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Communtity Law Manual | Consumer protection | Buying a motor vehicle privately

Buying a motor vehicle

Buying a motor vehicle privately

What protection is there if you buy a vehicle privately?

If you buy a motor vehicle privately rather than from a business, the Motor Vehicle Sales Act, the Consumer Guarantees Act and the Fair Trading Act do not apply. This means there are no legal guarantees that you have clear ownership of the vehicle or about the vehicle’s quality.

For example, if a finance company or other creditor has a security interest over the vehicle that you don’t know about, the finance company or creditor may be able to repossess the vehicle from you to recover the seller’s debt (see “Repossession” in the chapter “Credit and debt”).

Claims under other Acts

In some circumstances, you may have some rights under the Contract and Commercial Law Act 2017 if the car is faulty, or if the seller made false statements about the vehicle that persuaded you to buy it (see “Protections when buying privately” in this chapter). In these cases, you may be able to take the seller to the Disputes Tribunal (see the chapter “The Disputes Tribunal”).

Steps you can take to protect yourself when buying privately

There are some steps you can take to protect yourself when buying privately:

  • Check that the vehicle has a current warrant of fitness (WOF). Private sellers have the option of selling a vehicle without a warrant, provided the car is clearly identified for sale “as is, where is”.
  • Check with the police to make sure the car isn’t registered as stolen. Ask the seller for proof of identity.
  • Check whether there is any money owing on the vehicle. Check the Personal Properties Securities Register (PPSR) to see if there is any security interest registered against the vehicle. This can be done for a small fee by registering to check online at or texting the VIN and/or chassis number to 3463 (FIND).
  • Get a mechanical check done on the vehicle. See “Where to go for more support” at the end of this chapter.
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