The Ultimate Guide To Buying (And Selling) A Car In New Zealand
Buying a second-hand car in New Zealand as a tourist is pretty simple and there are many car markets and websites that make the process even easier. We bought two cars: we used the first one for an entire year when we traveled and worked around the country on a working holiday visa and we bought the second one during our 3-months vacation. Yes, you read it well! We had a look at several rental companies, but it was still cheaper to buy a vehicle instead of renting it for three months. And so we bought it! Plus, we successfully sold it and got part of our money back. If you intend to do the same, here’s all you need to know.
The Ultimate Guide To Buying (And Selling) A Car In New Zealand
What you need to buy a car
All you need is a valid ID such your passport, a proof of an address in the country which can just be a letter signed by your hostel assuring that you’re staying there, your driving license and sufficient funds. You don’t need a permanent address and you don’t need a bank account. Easy peasy. If your driving license is not in English, you can translate it in Auckland at Language Links LTD for about NZD $45. Ready?
When to look for a car
Here’s the deal: buy your car during the low season (April – August) and resell it during the high season (November – March).
You will find the best deals during the low season, starting from April to August. This is when pretty much everyone leaves the country and sells his car for a very cheap price, NZD $ 1500 – $ 3500. Believe me when I say that I’ve seen the same cars sold for nothing during the low season and then for double/triple the price during the high season. If you’re traveling to New Zealand on a working holiday visa and are flexible on dates, you might want to book your flight for that period which is not only good to get a cheap car but also to start applying for a job as the winter season is about to begin.
The high season is instead better to resell your car. You can even try to resell it for a higher price and, if you’re lucky enough, gain few bucks. Otherwise, you can still sell it for the same price you paid it and forget you’ve ever spent that money. Just be fair and set a good price, you’re not the only one trying to sell a car, people won’t buy if they think it is not worth the money.
Where to look for a car
Auckland and Christchurch are the most popular places. Try car markets, Facebook Groups and online websites.
Where to buy/sell:
- Ellerslie Car Fair – Car Market
- Auckland City Car Fair – Car Market
- Trade Me – Website
- Turners – Website
- Backpackers New Zealand – Facebook Group*
- Backpacker VANS & CARS under 3500$NZ – Facebook Group*
*Please note, these Facebook Groups are private. You must subscribe first. If the links above are not working properly, copy and paste the name into your search box.
We’ve bought and sold two van in Auckland, never tried in Christchurch but heard it is where many travelers finish the trip and try to sell their car for a very low price. If you’re keen, you can check Christchurch out, but I’m sure you’ll be able to find the deal you’re looking for in Auckland too.
If you happen to be in Auckland on a Sunday morning, go to Ellerslie Car Fair, the largest car market in the country. Here’s where you can buy a car, do the change of ownership and enquire about a full checkup of the car in few minutes. It’s sort of a big carpark where everyone showcases his car/van/campervan. We sold our first car here.
There’s another car market in Auckland, held on Saturday mornings, the Auckland City Car Fair. It is situated within walking distance from the city centre, much easier to reach. Again, it’s a car park where cars are showcased, but it’s very very small. We didn’t buy our cars here, but we managed to sell one (after a whole day, with a big effort!). It’s worth checking, but the Ellerslie Car Fair is far bigger and better.
Tips on buying a car at the car markets
- Decide your budget before going
- Bring sufficient cash with you. You’ll need cash to pay the car, the change of ownership and the checkup (optional but recommended)
- Take a full tour around the market. Ask questions to the sellers and compare prices
- Fully check the car you liked
- Ask for a lower price
- See below what you need to check before buying a car
Websites and Facebook Groups are often great resources. You can get in touch with the sellers, fix an appointment and see if you like their car once tried. You can even try to look for a car before physically get to New Zealand. I still recommend car markets however, because the process of seeing, trying and comparing prices is way faster.
