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31 March 2022

Rebates for cleaner cars, penalties for gas guzzlers from 1 April

Will you get cash back or a face a fee?

As an incentive to reduce our nation’s carbon footprint, if you buy a new low-emission vehicle (electric or hybrid) from Friday 1 April, you may be eligible for a discount that will put cash back in your pocket. We're talking up to $8,625 cashback if you buy a new EV, while a used import tops out at a potential $3,450 rebate.

On the other side of the pendulum, if you buy a new high-emission, gas-guzzling vehicle, expect to pay a penalty of a few thousand.

This comes as changes to the government’s Clean Car Emissions Scheme kick off on 1 April 2022. The idea is to encourage the switch to low-emission vehicles as New Zealand strives to be carbon neutral by 2050.

With high fuel prices, some consumers don’t need much convincing. Our recent survey showed that a third of people were already thinking of making the switch to hybrid or electric vehicles.

How it works

There’s no set rebate rate or fee

Different vehicle models have different emission rates. All rebates and fees will be based on a sliding scale of CO2 emissions.

If you’re looking at buying your next car, head to Rightcar NZ - Vehicle ratings to check what you might end up saving or paying. Drive Electric, a not-for-profit which promotes the benefits of EVs, has a similar tool where you can search EV types and see how much of a rebate different models would get you.

Gen Less also has a calculator freely available that helps you run some of the costs of car ownership based on your unique situation.

Vehicle requirements

A rebate is payable for an eligible vehicle only if the following criteria have been met:

  • The vehicle must have been registered for the first time in New Zealand from 1 April 2022.

  • The vehicle must have a safety rating of 3 stars or more on the Rightcar website at the time of registration.

  • The vehicle must have been purchased for less than NZ$80,000, including GST and on-road costs (the purchase price).

  • It needs to be a zero-emission or low-emission vehicle.

Eligibility

The first time a vehicle is registered in New Zealand, whether it is brand new or a used import, is when you’re eligible to receive the rebate or will have to pay the fee, depending on whether the car is low or high emission.

You can only get one rebate or will have to pay one fee, per vehicle.

How to apply for a rebate

You won’t automatically get the discount when you drive off the lot in your brand-new car. Go to this website to apply for the rebate, otherwise you won’t receive it.

Who really benefits from this?

The scheme is a step in the right direction for a future-thinking, cleaner, greener New Zealand, but do these steps result only in the well-off getting discounts and the rest of us being penalised?

EVs and hybrids come with hefty price tags. The cheapest EV available in New Zealand right now is the MG ZS EV at $48,990, while one of the most expensive will set you back $366,900. A used import can qualify for a rebate and will cost far less, the cheapest being around $15,000.

Yet for many, even with the discount (which can be thousands of dollars depending on the vehicle model) it won’t offset the upfront high cost – despite being proven to save owners more in the long run. Petrol models remain the most affordable upfront option for many.

Most EV drivers save more than $2000 per year in petrol bills. So, now’s the time to make the most of a low-emission vehicle – if you can afford it.

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