Buying a car is a popular choice for many people who are moving to New Zealand. Whether you’re moving here for one year or ten, buying a vehicle is considered one of the easiest ways to get around.
If you’re moving to Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch, you can probably get around without a vehicle, provided you live on a transport route or close to the CBD. While New Zealand is small, it’s not that small.
The towns are fairly spread out, and the country lacks a passenger rail system between cities. Many small towns don’t have frequent or reliable public transport. Plus, there’s so much to see and do outside the main centres, so a car is the easiest way to see the country’s stunning scenery.
There are alternatives to owning a vehicle, however. Ride-sharing platforms such as Uber and Ola provide a safe way to reach your local destination. Mevo and CityHop operate in most large centres and make hiring a car by the hour easy. Plus, Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown all have transport systems that make it possible to easily and reliably get around. If you do decide to buy a car in New Zealand, here’s what you should know.
Before embarking on your car-buying journey, it's essential to establish a realistic budget. Consider your financial situation, including the upfront purchase cost and ongoing expenses such as registration, insurance, fuel, and maintenance. Remember to allocate funds for a pre-purchase inspection and potential repairs or modifications.
Make sure you’re researching New Zealand prices rather than relying on what you’re used to overseas. For example, fuel is more expensive in New Zealand and may take up a significant portion of your budget.
While purchasing a brand-new car may not be the norm in New Zealand, it's still worth considering. However, keep in mind that buying a new car is a lot more expensive, and depreciation happens the moment you drive it off the lot.
Unlike in the United States, financing or leasing a vehicle from a dealership is not very common. Most New Zealanders prefer to buy second-hand as there’s a strong market for reliable, second-hand Japanese cars. Plus, kiwis are a thrifty bunch. If you’re worried about making the right impression, don’t. You won’t look out of place driving a mid-2010s Subaru or Toyota. Even a one year old car is cheaper than a brand new model.
Buying a used car from a reputable dealer or through a private sale on TradeMe is a popular choice. Used cars offer better value for money and a wider range of options within your budget.
Research is key to finding the right car that suits your needs and budget. Use online platforms, local classifieds, and car dealerships to explore the available options. Consider factors such as fuel efficiency, maintenance costs, safety features, reliability, and resale value. Pay attention to the vehicle's history, mileage, and any reported accidents or issues.
Always get a pre-purchase inspection conducted by a qualified mechanic before finalising your decision. You can take your car to the VTNZ (Vehicle Testing New Zealand) if you don't have a mechanic. For around $200 you can get an independent test that covers everything you need to know about the vehicle's condition. This inspection helps identify any existing or potential issues affecting the car's performance, safety, or value. You’ll also need to ensure the vehicle has a current Warrant of Fitness.
While car insurance isn't compulsory in New Zealand, having at least third-party coverage is highly recommended. Third-party insurance protects you from liability if you cause damage to someone else's vehicle or property. Comprehensive insurance provides additional coverage for damage to your vehicle, theft, or accidents.
Research different insurance providers, compare policies, and choose the best option for your needs and budget. You can also put additional drivers on your insurance if you want to share a vehicle with a friend or flatmate and add AA Roadservice - similar to AAA in the United States.
Once you've purchased the vehicle, transfer the ownership and register the car in your name as soon as possible. You can do this through the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA). You’ll need some documentation, including a valid WoF, proof of purchase, and identification.
Obtaining a New Zealand licence is relatively straightforward if you're from overseas and hold a valid driver's licence. Depending on your situation, you can convert your current licence directly without needing to sit a practical driving test. Even so, you should familiarise yourself with the New Zealand road rules and requirements since here; we drive on the left-hand side. For more information about getting a New Zealand driver's licence, visit the NZTA website.
You'll need to:
Fill out an online form
Prove your identity
Take an eyesight test
Provide a medical certificate (if required)
Show your overseas driver's licence (with a translation if it is not in English)
Prove your licence is valid (if from India, Pakistan or Tonga)
Pose for a new driver’s licence photo
Supply your signature
Pay the application fee
Provide high-quality, colour photocopies of any original documents you've provided
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