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Practical advise about NZ car import complaince

Practical advise about NZ car import complaince

Old Dec 21st 2019, 10:42 am
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Angry Practical advise about NZ car import complaince

Hello all, forgive me if this story has a tinge (or substantial amount) of whinging, as I'm good and annoyed with this entire matter, and nothings even really happened yet. I'm going to simultaneously vent a bit and ask for advise of those who have personally imported cars to NZ. (If you'd rather not read me complain, just read my last paragraph, thanks!)

My wife and I are living together in Germany at the moment, with the plan to make the move back to NZ around early 2021. My original plan was to bring our 55 plate Saab 9-3 saloon with us. It's done 170K but the motor is perfect, it's cheap to service, good on petrol, and in general I love the car and it meets all of our requirements. Would have been happy to drive it for the rest of my life, to be honest. As the famously strict Germans have been passing the car year after year and letting me get out onto the Autobahn to drive 200km/h+ each day, I didn't even give its road worthiness a second thought until last Christmas when we were back in NZ with family hearing about a car that they'd just imported from California. That's when I learned that with respect to imports, they're absurdly strict about corrosion--and this is a big problem for my trusty Saab. The entire underside is coated in a nice veneer of oxidation, and the arches have a bit of bubbling, and yes, I do hear from the TüV man each time that it looks terrible on the underside, but it is structurally sound--here's your sticker. Anyway, based on what I'd read on the web, and on this and other forums, and my discussions with NZ AA, actual structural integrity is of no concern, it just has to "look" rusty and if that's the case, there is no way that this car is going to NZ, ever.

Fast forward past a bunch of heartache about having to let the Saab go, I do some looking on trademe for a suitable replacement and find a bunch of appalling tat on offer. Japanese domestic cars that if you had a crash in you'd be killed instantly for $10K+. Start looking at some of the safer and nicer cars and the prices quickly climb to the point where, hey, maybe it makes sense to buy a recent UK car now, drive it for the next year over here to avoid the import GST, and then bring that with us.

OK--great. I set a budget and was finding 65 plate cars I was happy with. Asking dealers to send me photos of the undersides to check for rust. Clean as new by my standards, but I just can't understand what the threshold is in NZ for being flagged at the compliance check. I've read the NZTA government regulations--and everything seems very vague and arbitrary with respect to rust. Makes it sound like the only car that you can import without being referred to a structural engineer (give me a break) is one that is fresh from the factory. Alright, well, let's play it safe, then...I find a 67 plate car I really liked, well past what I wanted to spend, mind you, and actually put down a full deposit with the dealer. Earlier this week, I fly up to the UK and get to the dealer ready to drive this car home, and find just the tiniest bit of rust and corrosion on some of the suspension components. I'm annoyed because I couldn't see that in the video they sent me, and am surprised that a car with 9K miles has any rust at all, but I opted not to take the car pending feedback from AA.

So, I take photos of the underside, fly back to Germany, now out about 200€ on travel expenses, and send them to the NZ AA. They come back with it "should" be OK. But, I mean, what does that even mean, how do I know what is or isn't OK before I ship a car? What are the actual standards? It seems to be entirely at the whim of the compliance centre.

I'd love to hear from someone who has recently imported a UK car, or, even better, SEE what the underside of their car looks like, so I can get a better idea of how much rust is too much. At this point I'm leaning away form buying a used car here and bringing it, but the current choices in NZ are just so awful (or excessively expensive) that I'm having trouble letting it go.

(OK--so I tried to attach the photos of the car I was looking at but apparently I need five posts first. I'll attach them soon enough, then.)
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Old Dec 21st 2019, 1:18 pm
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Default Re: Practical advise about NZ car import complaince

Should be ok means, from can be seen in the photos, it should be ok, however if when I'm under it I see something that isn't clear in the photos, then I will have to re assess based on what I find.

Don't know why you're bothering, Saabs are cheap as here. They'll cost you a fortune to service and repair, but you can buy one for not a lot. Compared to most other countries, NZ used cars are pretty expensive
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Old Dec 21st 2019, 4:02 pm
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Default Re: Practical advise about NZ car import complaince

Not bothering with the Saab, it's too far gone on rust based on what I've read. Had a look for another Saab in the UK but couldn't find one that didn't have some rust on the underside somewhere. Looked on trademe, the only examples on there are unloved and neglected. Oh, and one that looked less rusty than mine but the owner claimed hadn't been through the compliance process...

I was looking at a second hand Lexus CT,. Yes they sell these in NZ, but they're all 6 or 7 years old in poverty specification, for the same money (or less) you can find a two year old UK car with everything.