Of course you can use these resources also to resell your car. We’ve been lucky enough to sell both cars at the markets and didn’t try the websites. My suggestion is to get to Auckland during a weekend, try the Saturday market (NZD $30 to showcase your car) and then the Sunday market (NZD $35 to showcase your car). If unlucky, try with Facebook Groups, websites, stick a selling ad with your phone number and price on your car and print ads to hang on hostels’ dashboards.
What to check before buying a car
You do want to buy a car in good conditions or at least capable to transport you around the country. And of course you do want to buy a re-sellable vehicle. For this reason, don’t trust too much what the sellers tell you. Everyone will tell you that the car never had a problem, never let them down, never made them feel unsafe on the road. And I totally understand if you don’t want to spend extra money in a full check with the experts to test if they’re honest. But do at least a basic check of the vehicle yourself. Here’s step-by-step what you need to do:
- Check the tires. Travelers drive many kilometres, also on gravel roads and forget to check the tires. Tires cost money, it’s around NZD $40 for a second-hand one. You don’t want to buy a car and spend extra money to replace tires. Decide if you rather ask for a fair discount or choose another car
- Be aware of the car year. The majority of the cars is from the 90s. Try to stay at least above year 1995. Our first car was from 1993 and it cost us NZD $750 to repair all its issues. Old car are cheaper, but do you really want to spend that much to fix possible malfunctions afterwards?
- Keep an eye on the kilometers the car has actually traveled. The lower the better. Try to stay under 200.000km if possible or it will be very hard to resell it
- Insert the key and turn on the car. Check if strange symbols light up in the dashboard when the car is on. Then ask someone to press the accelerator and check if there’s black smoke behind
- Open all doors and windows to see if everything works. Check oil and other fluids level, check turn signals, brakes and main beam. Then try to drive the car and see if it’s safe and stable
- Check if the car has both the WoF (Warranty of Fitness, it assures that the car is ok. Belts are working, battery is ok, no engine issues…) and the Rego (Registration of the vehicle). You can’t drive around without these two licenses, which you can find sticked on the car’s windscreen. Take a look at their expiry dates and make your considerations. The Rego has a fairly cheap fixed price, the WoF can be very expensive depending on the issues that need to be fixed
- If buying a vehicle with a bed, check the status of the curtains. Do they cover the windows or are they hanging and leaving see-through sections? Many people sell their camping gears with the car, you might want to check on that as well
- A kiwi won’t buy a car with a bed, that’s mostly a vehicle for backpackers. Equally, a backpacker will more likely buy a car with a bed than a car with 6 seats. Then what about a car with all the seats available and folded under the bed? This combination will give you more chance when you’ll want to resell it, because you’ll have a bigger public interested in your vehicle
Further tips on re-selling a car
If you want to sell your car it must be in perfect conditions. Or at least, it has to appear perfect. You need to follow the same steps above and make sure everything works without issues. You must refill fluids, change tires, change battery, fix problems and make it shine, literally.
Spend some time cleaning your car, take off the dust from the engine, polish the windows, clean the carpets. Get to the closest The Warehouse and buy some wipes for the dust, then vacuum the inside and wash the outside. A shiny car attracts more than a dirty one. At the car markets we’ve seen people cooking and eating inside their cars, doing their things without caring about potential buyers! Would you rather buy a clean car or a car where people are still “living”?
If selling the car at the car markets, set a price. Once inside, walk around and check the other cars. Try to find something similar to your vehicle and when you find it, decide if your price needs to be adjusted (you can do that without problems). Also, it’s very important to park in a strategic point: don’t stay too close to cheaper cars, you need your product to stand out for its price and look. Don’t stay inside the car the whole time, don’t lie on your bed (we’ve seen people doing that!) and if someone is looking at your car don’t push too much from the beginning. Leave your potential buyer time to look at your vehicle, smile and wait for the right moment to say that awesome thing about your car and start a conversation. And last thing, be prepared to negotiate the price!
Get your car as soon as possible and begin a road-trip you’ll never forget through stunning New Zealand!
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