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Navigating the cost of boat transport in New Zealand

Understanding the costs of transporting it from port to port or from a seller to your door can help you save money and make the right choice. We cover some of the boat transportation fees you can expect, including both domestic transfers and international shipping costs.
By · March 14, 2024
Navigating the cost of boat transport in New Zealand

Expert boat transport services across New Zealand

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New Zealand is one of the best countries in the world to be a boat enthusiast.

The country has breathtaking coastlines and pristine lakes, perfect for everything from watersports to deep-sea fishing, sailing, or just enjoying life on the water.

Whether a seasoned sailor or a novice exploring the seas, a new (or second-hand) boat may be on your wishlist. But before you do anything, understanding the costs of transporting it from port to port or from a seller to your door can help you save money and make the right choice.

In this guide, we'll cover some of the boat transportation fees you can expect, including both domestic transfers and international shipping costs.

Importing a boat to New Zealand

New Zealand has a big boating culture, but the number of boats sold here can’t compete with overseas markets. It can be a smart financial decision to buy a boat in Australia, the United Kingdom or the United States and have it imported into New Zealand.

In places like Florida it's common for some boaters to upgrade their vessels every 2-5 years.

As a result, there is often a huge number of boats on the market and many people are willing to accept lower prices to pass on their old vessels. Looking at an oversaturated overseas market is a great way for motivated Kiwi boaters to snag a bargain.

Finding a reasonably priced vessel is just the first part of the equation. Next you have to get it from its current port into New Zealand.

Choosing your port

One of the first things you’ll need to do when importing a boat is choose where to ship it. Not all logistic companies will ship your boat to your chosen port. Make sure you do your research before choosing a transport provider.

The most popular ports in New Zealand are:

  • Auckland

  • Wellington

  • Nelson

  • Lyttleton (Christchurch)

  • Port Chalmers (Dunedin)

If you need to use a transportation company in New Zealand and a shipping company, make sure you’ve done the maths on both these costs. It can often be most cost-effective to ship your boat to the port closest to you and have a domestic transporter ship it to its final destination.

How long does it take to have a boat shipped from overseas to New Zealand?

Shipping a boat from an overseas market will differ, depending on the journey is length. You should also be aware that the duration of a journey to a specific port may differ from the return trip. Here’s how long to expect your boat transportation to New Zealand to take:

  • Australia to New Zealand - 10 days (Return journey 30 days)
  • Europe to New Zealand - 50 days (Return journey 90 days)
  • East Coast United States to New Zealand - 30 days (Return journey 50 days)
  • West Coast United States to New Zealand - 20 days (Return journey 40 days)

What to know before getting a quote for shipping

Before getting a quote for boat transportation, it's smart to consider removing any detachable parts beforehand. A good example is the keel, which, when removed, slashes the average shipping cost (sometimes by nearly half). This is because shipping expenses are calculated based on the boat's total cubic volume, determined by length, width, and height.

While this doesn't apply to boats shipped in containers, it's important to remember that the more dismantling it takes to fit your boat into a container, the higher your load costs may be. Container shipping may sound more affordable but also comes with extra hassle.

Another thing to note is whether the transporter is making you a cradle (as opposed to your boat being shipped on a trailer).

  • Your quote will be subject to change based on the final dimensions of the cradle. This is something the transporter can only confirm once your boat is lashed into the cradle

How much is it to transport a boat to New Zealand

There are a few factors that boat transporters have to consider to determine the cost of shipping your boat to New Zealand. The two biggest factors are the vessel's size and distance travelled.

Rates are usually calculated by multiplying the boat's dimensions (length x width x height), with additional fees like marine cargo insurance and loading and unloading fees. Most transporters also have established rates tailored to each type of vessel.

In general, yachts, catamarans, and sailboats are the most expensive to transport long distances due to their heavy, wide, or larger dimensions.

  • The cost of transporting a sailboat can be over $15,000 for journeys of over 1500 kilometres while it can cost $20,000 for a catamaran or up to $100,000 for a yacht on the same journey, depending on how heavy or bulky the load.

