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Complete Guide to Buying a Car In NZ

Wednesday, 19 April 2023

Complete Guide to Buying a Car In NZ

Buying a car in NZ can be a fantastic and exciting time. However, it can also be very overwhelming and plagued with challenges and unforeseen events. This complete guide to buying a car in NZ has been designed to help take the guesswork out of purchasing a car privately or via a car dealer. If you have questions or need answers about the car buying process, then this guide is for you!

Whether you’re just starting to think about buying a car, or have found the perfect car for you but don’t know where to go, this guide will answer many commonly asked questions about buying a car as well as provide essential information to guide you through every step of your exciting journey.

You will also find handy tips & tricks like what questions to ask when buying a car or tips on negotiating the best price, as well as useful checklists and links to important information needed to buy a car. Lastly, the guide will follow the car buying process outlined below:

Car buying process:

  • Arranging car finance
  • Choosing the right car for you
  • Asking the right questions
  • Taking a test drive
  • Vehicle research & authentication
  • Buying the car now
  • Getting car insurance


1. Arranging Car Finance

Before you begin looking at cars, let’s take a step back and look at how much you can spend. People tend to brush over this step; however, it is a vitally important step to take early on in your journey.

A lot of people start their journey by looking at hundreds of vehicles off the bat, become quickly overwhelmed and some even go on to make an emotional buying decision that may not always end up being the best choice for them.

If you’re paying cash for your car, great – you know exactly how much you can spend. If, like a majority of the population, you’re choosing to get car finance, it is important to start looking for finance early to avoid stress and possibly miss out on the car of your dreams.

Getting pre-approval

Whether you choose to get your vehicle financed through Kiwi Car Loans or your bank, now is the time to get in contact to start the finance ball rolling. Having pre-approval puts you at a great advantage in negotiating with the seller for the best price on the perfect vehicle. Knowing exactly how much you have to spend and that the money is effectively ‘in your pocket’. It also ensures that when you find the car that is right for you, your finance in most cases can be completed or settled with funds transferred to the seller’s account usually within 24 hours. Private sellers usually want a quick sale so they don’t have to spend too much of their free time and this can potentially help you to negotiate a better price.

How Can Kiwi Car Loans Help?

  • We compare finance products from 17 leading financiers to get you a great rate
  • Save both time and money while we do the work for you
  • You can get an instant online quote on your finance 24/7
  • No waiting with same-day finance approvals. We are open all days of the week


2. Choosing the right car for you

This is a common question, but the answer is that one size doesn’t fit all when buying a car. There are so many cars out there to choose from! How do I find the perfect one for my needs?


The most important thing to keep in mind when deciding on buying a car is your budget. Make sure you have considered the information in step one above to help you choose your budget. If you are financing your car, it may be easier to work in weekly or monthly repayments, rather than the overall cost.

Consider your existing liabilities and commitments, including current loans, living expenses, and rent or mortgage payments, to establish how much you can afford to repay. You can use our handy car loan repayment calculator to give you a general guide of what your loan repayments will likely be.

Don’t forget to include additional costs such as vehicle insurance, fuel, routine servicing, and maintenance items such as tires. Make sure the repayments as well as ongoing vehicle costs fit within your current budget.


Once you’ve confirmed a budget, you need to work out exactly what you need in a car. You need to take a look at your lifestyle and know what you will be using the car for.

A big requirement to consider at the moment is whether you buy an electric or a diesel/petrol car. With the law changes and subsidies it may make more sense to go electric, but you need to consider where you are going to charge the car and the initial added cost.

A good idea when looking to buy a car is to make a list of the things that you need versus the things that you ‘want’ in your next vehicle. Consider how many people you will need to take. Use the following checklist to help determine the things that are important for you to have in your next vehicle.

  • Fuel economy
  • Transmission
  • Max kilometers
  • Vehicle location
  • Fuel type
  • Body type
  • Drive type
  • Number of seats
  • Vehicle purpose
  • Towing capacity
  • Metallic paint
  • Bluetooth
  • Reverse camera
  • Parking sensors
  • Navigation
  • Cruise control
  • Central locking
  • Climate control
  • Alarm
  • Automatic lights
  • Rain-sensing wipers
  • Sunroof


3. Asking the right questions

Once you have narrowed your vehicle search down, it is time to start researching your choices.

