The car itself is only half the story. There's also a lot of documentation to check, especially if you're buying from a dealer.
Warrant of fitness
Every vehicle sold by a dealer must have a warrant of fitness issued no more than one month before the date the vehicle is delivered to the buyer. Private sellers have the option of selling without a warrant, provided the car is clearly identified for sale "as is where is".
Consumer Information Notice
A dealer is required to attach to every motor vehicle displayed for sale a "consumer information notice" (CIN).
The information that must be disclosed in the CIN includes:
- The name and business address of the dealer.
- Whether the dealer is a registered motor vehicle trader.
- The cash price of the vehicle.
- Whether the vehicle is subject to road user charges.
- Whether any security interest is registered over the vehicle.
- The year in which the vehicle was manufactured or the manufacturer's designated "model year" or the year of first registration (for motor vehicles registered before 1 January 2007). For vehicles registered after 1 January 2007: the year of first registration anywhere in the world.
- The make, model, engine capacity and fuel type of the vehicle.
- The year in which the vehicle was first registered in New Zealand, or if the vehicle is a used import, the year it was first registered overseas.
- The odometer (distance travelled) reading, or a statement that the the odometer reading is or may be inaccurate.
- Whether the vehicle has been re-registered.
- Whether the vehicle is recorded on the motor vehicle register as having been damaged when it was imported.
If you buy the car, you must be given a copy of the CIN.
If you buy privately, your car could be repossessed if there are any outstanding debts on it. Use a car history checking service to find out if the car is clear of debt.
If you buy from a registered motor vehicle dealer, you won't be liable for any such debts, unless you were told about them.
The certificate of registration, which you should be shown, lists the current registered owner of a car. This should be the company or person - whether dealer or private - you are buying the car from.
If you're in any doubt about the ownership of a vehicle, call the police. They'll tell you if it's been reported stolen.
If you're buying from a dealer, they must provide you with a written sale agreement and the Consumer Information Notice which you have signed. Don't sign an agreement until you have read and understood all the clauses, particularly those regarding interest rates and warranty costs. Beware of documentation fees charged by the dealer.
Change of ownership
Both the buyer and the seller have to fill out forms available from an NZTA agent (such as New Zealand Post). 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.