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Why car history checks are important

An online car check is a good investment.

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When Alex Gray’s teenage son wanted to buy a used car he went to Trade Me and found two likely prospects: a 1998 Honda Civic advertised as having done 135,000km and a 1996 Mazda Familia ("registered new in New Zealand") with only 78,000km on the clock.

They weren’t what they seemed. A car-check website revealed that the Honda had actually done 234,000km: in the period between two WOF checks the odometer had been wound back from 215,000 to 116,000km. The claims for the Mazda were even more dubious – it turned out to be a 1989 Japanese import that had been “clocked” by 200,000km.

For less than $20 you can check a car’s history online at websites such as carjam, checka, motorweb or aa.co.nz. Simply enter the registration number and these sites can tell you whether the car has been stolen, whether there’s any money owing on it, and what the odometer readings at each WOF check were. You can also see whether it’s a used import by comparing the year of manufacture with the year the car was first registered in New Zealand.

It’s well worth doing this. Motorweb says that one in three of the vehicles it checks has money owing or an inconsistent odometer, or has been reported stolen.

Alex is concerned that the photo of the Mazda on Trade Me didn’t show the registration number. Trade Me told him that it didn’t request that information as many vehicles listed on its website weren’t currently registered. You can always ask for a registration number – and, if possible, check out the car as you would for any private sale.

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