First question for you! How much do you think it cost to own a car in New Zealand?

Owning a car in New Zealand is actually unbelievably cheap. This may also be because I am from Singapore where the price of the Certificate of Entitlement(COE) to own a car is already at least S$30k. To put that into perspective, I bought my car for NZD$2.5k upfront when I was in New Zealand. Do I need to say anything further on why I decided to buy a car then? *chuckles*

It was probably my only chance to say I was a car owner at the age of 26 in Singapore. At least to me, buying a car in Singapore with at least $30k would not be my first priority for now, so that was actually an ahcievement for me then!

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Summary of costs

Before I start, here’s a summary of how much I’ve spent on my car in NZD:

Nissan Wing Road2,500
Pre-purchase inspection137
Insurance – 6 months132
Renewal of Rego (6 months)61
Car accessories13
Ferry (from North to South)136
Wheel Alignment75
Brake Shoes200

1. Initial Costs

(a) Monetary costs

Firstly and most obviously, you would need to prepare a budget for buying your car. This would be the largest cost that will be locked into the vehicle for the rest of your working holiday. So, be prepared and bring more cash at the start to ensure sufficient turnaround for you to maintain your lifestyle at least for the first two weeks. In case you’re curious, I set my budget to be anything below $3,000.

(b) Intangible costs

Apart from the obvious costs of purchasing the car, most of my costs were in terms of time spent to understand the whole purchase process. It was entirely different from how it was in Singapore and I had zero knowledge on cars even before that. Hence, I spent at least three full days doing some research on buying a car before I started filtering for my options. I also went for a number of test drives just to be sure I had all my options tested.

As this might be the biggest investment for your working holiday, and as you are also entrusting your life to it in the months that you are there, please take no chances to buy the best car you can afford with your budget.

2. Pre-purchase Inspection Tests

If you’re not sure whether the car is good enough for that price, just bring it to the professionals. It costs me about NZD$140 at a private mechanic and they gave me a very detailed breakdown of the condition of my car. They even taught me what I can negotiate for with the dealer then to make the deal more worth it.

There are more well-known car mechanics out there too that may be slightly more pricey. I came to know about this mechanic I went to because of my Airbnb host. He recommended me the one he usually went to because it was a boutique mechanic and more price-friendly for someone like me who was on a budget then. So, always ask around if you’re not sure where to go too! You never know what information would come in handy.

3. Car Insurance

Car insurance in New Zealand is not expensive. I spent about NZD$130 for a 6-month car insurance that covered the basics, glass covers (including my windscreen), and two free car tows if I ever do need it.

Driving in New Zealand can be very dangerous with the windy roads and off-road tracks. You never know when a stone would jump onto your windscreen and crack it. Also, a cracked windscreen is going to reduce the selling price of your car significantly when you’re selling it. Even if you decide to change to a new windscreen, it can easily cost you $400 to $500. So, I would recommend you to buy car insurance as soon as you get your vehicle.

4. Maintenance

Knowing which parts of your car to maintain is also important, especially if you’re preparing for a long road trip. I’m sure you would want your trip to be smooth and with no hiccups to your main mode of transport. Hence, always make sure you bring your car for a mini check-up at the mechanic before any long-distance trip.

I felt the need to change the brake pads or shoes of my car about 4 months into using the car. That’s because I drove around the North Island numerous times over at least 10 trips throughout the weekends. In terms of kilometres, I think it should be approximately 4,000km. Into the later parts of the working holiday, I could feel a significant deterioration in how the brakes were reacting. Hence, I decided to change it before I embarked on my next trip from the North to the South Island.

That costs me about NZD$275 in total with the wheel alignment, something I thought necessary because of the number of straight roads New Zealand has too.

5. Petrol

Petrol is a daily cost of maintaining a car. It typically costs more in the South than in the North too. Do make use of all the fuel discount tickets you get when shopping at Pak N’ Save. I cannot advice what would be the typical cost

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6. Ferry ride from North to South

If you’re intending to bring your car from the North Island to the South Island, you need to get a boarding pass for your car on the ferry too! It costs me NZD$136 for that one way ticket to the South and it was a really fun experience driving it onboard.

It felt like we had a game of tetris trying to fit as many cars as we could on the limited space onboard. Ushers directed us to where we could park and in no time, we were all set and ready for that 3-hour ride.

7. Selling your Car

Lastly would be the cost of selling your car when you’re leaving New Zealand. If you decide to list your car for sale on a paid platform like TradeMe, you may have to pay a slight premium to gain that right. Otherwise, I would recommend posting your car for sale on Facebook. There are many New Zealand Working Holiday groups or Backpacker groups where you’ll find a good marketplace of buyers and sellers. Of course, that is completely free 🙂

buy car new zealand

One cost that you cannot control is the profit of loss you’ll get after the sale of your car. If you’re lucky, you may even shave off a profit from the sale of your car. Sadly, that was not my case because I forgot to plan ahead for the sale of my car and had much lesser time to wait for buyers. Eventually, the cost I spent on my car was equivalent to if I had rented a car.

Hope you’ll make a better decision than me in this aspect and wish you all the best in your Working Holiday!

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