Is it worth privately importing a car?

Some can’t help but fall in love with cars that are harder-to-find – like the Telsa pictured above – and we motorists are always looking for ways to save a bit of money when buying a new vehicle. Looking overseas and making the decision to import privately is increasingly common for Kiwis, but it’s important to note that it’s not always the best way to find your new motor. You need to weigh up the risks and advantages of an offshore find.

Is it worth the risk?

Like any online purchase, there are always risks with privately importing. You’re relying on the good faith of the seller and the description and images that they’ve provided. Only seeing a vehicle in real life can truly satisfy all of the questions that you may have before you decide to buy a car, so there will always be some level of uncertainty with this process. On top of this, if something goes wrong, you won’t have protection under the Consumer Guarantees Act, as you would with a registered dealership. Therefore, we’d certainly recommend that you familiarise yourself with the risks to see if they outweigh the potential advantages. Plus, before you decide to import, it’s always good to check the entry certification standards for New Zealand with the Transport Agency to see whether you’ll be able to drive the vehicle on our roads.

What am I really saving?

We wouldn’t recommend importing vehicles that are common and have a relatively low cost around the $5000-$7000 mark. This is purely because they’ll often be widely available in the New Zealand market anyway and at a more competitive price. Unless you think you could save a few thousand, the risks associated with privately importing may not be worth taking. If the car arrives from overseas and it needs a lot of repair work then you could end up spending more than if you had just bought a vehicle from the New Zealand market with a slightly higher price tag. However, if you’re looking to buy a vehicle that’s particularly hard to come by, a rare classic or at the higher end of the market, then it may be a more viable option to go down the private import route.

Making the final decision

If you’re considering a private import in an attempt to save money, make sure you’ve calculated all the costs that come on top of the cost of buying the car such as GST, insurance and entry certification, to check whether you’re actually saving that much. Also, be aware that there are many different rules set out by the Transport Agency around compliance, making it quite complex, especially if you’ve never imported a car before. No one wants to buy a vehicle overseas, get it imported and once it’s arrived find out that it doesn’t meet the current standards for New Zealand roads. So, if you have any concerns, we’d suggest contacting a good entry certifier beforehand and discussing all the details of the vehicle you’re looking to buy, before you actually part with any money to avoid heartache later down the line.

Private imports are actually on the increase and it’s not just vehicles from Japan that are being brought over to New Zealand. Imports from the United Kingdom, Australia and Singapore are now becoming very popular. Plus, it’s not just Kiwis who are looking for a special car. Many Australian and British immigrants often bring their vehicle with them and they can sometimes get exemptions from emission and frontal impact standards – that’s as long as they meet the immigrant exemption criteria.

Making the decision to privately import should be carefully considered. Many people assume a private import will save money, and allow them to get the dream car that they’ve always wanted at a much cheaper price. But sometimes it’s too good to be true and, by the time you add up the mounting costs, you may not be saving as much money as you initially thought. Always do your checks carefully and have a good look at what’s available in the New Zealand market first as it’s certainly a lot easier than buying a car from overseas. If you think you’ve found yourself a steal, totted up all the costs and feel comfortable that the advantages outweigh the risks, then go for it – it may be worthwhile and you could get that car you’ve always wanted.

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