How much is it to transport a boat around New Zealand

Transporting a boat domestically is a lot cheaper. While the cost will still differ depending on what type of boat you have, its dimensions and the length of the journey, a rough estimate is that it can cost NZD $1.50 to NZD $4 per kilometre travelled.

On average in New Zealand to transport a boat for about 800km could cost between $1,200 and $2,500. For shorter trips, it could cost about $400 to $800.

Lightweight boats such as small sailboats or pontoon boats cost a few hundred dollars for short distances to several thousand dollars for longer journeys. Heavier vessels like yachts or catamarans have higher transportation costs, ranging from several thousand to tens of thousands of dollars, with additional costs for insurance and loading fees.

What other costs are associated with importing a boat to New Zealand?

There are associated import and biosecurity fees if you are importing a boat to New Zealand.

Cleaning

Up to 80% of boats fail quarantine on arrival. Your boat must be clean and free from organic contamination, as this can result in a fine from the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) on arrival in New Zealand. If you can’t trust that the seller has cleaned the boat, you can often pay for the transporter to take care of cleaning for an additional charge.

Quarantine

There are some fees associated with passing customs and a MAF inspection. These are minor provided your vessel is thoroughly clean inside and out.

Trailers

If your boat has a trailer, there are a few things to note. The trailer must be roadworthy and able to pass a Warrant of Fitness on arrival to New Zealand. You will need to register your trailer on arrival.

Cradles

New Zealand has strict biosecurity laws to prevent foreign insects, pests and diseases. Your boat’s cradle must be made of steel or ISMP15 timber. Otherwise it will be fumigated or destroyed on arrival at additional cost to the owner.

GST & Duty Tax

Depending on your chosen transporter, you’ll often need to pay Import GST of 15% and Duties of around 5% on top of the quote you are provided. Taxes are calculated based on the boat's purchase price, freight costs, and insurance, all multiplied by the GST rate.

Exemption

You may be exempt from paying import taxes if you are a New Zealand resident or are arriving to live in New Zealand for the first time and can prove ownership or use of the vessel of at least 12 months. However, you cannot sell the vessel for two years after importation or use it for commercial purposes.

Documentation you’ll need to import a boat to New Zealand

There are a few things you’ll need to be able to book boat transportation.

Bill of Sale

You’ll need proof that the boat has been legally sold to you. If you own the boat already, you’ll need a copy of the original bill of sale from when you purchased it.

Photo ID

You’ll need a photocopy of your passport or Drivers Licence to book boat transportation services.

Boat Title/Ownership Papers

Depending on where you bought the boat, it may come with title or ownership papers. Some transportation companies will require you to send a copy of these as well.

Expert boat transport services across New Zealand

Budget-friendly boat haulage service. Trusted by thousands of boat owners across NZ. Any Boat Type. Fixed Prices.
Boat type
Newshub Stuff SCOOP Yahoo!

What do our customers say?

Read reviews of Wise Move to learn stories from our customers.
$900
Sail boat on trailer
Kerikeri
Brunswick
10
Davor
Reviewed 1 week ago
10/10 Nice job, good value, easy and reliable to deal with.
$1,995
Motor boat
Whitianga
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10
Rik
Reviewed 1 week ago
Exalent communication throughout the entire process, Mike and Grant where exalent to deal with going the extra mile. wouldn't hesitate to use again cheers Rik
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Sydenham, Christchurch
Avondale, Auckland
10
Phil
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Jeff is a great operator. Good communicator, did what he said he would and provided updates along the way. 100% will use again
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Reviewed 3 weeks ago
Russ was awesome to deal with. Turned up right on time and took great care of the boat towing it from Auckland to Christchurch.
$900
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Reviewed 4 weeks ago
All good with no problems at all.
$1,500
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Awesome people to deal with. Great communication, patience and Profesional.
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Reviewed 1 month ago
Hard to fault. Good Comms towards the delivery end of things. Was picked up and delivered as per the timeframe they set out. Would absolutely use them again.

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