Importing your car

arduous adjective

/ˈɑːdjʊəs,ˈɑːdʒʊəs/

  1. involving or requiring strenuous effort; difficult and tiring
  2. Attempting to import your car into New Zealand.

I cannot begin to tell you the amount of red tape you have to wade through to import your car into New Zealand. It begins in the UK and you’re still peeling bits off you at the other end. We used a reputable car import company and naïvely assumed that all the necessary paperwork would done so that in a month or so we’d be driving our cars down the dock at Wellington CentrePort.

Oh how wrong we were.

Let’s get one thing really clear. New Zealand don’t want your car. Despite the number of banged up and rusty cars that I frequently see on the expressway or parked up on grass verges with ‘for sale’ signs stuck on their windscreens, your car apparently poses way more of a safety issue than anything on the road in New Zealand. It must be spotless inside and out before being let loose on the road and conform to insanely high road safety standards.

It took a month and a half for Claude (the Mini) and Minty Badger (the Nissan Figaro) to get to Wellington. We had assumed that the import company would take care of the vehicle registration and compliance when the cars arrived but apparently not. Before we could get them back, they had to be sent to an entry certifier who would assess the cars to make sure they were compliant. The nearest one was around 15km away from the dock and as it was illegal to drive the cars there without New Zealand number plates, we had to pay $200 to get them couriered over.

And the bills just kept on rolling in.

Even though both cars had been professionally cleaned inside and out before they left the UK, the entry certifier insisted that they were cleaned again which along with the inspection fee would cost us $500. Following the inspection, several ‘non-compliance’ issues were found including a problem with one of the rear tyres and one of the brake rotors. Cars imported into New Zealand also have to get their brake pads replaced as standard so don’t bother to get them replaced before you leave, like I did.

Given that Claude had just been through a service, I knew full well there was nothing wrong with him when he left my possession so I could only conclude that he’d somehow been damaged in transit. Be that as it may, I couldn’t prove anything and as the entry certifiers were practically holding my cars hostage, I had no choice but to agree to the work at an eye watering cost of $600.

And that’s only one of our cars. Poor Minty. The expensive wax treatment we paid for in the UK to encapsulate the rust on the undercarriage had to be ripped off at a cost of $1000 and the rust underneath completely removed. There’s a problem with the steering column too and the seatbelts aren’t compliant with New Zealand safety standards. The body shop in Lower Hutt actually said that we’d be better off scrapping it.

I have no words.

Once your car has passed compliance (and once you’ve handed over an insane amount of money to the entry certifier), you’ll be given a form to take to the AA Centre where you can get your new reg plates and pay the road tax or RUC (Road User Charges). Don’t even think about importing a diesel car; you could be looking at a bill of over $2000.

One thing that struck me was that despite the lady at the AA Centre in Lower Hutt (the wonderful Maggie; see ‘Converting Your Driving Licence’) being very efficient, the whole process itself was incredibly inefficient. Everything was filled in on a form by hand and then the same information was typed into the computer. Believe it or not, our licence plates came out of a small filing cabinet that was sitting at the back of the serving vestibules. They still have paper tax discs here too so unlike the UK where you have been able to renew your licence within a matter of minutes online since 2014, you have to travel to your local AA Centre and stand in a queue, just like we used to have to do at the Post Office. And while New Zealanders are on the whole very friendly and patient, they must loose their rag often enough to post a security guard at the entrance of the AA Centre in Lower Hutt.

We were at the AA Centre for just under an hour and in that time, we converted my driving licence, processed our road tax, registered the car, got AA membership and car insurance.

If you’re moving into New Zealand and you think you can cope with the monumental headache of trying to import your car, you can find all the information on how to import it on the official Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency website: https://www.nzta.govt.nz/vehicles/importing-a-vehicle/

I would suggest drinking a strong cup of coffee before you read it.

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