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Buying a Car in New Zealand Step 2: Test Drive


You’ve looked at it, now it is time to try it!

You are well on your way to buying your car to start your New Zealand road trip.

After reading Step 1: Car Inspection of our guide, it’s time to test drive your potential new car. Make sure you have your driver licence with you, so you can try before you buy. Valid driver licences in New Zealand are in the English language, an international driver licence, and a New Zealand driver licence.

Now onto step 2 of our Buying a Car in New Zealand guide.

*Footnote* The images selected for this guide are merely to brighten up a dull subject. You will not look like this in a test drive, no matter what you think.

Three steps to buying a car in New Zealand

The three steps of buying a car in New Zealand. Make sure to check all our articles on the subject.

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Choose the best route for a test drive

Ideally you will want a bit of highway to take some speed and a hill to test the engine. Luckily, New Zealand has almost only that, so the mix should not be hard to find.

Ask the seller, as they should know the area well and can guide you to the right place.


Before Driving

Aside from checking the comfort of the car and placement of the controls, you will want to pay attention to:

  • The steering wheel, it should not have too much play.
  • How easy is the engine to start, the harder it is, the less you want the car.


During the test drive

Off you go, the road is yours! You will have a bunch of things to check before feeling confident that this will be a decent ride.

What to Check first

Before taking to the open road, drive around the car park or street to see if:

  • The car goes straight when the steering wheel is straight.
  • The steering wheel stays straight if you let it go while the car is moving.
  • The breaks are not too loose, so you don’t have to put your feet down to the floor when you want to stop.
  • Check that the car stops straight.
What to check when driving uphill

Driving up a hill is your best chance to test the engine and handbrake, so here is what you need to be aware of:

  • Listen for unusual engine noises.
  • Check that the car doesn’t have too much of a hard time going uphill.
  • Switch gears and see if it is smooth enough.
  • Try to stop uphill and use the handbrake, it should hold the car even on a hill.
  • On the way down, check the suspension a little to see how rough it is and test the brakes again.
What to check when driving on the highway

Driving on a highway will allow you to get some speed and test the engine another way. Again, pay attention to the noise that the car makes. Your checklist for the highway test drive should be:

  • There are no fuel or oil smells.
  • The engine should not heat up too much. If you feel heat coming from the engine to the driver or passenger seat, this is not good.
  • Test the gears again – it is always better to test twice.


After the test drive

Wow, the car passed our entire checklist! Time to park it. Now you need to check the last couple of things:

  • Make sure that when you turn off the engine, it stops running. Duh!
  • Check also if the car does not make smoke of any colour.

Well done! You are one last step away to getting the sweet ride of your trip.

During the test drive, the seller is going to give you their sales speech.

Be aware that most buyers in New Zealand start with a high asking price in order to discount it during the test drive and lock the sale on the spot. Don’t get trapped; take the discount, but take also the time to finish your checklist and ask all the questions you want to ask.

More information on buying a car in New Zealand

Before you hit the road, make sure you have a legal driver license. Find out more in How to Drive in New Zealand and Converting Your Driver License into a New Zealand Driver License.

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