Top Tips for Buying a Used Car in New Zealand

In many countries, owning a car may be seen as a luxury, but buying a car for a trip in New Zealand is an inexpensive option.

With the mass import of Japanese cars, you can choose a good vehicle for a reasonable amount, and once you have gotten the insurance, petrol and other factors sorted out, you can get started on your road trip adventure.

The risk you take when buying a used car in New Zealand is that you don’t know its history, so take some time to properly check before you sign the paperwork. To avoid costly mistakes, here are some tips for buying used cars in New Zealand.

Make sure you can Legally Drive in New Zealand

The first tip for buying a used car in New Zealand is to have the appropriate driving license for legal driving in New Zealand.

The driving license from your home country must be in English, otherwise, you will need an international driving license or a translation approved by the New Zealand Transport Agency.

Also, remember that a driving license from home is only valid for 12 months from arrival in New Zealand. Once that expires, you will then need to apply for a driving license in New Zealand.

If you want to buy a larger vehicle or tow a trailer, you need a special license called a Class 2 license. Without this, you may have problems with the road authorities along the way.

Check Vehicle History

You need to know as much as possible about the car before you buy it. Check the car’s history, value and general condition before you decide to buy. In the vehicle history, the most important questions you want to answer are:

  • Is the previous owner owing financing on the vehicle?
  • Was the car stolen?
  • Was the car imported in damaged condition?
  • Has the odometer been manipulated?

If you cannot get satisfactory answers to these questions, then you should seriously consider looking at another car.

Check the Warrant of Fitness

Check if the car has a valid Warrant of Fitness. This warrant means that the car is functional and safe for driving on the road. WOF tests should be carried out on old cars every six months. The date of the next WOF is shown on a sticker on the windshield of every car in New Zealand.

Check if this sticker is still valid if you want to buy a car. Even if you buy the car “as is”, the policy requires that you drive the car directly from where you bought it to an inspection place or garage where the warrant of fitness will be approved. It is likely that you will have to pay for repairs in order for the car to reach the guaranteed standard.

Get a Professional Inspection

Always insist on professional inspection before buying a used car. Most workshops carry out these checks. After the inspection, you and the seller will receive a report detailing all necessary repairs. If you feel the repairs are too much for you to handle, find out if the seller is willing to take responsibility for some, or else consider looking for another car.

Test Drive the car

Some problems can only be detected when driving a car, so after doing a visual check, be sure take the car for a test drive. This is common when buying a used car in New Zealand and If the seller refuses, do not continue with the purchase.

Consider Automobile Insurance

While insurance is not compulsory in New Zealand, it is a good idea to invest in at least third-party insurance. You can also consider installing an anti-theft device. All these add-ons will make it easy to sell your car at the end of your visit, and for a good price too. Anti-theft devices can also reduce your car insurance premiums.

Think About Changing Ownership

Car registration determines who is responsible for the vehicle, particularly for paying license fees and fines. As part of the vehicle purchase process, both buyers and sellers are required to complete the change of ownership documents.

This can be done online via the NZTA website or at a qualified centre. Alternatively, the seller completes the registration document (or MR13A) and the buyer completes the MR13B form. These forms are available from NZTA representatives and vehicle testing stations in New Zealand.


Driving in New Zealand can differ significantly from other countries. Therefore, make sure you know how to drive in New Zealand and always obey the traffic laws. This way, your visit will be pleasantly memorable.