How to Get a Warrant of Fitness When Importing Your Car into New Zealand

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Posted on 1st September 2018 – Shipping Vehicles


Before a vehicle is allowed on New Zealand roads, it must pass technical tests to check that it is roadworthy and that it meets environmental standards such as low levels of CO2 emissions, and that it isn’t carrying any harmful biological elements.

The process is called ‘entry certification’ and also includes registering and licensing your car on your behalf. At the end of it, you will be issued with a Warrant of Fitness (WoF) - or Certificate of Fitness for bigger vehicles.

What happens during a WoF inspection?

During the Warrant of Fitness inspection, your vehicle will be tested to ensure that it is mechanically sound. The complete list of points checked can be found on the New Zealand Transport Agency’s website, in the Vehicle inspection requirements manual (VIRM).

Here are some of the points the inspection looks at:

- the condition of the tyres and the tread depth. More specifically, the tyres must have been fitted correctly, i.e. there should be no asymmetrical tyres, and the wheel type must be the right one for the tyres used;

- that the brakes are in good working order;

- rust: the inspection’s aim is to ensure that there is none on certain key points of the metallic frame as it can compromise the structural integrity of the car;

- the lights, windscreen wipers, airbags and the speedometer which should all work freely;

- the condition of the glazing, especially the windscreen which should be found safe in the case of a collision;

- the doors should open and close easily;

- the safety belts will be checked, including the buckles which should lock and unlock properly;

- the steering as well as the suspension of your vehicle should be safe and secure;

- the exhaust system will also be checked for leaks, smoke and noise and must meet certain criteria;

- the fuel system will also be checked to ensure that it doesn’t leak.

Upon successful completion of the inspection, your vehicle will be issued with a WoF label applied on your front windscreen.

While the Warrant of Fitness is a key document when importing a vehicle into New Zealand, this isn’t a one-off inspection, you will need to have it renewed on a regular basis. Brand new vehicles with a first registration won’t need another one until they are three years old. Older cars will need an annual inspection, unless they have been registered before 2000 for the first time in which case they will have to have their WoF renewed every 6 months.

Once you are in New Zealand, nobody will remind you of the next WoF so make sure you are clear when yours is due as it is illegal to drive a vehicle without a valid Warrant of Fitness label.

Can I organise it myself when I bring my car into New Zealand?

Warrant of Fitness inspections are done by authorised centres accessible to private individuals so you could. The question, though, is why would you want to?

The WoF is only one of the stages of entry certification so taking your vehicle out of the process to take care of this single step wouldn’t make much sense. Besides, as it can only be done in NZ, you might have to organise it from Australia if you haven’t yet moved yourself, or travel back and forth.

If you are considering importing your car yourself, you would then indeed have to organise the WoF inspection yourself too, but transporting vehicles when you are not a professional and you don’t know what you don’t know can be fraught with complications, delays and extra costs.

Importing your vehicle yourself will involve organising marine insurance and making sure that the necessary export documents reach the right people at the right time; arranging for Customs clearance; ensuring the availability of a container -unless you choose Roll-on Roll-off - and transporting your vehicle to the departure port and then from the port of arrival.

If you decide to use container shipping, you will be responsible for preparing and packing your car yourself. This is a crucial step as it will determine in which state your car will reach its final destination, and this is one of the reasons we don’t advise organising the shipping of your vehicle yourself. A freight company like McCullough will know what to look out for and how to best protect your vehicle to make sure that it arrives in perfect condition; insurers are also wary of ‘DIY’ international shipping and are likely to give you unattractive quotes with long exclusion lists and high excess to protect themselves against the higher risk of damage to your vehicle.

The main motivation for organising shipping oneself is often the hope of saving money. However, what you might save in staff time will often not compensate the fact that the rates you will get as an individual for all the different costs incurred will be higher than what a company like McCullough which handles large volumes can get for you.

Entry certification and obtaining a Warrant of Fitness is potentially the trickiest part to get right for a novice in shipping. New Zealand biosecurity rules are stringent, for example, and having your car cleaned to the right standards when you haven’t got the expertise necessary to check whether things have been done properly is one of the difficulties. If the cleanliness of your car is found wanting, it will be cleaned again, at your cost.

Mechanical compliance is no walk in the park either. Get it wrong and you could find yourself without a car for months while it is being fixed.

If you would like to know more about our services and how to ship your vehicle with us, give us a ring on +64 9 309 1163 or send us an email.


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