Paperwork when buying a used car

The car might look good, but is its paperwork in order?

Filling out car paperwork.

A dealer must provide an accurate Consumer Information Notice (CIN).

This single page confirms:

  • the dealer is legit
  • the make/model and import status of the car
  • how far it’s travelled
  • whether it’s road legal.

Pay particular attention to whether the car has been re-registered (usually meaning it’s been written off after an accident) or imported as a damaged vehicle.

A used car sold by a dealer must have a warrant of fitness less than a month old. However, a private seller can sell a vehicle without a warrant, provided the car is clearly identified for sale “as is, where is” (this isn’t an option for a dealer).

If you buy from a dealer, they must disclose any security interest on it for outstanding finance payments (you don’t have that protection when buying privately – you should use a vehicle history checking service, such as CarJam, to find out if it’s debt-free).

On sale of a car, a dealer also needs to provide a written sale agreement, plus a copy of the CIN signed by you. Don’t sign an agreement until you’ve understood all the clauses.

There are a few reasons why dodgy dealers masquerade as private sellers: no CIN, no security declaration, no written sale agreement and the ability to sell “as is, where is” without a fresh warrant. Look out for these scoundrels, avoid them and report anything suspicious to the Commerce Commission.

Making it yours, or theirs

Both buyer and seller must fill out “change of ownership” forms, available from a New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) agent (such as New Zealand Post) or use its online transaction centre. The buyer pays the fee and is ultimately responsible for the changeover. If you’re selling privately, make sure the changeover really has happened before you release the car. You don’t want speeding or parking tickets turning up addressed to you.

Are mechanical warranties worth it?

Offered mechanical breakdown insurance with your used car? Our advice: forget about it. Dealers like the insurance: it’s extra profit on a car sale and an attempt to offload their CGA responsibilities (even though they can’t contract out of the act). But like any extended warranty, you’ll pay to get cover you likely already have.

We think breakdown insurance isn't worth the cost. You're better off spending your money on a pre-purchase inspection and getting the vehicle regularly serviced after you buy. See our full report for more information.

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