To help you decide which ones you want to test drive, the easiest way to find out the good, and the bad, about each vehicle model is to research what other owners say about their experience through vehicle reviews.

Several authority sites can provide you with honest reviews and feedback from actual people who’ve owned the vehicle models you’re looking at. It is a great idea to read vehicle reviews before viewing each vehicle so you know any common problems they may have and exactly what to look out for. Some review sites may even give you a guide as to the medium price.

Contact the Seller

Once you have narrowed down your search and are happy with the reviews on your chosen vehicle. It is time to contact the seller directly. Before you even consider going to see the car or taking it for a test drive, you can ask the seller questions to help you know the general condition of the car.

Questions to ask the seller

  • Why are you selling the car?
  • Is there finance currently owing on it?
  • How long have you had the car and are you the first owner?
  • When is the next scheduled service due?
  • Do you have the vehicle log books?
  • Is the registration current and when does it expire?
  • Does it come with a Road Worthy Certificate (Safety Certificate) and registration?
  • Has the car ever been in an accident?


4. Taking a test drive

Once you’ve spoken to the sellers, it’s time to take a test drive. Before you take any vehicle for a test drive, there are two! vitally important points to check with the seller.

Firstly, make sure the registration is current. This is important to ensure you don’t receive a fine for driving an unregistered vehicle. Lastly, check that the seller has adequate comprehensive insurance coverage that will also cover you as a driver. If their insurance doesn’t cover all drivers, you may need to request that they add you to their policy temporarily as a driver. This ensures that in the event of an at-fault accident, you are covered by insurance.

It is generally a good idea to arrange test drives and vehicle inspections during the day so you have adequate light to thoroughly inspect the car. Before embarking on your test drive, make sure you inspect the vehicle using the vehicle inspection checklist. Use it to note down any issues or problems you see with the car.

Alternatively, there are companies for a fee that offer vehicle inspection services.

Once you have completed a thorough inspection of the vehicle and are confident that it has suitable registration and insurance, you’re now ready to take it out for a test drive. You should take someone with you as a second pair of eyes who may pick up things you miss while driving. It is also advisable that you test the car through varying speed zones and across different surfaces such as speed bumps to adequately check the car’s vital components.

Get your co-pilot to fill out the Test Drive Checklist while you’re driving so you don’t forget anything.


5. Vehicle research & authentication

Every year in NZ, thousands of people purchase vehicles thinking they’re buying their dream car, only to find out that it has previously been in a significant accident and repaired, or even in some cases stolen. Another unfortunate but common occurrence is finding out that a finance company has an encumbrance or security over the vehicle. Even though you are the new owner of the vehicle, a finance company with security over the vehicle can still repossess the vehicle if there is money owed by a previous owner.

All of these scenarios can have a seriously devastating impact on you and your new vehicle and put a major dampener on your car buying experience.

Get the facts on your vehicle

Fortunately, there is a very simple way to check the history of your car to find out if it has ever been listed as stolen, written off, or currently has any encumbrances from finance companies. The Personal Properties Security Register (PPSR) is a national government register that can provide information to help protect consumers when they are buying personal property such as cars or boats.

A PPSR certificate will show the following information for a vehicle:

  • Vehicle make, model, color
  • Vehicle registration details
  • Written-off vehicle notifications due to accidents, fire, flooding, etc
  • Stolen vehicle notifications
  • Financiers with security over the vehicle

What is a VIN and how do I find it?

Every vehicle produced after 1989 will have a VIN. It is the vehicle’s unique serial number and is used to identify individual vehicles. A car VIN will always be 17 characters long, will never contain the letters “I”, “O” or “Q” and will usually be a mix of letters and numbers. If the vehicle was produced before 1989, it will have a Chassis Number instead.

It is always important when checking a vehicle’s VIN that you check for any signs of tampering such as scratching and grind marks. If the vehicle shows any signs of tampering, it is best to steer well clear of it, no matter how good the deal may seem.

Free PRSR vehicle history check

Know the facts about the vehicle you’re looking at with a Kiwi Car Loans – free PPSR Vehicle History Check. Here at Kiwi Car Loans, it is standard procedure for us to check the history of our client’s perspective vehicles for their peace of mind. We know your vehicle is important, so we want to make sure you know the facts about the vehicle you’re looking to purchase.

