Buyers' Guide: Is it worth privately importing your next car?
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There are a number of reasons why you may consider importing a vehicle privately: you haven’t found that rare classic locally; you’re immigrating or returning home to New Zealand; or you simply want to save some money by doing it yourself.
Whatever the reason, before making the decision to privately import a vehicle, it’s important you do your homework and weigh up the risks and advantages.
Is it worth the risk?
Like any online purchase, there are always risks.
You’re relying on the good faith of the seller, and that the description and images/video they’ve provided are legitimate.
Even then, viewing the vehicle in the flesh is generally the only way to satisfy all the questions you might have.
We advise having the vehicle independently inspected in the country of origin before proceeding with the purchase.
You shouldn’t just rely on it having a current safety inspection, like a Warrant of Fitness (WoF), as we have seen vehicles with current inspections being flagged for rust upon entry to New Zealand.
On top of this, if something goes wrong, you won’t have the same protection under the Consumer Guarantees Act as you would buying through a registered dealership.
It’s also advised you thoroughly check the entry certification standards for New Zealand with the NZ Transport Agency or an AA entry certifier to ensure you’ll be able to drive the vehicle on our roads. Entry certification covers a vehicle’s emissions, frontal impact, stability control and more.
What am I saving?
We wouldn’t recommend privately importing vehicles that are readily available in New Zealand and fetch a low price.
Savings of only a few thousand dollars are negligible when considering the risks associated with privately importing. If the vehicle arrives from overseas and it requires a lot of repair work then you could end up spending more than if you had bought it locally with a slightly higher price tag.
However, if you’re looking to buy a vehicle that’s a rare classic or at the higher end of the market, going down the private import route can be an attractive option.
We’ve advised AA members on importing some special vehicles, such as a 1975 Alfa Romeo Alfetta Coupe from Africa or the new Tesla model S from Australia.
People immigrating or returning to New Zealand often choose to bring their vehicles. This is especially the case when the vehicle may be of little value in its current country but still pricey to purchase in New Zealand.
In some instances you may be eligible for a GST concession, which sweetens the deal.
Making the final decision
Making the decision to privately import should always be considered carefully.
Make sure you’ve calculated all the costs that come on top of the cost of buying the vehicle, such as GST, insurance, shipping and entry certification.
Many people assume importing a vehicle privately will save money and allow them to get the dream car they’ve always wanted at a much cheaper price.
But sometimes it’s too good to be true, so always do your checks carefully and have a good look at what’s available in the New Zealand market first as it is easier and less of a risk than buying a car overseas.