Caution needed for private car purchases

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Each year thousands of Kiwis buy or sell cars.

Since the start of this year, about 120,000 vehicles have been sold nationwide. And according to the Motor Transport Association, more than 50,000 of these were second-hand.

Savvy shoppers after a pre-loved motor often prefer to deal directly with car owners, rather than dealerships.

Lower prices advertised on sites like Trade Me are a big drawcard.

But bargain hunters should be aware that private sales carry a big risk and can leave the purchaser high and dry if things turn pear-shaped.

AA spokesman Andrew Bayliss says motorists need to be extra careful when going it alone because, unlike car yard sales, consumer protection laws don't apply.

Teuila Fuatai offers some some tips for buying cars privately:


In most cases, cars up for sale have a warrant of fitness less than 1 month old.

Where this isn't the case, buyers should be extra careful in the pre-purchase checks they perform.

However, even a current WoF doesn't guarantee a car is in good working condition, warns Mr Bayliss.

The New Zealand Transport Agency recommends buyers invest in a professional pre-purchase inspection which can be carried out by most garages. VTNZ advertises a full pre-purchase inspection for $135.

After the inspection, sellers and buyers are provided with a report detailing any repairs needed on the vehicle.

Buyers will therefore have a better idea about how the car runs and any repairs that may affect the purchase price.


Private buyers should always perform a comprehensive history check on vehicles, Mr Bayliss says.

"One of the biggest things we see is people who have bought a car ... with finance outstanding on it.

"If you buy a car that has money owing on it, the buck stops with you. It's not uncommon for cars to be repossessed and the seller's done a runner or gone overseas."

A vehicle history check can be performed online with the AA or Motor Trade Association.

For about $20, buyers can check whether a car's odometer has been wound back, if it is a damaged import or has been re-registered due to being a write-off, and whether there is any outstanding finance on it.


Unless the seller has misrepresented the car in advertisements, buyers don't really have a leg to stand on, Mr Bayliss warns.

At a car dealership, buyers are protected under the Consumer Guarantees Act and Fair Trading Act, Mr Bayliss says.

"But, when you're buying privately, it doesn't apply.

"It can be very difficult if you haven't done your due diligence or homework beforehand to go back to a private seller and try and argue the point once you've handed over the cash."

One option is to go to the Disputes Tribunal.

"You see cars advertised in perfect mechanical condition [and] in that case if something went wrong on the way home ... if you took it to dispute, you'd probably have a fairly good case."

But: "If it said 'as is', 'where is', [or] 'needs work', then you're getting into a grey area if something catastrophic happens on the way home."


Any cars bought at auction run under the same rules as a private sale, even if the auction takes place at a car yard, Mr Bayliss says.

"If you're buying a car, even from a dealer ... [and] it's a bidding situation, like on Trade Me, the Consumer Guarantees Act does not apply."

For example: "If you go into a dealer's yard and it's $12,990 and you knock him down $12,500 ... you're covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act," he says. "But, if the [same] car is on Trade Me ... and you win the auction at $12,500, you're not covered."

- Hamilton News

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