Do you work in import compliance? If so I'd love to send you the photos of the car I was looking at to get your opinion. It's what people in Europe would call a new car, but in NZ who knows...
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Old Dec 21st 2019, 6:39 pm
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Default Re: Practical advise about NZ car import complaince

Probs best to import via a dealer then when you're here if it's that much stress? https://www.allans-automobiles.co.nz/sweden.html I found after a quick search. Type in NZ import Saab or something if you must have that particular Saab and worried about the compliance as they normally come with AA checks and good to go
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Old Dec 21st 2019, 9:17 pm
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Default Re: Practical advise about NZ car import complaince

Sorry I'm nothing to do with cars, compliance or imports.

6 or 7 years old is classed as new in NZ

Most NZ imports are ex Japan where the spec is usually fairly basic. I'm probably the most un car person around. They're just a box to get me to work and back. My current one has one window that doesn't work and no radio, so I'm probably not the best person to ask or offer advice

used car prices here notoriously high, it's something you learn to live with


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Old Dec 21st 2019, 10:36 pm
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Default Re: Practical advise about NZ car import complaince

The problem isn't rust, it's that it isn't New Zealand rust, Rust could be hiding all sorts of things in it, it's the same with soil, there can be no soil on it, ANYWHERE, if there is you will be charged for it to be cleaned to New Zealand standards. Unless the vehicle is a classic, or very valuable, then buying one in NZ is the way to go. They will examine EVERYWHERE, inside and out.
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Old Dec 22nd 2019, 5:35 am
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Default Re: Practical advise about NZ car import complaince

Originally Posted by Timmy Chch View Post
Probs best to import via a dealer then when you're here if it's that much stress? [...] I found after a quick search. Type in NZ import Saab or something if you must have that particular Saab and worried about the compliance as they normally come with AA checks and good to go
My question is more about the process. I've moved past bringing my Saab. It's not that I must drive a Saab, it's just that I'm agitated that it's a great old motor, over-engineered on safety, and has been cheap to run, and I'm being forced to give it up during the move only as it looks brown on the underside. I'd pick a crash in that car any day of the week compared with most of the cheaply made cars on NZ roads that are "safe" from rust.

Originally Posted by Justcol View Post
Sorry I'm nothing to do with cars, compliance or imports...used car prices here notoriously high, it's something you learn to live with
Right, this is precisely what I was trying to get ahead of, but I'm nearly beaten down now. I'm familiar with the used market in NZ and I was hoping that since I have personal access to the UK market right now, and the opportunity to buy a car a year before the move, I could get a much nicer car for about the same money that we might spend after we move. I'm all about value.

Originally Posted by mikelincs View Post
The problem isn't rust, it's that it isn't New Zealand rust, Rust could be hiding all sorts of things in it, it's the same with soil, there can be no soil on it, ANYWHERE, if there is you will be charged for it to be cleaned to New Zealand standards. Unless the vehicle is a classic, or very valuable, then buying one in NZ is the way to go. They will examine EVERYWHERE, inside and out.
Is it, though? My understanding is that the import inspection process is in a few phases, and the biosecurity issue is handled in the first phase. I haven't really read horror stories about that. If the MPI inspector wants to work me for a few hundred to steam clean the car (you know, again) then I'm OK with that and I've accepted it. What I can't get a handle on is what happens during the vehicle compliance process itself. I know they're going to examine everywhere, but I just don't understand to what standard, and I'm trying to buy a car that I know with reasonable certainty is going to pass the initial inspection.

It sure seems as though the spirit of this process is to keep damaged and unsafe used cars out of NZ, but it seems as though the lack of strictly defined criteria from the government has opened up the process to some nonsense. I've read the NZTA page describing the limits, and it suggests that surface rust "should" be OK, but I also have example photos from NZ AA of cars that, you know, have surface rust, and were referred.
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Old Dec 22nd 2019, 5:37 am
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Default Re: Practical advise about NZ car import complaince

Really, my question is, if someone on here has recently done an import from the UK personally, I would love to hear how old the car you imported was, how the import process went, and maybe even see a photo of the underside of your car. I'll buy you a pint when we arrive.
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Old Dec 22nd 2019, 10:31 am
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Default Re: Practical advise about NZ car import complaince

I get it's frustrating, but rules are rules and they are pretty clear. Just buy a car with no rust and there won't be a problem. Loads of people do it all the time.

Try contacting these guys, they'll help you more than we can

UK Car Checks For New Zealand- NZ Compliance Testing.

https://carcompliance.co.nz/?gclid=C...oaAm9KEALw_wcB
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Old Dec 22nd 2019, 11:30 am
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Default Re: Practical advise about NZ car import complaince

Originally Posted by Justcol View Post
I get it's frustrating, but rules are rules and they are pretty clear. Just buy a car with no rust and there won't be a problem. Loads of people do it all the time.
Right, thanks, but I also understand that people import UK cars all the time, and I challenge anyone to find a car in the UK that's done more than 1,000 miles and doesn't have at least a little rust on its underside. I'm just looking for someone who has done it recently and can let me know how the process went for them.

