An Auckland man is fuming after discovering his newly-purchased second hand car is a model five years older than what he thought he was paying for.
The buyer, who didn't want to be named, purchased a car advertised as a BMW X3 with the vehicle year 2009 from the Panmure branch of Buy Right Cars in April 2017.
It was several months later when he took the car into his local mechanic to be serviced that he found out it was in fact a 2004 model. The car had been advertised with the year of registration - which was apparently five years after the vehicle was made.
According to the Imported Motor Vehicle Industry Association it was most likely the car was manufactured in Japan, then stockpiled. The assumption was that it sat around for five years before it was registered and shipped to New Zealand.
This wasn't common, the association said, but it wasn't unheard of either.
Outraged, the buyer took his new vehicle back to the dealership where a salesman told him the practice is fully legal.
"He said 'we don't have to say that - you look in the fine print and it's the registration date we're required to give'."
A request for a partial refund via email after the confrontation was refused, as was a request to trade in the car for a 2009 model.
From his research the buyer said it looked likely he had paid up to $10,000 more for the car than it was worth.
A spokesperson from the NZ Transport Agency confirmed the practice was legal under law changes implemented in 2007.
For motor vehicles registered before 1 January 2007, "vehicle year" meant either the year of manufacture, the model year or the year of first registration. But for vehicles registered after January 2007, "vehicle year" meant the year of first registration anywhere in the world.
Consumer New Zealand adviser Maggie Edwards said it wasn't clear why the change went ahead, and thought the case at hand highlighted a problem with the current rules.
"From our point of view it's glitched. I don't think it serves the consumer well", she said.
Edwards said the Fair Trading Act would likely come into play if the consumer was misled into thinking the car was not yet 10 years old, but it turned out to be over 13 years old.
"It would have been easy enough for the dealer to check the vehicle data sheet in the service record book or with BMW NZ", she said.
A spokesperson from Buy Right Cars directed requests for comment on to the Imported Motor Vehicle Industry Association.
Chief executive David Vinsen said if the dealer knew the car had been manufactured several years before its registration date they should share this information "in the interest of transparency".
However, Vinsen said an attendant at any given dealership would "not necessarily" know the difference between models and years. He said it was very common in any place around the world for cars to be manufactured and then stockpiled.
The car-buyer wanted the system changed to avoid others being misled like he felt he had been.
"If the date of manufacture is readily available online then I think the car dealer has the responsibility to advertise it", he said.
"The sellers should be upfront and transparent about it, rather than hiding behind the stupid system."
The attendant at the dealership had advised the buyer follow the same procedure if on-selling the car, but he said this would be out of line with his own morals.
"I can't go and sell that car as a 2009 model with a straight face - I just wouldn't."
CONSUMER NZ'S TIPS FOR CAR BUYERS:
Get a pre-purchase inspection: When you pay an inspection service or your garage to inspect a car, they're required to do the job with reasonable care and skill. If they get something wrong, you can hold them liable for any losses you incur.
Check there's no money owing: If you buy privately, the car could be repossessed if there's money owing on it. Use a car history checking service to find out if the vehicle is clear of debt.
Check the paperwork: Every car sold by a dealer must have a warrant of fitness and a consumer information notice, which gives you key details of the vehicle. You also need to check the certificate of registration, change of ownership form and sales agreement.
Don't get stung by dealer finance: Dealer finance can be expensive. With any loan offer, check the total amount you'll pay. If the dealer offers an interest-free loan, check what fees are added on.
Think twice about breakdown insurance: Mechanical breakdown insurance, a type of extended warranty, often provides no more protection than you're entitled to under the Consumer Guarantees Act. If you are interested in buying a warranty, look at what it actually covers.