How to Buy a Car in New Zealand

buying a car in New Zealand

Buying a car in New Zealand is a straightforward process, but there are actions that you should take before finalizing the sale of the vehicle.  You can buy a car in New Zealand from an individual or a dealer.  This guide covers if you are purchasing a car from an individual.

Car Ownership Basics

  • Make sure that you have a valid drivers license to drive in New Zealand.
  • All vehicles need a warranty of fitness (WoF). A car less than 20 years old needs a new WoF every 12 months and an older car need one every six months.  If your vehicle does not have a valid WoF or does not pass the WoF, it cannot be driven on New Zealand roads.
  • Diesel vehicles require road user charges (RUC) to be paid.  Petrol prices include about $0.89 of taxes that diesel fuel does not include.  Diesel vehicles pay their taxes based on RUC, which are pre-purchased kilometers and are displayed on the dashboard. The RUCs stay with the car if it is sold so if there are more kilometers left on the RUC than on the odometer when a vehicle is sold, they pass to the new owner.
  • It can be cheaper to insure your vehicle and easier to register the sale if you have a New Zealand drivers license.

Pre-Purchase Inspection

Many mechanics perform pre-purchase inspections, and they take 45-60 minutes.  AA does them for $169-189, and they can be booked online.  VINZ charges $149, and many independent shops charge $100-150.  The inspection is not a WoF, but after the inspection, you will know of issues that might prevent the next WoF from being a pass.

Check for Valid WoF

A vehicle that is sold is required to have a valid WoF that is less than 3o days old unless it is documented that the sale is “as is, where is” or that the WoF is more than a month old.

New Zealand WoF

Check for Current RUC

It is illegal to sell a vehicle in New Zealand that is not current on its road user charges.  If you do purchase a vehicle that is not current on its RUCs, you are responsible for getting it current.  There is not a “grace period” due to a change in ownership of the vehicle.

Check that the Vehicle has Not Been Reported Stolen

You can check via the police website that the vehicle has not been reported stolen.

Run a Debt Check on the Vehicle

If there is a loan on a vehicle or if it has been used as collateral for a previous loan, the vehicle can be repossessed even if you purchased it.  There is an online tool that you can check to make sure that it has not been used as collateral for a loan.

Check the Certificate of Registration

This is a basic piece of paper that lists the registered individual of the vehicle and the registration number of the vehicle.  You want to look at it and make sure that the seller’s driver license matches the owner’s name.

Change of Ownership Form

When you buy a car in New Zealand, you need to complete a change of ownership form with the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) and pay a $9 fee.  If you have a New Zealand drivers license, you can complete the form online.  If you do not have a New Zealand drivers license, then you need to fill out form MR13B at a registered agent. Most sellers will require a receipt that this was done.  The seller will need to complete a form also.


Insurance is not compulsory in New Zealand.  The ACC covers medical claims due to accidents, including traffic accidents.  This makes insurance cheaper since there is not a lot of medical coverage needed.  Insurance usually is less expensive if you have a New Zealand drivers license.  Our guide on making an auto insurance claim can walk you through the process.


How was your experience of buying a car in New Zealand?

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