The Complete Guide On How To Buy A Used Car in NZ

Date Oct 26, 2020
Blog category car insurance
By Staff Writer

Pre-owned cars have almost the same features compared to brand new ones, but for half the price — that’s why many Kiwis love them! Buying a used vehicle is a sweet economical choice, but it can also turn sour if you don’t know how to snag the perfect deal.

If you plan to buy a pre-loved car anytime soon, we got you! Here’s a complete guide on how to purchase the best used car in New Zealand.

Check the car’s paperwork and other documents

Great, you’ve chosen the vehicle that you want! Now, it’s time to check all the relevant paperwork and documents. New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) recommends checking the following:

Warrant of Fitness

All cars for sale have a warrant of fitness (WoF). It certifies that the vehicle has been inspected from any faults. It’s best if the WoF was issued in less than a month to ensure that the car was recently inspected. 

If you’re okay with WoF being more than one month old, you should have a written consent with the seller. This protects them if ever you come back with complaints.

Road User Charge Licence

Road user charge (RUC) licence displays the distance, weight, and other details of your used car. If the seller didn’t show you the RUC licence, don’t buy the car. You may end up paying for outstanding fees, especially if the transfer of ownership has been completed. 

If there are any unpaid RUC, talk with the dealer on how to settle this. You may negotiate to pay for all the fees, given that the seller will deduct the car’s final sale price.

Certificate of Registration

Certificate of Registration is the most important document to check, as it verifies that the car can be legally driven, was legally imported in the country, and was legally purchased. The seller must notify NZTA if they choose to sell their vehicle, because the agency also needs to update their recordkeeping.

As a buyer, checking the certificate of registration also allows you to further investigate if the car has been used for crimes and other illegal activities.

Ask the seller about the car’s history

Once you’ve confirmed all the paperwork, it’s time to know more about the vehicle. Has the car been repaired? How many times has it been involved in an accident? Did the seller replace any component? Asking questions like these can help you ensure the car is in best condition upon purchase. 

Other than questions about the car itself, here are more relevant questions to ask:

Why is the seller selling the vehicle?

It can be because the seller is buying a newer model, but it can also be because the vehicle has several issues. It’s fine to get a little bit nosy with your vehicle purchase, as it involves a huge sum of money.

Who were the usual passengers of the car? 

Was it a family car? Did the owner have pets? Did the owner smoke in the car? These will give you insights which interior parts you need to reclean of hair, burns, dust particles, and sometimes even urine.

Where was the car usually parked?

Parking on a garage and parking on the pavement makes a lot of difference, especially during summer. Although most cars are resistant to the heat of the sun, prolonged exposure can cause damages to the dashboard, headlights, taillights, and other parts.

Let the mechanic inspect the car

If you want to 100% guarantee that the car is in the best condition, then let the mechanic inspect it. Most buyers will conduct some research about used vehicles before even dealing with the seller, but nothing beats the expertise of a car mechanic.

You may also cross-check together with the mechanic if you want to inspect the vehicle yourself too. Here are some key factors to check:

Look for rust, scratches, and dents

Rust, scratches, and dents are easy to inspect because they’re usually in the vehicle’s exterior. A pro-tip is to inspect these wear-and-tear signs during daylight as you can see them more clearly.

Look for signs of repainting and gaps on panels

Repainting is great for cars as it makes the vehicle look brand new. However, if you only see patches of repainting, they’re usually caused by crashes. Gaps on panels also indicate a previous crash as well.

Check the tyres and oil filler cap

If the dealer claims that the car wasn’t used often but the tyres are worn out, he’s most likely lying. If the oil filler cap has white paste around it, there’s a great chance that the head gasket is damaged too. 

Take it to a test drive

The best way to ensure that the vehicle is running smoothly is by driving it. The dealer may request to ride along with you to ensure that you’ll not get the car into accidents, or worse, steal it. Before riding the car, make sure to reach an agreement with the seller first.

When test driving, divide it into three major checks. These are the most recommended tests, but you may conduct more as you see fit.

Pre-drive checks

Once you’re in the car, don’t start the engine immediately. Switch to ignition first, as this will help you to properly check for busted warning lights, exhaust noises, and mechanisms involving anti-lock braking systems and airbags lights.

Driving tests

While driving, beware of any clunking noises whenever you start and stop. This can indicate problems in the engine, exhaust, or drive shaft. Whining sounds means broken gears and bearings, which are expensive to repair.

Final tests

For your final drive test, stop the car but leave the engine running. Look under the bonnet, and check for smokes, oil and water leaks, and any electrical system issues. You may ask the dealer about these problems, and how it will affect your buy.

Enquire about warranties and insurance

Buying used cars doesn’t always guarantee you with protection — and that’s a concerning factor for many Kiwis. Luckily, most used car dealers now offer vehicle protection, so buyers can rest assured that they have something to secure them when accidents and losses happen.

Read: Best Vehicle Protection for Used Cars

Ask about car Insurance

Most used cars have existing car insurance. You may ask the dealer about these policies, and how you can use it if something happens in the vehicle. Make sure that you, the dealer, and car insurance provider are involved if you are to change anything in the policy.

If the car doesn’t have insurance yet, car insurers now offer specialised insurance policies for pre-owned cars. The premium can be more expensive than brand new cars, but it’s still a good compromise to cover your vehicle for anything that can happen on the road.

Find the best car insurance policy for used vehicles using CompareBear’s comparison tool.