Buying a car in NZ.
When looking for a vehicle, ask if their is a current WOF (Warrant of Fitness- this ensures that the car is safe to drive on the road) and be sure to ask when it expires. Typically, they last a year on older cars. Make sure your potential car has a remaining one or that is has received one in the past month. If it has neither, things to look out for that can stop your car from receiving WOF is rust, bald tires, cracked windshield, broken or chipped indicators, even wiper blades, and other engine issues. All this can add up to quite a bit of money so make sure you do a thorough inspection or make sure that your potential vehicle comes with a long enough WOF to cover your travels.
On top of a WOF, a car must also be registered. Registration usually runs $100 per 6 months. Changing ownership is $9 at any post office and the Buyer must fill out a MR13B form found at the post office as well. For piece of mind, write up a quick bill of sale on any piece of paper with name, contact info, signature, price of car, and date.
3. Diesel vs Unleaded
Another thing to keep in mind when buying a vehicle that unleaded petrol is twice the price of Diesel in NZ. We saw this as we were driving past petrol stations on our first day and quickly made diesel a requirement in our Van search. Then, at the post office, we found out they try to balance out the fuel prices by requiring Diesel cars to pay a diesel tax at the post office. You have to pre-pay for km that you will use. I think for 3,000km it was $198. I don't really understand why they don't just balance it out at the pump, but whatever. It's cool when filling up is half the price. We filled up our diesel van for $60. That would have been $110-$120 if we had an unleaded van, we celebrate that every time we fill up. So, I am pretty sure you will still be winning if you get a diesel.
4. Places to buy your vehicle in NZ:
There are heaps of vans and other cars on this site. And we had heaps of luck and call backs on this site. It is actually where we bought our van on the first day. They were a nice family of four from Ireland that travelled most countries vanlife style. They really hated on the BuyBack people (read more below)
This is an Auction website with starting bids and reserves. It is pretty popular in NZ for locals to sell anything and everything. Most the Vans we saw were pretty expensive or few and far between.
The Sunday Car Fair in Auckland,
If we didn't buy the van that we bought on Saturday night, this is where we were going Sunday morning. This is also the place our Family of four was planning on going in the morning if they didn't' sell the van to us on Saturday night in the pouring rain. So there are some gems to be found here for quick sale.
NZ Guaranteed Buyback associates in Auckland
From what we have heard, this is pretty much for travelers that don't really know what they are doing or travelers that need a long term rental for exact dates. While it is convenient to purchase vehicles from NZ Buyback Associates because they usually come with an up to date warrant of fitness and registration, it may not be the best for budget travelers with semi-flexible travel schedules. Here is why... Usually if you buy your own van, you can count on getting near to what you paid for it upon departure from private sales, if you secure registration, and WOF yourself. Thru the BuyBack programs, you throw down about $5,000 for a vehicle and they will buy it back after six months for around $2,000 and rent it out to the next travelers for $5,000. Basically your convenience cost you $3,000. Believe me, built-out camper vans hold their value and sell quick.
The best part about owning a vehicle is that is your asset. We buy a vehicle and know that if we maintain it regularly and do some modifications and upgrades to the living space (solar or aux batteries or just regular up-keep aka not running it into the ground, like most backpackers) you can sometimes get more for your vehicle. When we sell our van in one country, that is our budget to buy another van in the next country. So keep that in mind if you want to continue vanlife around the world.
Where did we have the most success?
We had the most success from Backpackers Forum as we didn't want to wait around for bids to end on TradeMe. Although I think you can contact the buyer on TradeMe to do an inspection and if you like it and make them an offer, I am sure that they will take it down and sell it to you to avoid the headache of selling it and answering emails about the vehicle.