buy car new zealand

First and foremost, have you included the cost of buying a car in your budget for your New Zealand working holiday? Make sure you include the initial cost of the car, the cost of maintenance and also petrol. Once you are ready to purchase a car, continue reading to identify how you can buy a car in New Zealand for your working holiday!

There are so many things to look out for when buying a car in New Zealand. Head on over for a quick read of how I planned for mine! It did not help that information were everywhere online so it was not easy to identify what is actually important. I was really lucky to have met an Airbnb host who gave me some really great advice then. Hence, here’s some of my knowledge compiled for you! Hope it’ll be useful in your car buying journey in New Zealand 🙂

Step 1: Build up some prior knowledge of cars before browsing

Here are some things that you should familiarize yourself with and look out for when browsing for cars:

1. A valid Warrant of Fitness (WOF)

warrant of fitness

It would be best to get a car that has a valid WOF that covers the period you will be in NZ for. If you have to consider a car with an expiring WOF, don’t fret too! It is neither difficult nor expensive to renew with the abundance of mechanics around cities, such as AA and VTNZ. Your biggest concern should instead be how likely will your car with the expiring WOF pass the WOF test?

2. A valid registration (REGO)

If you are considering getting a vehicle that is not registered, you would need to pay for the licensing (rego) fee from the last time it was registered till the date of purchase, and any period after that for as long as you want to drive your vehicle for. Hence, I would definitely recommend you to buy a car that is already registered.

3. Who’s the dealer?

Excluding private dealers, it is important to check that you are dealing with a Registered Motor Vehicle Trader (RMVT). This is so that you can be covered for damages or get a refund if something happens to your vehicle. You can check it here using their company name. Do also read up on the car buyer’s rights and consumer protection in New Zealand so you are more prepared if anything happens.

4. Mileage

Any car less than 200,000 km is actually fine in my opinion. However, that would also mean it will be more expensive. Make sure the listed cars have certified odometers so that you can be rest assured that the mileage is accurate, and not manipulated by the seller for a better price. While cars with higher mileage are cheaper, I would recommend you to send it for a pre-purchase inspection test just before your purchase.

5. Is the car running on a Cambelt or Chain engine?

If the car runs on a cambelt, it is important to know when was it last changed and whether the car was being used actively thereafter. This is because a cambelt requires replacement after a certain distance and that means extra costs! Otherwise, if the car runs on a chain engine, you are good to go as this does not require any replacement.

Step 2: Start browsing

buy car new zealand

I had these questions while browsing for a car, so hopefully it will help narrow your choices down too.

  • What type of car do I need? Hatchback, sedan, station wagon, self-contained vehicle etc. The larger or powerful a car is, the more fuel it will consume.
  • Am I comfortable with a 5, 10 or 20 years old car? Remember: The younger the car, the more expensive it is.
  • How much can I spare for my car? Note that your eventual sale of the car may or may not be more than this amount, so be prepared!

Here are some useful sites where you can browse and compare cars. Tip: Prices are more competitive on common sites like Autotrader and TradeMe because of the large pool of sellers and they are most likely to list the car at a lower price on these sites.

  • Turners (most reliable car dealer in NZ)
  • New World Cars (next most reliable car dealer in NZ)
  • 2cheapcars
  • Autotrader
  • TradeMe

Step 3: Start test driving!

buy car new zealand

It is important to test drive a car to see whether it is suitable for you and also, to find out if what you see online is true. Some sellers tend to omit certain information online and that’s frustrating!

My first test drive was such an eye-opener! I saw this decent car online that was offered at a good price, except for some minor issues being mentioned. So, I arranged for a test drive and was caught entirely by surprise when I found out the long list of other faults that were not listed. Apart from the minor issues, there were major problems with it which the seller did not even mention:

  • Non-functioning air con
  • Working radio with a missing button that controlled critical things like volume and channel switching
  • Transmission between gears was not smooth
  • It rolls back on a slope when it’s an automatic car
  • Seat belts also had some broken pieces which I cannot identify where those pieces belong to.

The seller also pressurized me into buying it by saying that there was another potential buyer right after me who would most likely get it. I gave it a miss eventually because it just did not feel right, and was I glad I did that! Eventually, I managed to find another car at a lower price from a more reliable car dealer. Most importantly, without all the above faults!

Step 4: Send your chosen vehicle for a Pre-purchase Inspection Test

buy car new zealand

A pre-purchase inspection test was definitely helpful in my decision making. Getting an opinion from a professional mechanic helped me to spot faults which I do not have the knowledge of! It helped me make my decision confidently, knowing that it is worthy of that price and a car that can last me for my time there too. My car dealer was also super helpful about it. He recommended me to send it to a small mechanic instead of the big companies like AA and VTNZ, mainly because:

  • Smaller mechanics are cheaper. I did mine for $130 inclusive of GST (15%), while bigger companies start from $170.
  • Smaller mechanics has that human touch and tend to give you a detailed report with solutions you can consider. At least for the mechanic I went to, they went through each fault identified and even helped me identify the potential costs I might incur thereafter in rectifying them.

My experience

What I appreciated the most was that the mechanic I went to even tried to understand my situation, and knowing that I was a traveller and am on a budget, he gave me his best judgment on what I can rectify first in order of importance and to keep the car running without any major issues over the next 6 months of my time here. He even told me to ask the car dealer for a lower price because of these faults identified and I absolutely did not know I can do that as I thought the price was final.

So I went back to the car dealer and went through the list of faults identified by the mechanic, and he said he will take care of those faults to the best of his capabilities, and that included polishing my front lights, replacing one of the tyres, adding thicker oil to the engine to curb the slight oil leak in the engine. All these would have cost me additional money of around $400 if I were to do it at the mechanic and I was fortunate enough to have the mechanic point it out for me so the car dealer went on to rectify these issues before I picked the car up. Can you imagine if I did not send it for a pre-purchase inspection test? I would be oblivious to all these and just accepted the car for what it was.

In conclusion, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND sending your car for a pre-purchase inspection test just to give yourself a peace of mind when you buy something that costs you a few grand.

To add on, you can also check the car’s history with a Vehicle History Report that costs you about $25 from AA. I personally did not do this

Step 5: Travel Car Insurance

It is not compulsory to have car insurance in New Zealand but it is best to get at least Third Party Insurance to protect yourself from any accidents, theft, fire etc. It is especially important to get Glass Cover because of the stony roads you get in NZ. You never know when a stone might jump into your windscreen and smash it. Mine costs about $350 for a year, and I got it from AMI Insurance, you can even opt for Travellers Car Insurance that offers short term plans of a minimum of 3 months.

Step 6: Registering the vehicle under you

To complete the sale, you need to register the vehicle from the seller to yourself. You can do this simply in 5 minutes by completing the MR13B Notice by person acquiring motor vehicle form at any of these agents. It costs $9 and you would need your passport/ID to process this form.


That’s about all you need to get to buying your car in New Zealand. I spent 3 days in total going back and forth the car dealer and my mechanic to get things right. It was an unforgettable experience because this was a first for me, test driving, buying a car and visiting a mechanic all by myself.

Finally, one last advice to you is NEVER rush into getting your car because all these time and money invested would translate to a smooth sailing journey for the next few months of your time in New Zealand.

Disclaimer: I am no expert in buying a car in New Zealand, and the above is just based on my personal experience. So good luck and wish you a pleasant experience in buying a car in New Zealand!

You might also enjoy: