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Car Ownership

Car Ownership

Owning a car comes with lots of advantages, but also lots of responsibilities. You need to make sure that you are the registered owner of the vehicle, and that you stop being the registered owner when you sell it. You also have to make sure that your vehicle is always safe to be driven and has a current Warrant of Fitness (WOF) and Registration. If you don’t do all these things, you could end up having to pay fines that will make owning a car even more expensive!

This section gives you some information about being a car owner.

What should I look for when buying a car?

When looking for a vehicle to buy, make sure you pay close attention to the condition that the vehicle is in and don’t buy a vehicle that is going to break down or it will cost you lots of money to fix later on. Once you’ve bought the vehicle, it can be very difficult to make the seller pay you for anything that goes wrong with it, especially if you bought it from an individual rather than a dealer.

Do I need to buy a car with a Warrant of Fitness?

You should buy a vehicle that has been given a Warrant of Fitness (WOF) within the last month. Otherwise, you need to be willing to accept that there might be some problems with it. Remember that the WOF doesn’t necessarily mean that the vehicle is in good enough condition to buy. WOF makes sure that the vehicle is currently safe to drive, but doesn’t cover a lot of quality issues like the condition of the engine or rust. If you’re unsure if a vehicle is in good condition, you should get a pre-purchase inspection from an AA approved repairer or an MTA member.

What do I need to do after I buy a car?

After you buy a vehicle, you need to tell New Zealand Transport Association (NZTA) that you have bought it. You can do this by filling in a form on the NZTA website and paying a $9 fee. If you don’t notify the NZTA immediately, you could be fined up to $1,000 and might get stuck with any fines or other payments the last owner owed on the car.

Some dealers will do this for you, but you should always make sure that they have completed the process.

What’s the difference between buying a car from a registered car dealer compared to buying privately?

When you buy a vehicle from a licenced dealer you are protected by New Zealand consumer protection laws. The same laws apply if the trader deals in person, on TradeMe, or by any other method. You don’t get these same protections when you buy from an individual, therefore it’s safer to buy from a dealer. It’s also generally easier to get a refund from a dealer than an individual if the purchase goes very wrong.

What does a car dealer have to tell me when I buy a car?

Under the Fair Trading Act, the dealer must give you accurate information about:

  • How much you will have to pay;
  • The condition of the vehicle;
  • How many past owners the vehicle has had;
  • The odometer reading.

You also get guarantees under the Consumer Guarantees Act.

What guarantees do I get when I buy a car from a dealer?

Under the Consumer Guarantees Act, the dealer promises that the vehicle is:

  • The same as what has been described;
  • Of acceptable quality;
  • Safe;
  • Fit for the usual purpose of the vehicle or any particular purpose made known to the seller;
  • Free of small faults;
  • Reasonably priced considering its age and condition;
  • Able to take reasonable wear and tear, given its age, condition and price.

I want to complain about a car dealer, what can I do?

If you want to make a complaint about your car dealer, you should first write to or email the trader and set out clearly what you want and why you believe you are entitled to ask them to provide it.

If it can’t be resolved in this way, you can contact the Motor Trade Association’s mediation service. Otherwise, if you prefer a Court based system, you can take a case to the Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal. The claim must be related to a breach of one or more of the following laws:

How do I make a claim at the Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal?

Before making a claim, you must try to resolve the matter with the dealer directly through an email or in writing. If you have given the dealer reasonable time to resolve the matter, but they haven’t resolved it satisfactorily, then you’re able to make a claim at the Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal (“MVDT”). Remember, the MVDT is not for making claims against private sellers.

To make a claim, you’ll need to fill out this application form, and post it to: Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal, EX11086, Auckland with a $50 cheque or money order attached.

Your claim will then be sent to the dealer and they’ll need to discuss the application with you within 14 days of receiving the notice. If the dispute isn’t settled within 14 days, a hearing will be organised.
You can find more information here.


What do I have to do before I sell my car?

Before you sell your vehicle, you should make sure the vehicle has a Warrant of Fitness issued less than a month before the sale. You will need written confirmation from the buyer if:

  • The warrant is more than a month old, then the buyer must agree that they accept the vehicle has a WoF that was issued more than 1 month ago;
  • The warrant is not current, then the buyer must agree that they won’t drive the vehicle until they get one except for the purpose of obtaining the WoF.

When you sell a vehicle, you need to tell the NZTA that you have sold it. You can do this on the NZTA website.

What is a Warrant of Fitness (WOF)?

This is a service check done by mechanics who are WoF agents. They check that your vehicle is safe to drive on the road. Things they should check include your tyres, brakes, lights, steering, and other things that affect the safety of your vehicle.

A new car gets an initial WoF inspection at registration, one at 3 years old, and then one per year following that. A vehicle first registered anywhere in the world before 1 January 2000 must have a WoF check every 6 months.

What happens if my vehicle fails the Warrant of Fitness?

You’ll receive a receipt of payment for the inspection. You need to get the problems fixed and then get the vehicle re-inspected. The receipt allows you to get the vehicle fixed and re-inspected within 28 days without any additional payment. Otherwise, you’ll need to pay the fee again to have the vehicle inspected. During that time, you’re only allowed to drive your vehicle to get it repaired and re-inspected.

What happens if I don’t have a current Warrant of Fitness?

If you don’t have a current WoF, this is an infringement offence. If you’re caught using a car without a current WoF, you will have to pay an infringement fee of $200, unless you’re driving the vehicle to get it repaired or to a WoF inspection.

What happens if my vehicle registration isn’t current?

If your registration isn’t current, this is an infringement offence. If you’re caught, you will have to pay an infringement fee of $200.

How long can I renew a vehicle registration for?

You can renew your registration for as little as 3 months or as much as 12 months at a time.

How do I renew my vehicle registration?

When the vehicle is registered in your name, you receive a renewal reminder notice that is sent to the address you provide when you register the vehicle.

The most straightforward way is to complete the online form on the NZTA website. You can also renew your registration in person with any NZTA licensing agent. Look for the NZ Transport Agency logo and either use the renewal notice you got in the mail, or fill out the appropriate licensing form at the agent.

Can my car registration get cancelled?

If your registration expires and you don’t renew it for a year, then your registration will be cancelled. If a vehicle’s registration is cancelled, then it needs to be re-registered. This is a much more complicated process than just paying a renewal fee and involves very thorough checks into the condition of the vehicle.

Do I need a current Warrant of Fitness to get my registration?

Yes, you need to have a current WoF to be able to renew your vehicle registration, so if your WoF is expired you need to get this renewed first before renewing your vehicle licence.

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