Sometimes damaged vehicles enter the New Zealand market. On 13 February 2017, 30 vehicles being brought in to New Zealand were recorded as being damaged on the New Zealand Transport Agency’s (NZTA) system. But what does this mean for Kiwis who may be scouring the import market for a new set of wheels?

While New Zealand has established systems to ensure that these vehicles are repaired to a high standard before they are made available for sale, the low cost of these damaged vehicles often draws buyers and dealers towards them. Sometimes they’ll also have low mileage and might only be a few years old, making them all the more appealing to consumers. 

It’s still important though to be aware of what’s resulted in any prior damage which can be caused by anything from the aftermath of accidents to damage caused by nature’s elements, such as hail storms and flooding.

Tracking damaged vehicles

Importing damaged vehicles is nothing new. They’re typically bought at an auction overseas in their damaged state and once they arrive at the New Zealand border, they’re flagged during structural inspections. A record of the vehicle information is then entered into the NZTA system.

Before the inspection to ensure the vehicle complies with NZ legislations can take place, damaged vehicles need to be referred to a repair certifier where they’ll decide on a remedy that will restore the car to a satisfactory safety standard.

Due to regulations set out by the NZTA to ensure the safety of vehicles, some of these repairs can be expensive. For example, all water damaged vehicles are required to have a full replacement of electronic safety components such as airbags, sensors, seatbelts and seatbelt pre-tensioners and wirings. Any areas immersed in water have to be stripped out to allow the structure to be inspected for corrosion and other damage.

Once the appropriate repairs have been completed, the compliance inspection can be carried out and the vehicle should be deemed safe to be on the road again.

How do you know if the car has been damaged?

Dealers are legally required to disclose on the consumer information notice (CIN) whether a vehicle they’re selling has been imported as damaged.

If you’re considering buying one of these vehicles, you should think long and hard about it. It’s difficult to make an informed decision without the full picture and, while dealers are required to disclose if the vehicle has been imported as damaged, they don’t actually have to provide buyers with all the information on the repair work that has been carried out.

It’s therefore up to you to do your homework.

Proceed with caution

If the information on the repairs isn’t clearly indicated, or if you ask the dealer to disclose what work has been completed and they refuse, then it’s usually a good warning sign that the damage that was sustained was significant. 

If the level of the completed repair work is clearly explained and evidence is provided, you can make a more informed decision about buying the vehicle and the price that you’re willing to pay for it.  

If you’re buying a car privately, unless the previous owner discloses the damage in the advertisement, the only way you can find out if the vehicle has been previously reported as damaged is by carrying out a professional check on the vehicle’s history.

Even if a vehicle has undergone high quality repairs, it will never be the same as it was before the damage was sustained. Cars with water damage can haunt you years down the track as corrosion can slowly develop, and that’s why it’s important to be aware of these widely available, damaged vehicles.

What if it can’t be re-licensed?

If a vehicle has been written off by an insurer overseas and cannot be re-licensed, its only value is as spare parts. This can result in a very low price tag for the car, making it look like an economical prospect for a Kiwi buyer.

If you’re buying a car like this as a fixer-upper, bear in mind that it’ll have to go through those same extensive safety and repair procedures to allow it back on the road in New Zealand. These can be very expensive, so do your homework and factor in all costs required to get it back in shape on top of what is likely to be a very appealing upfront price.  

If you see a low mileage car that’s just a few years old, it’s likely to have been previously imported as damaged. Investigate carefully and ensure you consider everything about the vehicle before handing over any cash.             

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