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How to Buy a Car in New Zealand

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Buying a used car in New Zealand.

Travelling to New Zealand on an extended trip or a working holiday? Buying a car can be a cost-effective way of travelling around the country and give you as much freedom as possible. In this guide, we’ll show you how to buy a car in New Zealand.

First things first, make sure you have a valid driving license for driving in New Zealand. You will need to either have a valid driving license from your home country written in English or a valid non-English driving license along with an International Driving Permit (IDP).

Where to find cars for sale in New Zealand

There are a number of websites to find cars for sale, including Facebook Groups and the New Zealand version of eBay called TradeMe. Other methods include supermarket notice boards and car rental sales. Here’s just a quick list of different ways you can find a car to buy:

  • TradeMe.com
  • Backpacker cars buy & sell Facebook Groups
  • [Town name] buy & sell Facebook Groups
  • Car fairs
  • Rental sales and buyback schemes
  • Roadside sales
  • Hostel car binders and notice boards
  • Supermarket notice boards

For more information, see Where to Buy a Backpacker Vehicle in New Zealand.

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What to ask the seller before inspecting the car

You will need to check a few things before you take the time to travel to the seller and inspect/test drive the car.

First, make sure the car is being sold at a fair price. Compare the sale price to similar car models and ages in the same area. Remember, you might be able to negotiate a better price before your final purchase.

Make sure that the car has a valid Warrant of Fitness (WOF). Any vehicle sold in New Zealand should have a valid WOF less than one-month-old. A WOF is a document certifying that the car has passed the inspection of safety and is deemed road-worthy. It is illegal to drive a car without a WOF on public roads.

Finally, you might want to do some research on the vehicle. Ask the seller for the car registration number or model and age of the vehicle so that you can research vehicle ratings, such as the used car safety rating, fuel economy rating, air pollution rating and Co2 emission rating.

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Inspect the car

Once you’ve found a car you would potentially like to buy, you should organise a car inspection with the seller or “view the vehicle”. Used cars in New Zealand are often old and/or have done many kilometres so it’s best to do a thorough inspection to decrease the risk of buying a lemon.

Inspecting outside the car

Look at the outside of the car for any signs of damage. If the car has been in an accident, it could be hiding internal damage that could cause a problem in the future. Plus, look for signs of rust, which seriously affect the value of the car.

Inspecting under the car

Now it’s time to get dirty. Inspect underneath the car for any signs of rust. Make sure there are no leaks under where the car is parked. Plus, check the tyres to see if they are worn evenly, are all the same type of tyre, and that the tread is more than 1.5mm depth.

Inspecting under the hood/bonnet

When you lift the hood, check all the fluid levels are correct, for any signs of leaking, and for radiator rust.

Inspecting inside the car

Finally, this is the part that most of us will be familiar with. Check that all the controls are functional, the seat belts work, that the windows work, and lift up the corners of the carpets to check for signs of rust.

For more advice on how to do a car inspection, see Buying a Car in New Zealand Step 1: Car Inspection.

Test drive the car

Now, test drive the car to keep an eye (and ear) out for any other issues. Here, you’ll be able to see if the engine starts easily, if the steering is solid enough, if the car drives straight, that the brakes are not too loose, etc. Check out our Buying a Car in New Zealand Step 2: Test Drive for a full guide on how to test drive a car.

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Mechanic pre-purchase inspection

Once you have done your own car inspection and a test drive and are satisfied with the car, we recommend getting a mechanic pre-purchase inspection. You will need to organise this next step, again, with the seller.

A pre-purchase inspection will cost NZ$80-$120. Make sure to pick a mechanic of your choice – not one that your seller recommends. Ideally, choose a reputable mechanic that is MTA licensed. That way, if there are any issues with the car that the mechanic didn’t report, you can report it to the MTA who may be able to work with the mechanic’s insurance to pay you back for unforeseen repairs.

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Purchasing the car & changing ownership

Once you have found a car that you are happy to purchase, you will need to fill in some paperwork to become the registered owner of the vehicle.

Paperwork with a private seller

Both you and the seller need to complete a Change of Ownership form. The forms you will need to complete are:

  • Buyer’s form: MR13B
  • Seller’s form: MR13A

These forms can be completed online at the NZTA website if you have a New Zealand driver license. Otherwise, you will need to complete and return a paper version of the forms, which can be done at any NZ Post Shop or AA insurance centre.

Paperwork with a professional dealer

If purchasing a car from a car dealer, you should be provided with a Consumer Information Notice (CIN) stating:

  • Year of registration in New Zealand
  • Odometer reading
  • Mention of damage recorded at importation
  • Make, model, year of manufacture and other legal info about the vehicle
  • Dealer’s contact details and registration
  • Any securities registered on the vehicle.

You will also need to sign a Sales Agreement, which is accepting the dealer’s terms and conditions of the sale.

Finally, you will need to become the registered owner of the vehicle by completing the MR13B form (see above).

Car Insurance

Car insurance is not mandatory to drive a car in New Zealand. However, due to the high expense associated with car accidents, you still might want to consider getting car insurance.

One of our recommended car insurance providers that provide comprehensive insurance is Frogs-in-nz. Get a 5% discount by using the discount code: BPKRGUIDE in the “promo code” field. You’re welcome!

Find out more in Buying a Car in New Zealand Step 4: Backpackers Car Insurance and see 10 Things to Know About New Zealand Car Insurance.

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