Car import rules

The rules that control which vehicles can be imported have a big influence on the overall quality of New Zealand's fleet.

Importing a vehicle to New Zealand

New Zealand has quite an old vehicle fleet compared to many other countries. The average age of a vehicle is about 13 years, with Japanese used imports manufactured in the 1980s and 90s dominating the roads.  This is set to change. As part of efforts to reduce vehicle emissions, the government has introduced tighter import rules to restrict older used vehicles.

Newer vehicles are generally more fuel efficient, more environmentally friendly and safer than earlier models due to improvements in engine and fuel technology, materials and aerodynamics. The drawback of newer models is they're more expensive, which is why many New Zealanders choose to buy older and cheaper used imports.

Did you know?

In 2012 New Zealand imported 173,000 motor vehicles, mainly from Japan. Forty-two percent of these were used, while 100,000 were new.

Up until now there have been few restrictions on which vehicles can be imported. The main restriction has been the Frontal Impact Rule, meaning that cars involved in a frontal crash must offer a certain amount of protection to occupants. However, this standard only came into force in 2002, and four wheel drive SUVs built before 2003 were not included.

AA speaking up for motorists

Support for tighter import rules

The AA supports importation rules that ensure motorists have access to the safest, most efficient, and lowest emission vehicles at reasonable cost. Updating import rules over time will help reduce the age of the New Zealand vehicle fleet, resulting in better emission standards and safety benefits.

We requested that the introduction of new import rules that restrict older vehicles be phased in over a reasonable length of time, so a supply of affordable used vehicles continues to be available for motorists to upgrade their cars. The government's emissions rules address this concern, although the standards for diesel imports are stricter than petrol-engine cars which make up the majority of imports.

From 2012, a light used-import petrol vehicle must be manufactured to Euro 4, or the Japanese 05 or US 2004 emissions standards as a minimum. A used-import diesel must be built to Euro 4, Japan 05 or the US 2004 standards.

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