For a small fee, you can perform your search to check the history of a vehicle using its unique Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

Or we can do the hard work for you! Or let our Specialist Consultants do all the hard work for you, saving you time and money and giving you the most up-to-date information on the vehicle you’re looking at purchasing.


6. Buying the car now

After completing your research on the vehicle, performing a PPSR vehicle check, completing your inspection of the vehicle, and taking it for a test drive, if you are now satisfied that it is the right vehicle for you, it’s time to make the purchase.

Now when it comes to negotiating a price, some people tend to get overwhelmed and flustered, so the following steps below may help to take the guesswork out of making an offer.

Know the average vehicle price

Use a site like Redbook to help you determine the average sale price of the vehicle you intend to purchase. You can also use sites like Trade Me to gauge how many similar vehicles to yours in the same condition are currently listed. Remember to take into consideration the kilometers and overall condition.

Make a realistic offer

Use all the information you have on the car, such as your inspection checklist and test drive checklist to identify any money you may potentially have to spend on the car and consider these things when making your offer. It is ok to use these items to genuinely explain how you calculated the figure you are offering.

The most important thing to consider before submitting your offer is that it fits within your budget.

It is also important to consider any additional charges you may incur when choosing a private sale vehicle, such as registration transfer fees, stamp duty, and the costs involved with getting a safety certificate if the vehicle doesn’t already have one. For more information on the fees for transferring ownership of a vehicle, visit NZTA.


In general, sellers don’t tend to take the first offer. Therefore, it is likely that a negotiation will have to take place. Remember that there are plenty of vehicles out there and you can’t let emotions dictate the outcome of the negotiations. If you have submitted a fair and genuine offer, you will usually end up with an agreed price somewhere in the middle of your offer and the asking price of the vehicle.

Complete the paperwork

Once you have come to an agreed sale price, it is important to get it in writing to avoid any misunderstanding or attempts at further negotiation. You can use the private sale invoice on the following page as a guide for private sales.

If a deposit is paid, make sure it is either listed on the private sale vehicle invoice or make sure you get a receipt for the deposit from the seller. Once both parties have signed, it is now up to you to organize the funds to give to the seller. Once full payment has been made, make sure you get a receipt for this payment from the seller or have some kind of record of the fund’s transfer. It is up to you to make sure that all required paperwork is completed to transfer the registration into your name.

Make sure your vehicle is insured

Before you drive away in your car, make sure you have adequate car insurance. We cannot stress this point enough!

If you are confused about what types of insurance are available or which insurance is right for you, scroll down to read the next section on protecting yourself and your car or our friendly staff are always happy to help, give us a call on 0800 008 888 to discuss your options.

We can help you be protected from the unexpected by arranging your insurance from a variety of carefully selected insurance options by New Zealand’s leading insurers.


7. Protecting you and your vehicle

First of all, congratulations on your car purchase!

If you’ve followed the steps outlined in this guide, you can enjoy your car knowing that you’ve done everything you can to ensure you made a great buying decision and selected the right car.

It’s now up to you to keep it maintained and in good condition. The good news is that we’re here to help with that as well. Our specialists know that everyone is different, so we wanted to make it simpler for you to choose the options of cover best suited to your needs.

Options include Comprehensive Car Insurance, Extended Vehicle Warranty, Short Fall Insurance, and Loan Protection Insurance.

Extended vehicle warranty

Did you know that it is possible to get a warranty for a used car as well as a new car? It is also possible to get a warranty for a vehicle you purchase privately. This can take a lot of the anxiety out of buying a private sale vehicle because you have the peace of mind of being backed by the Mechanical and Extended Vehicle Warranty we have on offer.

An Extended Vehicle Warranty provides similar cover to a manufacturer warranty and various levels of cover are available for comprehensive repairs on the following mechanical and electrical components:

  • Engine
  • Transmission
  • Steering
  • Air conditioning and heating
  • Engine cooling and fuel systems
  • Electrical
  • Instrumentation
  • Anti-Lock brakes
  • All electrical systems
  • All engine management systems
  • Torsions bars
  • Engine mounts
  • Suspension
  • All liftgates, doors & window
  • Mechanisms
  • And much more

By planning now, you can potentially! avoid costly repairs expenses.

If you would like any further information on anything you’ve read in this guide including finance, or insurance, please don’t hesitate to contact our finance and insurance specialists on 0800 008 888.


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