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Consumer rights & money

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Buying a motor vehicle

Buying a motor vehicle from a car dealer

What protections do I have if I buy from a car dealer?

If you buy a vehicle from a car dealer, you have rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act and the Fair Trading Act (see “Automatic guarantees when buying from a business” and “Protections against misleading or unfair trading”). You also have extra protections under the Motor Vehicle Sales Act 2003.

Requirement for all car dealers to be registered

Motor Vehicle Sales Act 2003, ss 7–10; Motor Vehicle Sales Act 2003, ss 95, 118; Motor Vehicle Sales Act 2003, ss 22, 56

Any person who carries out the business of motor vehicle trading, or who represents that they are carrying on the business of motor vehicle trading, or who sells more than six vehicles or imports more than three vehicles within a 12-month period, is considered to be a car dealer (“a motor vehicle trader”).

Every car dealer must be registered on the Motor Vehicle Traders Register.

A person who trades in motor vehicles without being registered faces a maximum fine of $50,000 for an individual or $200,000 for a company.

You can ask to see the dealer’s registration certificate. This will have the car dealer’s trader number on it and the date their registration expires.

You can also check the Motor Vehicle Traders Register online. This service is free. See “Where to go for more support” at the end of this page.

Guarantee of good title

Motor Vehicle Sales Act 2003, ss 14, 15; Personal Property Securities Act 1999, ss 58, 59

A registered car dealer is required to state, in a notice attached to a vehicle, whether there is any security interest over the vehicle – that is, whether anyone owes money on the vehicle, for example, to a finance company. If there is a security interest that is not mentioned, then the dealer (and not you) will be liable for any outstanding debts.

Warrant of fitness less than one month old

Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Standards Compliance 2002, rule 9.12

A motor vehicle sold to you by a car dealer must have a warrant of fitness that is less than one month old (unless you give a written undertaking that you won’t use the vehicle on the road except for taking it to get a warrant or that you accept that the warrant is more than one month old).

Information about the vehicle must be displayed

Motor Vehicle Sales Act 2003, ss 14, 15; Consumer Information Standards (Used Motor Vehicles) Regulations 2008

A car dealer, or a person selling a vehicle through a car market operator, must attach a consumer information notice (CIN) to every motor vehicle displayed for sale. If the car is advertised, for example, on the internet, the same information must be provided there.

Note: A car market operator is a person who provides premises (for example, a market or car fair) or facilities (for example, internet services for others to sell vehicles).

Motor Vehicle Sales Act 2003, s 6; Consumer Information Standards (Used Motor Vehicles) Regulations 2008; Motor Vehicle Sales Act 2003, ss 16, 17; Motor Vehicle Sales Act 2003, s 101

The information in the notice must include:

  • the name and business address of the supplier
  • if the supplier is a registered motor vehicle trader, their registration number
  • the cash price of the vehicle, including GST, registration and licensing costs (unless the vehicle is being displayed for sale by auction or by competitive tender, in which case this should be stated in place of the cash price)
  • whether any security interest is registered over the vehicle
  • the vehicle year of the motor vehicle as recorded on the motor vehicle register (for motor vehicles registered before 1 January 2007, “vehicle year” means the year of manufacture or the model year or the year of first registration, and for motor vehicles registered after 1 January 2007, “vehicle year” means the year of first registration anywhere in the world)
  • the make, model, engine capacity and fuel type of the vehicle and the vehicle’s ID or chassis number
  • the year in which the vehicle was first registered in New Zealand, or, if the vehicle was first registered overseas, the year of that first registration
  • the odometer (distance travelled) reading, or a statement that the odometer reading is or may be inaccurate
  • whether the vehicle is recorded on the motor vehicle register as having been damaged when it was imported
  • whether or not the vehicle has a current warrant or certificate of fitness, vehicle licence and registration and the relevant expiry dates.

If you buy the car from the dealer the dealer must give you a copy of the notice. The dealer must get written acknowledgement from you that they have given you a copy of the notice (which can be contained in the contract for the sale).

