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How to Import Cars to New Zealand

Posted on May 14, 2017

As a nation of pioneers, we are no strangers to rolling our sleeves and getting things done. But no matter how resourceful and skilled you are, if there is one thing you shouldn’t try to tackle yourself, it’s international shipping.

One of the reasons is that shipping requires a level of liaison between the country of departure and the country of arrival that is difficult if you are managing it on your own from one of the countries, especially if you are importing from a country with a significant time difference. Let’s take the UK for example, 12 to 13 hours behind us. Their office hours would be around our 10pm to 6am, which isn’t ideal if you are hoping to sleep at some point.

Then there’s the paperwork. While some of the requirements to be allowed into New Zealand are the same regardless of the point of origin, others are country specific and unless you are a professional, you risk missing that crucial document you knew nothing about.

If you are exporting your car from Australia

It won’t come as a surprise that you will be asked to produce a proof of ownership for your vehicle. They must be the original documents with full ownership history up to the last registered Australian owner, proof of change of ownership and purchase invoice.

You will need to prove that your vehicle meets NZ emissions standards. If your car is fairly recent, it is likely to be ADR-compliant so no certificate will be required. If not, you will need to take your vehicle to an approved centre to obtain one.

Vehicles manufactured before 1996 will also need to go to an approved centre to get a statement of Frontal impact standards compliance without which your car will not be allowed into NZ

You will also need to get a fuel consumption certificate to show that your vehicle complies with NZ standards.

If you are exporting your car from the UK

Whether you are exporting your car permanently (i.e. more than 12 consecutive months) or temporarily (less than 12 consecutive months), you will need to notify the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).

In the case of a temporary export, your vehicle will still be registered in the UK and will therefore need to comply with UK legislation even it if is in New Zealand. This implies having an MOT certificate, a tax disc and insurance valid for the whole duration of the stay abroad.

If you took a loan to purchase your car, you will need to repay it in full before exporting your car unless you can provide evidence that your credit provider is allowing you to take the car out of country despite the outstanding liability.

If you are exporting a new car, do so within the first two months of purchase or you will have to pay VAT on it in the UK.

If you are exporting your car from the US

As in the previous two cases, you will need to provide evidence of ownership with a US ‘certificate of origin’ as well as an invoice and a bill of sale. You will also need evidence that the car was first registered in the US.

To prove that your car meets environmental standards, you must obtain a label or statement of compliance from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding emissions; for compliance with frontal impact standards, you will need to talk to the US Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS), which is also the organisation that will issue a statement of compliance for overall standards.

The issue of frontal impact standards can be quite confusing as there are several cases depending on the age of your car. Vehicles manufactured in the last 20 years may already have the relevant plate, but older vehicles or vehicles of special interest may not. There are also special cases if you are a New Zealand citizen coming back. In any case, do check that the car you want to import is compliant even before your purchase it as it won’t be given entry if it isn’t.

New vehicles need documentation confirming that they were manufactured for the American market and would be allowed on public roads in the US.

A fuel consumption certificate will be required, as well as a certificate for the vehicle’s brakes and more specifically to check electronic stability control (ESC) in light vehicles.

If you are exporting your car from Japan

In addition to the documentation already mentioned for previous export countries, importing Japanese passenger vehicles over 660cc will require an original export certificate issued by Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) or completion inspection certificate. For so-called mini-vehicles (i.e. less than 660cc) the certificate will be issued by the Light-Motor Vehicle Inspection Organisation

It also has to be noted that you may be asked to have all these documents translated into English.

In addition, if the car you want to import in New Zealand is a left-hand drive, it will need to be converted for right-hand driving but done in a way that still makes it compliant with all road standards, unless it belongs to certain categories such as, among others, Special Interest light vehicles less than 20 years old and light vehicles over 20 years old. In those cases, a Category a left-hand drive vehicle permit will be issued by the Transport Agency.

These are just a few select countries, but as you can see, finding out what you actually need and which agency is supposed to issue it can be quite involved. And that is before your car has even touched Kiwi soil where there is more to organise. If you really, really love dealing with government agencies or you fancy a crash course in Japanese, then by all means, go for it! Otherwise, give us a call. We have been shipping cars for over two decades and we can make it a stress-free experience for you.


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