Importing inverters

zonebluezoneblue Solar Expert Posts: 1,218 ✭✭✭✭
Heres one for folk that live outside the US, esp. NZ. Whilst on a family visit to Maine, we decided to bring back an inverter. I did a bit of homework on this, and concluded that bringing it back as accompanied baggage seemed worth a go. My reasoning was roughly this:

Default Plan
NZ distributor (indep.pwr) retail: NZD3350

Plan B
NAWS price: USD1515
NAWS shipping to New Zealand, USD350
Purchase cost: NZD2144
Import taxes: NZD369
Total: NZD2512

Plan C
NAWS price: USD1515
NAWS shipping to ME,USA, USD105
Purchase cost: NZD1620
Airline overweight bag charge: USD150
Import taxes: NZD221
Total: NZD2256

The situtation for import duty here in NZ is approximately this (IANAL):
- no duty per se on most electronics
- 15% GST payable on goods over the threshold price (incl. all shipping charges, and any duty)
- an additional processing fee of NZD47.
- unaccompanied has a ~$400 theshold, accompanied has ~$700 threshold
- for accomompanied, the threshold is considered a duty free allowance, so you only pay tax on the amount over the threshold
- also, with accompanied, airline excess/overweight baggage isnt considered shipping.

See http://www.customs.govt.nz/features/charges/Pages/default.aspx

My research turned up reports of import tax being assessed on full NZ retail price if you dont have credible paperwork. So rather that trying to bring in it as a 'gift', or 'surplus'/'second hand' etc, have the original invoice and reciept handy. Gifts are only under NZD110, and second hand gets a std depreciation schedule applied to it.

Airlines vary somewhat on checked baggage, but most US airlines work on 50 pounds, most NZ airlines use 23kgs.
They generally charge a fee for an extra bag, and an additional fee on top of that if a bag is overweight.
The situation for mixed carriers is complex, sometimes the biggest leg carrier's policy rules, sometimes the originating carrier's policy rules. In my case VirginAm and AirNZ agreed that AirNZ's policy applied. That is, normally NZD200 for an extra bag; and NZD200 for an overweight bag. Absolute max weight for AirNZ is 32kg. See http://www.airnewzealand.co.nz/excess-baggage-nz .However they seem to have converted it to USD some time ago when the exchange rate was lower, and for US originating flights set the price to USD150. In the case where the originating carrier is not the ticket issuing carrier, you are not able to prepay the excess baggage, and its payable at the originating luggage checkin.

So:
- under 50lb if its your only checked bag: free
- under 50lb if its an extra bag: USD150
- over 50lb but under 70lb if its your only checked bag: USD150
- over 50lb but under 70lb if its an extra bag: USD300

Its all a bit arbitrary, given that that extra 5kg, costs you 150 bucks when overall your luggage might be minimal. I guess its about protecting baggage handling worker's backs.

Also note that airline liabilty for lost/damaged baggage is determined, for domestic travel, by the NZ Carriage of Goods Act, which limits their liability to NZD1500. For international its governed by the Montreal Convention, and thats currently about USD1750. So travel insurance is a good idea. See http://www.airnewzealand.co.nz/mishandled-baggage

Overweight bags are handled as 'oversize', ie they arrive in the oversize area of baggage claim.

Outback ship the parcels well packed, with three layers of cardbaord and several inches of polystyrene. Outback inverters are heavy. Some deformation/rupture of the polystyrene in the lower area occured, airlines are not known for delicate handling. However the box arrived in intact condition after being handled by at least 10 seperate carriers.

Shipping weight: 65 pounds / 29.5kg
Size: 550mm x 550mm x 330mm
You need the export "E" model for AU/NZ.

Some comments on this process are worth noting:

1. The reduced price does come at the cost of some stress.
2. Despite giving NAWs what i thought was heaps of leadtime, the parcel was only delivered one day prior to our departing the US. You dont really want to spend your holiday on the phone.
3. Shipping the thing all the way across the US and then back again was a bit weird. But if your visit is closer to Washington, that would reduce the trans US handling.
4. Airline baggage transfer is incredibly eratic. Regardless of the bagtags, some airlines, some legs will transfer your baggage, others will require you to uplift some legs. Be sure to double check which it is for each leg to avoid stress there.
5. On our final domestic leg, AirNZ decided for some reason to require us to sign a "limited release" waiver. The basic terms of which was that we waive ALL liability. I still do not know why they did this, but in a sleep deprived state signed it, but rereading the waiver it appears that they were in error. Its basically their fine print: "Fragile or delicate items are deemed unsuitable for carriage in checked baggage because they may not withstand normal baggage handling processes. Such items include glassware, china, *electronics*, laptops and cameras, etc". But all cargo goes air freight so whats really different? Shipping companys have insurance i guess. My advice is dont sign it, take your chances under the Carriage of Goods Act.
6. Ironically that final domestic flight was overcapacity and they left the VFX and 10 other folks bags until the next flight without telling us. To say that that gave us some heart burn, after 40 odd hours without real sleep, probably doesnt need mentioning.
7. Will the inverter keep working and what happens if it doesnt? You dont hear about problems with outback inverters, or i wouldnt have contemplated this little endeavor. And they have or at least had a "field repair" policy of shipping boards rather than whole inverters for repairs. Hopefully thats still the case.
1.8kWp CSUN, 10kWh AGM, Midnite Classic 150, Outback VFX3024E,
http://zoneblue.org/cms/page.php?view=off-grid-solar


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