If a vehicle is displayed without the required information, or the information is misleading, you can complain to the Commerce Commission. The Commission can prosecute dealers for breaches of the Fair Trading Act. If you buy the vehicle and then discover you were misled, you will be able to take action under the Fair Trading Act, see “Protections against misleading or unfair trading”.

What can you do if you have problems with a car dealer?

If you are unable to sort out a problem with a motor vehicle trader personally, you can:

  • make a claim to the Disputes Tribunal, if the amount in dispute is $30,000 or less (see the chapter “The Disputes Tribunal”)
  • make a claim to the Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal.

What is the Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal?

Motor Vehicle Sales Act 2003, ss 89, 90, Schedule 1, clauses 8, 9; Motor Vehicle Sales Regulations 2003, reg 13; Motor Vehicle Sales Act 2003, s 901a

The Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal (MVDT) is similar to the general Disputes Tribunal but specialises in problems with motor vehicles. There is a $50 fee for taking a claim to the MVDT. The hearings are in private, and usually neither side can be represented by a lawyer. The MVDT can deal with claims up to $100,000 (or more, if both sides agree).

The MVDT can decide on any application or claim against a motor vehicle trader in respect of the sale of any motor vehicle bought under the:

Note: You can only use the Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal if you bought from a motor vehicle trader, not if you bought a vehicle from a private individual.

Did this answer your question?

Consumer protection

Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and information.

Consumer Protection


Consumer Protection helpline: 0508 426 678 (0508 4 CONSUMER)

Email: cpinfo@mbie.govt.nz

The Consumer Protection website has useful information on a range of consumer topics. Consumer Protection is part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE).



Phone: 0800 345 123

FinCap can help you with budgeting information online or on the phone. They may also suggest a local budgeting service to help you with debt and other budgeting issues.

Consumer NZ


The Consumer NZ website provides a wide range of information on consumer issues and template letters you can use to write to traders to enforce your rights. You can also order “Do Not Knock” stickers to deter uninvited door to door knockers on their website.

Citizens Advice Bureau


Phone: 0800 FOR CAB (0800 367 222)

Citizens Advice Bureaux have volunteers trained in consumer law who can provide you with information and advice about consumer problems.

Commerce Commission


Phone: 0800 943 600

Email: contact@comcom.govt.nz

The Commerce Commission enforces the laws against misleading and deceptive conduct by traders (the Fair Trading Act) and the consumer credit legislation (the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act). The Commission provides information on these areas on its website.

Consumer rights in another language


This site by the Commerce Commission has information about typical situations consumers find themselves in, in five different languages.

Product Recalls


This site lets you know which products have been “recalled” due to safety issues or product defects. You can generally return a recalled product to the place where you bought it to be repaired or replaced.

Motor Vehicle Traders Register


Phone: 0508 MOTOR TRADERS (0508 668 678)

Check to see if a motor vehicle trader is registered.

Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal


Phone: 0800 268 787

The Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal deals with disputes of amounts up to $100,000. It can be more if both parties agree in writing.

Personal Properties Securities Register (PPSR)


Search the PPSR register to see if there is any security interest registered against a vehicle. This can be done for a small fee by registering to check online

Proceedings in the District Courts

The Ministry of Justice website has information about making or responding to a claim in the District Courts. See: www.justice.govt.nz and search “claims to civil court”.

Buying a car privately

YouthLaw has produced a video on buying a car privately.
See: www.youtube.com/watch?v=aK8irFAn1as

New Zealand Police


Check to make sure a car that you’re considering buying hasn’t been listed with the police as stolen.

Dispute resolution schemes

There are four dispute resolution schemes for consumers dealing with lenders and other credit providers.

Financial Services Complaints Limited – www.fscl.org.nz

Phone: 0800 347 257

Email: info@fscl.org.nz

Insurance & Financial Services Ombudsman
Phone: 0800 888 202

Email: info@ifso.nz

Banking Ombudsman – www.bankomb.org.nz
0800 805 950

Email: help@bankomb.org.nz

Financial Dispute Resolution – www.fdrs.org.nz
0508 337 337

Email: enquiries@fdrs.org.nz

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