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How does temporarily importing a vehicle to New Zealand work?

Posted on October 28, 2021

How does temporarily importing a vehicle to New Zealand work?

If you’re coming to New Zealand on holiday and want to bring your motorhome, car or motorbike, you can import your vehicle duty-free for a period of up to 12 months. Here’s how to temporarily import a vehicle to New Zealand.

Temporary vehicle import certification

Unlike with permanent importation, full NZ registration for your vehicle is not required. Your vehicle can display its existing plates while on the roads here. However, you will still need to register your car as a temporary import. This can be done with a CPD Carnet or through registration as a Customs Temporary Import Entry.

CPD Carnet

A Carnet (Carnet de Passages en Douane) is a document that works much like a passport but for your camper, car or bike. It must be organized prior to shipping your vehicle to New Zealand and is obtained through an authorised issuer (usually a motoring organisation) in the country your vehicle is licenced in.

New Zealand Customs Import Entry

This is where a bond for your temporary vehicle import is held by the NZ Customs authorities. This bond covers the relevant GST that would be required if your vehicle is lost or stolen in New Zealand, or if you end up staying in the country for longer than 12 months. The bond is dependent on the vehicle type and value and will be returned when your vehicle leaves the country (if within the stipulated 12 month period). New Zealand Customs Import Entry is best carried out with the assistance of your vehicle shipping company.

Other requirements for a temporary import of a caravan, car or bike to New Zealand:

The importer cannot be a resident or citizen of New Zealand, as this particular import concession is for tourism purposes only.

The vehicle must remain legitimately registered in its country of origin, in the name of the person who has imported the vehicle to New Zealand.

The vehicle must pass a Warrant of Fitness or Certificate of Fitness before being used on NZ roads.

Relevant ACC licencing levies must be paid. This means that if you have an accident, you are entitled to have part of your medical bills covered by ACC.

You cannot import the vehicle with the intention of selling it in New Zealand.

The vehicle must be inspected and cleared by the Biosecurity Quarantine Service of the Ministry of Primary Industries. There is an inspection fee, and there will be an additional cost if the vehicle has to be cleaned in any way.

Vehicle insurance is not necessary in New Zealand but is highly recommended.

If your vehicle is diesel-powered or weighs more than 3500kg, you will have to pay Road User Charges throughout your time driving here.

What happens if the vehicle’s registration in its country of origin expires?

The vehicle’s regiistration must be renewed before it expires. If it cannot be renewed, the vehicle will no longer qualify as a temporary import. You will be required to fully certify, register and licence your vehicle in New Zealand and to display NZ plates. If your vehicle does not meet the standards for full NZ registration, it will be illegal to drive on our roads once the registration in its country of origin has expired.

Do you need a New Zealand drivers licence to drive a temporary import?

No. You can legally drive here for up to 12 months without a New Zealand licence if you hold either:

A valid and current International Driving Permit

A valid and current driver licence from any country. If your driver licence is in a language other than English, you must carry an accurate translation issued by:

A diplomatic representative

The overseas authority who issued the driver licence

A translation service accepted by the NZ Transport Agency.

If you are driving using your International Driver Permit, you must also carry your current overseas driver's licence with you.


There are a lot of steps and legal requirements for temporarily importing your car, camper or bike to use while you are a tourist in New Zealand. It’s easy to miss something! The experienced McCullough team can help streamline the shipping and import process for you to ensure you don’t get any nasty surprises or miss any key documents, so you can focus on what matters: enjoying your holiday! Get in touch here.

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