Before going to the expense of importing a left-hand drive (LHD) vehicle, make sure you read Importing a vehicle.
Also read New Zealand Customs Service's Fact Sheet 29 – Advice on private motor vehicle imports(external link).
Yes. Most left-hand drive vehicles have to be converted to right-hand drive(RHD) before they can be driven on New Zealand roads.
For modern vehicles, this is either very expensive or impractical – especially if the vehicle has a modern frontal impact protection system (eg airbags and crumple zones).
The only vehicles that can be registered as LHD and driven on New Zealand roads are those that belong to one of the specific categories of LHD that are permitted by law.
Before going to the expense of importing a LHD vehicle, you should check very carefully that your vehicle is either belongs to one of the permitted categories or is capable of being converted to RHD. Otherwise, you may find it impossible to use the vehicle on New Zealand roads.
Restrictions on a LHD vehicle are enforced when you go to register it for use on the road, not when it's imported into New Zealand.
Some types of LHD vehicles will need to be issued with a permit in order to be registered in New Zealand, while others can be registered automatically.
All permit applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis and are required to meet the criteria set out in legislation. If a vehicle is on the below list, this does not mean another vehicle of the same make, model, sub-model would automatically be approved. This list cannot be used as proof that a vehicle meets the criteria and you will still be required to provide the supporting documentation to confirm that both you and your vehicle meet the criteria set out on the application form. The NZ Transport Agency is not obligated to grant a permit if it is not considered appropriate and may impose conditions to any permit.
Under Land Transport Rule: Steering Systems (2001), it's generally illegal to register a LHD vehicle for use on New Zealand roads. However, the rule allows some specific categories of LHD vehicles to be registered and operated. The main categories are listed below.
The vehicle must be class MA, and
The vehicle must not be operated in a transport service and must be registered in the name of the person who obtained the original category A LHD permit for a period of four years.
To issue a vehicle with a category A LHD vehicle permit, the Transport Agency must either deem it to have historic value, or it must be a vehicle that was not manufactured in right-hand drive form that meets three of the following four requirements:
The Transport Agency may issue up to 500 category A LHD vehicle permits per year.
These are light vehicles that were manufactured 20 years or more before the vehicle is certified in New Zealand.
The vehicle must be class MA, MB or MC with a gross vehicle mass not exceeding 3.5 tonnes, or a class NA vehicle, that was manufactured in a country other than New Zealand 20 years or more before the vehicle is certified.
The vehicle must not be operated in a transport service.
C1: Vehicles with dual steering controls. The vehicle must have dual steering columns and controls.
C2: Identified categories of specialist vehicles that may, in some circumstances, be LHD. The vehicle must be used solely or principally as:
a mobile crane, or
a vehicle which operates wholly or partly on self-laying tracks, or
an agricultural tractor or self-propelled agricultural harvesting machine, or
an earthmoving machine.
The Transport Agency must confirm in writing that it is satisfied the operation of the vehicle requires it to be a left-hand drive vehicle or that the vehicle is only available as a left-hand drive vehicle.
C3: Other specialist vehicles that may be LHD. The Transport Agency must confirm in writing that it is satisfied that the vehicle has special characteristics, or is equipped for special operational purposes, such that conversion to right-hand drive is impractical.
C4: LHD hearses. The vehicle must be identified as a hearse by the vehicle manufacturer.
C5: LHD motorsport vehicles. The vehicle must be a class MA or class MC motor vehicle that is used in motor sport competition and is operated in accordance with the conditions of a valid motor sport authority card.
The vehicle must be operated by a person who is, for the time being, entitled to diplomatic immunity from jurisdiction. You will need to prove diplomatic status with an appropriate letter of accreditation.
The vehicle must be exempt from registration and licensing requirements.
The vehicle must be formerly owned by the Crown.
The motorcycle may have a sidecar fitted to the right-hand side of the motorcycle.
LHD vehicles that were entry certified in New Zealand before 1 April 2010 are also able to continue to be registered, and so are vehicles temporarily imported into New Zealand.
If your LHD vehicle falls into one of these categories and meets all the safety and legal requirements applying to imported vehicles, you'll be able to register and license it for use on New Zealand roads.
LHD vehicles imported temporarily must be cleared through Customs with the appropriate documents – Carnet de Passage en Douanes, Triptyque, or the relevant New Zealand Customs Service import declaration form.
The vehicle will then need to be registered as an overseas vehicle and pass a warrant of fitness inspection. This will allow you to operate the vehicle on overseas plates for up to 12 months.
If you meet the conditions, take your LHD vehicle and all the documents you need to an entry certifier.
What will the entry certifier do?
At the entry certifier, your vehicle will: