mobility devices to name a few.

The questionnaire is based on the new Road Vehicle Standards laws that started on 1 July 2021.

Some e-scooters will fit under the personal mobility device category. According to the questionnaire, the following items need to be met for it to be considered a non-road vehicle in this category:

is designed to carry one person only
has one or more wheels
is propelled by an electric motor
has an effective stopping system, including one or more of these – brakes, gears or motor control
is not capable of exceeding 25 km/h on level ground when propelled by motor
has a footprint of no more than 1250 mm by 700 mm
is not more than 1350 mm in height
has an unladen mass of 60 kg or less, and
is not equipped with:
any object or fitting not technically essential to the device that protrudes from any part of the device in a manner that likely increases the risk of bodily injury to any person, or
any object or fitting that, because it is pointed or has a sharp edge, likely increases the risk of bodily injury to any person.
Although at first glance the e-scooter you want to import might appear to not be a road vehicle, you should still check the product brochure or technical specifications to confirm whether it meets all the above requirements.

Often, e-scooters that people are trying to import from overseas don’t meet the allowable top speed requirement of less than 25km/h. Many go much faster and the e-scooter could therefore be classed as a road vehicle. If your vehicle does not meet the definition in the questionnaire, an individual assessment will need to be undertaken by the department.

According to the Road Vehicle Standards laws, vehicles are considered road vehicles if they are designed solely or primarily to be used on public roads.

This is important because if your e-scooter is classed as a road vehicle, the process is different and more complicated. You’ll need to obtain a road vehicle approval that allows you to import your road vehicle.

scooter ship to Australia

Should I get an advisory notice?

When an e-scooter arrives in Australia, it has to pass through customs.

If Australian Border Force is unable to determine whether the vehicle is or is not a road vehicle it may be held in storage at your expense until the department can assess it. And that could be time consuming, inconvenient and expensive.

While you don’t need permission to import vehicles that are not road vehicles, you may like to apply for an advisory notice through ROVER, the department’s online application and approval portal. The advisory notice will confirm that the thing you are importing is not a road vehicle. You’ll have to answer questions about the e-scooter and provide the manufacturer’s specifications. The fee for an advisory notice is $55.

You can then give the advisory notice to the ABF to show your e-scooter isn’t a road vehicle. Advisory notices are recognised by customs and will help you to import your e-scooter without delay.

Check the local e-scooter rules

Check your state or territory rules on e-scooters. Rules on motor capacity, speed limits and where you can ride an e-scooter differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

It would be disappointing to successfully import your e-scooter to find you can only ride it in your backyard (and even more unfortunate if you live in an apartment).