How to Buy a Car in New Zealand
Lots of us decide to travel by car around New Zealand. With so many sights to see along the highways, as well as the off-the-beaten-track destinations only accessed by having your own set of wheels, we can see why so many travellers prefer to buy their own car to travel New Zealand. After all, the New Zealand road trip is one of the best in the world!
To save some money on car rental, it is very common for working holidaymakers or travellers on an extended trip to buy a second-hand/used car, travel around New Zealand, and sell it afterwards. However, the buying process can be a bit of a drag. Luckily we have done our best to make it “easy as” for you. Just follow the guide below!
Before you hit the road, make sure you have a legal driver’s license. Find out more in our guide, Driving in New Zealand: Everything You NEED to Know.
1. Find Used Cars or Campervans for Sale in New Zealand
There are a number of websites to find used 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 used car to buy:
- Backpacker cars buy & sell Facebook Groups
- [Town name] buy & sell Facebook Groups
- Car dealerships
- Rental sales and buyback schemes
- Roadside sales
- Hostel car binders and notice boards
- Supermarket notice boards
For more information, see How to Find Used Cars for Sale in New Zealand.
Cars and Campervans for Sale at Backpacker Car
For a smooth buying and selling process when it comes to cars and campervans in New Zealand, choose Backpacker Car. All of their vehicles for sale are pre-serviced with a WOF and REGO and are fully equipped with camping gear. You can reserve your car before you arrive in New Zealand and there’s even the option to sell the vehicle back to Backpacker Car, saving you weeks off the usual buying and selling process! Check out their vehicles for sale at backpackercar.co.nz.
2. Ask These Questions to the Seller Before Inspecting the Vehicle
You will need to check a few things before you take the time to travel to the seller and inspect/test drive the car or campervan.
What is the Asking Price?
First, make sure the vehicle 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.
When Was the Vehicle’s Last WOF?
Make sure that the car has a valid Warrant of Fitness (WOF) or COF if you’re buying a motorhome. Any vehicle sold in New Zealand should have a valid WOF or COF of 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.
What is the Car Registration Number, Model and Age?
Finally, you might want to do some research on the vehicle. Ask the seller for the car registration number (REGO) 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.
3. Run a Thorough Car Inspection
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 and campervans 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 Vehicle
Look at the outside of the vehicle 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/campervan.
Inspecting Under the Vehicle
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 in 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 Vehicle
Finally, this is the part that most of us will be familiar with. Check that all the controls are functional, the seat belts work, the windows work, and lift up the corners of the carpets to check for signs of rust. If you’re buying a campervan, make sure all of the living appliances work too.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg on how to do a car inspection, see Buying a Car in New Zealand Step 1: Car Inspection for a complete in-depth guide.
4. Test Drive the Vehicle
Nobody should ever buy a car or campervan without testing it, ever! Try to drive it fast, slow, uphill and downhill. For more tips on what to look for when test-driving a vehicle, check out our complete guide, Buying a Car or Campervan in New Zealand Step 2: Test Drive.
Pro tip: Even when purchasing a car from a professional seller, going through a test drive is a great idea. It will allow you to ask questions to the team and get plenty of driving tips on how to avoid any breakdown on the road.
5. (Optional) Mechanic Pre-Purchase Inspection
Once you have done your own vehicle inspection and a test drive and are satisfied with the car or campervan, 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$100-$220. 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.
6. Deal with the Paperwork
Not the most exciting part of your road trip but surely one of the most important. You will have to run a credit check on your car and make sure that all paperwork is in order. To clear the fog around this complicated process we have made a complete guide, Buying a Car or Campervan in New Zealand Step 3: The Paperwork, but in short…
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:
- Buyers form: MR13B
- Sellers form: MR13A
These forms can be completed online at the NZTA website if you have a New Zealand driver’s 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 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 either in paper form or online (see ” Paperwork with a Private Seller” above).
7. Get Car Insurance
With different road rules, hazards and unsealed roads around every corner, having car or campervan insurance is definitely worth considering for a road trip around New Zealand. Because it is not mandatory in New Zealand, there are some very affordable options are available to cover yourself! For instance, one of our recommended comprehensive car insurance providers is Frogs-in-nz.
If you have any questions about how car insurance works in New Zealand, be sure to check out our guide: Buying a Car in New Zealand Step 4: Car Insurance.
New Zealand Backpacker Car Insurance Discount Code:
Get a 5% discount by using the discount code: POCKETGUIDE in the “promo code” field. You’re welcome!
8. Road Trip in the Best Country in the World!
Use our website to find the best hidden gems of the country and enjoy your road trip to the max! Use our itinerary planning tips in Travel By Car: How to Plan a Road Trip in New Zealand, or if you’re travelling by campervan see How to Plan a Campervan Trip in New Zealand and wise up on all of New Zealand’s major road rules with Driving in New Zealand: Everything You NEED to Know.
More About Buying a Car or Campervan in New Zealand
That’s it for our step-by-step guide to buying a car or campervan in New Zealand. For a more in-depth look at some of the steps of this article, take a look at these additional guides:
- Buying a Car or Campervan in New Zealand Step 1: Car Inspection
- Buying a Car or Campervan in New Zealand Step 2: Test Drive
- Buying a Car or Campervan in New Zealand Step 3: The Paperwork
- Buying a Car or Campervan in New Zealand Step 4: Car Insurance
Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in the 10 Tips for Buying a Secondhand Car in New Zealand.