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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 www.ppsr.companiesoffice.govt.nz/ 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 page.
Next Section | Layby sales

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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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