(Also, I really dispute how clear the NZTA rules are. I would say that they're actually very vague.)
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Old Dec 22nd 2019, 12:38 pm
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Default Re: Practical advise about NZ car import complaince

Originally Posted by diallta View Post
I challenge anyone to find a car in the UK that's done more than 1,000 miles and doesn't have at least a little rust on its underside.
If I bought a car and it rusted after only a few weeks, I'd be sending it back and demanding a refund!
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Old Dec 22nd 2019, 1:04 pm
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Default Re: Practical advise about NZ car import complaince

Originally Posted by christmasoompa View Post
If I bought a car and it rusted after only a few weeks, I'd be sending it back and demanding a refund!
You joke, but in all seriousness, have a look under a car that's been sitting outside for more than a month or two. You'll find something brown under there. It's all made from steel and it rusts when exposed to moisture and oxygen. Manufacturer guarantees usually only cover rust-through, as well...probably would trigger an emergency relief fund in NZ!
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Old Dec 22nd 2019, 1:10 pm
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Default Re: Practical advise about NZ car import complaince

Now that I have five posts I can post the photos of the car I was considering. This is the kind of thing I'm trying to determine will get me referred in the compliance process. This car has less than 9,000 miles and is a 67 plate car from Birmingham...









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Old Dec 23rd 2019, 11:59 pm
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Default Re: Practical advise about NZ car import complaince

A few quick points:

(1) I don't think you could import a German specification car because it would be left hand drive, and AFAIK that isn't allowed. I assume that is why you are looking at UK cars.

(2) I think you are getting paranoid over tiny bits of rust which aren't on structural members.
I assume that the issue would be rust in structural areas which would result in a warning or fail in a UK MOT test.
I know in the past that there was a very negative view in NZ of UK cars because the UK salt the roads in the winter, and older specification cars used to rust.
They also used to fail MOTs and cost a lot for welding. Not recently.

(3) If you are really, really paranoid then what is stopping you getting a body shop to clean up and paint/underseal any areas which looks rusty to you? Make sure it is sound, though. Underseal over rust is an old, old trick.

Try to take a balanced view.
Import rules are strict, but as far as I know they aren't stupid.
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Old Dec 24th 2019, 5:55 am
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Default Re: Practical advise about NZ car import complaince

Thanks for your reply.

Originally Posted by LittleGreyCat View Post
(1) I don't think you could import a German specification car because it would be left hand drive, and AFAIK that isn't allowed. I assume that is why you are looking at UK cars.
Yes, exactly. I know I can't bring a non-specialty LHD to NZ, which why I was looking at cars from the UK. Ironically, and annoyingly, where we live in Germany, it almost never snows and almost no road salt is used in the winter. A newer, locally source car would likely be just fine to import with respect to rust, but the steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car. (Of course, in Europe, it also makes no difference at all--we have an RHD now and my insurance rates aren't even higher for it, but I digress.)

Originally Posted by LittleGreyCat View Post
(2) I think you are getting paranoid over tiny bits of rust which aren't on structural members.
I assume that the issue would be rust in structural areas which would result in a warning or fail in a UK MOT test.
I know in the past that there was a very negative view in NZ of UK cars because the UK salt the roads in the winter, and older specification cars used to rust.
They also used to fail MOTs and cost a lot for welding. Not recently.
This is definitely the opposite of what I've been advised and what I've read elsewhere. Cars that are otherwise MOT/TÜV worthy, like the one I own now, are not going to get through the compliance/WOF based on superficial rust issues alone. Based on Justcol's advise above, I did go ahead and contact some compliance centres, which were helpful enough to provide some input based on the photos I attached earlier, and the consensus was I'd be looking at a minimum of an additional ~$1,500 beyond the expected entry costs to set that car right by NZ standards for rust.

Originally Posted by LittleGreyCat View Post
(3) If you are really, really paranoid then what is stopping you getting a body shop to clean up and paint/underseal any areas which looks rusty to you? Make sure it is sound, though. Underseal over rust is an old, old trick.
I was advised by the compliance people specifically not to do this, as it could be viewed as trying to conceal previous damage. They even said in their e-mail reply that it was "silly" but those are the rules.

Originally Posted by LittleGreyCat View Post
Try to take a balanced view.
Import rules are strict, but as far as I know they aren't stupid.
I do understand the point of having such rules, but I can't help but feel like they're not being applied in the spirit with which they were intended. I've driven around large parts of NZ in the wife's old car as well as ridden in other older cars that had a valid WOF, and there is no way that those cars would still be allowed on the road in Europe. I do feel like NZ has its priorities all wrong when it comes to assessing the safety of its vehicle fleet.
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