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Car Buyers' Guide: Private imports can be a risky business
AA Motoring asks whether it is worth privately importing a car
Some people can’t help but fall in love with harder-to-find cars — and 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, but it’s not always the best way to find your new motor. Risks and advantages need to be weighed up.
Is it worth the risk?
Like any online purchase, there are always risks with privately importing. You’re relying on the seller’s good faith and the description and images provided. Only seeing a vehicle in real life can satisfy the questions you may have before you decide to buy, so there will always be some level of uncertainty.
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. We’d 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 New Zealand entry certification standards 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 $5000-$7000.
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 may not be worth taking. If the car arrives from overseas and it needs a lot of repair work you could end up spending more than if you had bought a vehicle here with a slightly higher price tag.
However, if you’re looking to buy a vehicle that’s hard to come by, a rare classic or at the higher end of the market, 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 buying the car such as GST, insurance and entry certification, to check whether you’re saving that much.
Also, be aware there are many different rules set out by the Transport Agency around compliance, making it 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 it doesn’t meet the current standards for New Zealand roads. We’d suggest contacting a good entry certifier beforehand and discussing all the details of the vehicle you’re looking to buy, before you part with any money.
Private imports are on the increase. 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 can sometimes get exemptions from emission and frontal impact standards as long as they meet the immigrant exemption criteria.
Many people assume a private import will save money, and allow them to get their dream car at a much cheaper price. But sometimes, once you add up the mounting costs, you may not save 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 a lot easier than buying a car from overseas.
If you think you’ve found yourself a steal, totted up all costs and feel comfortable advantages outweigh risks, then go for it. It may be worthwhile and you could get that car you’ve always wanted.