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Importing a vehicle temporarily (Factsheet 35)

Published: 11 2014

This factsheet explains what to do when you import a vehicle from overseas for a period of time. A temporary vehicle import is where a vehicle is brought into New Zealand by a resident of another country, usually for a maximum of 12 months, while remaining registered in its country of origin.

Importing a vehicle temporarily

A temporary vehicle import is where a vehicle is brought into New Zealand by a resident of another country, usually for a maximum of 12 months, while remaining registered in its country of origin. (Note that 'vehicle' includes motorcycles.)

The vehicle's registration in its country of origin must remain current for the duration of its stay in New Zealand, and must remain in the name of the person who imported the vehicle into New Zealand.

The vehicle must be exported out of New Zealand within the allowed temporary entry period. You must not import the vehicle with the intention of selling it.

New Zealand Customs Service requirements

If you want to bring the vehicle in free of duty charges, you will need to have a Carnet de passages en douanes (carnet). These are issued by AIT/FIA-affiliated member clubs (eg the Automobile Association). You can use a carnet issued by a Chamber of Commerce, but these are usually issued only for vehicles imported as demonstration models for commercial purposes.

The vehicle must be exported from New Zealand while the carnet is still current.

If you don't have a valid carnet, you must apply to the New Zealand Customs Service for a temporary import entry.

If your vehicle is imported using a temporary import entry, you'll be required to pay a cash deposit. The cash deposit will be the same amount as the Customs' charges you would have to pay if the vehicle was being imported on a permanent basis.

This cash deposit will be refunded by the New Zealand Customs Service if your vehicle is exported within 12 months of its arrival in New Zealand. If you have been granted an extension, the cash deposit will be refunded if the vehicle is exported before the end of the extension period.

For more information, contact the New Zealand Customs Service.

Quarantine requirements

Before your vehicle is released to you, it must be inspected by the Quarantine Service of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). You need to contact the nearest office of the MPI Biosecurity New Zealand Cargo Clearance Services (0800 222 018 within New Zealand) to arrange the inspection.

There is an inspection fee, which is less if the vehicle has not been removed from the wharf area. There will be an additional cost if the vehicle has to be cleaned in any way.

Does the vehicle need to be registered in New Zealand?

A temporary vehicle import is exempt from having a New Zealand registration as long as it’s registration in its country of origin remains current for the duration of its stay in New Zealand and it remains in the ownership of the person who imported the vehicle into New Zealand. The owner must still, however, pay a motorist's Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) levy.

The vehicle does not need New Zealand registration plates (also called ‘number plates’ or in some overseas jurisdictions, ‘licence plates’).  It must continue to display the overseas plates.

Payment of the ACC levy
The owner is required to notify the NZ Transport Agency of the details of the vehicle prior to its use on New Zealand roads. The ACC levy is paid at the time of notification.  On receiving notification, the Transport Agency will record the details of the vehicle and the owner on the Motor Vehicle Register.

Who can help?

NNotification can be made to an entry certifier. The following organisations are entry certifiers:

What do I do?

When you take your vehicle to an entry certifier, you’ll be required to:

  • fill out an Notice of temporary vehicle import by overseas visitor (form MR2C)
  • provide proof that the vehicle is currently registered in your name in its country of origin (eg by providing original vehicle registration documents)
  • show your carnet or temporary import entry
  • provide identification that shows your name, date of birth and signature
  • pay an Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) levy, but none of the other registration and licensing fees.

You'll then be issued with a licence label to attach to your vehicle as proof of payment.

Vehicle safety requirements

While your vehicle is at the entry certifier, it must also be inspected to confirm that it is roadworthy. The vehicle must pass this inspection before you can drive it in New Zealand.

When your vehicle passes the inspection, the TSD agent will issue it with a warrant of fitness (WoF) if it is a light vehicle (ie weighs 3500 kilograms or less) or a certificate of fitness (CoF) and certificate of loading (CoL) if it is a heavy vehicle (ie weighs more than 3500 kilograms).

What happens if the vehicle's registration in its country of origin expires?

The vehicle's registration in its country of origin must be renewed before it expires. If the vehicle's registration in its country of origin cannot be renewed, the vehicle no longer qualifies as a temporary import. It will have to be fully certified, registered and licensed in New Zealand, and issued with a vehicle identification number (if appropriate) and New Zealand registration plates.

A vehicle brought into New Zealand as a temporary import may not necessarily meet the requirements for full registration (eg it may not comply with required vehicle standards). Such a vehicle cannot be used on New Zealand roads legally if its registration as an overseas visitor's vehicle is no longer valid.

See factsheet 44, Importing a motor vehicle for information on the criteria and inspection process.

Do I need a New Zealand driver licence?

You can legally drive in New Zealand for up to 12 months without a New Zealand driver licence if you hold either:

  • a valid and current International Driving Permit (as defined in the 1949 or 1968 Conventions on Road Traffic)
  • a valid and current driver licence from any country. If your driver licence is in a language other than English, you must carry an accurate translation issued by:
    • a diplomatic representative at a high commission, embassy, or consulate
    • the overseas issuing authority or the organisation who issued the driver licence
    • a translation service acceptable to the Agency.

If you are driving using your International Driver Permit, you must also carry your current overseas driver licence with you.

Under all other circumstances, you must have a valid and current New Zealand driver licence. See factsheet 56, New residents and visitors and factsheet 45, Learning to drive: How to get your licence to find out more.

If your overseas driver licence is a restricted or learner's licence, you'll have to comply with the relevant restrictions or conditions applicable in the New Zealand driver licensing system.

Do I need insurance?

Vehicle insurance is not compulsory in New Zealand but it is recommended. Please note that the ACC levy is not insurance.

Do I have to pay road user charges?

If your vehicle is diesel-powered or weighs more than 3500 kg, you may have to pay road user charges (RUC). These charges contribute towards the cost of the upkeep of New Zealand's roads. For more information, see factsheet 38, Road user charges or call our contact centre on 0800 655 644.

What do I need to do when I take the vehicle back out of New Zealand?

You’ll need to fill out an Application to cancel registration form (MR 15), available from an entry certifier. This will ensure your vehicle's details are removed from New Zealand's Motor Vehicle Register. If your vehicle's stay was shorter than the period for which it was recorded as an overseas visitor's vehicle, you may be entitled to a partial refund of the ACC levy.

If you imported the vehicle using a carnet, you must get the document stamped by the New Zealand Customs Service on departure, or it won't be valid.

If you imported the vehicle using a temporary import entry and paid a cash deposit to the New Zealand Customs Service, you'll need to contact them regarding any refund of your cash deposit.

Where do I get more information?

For information on vehicle inspection requirements, vehicle registration and driver licence requirements, contact the Transport Agency:

  • Email: info@nzta.govt.nz.
  • Phone: 0800 108 809.
  • Write: Transport Registry Centre, Palmerston North office, Private Bag 11777, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand.

For information on importing and customs requirements, contact the New Zealand Customs Service:

  • Email: feedback@customs.govt.nz.
  • Phone: within New Zealand, 0800 428 786; from outside New Zealand, +64 4 473 6099.
  • Phone: from Australia 1800 301 861
  • Phone: from overseas +64 4 927 8036