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How to Buy a Car in New Zealand

29 July 2021

No one wants to end up with a lemon when they buy a car. Whether you’re looking for a new or used car, you need to know what to look for so that you don’t make a mistake and end up with a dud that you’ll need to keep repairing or on-sell in a year. Learn how to buy a car in NZ the right way by checking out our top tips below.

Tips for Buying a Car

Define the Purpose

One of the key factors when buying a car is the purpose of the vehicle. Will you be the only one using this car, or are you likely to share it with your partner? Maybe you have a teenager who will be learning to drive in this car. In this case, you may prefer that they learn to drive a manual over an automatic, or vice versa.

If your partner has a big car that’s good for long road trips, maybe you only need a small vehicle to get you around town.

Selling Your Current Car

If you already have a car, think about whether you would sell this or keep it. If you want to get rid of it, you may be able to trade it in at the dealership where you buy your new car. Keep in mind that many dealerships will buy your car even if you aren’t purchasing your next vehicle through them. Just make sure that you do your research first on how much your old car is worth so that you get its full value when you trade it in.

Some car owners try to sell their vehicles privately through Facebook Marketplace. However, this is a risky move as there is no real protection for sellers or buyers on this platform. The safest way to go is through a dealership like Stadium Cars.

Don’t Buy New

If you are set on buying a brand-new car, have you considered finding one that’s just a year old instead? Buying a second-hand vehicle that came out last year is significantly cheaper than buying a new one from the dealership that will be pretty much the same.

The depreciation on new cars in the first year is pretty steep, so you could save up to as much as 35% on the cost of the vehicle just by buying one that’s a year old. You get all the benefits of a new car without the price tag!

Check Safety Ratings

Don’t overlook the safety rating when making a decision on which car to buy. The safety rating is crucial for you to know how safe your vehicle will keep you should you get into an accident on the road. Safety ratings range from 1 star to 5, and a car with five stars for safety rates amongst the safest you can buy. The government’s Right Car website has plenty of information on this, and you can look up the car you are considering buying to see what the rating is.

Save Money by Checking the Fuel Economy

Many new car owners don’t think to check the fuel economy of the vehicle before purchasing it. Unfortunately, they quickly see that the engine chews through petrol, costing them an arm and a leg to fill it up each week. Check the fuel economy rating before buying your car so that you are fully informed about the running costs. Like the safety rating, the fuel economy rating can be between 1 and 5 stars, with five being the most efficient to run.

Get Insurance First

Insuring your new vehicle before you get it will give you peace of mind that you’re fully covered as soon as you drive it away. Consider adding mechanical breakdown insurance to protect yourself in case your car has a mechanical breakdown. Compare insurance prices and get quotes before you buy your vehicle. That way, you can begin your insurance from the day before you pick it up.

Consider whether you could get a better deal by combining your car insurance with credit contract indemnity (CCI) and guaranteed asset protection insurance. It’s often cheaper to go with the same provider for all three so that you can get a bundle discount.

Test Driving the Car

Test driving the car is the ideal opportunity to check it out thoroughly. However, it can be hard to know what to look for or check if you’re not that knowledgeable about cars. If you’ve now got a car that you’re thinking about buying, take it for a spin. Here are the key factors when buying a vehicle to look out for while you have it on the road:


Take a look at the overall condition of the car. You’re checking to see whether it has any scratches, dents, or other faults. If there are some major dings, ask the seller if it has been involved in any accidents and what previous repairs have been done on it.


Checking a car’s mileage is one of the most critical tasks you will do. You want a vehicle that hasn’t done too many km for its age, but it’s also a concern if it hasn’t done many. 15,000 km is around how far you would expect a car to have travelled each year. So, a car that’s ten years old that’s only done 30,000 km might raise some questions. Remember that the cam belt must be replaced every 100,000 km, so if it’s done just over 100,000 or 200,000, you’ll need to check if this has been replaced (if it has one).

Inspect the Engine

Potential car owners who don’t know much about cars often don’t bother checking the engine as they don’t know what to look for. However, one important thing that anyone can easily spot is whether there are any leaks. Look for excess water or oil under the bonnet and also under the car. A leak is an indication that something may be seriously wrong, so if you find any, you may want to choose a different vehicle.

Test Everything

You don’t want to buy a car only to find that it has a whole bunch of easily detectable faults. So, take the opportunity during the test drive to pull over and test everything you can. Check that all of the lights and indicators are working, the locks work, wind the windows down, and press all of the buttons on the display panel. This gives you the chance to quickly detect anything that’s not working and let the seller know about it so that they can fix it before you buy.

Take it to a Mechanic

If all of the above checks go well, take the car to a mechanic to get a full report. You may have a report provided by the dealership, but it’s always a good idea to take it into an independent mechanic for a second opinion. You’ll have to pay for the pre-purchase inspection; for example the one from AA is around $184. This is well worth it compared to how much you might lose on buying a car that will need a lot of repairs. This is the best way to ensure that you don’t end up with a lemon!

When is the Best Time to Buy a Car?

Now that you’ve decided it’s time to buy a new car, you’ll need to know how to get the best deal possible. Yes, there is indeed a right time to buy a car. If you plan on buying from a dealership, remember that the salesperson will have targets they need to reach by the end of each quarter.

Go in to buy your car near the end of a quarter – March, June, September, or December. In these months, the salespeople need to sell more cars to meet their targets. This means that they may be more open to negotiations on price or upgrades.

Most people pop into car dealerships on the weekend, as they can spend all day browsing and making a decision. However, it’s worth heading over on a Monday or Tuesday if you can, as the first half of the week is less busy. On these days, you can benefit from the exceptional advice and service of salespeople with more time to spend discussing your options with you.

If you want to buy with a private seller, the above advice doesn’t apply as they don’t have targets to meet; they just want to sell for as much as possible.

How to Buy a Car in New Zealand

Step 1: Choose a Car

The first step towards buying a car is to choose one by using the advice above. Find a vehicle that perfectly suits you and your family’s needs, make sure it’s in great condition and has excellent fuel economy and safety ratings.

Step 2: Get Finance

Now that you’ve found your ideal car, it’s time to think about how you’re going to pay for it. New Zealanders commonly get their cars on finance so that they don’t have to save up all the cash upfront. Pay it off in easy weekly, fortnightly, or monthly instalments and drive away in your dream car today.

Stadium Finance offers competitive interest rates on car loans, and if you are approved, you could be driving away in your new car within 24 hours!

We have a dedicated support team who is here to help you with any questions you may have about applying for a loan. Contact us today to find out more about how we can help you to drive away in the car of your dreams.

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