10 Tips for Buying a Secondhand Car in New Zealand© Pexels
10 Tips for Buying a Secondhand Car in New Zealand

10 Tips for Buying a Secondhand Car in New Zealand

© Pexels

What You Need to Know About Buying a Secondhand Car in New Zealand (Especially as a Tourist)

A road trip around New Zealand is the experience of a lifetime… Purchasing a vehicle to do said road trip is not quite so exciting. Nevertheless, buying a secondhand car in New Zealand is very common for travellers on an extended trip, so there are plenty of secondhand vehicles out there. However, there are a lot of dodgy cars among the selection and the worst nightmare of any road-tripper is finding out that their vehicle is a pile of garbage. Buying “a lemon”, as they say in New Zealand, often means paying out hundreds or even thousands of dollars to get your car fixed. Avoid this disastrous scenario by following our tips for buying a secondhand car in New Zealand.

You can also follow the tips in our Buying a Car in New Zealand Step by Step – just so ya know.

1. Make Sure You Can Legally Drive in New Zealand

The first tip for buying a secondhand car in New Zealand is knowing that you have the right license to legally drive in New Zealand. Your driving license from your home country must be in English, otherwise, you will need to have your driving license accompanied by an International Driving Permit (IDP) or a translation that is approved by the NZ Transport Agency. An IDP is obtained before you arrive in New Zealand or a translation can be obtained once you are in New Zealand. For details, refer to Why You Need an International Driving Permit for New Zealand and How to Translate an Overseas Driving License for New Zealand.

Another thing to note is that your driving license from home will only be valid in New Zealand for 12 months since you arrived. After that, you will need to get a New Zealand Driver’s License.

Buying a Secondhand Car in New Zealand© Pixabay

2. Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington are the Best Locations for Buying Cars

The most concentrated areas of secondhand vehicles in New Zealand are the cities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. This is because these are the most popular arrival and departure cities, as well as the most populated cities in New Zealand. Looking for a secondhand vehicle in these locations will give you a large selection to choose from.

Auckland is by far the most popular city to buy a car from travellers leaving New Zealand – often resulting in the cheapest purchases. However, Auckland in summer can get especially competitive on the car-buying market, so consider taking the bus to another city if you have no luck and try looking for a car somewhere else, like Tauranga or Hamilton.

Buying a Secondhand Car in New Zealand© Pixabay

3. Use Multiple Resources to Find a Secondhand Car in New Zealand

There are a number of tools you can use to make buying a secondhand car in New Zealand a quick process. Try backpacker Facebook Groups, the New Zealand auction website TradeMe, advertising in hostels or supermarkets, secondhand car dealerships and cars advertised for sale on the side of the road. We go through the pros and cons of each car-buying resource in How to Find Used Cars (& Campers) 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.

10 Tips for Buying a Secondhand Car in New Zealand© Backpacker Car

4. Make Sure You Buy the Right Vehicle for Your Needs

Travellers and backpackers on an extended trip in New Zealand buy all kinds of secondhand vehicles, from small cars that will get them from A to B to spacious campervans that they end up living in for a few months. Really think about what vehicle you will need for your trip around New Zealand. Check out how to utilise different types of backpacker vehicles in the Different Types of Campervans in New Zealand or compare models in What Model of Car or Campervan to Buy for Travelling New Zealand.

Buying a Secondhand Car in New Zealand© Brina Blum on Unsplash

5. Do a Car Inspection

Always inspect a secondhand vehicle before purchasing it! Arrange to inspect the car with the seller and check under the hood/bonnet, inside the car, outside and under. If it’s a campervan you are buying, make sure that all the living amenities are working too. Anything that looks dodgy or broken will only cause you trouble down the road. If you don’t know what to look for when inspecting a vehicle, be sure to follow our steps in Buying a Car or Campervan in New Zealand Step 1: Car Inspection.

Buying a Secondhand Car in New Zealand© Pixabay

6. Test Drive the Car

Some problems can’t be seen until you drive the car so when going to do a car inspection, make sure you test drive the car. This is common practice when buying a secondhand car in New Zealand, so if the seller refuses don’t go through with the sale. We have loads of tips on what to look out for in a test drive in Buying a Car or Campervan in New Zealand Step 2: Test Drive.

Buying a Secondhand Car in New Zealand© Pixabay

7. Make Sure the Vehicle Has a Valid WOF

WOF or Warrant of Fitness is the certificate to show that the vehicle is deemed roadworthy and safe to drive on New Zealand roads. The version for heavy vehicles like motorhomes is a Certificate of Fitness (COF). Driving a vehicle without a WOF or COF in New Zealand is illegal. It is standard practice that a secondhand car for sale has a WOF that is less than one month old, and you have the right to insist that the vehicle has had a recent WOF inspection. If you don’t insist, the seller may get you to confirm in writing that you agree to accept the WOF is more than a month old – this protects the seller should there be a consumer dispute.

10 Tips for Buying a Secondhand Car in New Zealand© NZPocketGuide.com

8. Fill Out the Necessary Paperwork to Take Ownership of the Vehicle

Both the buyer and the owner of a secondhand vehicle will need to fill in some paperwork to change the ownership of the vehicle. This is important because whoever owns the vehicle is responsible for any fees or fines. You can pick up a change of ownership form from any NZ Post Shop or AA Centre. The forms are MR13A and MR13B. If you are buying from a professional dealer, then you will also need to fill out a sales agreement. For more information on the paperwork involved in the vehicle-buying process, check out Buying a Car or Campervan in New Zealand Step 3: The Paperwork.

Pixabay© Pixabay

9. Consider Getting Car Insurance

Although it is not mandatory to have car insurance in New Zealand, you may want to consider it to avoid paying expensive fees if you are ever involved in a car accident – whether it’s your fault or another party’s. However, the cost of buying insurance is a big expense in itself so it’s important to compare the market and get the best deal. To help you understand the different types of policies out there, take a look at How Car & Campervan Insurance Works in New Zealand.

One of our recommended comprehensive car insurance providers is Frogs-in-nz. They offer comprehensive insurance in partnership with Star insurance and have tailored their plans to backpackers’ needs. Your options include Comprehensive policy, Third Party Fire and Theft as well as Third Party Only. As a new option, you can now also add Roadside Assistance.

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!

10. Learn How to Drive in New Zealand

Before you even do a test drive, we strongly recommend that you become familiar with the New Zealand rules of the road. Even if you come from a country that appears to have similar road rules to New Zealand, you may be surprised at the subtle differences that could make a huge difference in whether you may have an accident or not. A great place to stay (even if we do say so ourselves) is The 15 Essential Driving Rules in New Zealand.

Pixabay© Pixabay

More About Buying a Secondhand Car in New Zealand

That’s it for our tips for buying a secondhand car in New Zealand, but if you know anything about NZ Pocket Guide, you know that we have tons more on the subject. Just take a look:

Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in Buying a Car or Campervan in New Zealand: A Step by Step Guide.


Robin C.

This article was reviewed and published by Robin, the co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. He has lived, worked and travelled across 16 different countries before calling New Zealand home. He has now spent over a decade in the New Zealand tourism industry, clocking in more than 600 activities across the country. He is passionate about sharing those experiences and advice on NZ Pocket Guide and its YouTube channel. Robin is also the co-founder of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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