Buying A Vehicle

Sunday, April 30th, 2017

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Next to buying a house, buying a vehicle is a significant purchase.  It pays to do some basic research before you make a decision. If you buy privately, you need to be aware that you aren't protected by the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) or Fair Trading Act (FTA). It is better to buy from a motor vehicle trader. This gives you more consumer rights than buying privately. Make sure that the dealer is registered by checking the Motor Vehicle Traders Register.

To avoid future problems, the following check-list can save you time and money.

1. Research

Before you start looking, it pays to think about the type of vehicle you require. Take into account the
amount of travel you do and whether the car will be used by other family members. If safety is important, visit the right car website which  will assist you in making the correct choice. To assess fuel efficiency the star rating provides a useful comparison - with 6 stars being the most efficient. Try talking to friends and family about recent car purchases as they may be able to advise you.

2. Basic vehicle check

Make sure you assess the following when inspecting a vehicle:

Check that the tyre tread is correct. This can be done by using a matchstick. Make sure it is deeper than the head.

Look for signs of rust on the vehicle.

Check under the bonnet for signs of petrol leaks, frayed or burnt wiring.

Try pushing all the buttons on the dash to make sure they are in working order.

Inspect the outside of the vehicle and look for signs of paint work being touched up.

Start the engine and press the accelerator for a brief period to see if blue smoke
comes out of the exhaust. This could indicate that the engine is burning oil.

3. Test drive

Take the car for a test drive with someone who is familiar with cars.

The best place is an empty car park. Drive round in circles and listen to the noises from the front wheels. If you hear a loud "knock knock" noise this may indicate that the CV joints could need replacing. Next try driving on an open stretch of road. If possible test the vehicle's gears and hand brake by driving on hills.

4. Know your legal rights

When buying privately you do not have the same protection as when buying through a dealer. For more information on this check the Citizens Advice Bureau  website.

5. Check for money owing

To do a finance check, visit the Personal Property Security Register.  This costs only $3 and is worthwhile as many cars have money owing on them.

6. Vehicle registration

To confirm the vehicle's registration visit Motochek on the New Zealand Transport Agency's website. It is also a good idea to check the New Zealand Police website to make sure the vehicle hasn't been stolen.

There are two numbers which must match those on the registration papers. These are the engine number, which is located on the engine block and the VIN code can be found by looking at the dashboard on the driver's side of the vehicle. This is usually between 11-17 characters in length.

7. Warrant of Fitness

When you purchase a vehicle, the warrant of fitness (WOF) must be no more than one month old. The warrant means that the vehicle meets the minimum road safety standards. It doesn't guarantee that the vehicle will be mechanical sound. To assess this, it pays to get a mechanical car inspection.

8. Mechanical car inspection

The best option is to go to the Vehicle Testing New Zealand website and find a branch in your area. The basic inspection costs just $129 and assesses everything from engine performance to steering, suspension and braking. A more comprehensive report costs $149.

9. Vehicle History

A vehicle history check can be obtained via the AA  and costs around $25. A PDF report will be emailed to you which covers odometer history, police check, importation status, ownership history and security interest.

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