An often argued point of difference over New Zealand's market is our prolific selection of used import vehicles. Are they dodgy, or do they represent great value for money?
Depending on who you ask the answer changes, in this episode of our 100 car buying tips we look at the key advantages/disadvantages to used imports and New Zealand new vehicles.
One of the big benefits to Japanese used import vehicles are they open the doors to a selection of niche vehicles that may not be available as new products here. Sometimes import models originally thought to be too niche for the genuine distributor become sales success stories in their own right. Honda Accord wagon, Nissan Stagea and Skyline models are good examples of this.
2: Service history
Unlike new New Zealand vehicles, imports rarely come with a traceable service history, furthermore vehicle ownership periods are much shorter than they are in New Zealand so the necessity to maintain the vehicle isn't as great. More thorough mechanical inspection is recommended for any used import.
A far higher percentage of the population smokes in Asian countries like Japan and Singapore, the residual odors and arguably chemicals permeate vehicle's interior. Often Japanese exporters / importers can specify if the vehicle has been smoked in but if you’re allergic or consider this a health concern for you or the young ones make sure you sight the vehicle before purchasing.
Japanese Imports have dramatically reduced the amount New Zealanders pay for their vehicles, new vehicle distributors have combated the low cost imports as best they can but you can typically get a near new import vehicle for less than a comparable NZ New model. NZ New vehicles hold a slight advantage come resale, but after a vehicle's about seven years of age values seem to level out regardless of origin.
5: Repairs and parts
After 30 years of imports, our repair industry has adapted better than anywhere in the world. Technical information and diagnostic equipment are no longer monopolized by genuine dealers. Most good mechanics have the knowledge of even the less common imported models now, so diagnosis of problems shouldn't pose any serious issue. If the vehicle is not a model sold as a new vehicle here, replacement parts may or may not be sourced through the brand's factory dealer network so you may have to turn to used or parallel imported parts. Japanese specification may differ to ours, so it's important to source the specific parts for the import model, the more popular the make / model the easier this will be.
6: Winter tyres
Many imports from Japan arrive equipped with winter tyres. It's important to know these are most effective in icy or snowy conditions but don't provide optimum grip in the wet or for sportier driving. Always be aware of what tyres are fitted to your Jap Import, you may want to invest in set of everyday rubber.
Even if an import model looks identical to a new NZ vehicle specification may differ significantly between the two. This often means different engines, trim options and levels of safety equipment. In most instances Japanese audio or satellite navigation systems can't be re-programmed for New Zealand so you may have to compromise here.
8: Certified mileage
We've mentioned speedo tampering earlier in our car buying tips series, but it's worth a re-mention for imported vehicles. This is less of a problem now than it used to be but does still happen, to make sure you're not being taken for a ride we recommend looking for a sticker confirming the mileage is legitimate.
9: Singapore / UK imports
Not as common as the popular Japanese sourced products, but increasing in numbers are vehicles sourced from the UK and Singapore. Treat these the same as you would a Japanese import and have a reputable mechanic inspect the vehicle. Anecdotal evidence suggests climate conditions in Singapore can lead to electrical issues and rubber seals cracking, a comprehensive warranty will help safeguard you should any of these be experienced. Salt is used to de-ice roads in Europe so corrosion can be a concern, though rust prevention in modern vehicles is excellent it'll pay to have the underside checked out.
10: Knowing if the vehicle is imported or not
Look at the vehicle's license label in the left hand side of the windshield, to the right of where the make and model is listed is a small date indication. This shows the date of first registration in New Zealand, if the date is later than the assembly year of the car it's safe to assume it’s a used import.
When purchasing through a dealer they must (prominently) show a Consumer's Information Notice (CIN) on all vehicles sold to the public, this should list where the vehicle has been imported from.