Importing a vehicle into New Zealand

If you’re here on holiday, immigrating or returning home, you might want to consider bringing your vehicle with you.

We’re here to help, whether you require information or want us to carry out some of the process for you.

Importing a vehicle permanently

We’re approved by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) to certify imported light vehicles for personal use.

Before a vehicle (car, van, camper, or motorcycle) can be driven on New Zealand roads, there are a number of requirements to be met - summed up into five steps.

1. Identify requirements for importing your vehicle
2. Prove whether your vehicle standards meet the import criteria for New Zealand
3. Prepare your vehicle for import (cleaning & license cancellation)
4. Shipping, Customs, and Border clearances
5. Vehicle Entry Certification (on-road inspection)

If it’s advice you want and direction to one of our many entry compliance centres (located at most New Zealand arrival ports) or to go one step further, we can take the hassle out of the shipping, Customs and on-road process by organising it for you (conditions apply).

Importing a vehicle temporarily

Tourists visiting New Zealand can temporarily import a car, bike, or camper duty free for a period of 12 months. Unlike permanent importation, entry certification is not required. The vehicle can display its existing plates while being driven here. There are two methods this can be achieved, either a Carnet de Passages en Douane (CPD Carnet) or as a Customs Temporary Import. 

Carnet

This is a document much like a passport but for your vehicle, and must be organised prior to shipping your vehicle to New Zealand. A Carnet is obtained through an authorised issuer (often a motoring organisation) in the country the vehicle is licensed in.  

New Zealand Customs Import Entry

This is where a bond is held by the New Zealand Customs authorities. This bond will cover the relevant Goods and Services Tax (GST) that would be required if the vehicle was lost or sold in NZ. The bond amount is dependent on the vehicle type and value. It is returned when the vehicle leaves New Zealand within the allowable timeframe. This method is best carried out with the assistance of a Customs broker. 

For either method, there are certain requirements that must be met:

1. The importer must not be a resident or citizen of New Zealand, this concession is for tourist purposes only
2. The vehicle must remain licensed in its country of origin
3. The vehicle must pass a Safety Inspection/Warrant of Fitness (Wof) in New Zealand before being used on the road
4. The relevant ACC licensing premium must be paid. This is so that if you have an accident while driving in New Zealand, ACC may cover part of your medical bills. This premium-paid label must be affixed to your car's windscreen.

Frequently asked questions - importing a car

Yes. A private person can import a car. It is the importer’s responsibility to provide documents to prove that they are legally entitled to the car and to which standards the car was built to.

Basically from anywhere, as long as the required standards can be met and acceptable documentation can be provided. As a generalisation, vehicles sold new in one of the recognised markets that New Zealand new vehicles are sourced from are more likely to meet the required standards.

Vehicles sold new in some markets, particularly some Asian and African countries, may not be built to the standards the New Zealand authorities require.

All documents must be originals (non-copied) and must be in English or be certified translated into English.

The source market standards are:

  • Federal Motor Vehicle Standards (USA)
  • Australian Design Rules (ADR)
  • European standards (EEC, ECE)
  • Japanese standards (JIS)

The various standards a vehicle has to meet depend on the class of the vehicle and when it was manufactured.

There must be acceptable evidence that systems and components such as, brakes, tyres, lights, seats, seat mountings, seatbelts, seatbelt mountings, glazing, rear vision, interior impact, external projections, door retention, frontal impact, exhaust emissions etc are manufactured to precisely defined standards.

No, as long as it meets the required standards. However, it is very unlikely a vehicle built prior to 2005 will meet the current standards, but it can’t be assumed that later vehicles will comply. Every vehicle needs to be treated on its own merit according to the standards it was built to, not the year it was manufactured.

Yes. Vehicles belonging to New Zealanders returning home from overseas or first time immigrants may be exempt from meeting frontal impact,emissions and Electronic Stability Control (ESC) if they meet certain criteria. The main requirement is that the vehicle has been owned and operated for more than 12 months overseas and in the case of New Zealanders overseas, they must have been overseas for more than 21 months. Refer to: Vehicle Imports - Immigrant Exemption.

Also, motoring enthusiasts may be able to import a non-compliant vehicle under certain circumstances if it meets the criteria to be treated as a Special Interest Vehicle.

Yes, cars that are over 20 years old are treated as classic cars and are exempt from meeting many of the standards.

There are far less requirements for cars built prior to 1990. These vehicles must still be structurally sound, meet New Zealand safety requirements and are required to have an Entry Compliance Inspection similar to newer cars, but are not required to be built to the same recognised standards as newer cars, therefore documented proof of standards compliance may not be required.

Under some limited circumstances LHD vehicles can be imported, however there are strict guidelines including meeting the classic/vintage car criteria, being a specialist vehicle that was never built as RHD etc. You can also refer to NZTA Factsheet 12.

Fill out an import enquiry form and we can help you

1. Identify the class of vehicle.

2. Identify which standards your vehicle must meet.

3. Identify the requirements needed from the country you are importing from.

4. Obtain the required documentation (must be originals, not copies, faxes or electronic versions).

  • Legal entitlement (receipt, bill of sale, auction receipt)
  • Proof of registration (registration or de-registration papers, export certificate, certificate of title/origin)
  • Ownership trail which goes as far back as the last registered owner overseas.

5. Prepare to import (make sure the vehicle arrives clean as it needs to pass a bio-security and a structural inspection before it is released by NZ Customs).

6. Contact an AA Entry Compliance Centre.