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New Zealand - Importing a Vehicle

If you want to import a car into New Zealand there are a number of requirements that need to be met. The car must be Class MA, which is a list of standards that must be met. These standards include meeting the emissions requirements, be inspected upon entry into the country, be considered to be roadworthy, be a right-hand drive vehicle, have an approved frontal impact standard of manufacture and met other standards which will depend upon the date that the car was manufactured. Exceptions to this are cars that are more than 20 years old or that are categorized as ‘special interest’.

Vehicles which are coming from Europe need to have evidence that they meet all the required standards both for Europe and New Zealand. The documentation that is required includes proof of ownership, confirmation that the car meets emissions standards, confirmation that the car meets the frontal impact standards, a fuel consumption certificate, confirmation that the car meets the brakes standards and an overall certificate of compliance. It is usual practice to accept the EC approval plate or sticker as proof that the car complies with the expected overall standards.

If you are importing a vehicle from the US you will also need to be sure that you meet the required standards. You will need to provide proof of ownership, proof that the car meets the specified emissions standards, frontal impact standards, brake standards and the overall manufacturing standards. Proof of ownership can be registration documents as well as a receipt or bill of sale.

When you have all the required documentation you can arrange for the car to be taken to New Zealand via a shipping agent. It is a good idea to check with the entry certifiers to see if further documentation may be required for your vehicle. If the vehicle is brand new, for example, you may be required to show test certificates which prove that the car has been manufactured to the required standards. You should also arrange to de-register the vehicle with the authorities in your country of origin and keep the documentation as evidence for registration in New Zealand.

When the car arrives in New Zealand you will need to have an inspection carried out by an entry certification official. This inspection is essential in order for the car to be registered in New Zealand. An entry certifier can be one of a number of associations such as the AA or a similar organisation. Lists of approved certifiers are available from the website of the New Zealand Transport Agency.

Once the car has passed the inspection it can be registered. This only has to be done once. A registration application form will be given to you after the inspection and this needs to be completed and passed to the local registration agent. They will process the application and send you new registration plates as well as a licence label. You are not permitted to drive the vehicle until these have been issued. Certificates of registration are issued when the process is completed. These should be checked to ensure that all the details are correct and then kept safely until you decide to sell or otherwise dispose of the vehicle.

The registration plates that are issued are general purpose plates. They will have both letters and numbers (up to 6 characters) in the registration number. If you want to have personalised registration plates then these must be approved by the New Zealand Transport Agency.

There are some vehicles which are exempt from registration. If the vehicle is to be used only on private land then there is no requirement for registration. In addition, there are certain types of vehicles which are not required to undergo entry certification. These include farm vehicles, trailers and caravans of less than 3500kg and all terrain vehicles These vehicles will need to be registered but do not need a Vehicle Identification Number and there is a different registration form for these, available from the New Zealand Transport Agency.

There are taxes and fees which are payable when you import a vehicle into New Zealand. These include Goods and Services Tax and a processing fee as well as duty payable on the customs value of the vehicle. The rate applied will depend upon the value and age of the vehicle and the rates are reviewed frequently. The New Zealand Transport Agency has an option for no charges but the owner needs to meet a series of regulations. If the owner is moving to the country with the status of a permanent resident, has lived outside New Zealand for the previous 21 months, if the car has been owned for a minimum of one year, if the car is for personal use only and if the owner agrees not to sell the car for 2 years after arriving in the country there will be no charges. In instances where the owner cannot meet these criteria then charges will be applied.

Useful Resources

Automobile Association
Tel: 0800 500 333 (from New Zealand)
Tel: +64 9 966 8800

Vehicle Inspection New Zealand (VINZ)
Tel: +64 9 580 3170

Vehicle Testing New Zealand (VTNZ)
Tel: +64 4 495 2500

New Zealand Transport Agency
Tel: 0800 108 809 (list of offices around New Zealand)

Read more about this country

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