New Zealand has immense geographical variety. While cities like Auckland and Wellington are well-equipped with public means of transport, venturing into the rural hinterlands is more challenging and near impossible without a car. Hence getting a car is the first thing that new residents would look at after the relocation process. This article will explain how to buy a car in New Zealand or rent one.

It goes without saying that New Zealand is one of the most driver friendly countries and the process of buying or leasing a car is simple and hassle-free. Read on below to learn about the must-knows for buying or leasing a car in New Zealand – from driving permits, procedures and more.

How to buy a car in New Zealand

how to buy or rent a car in new zealand
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1. What kind of driving licences are accepted in New Zealand?

In order to get behind the wheels, obtaining an international driver’s licence is very important. Unlike other countries, New Zealand’s roads are welcoming, allowing non-residents to use their home licence for up to a year. However, if you do plan to stay for more than a year, the government will require you to obtain a local driver’s licence alongside with proof of residence.

2. Road rules and regulations

  • Using phone while driving is a punishable offence
  • Drinking and driving is a punishable offence
  • New Zealand uses kilometre-based metric system
  • Overtaking a car on a yellow line is a punishable offence
  • New Zealand drives on left hand side of the road
  • Driver seat is on the right side of the vehicle

3. Cost of owning a car

Buying a car in New Zealand is a seasonal thing. The car market offers four-wheelers at skyrocketing rates during December and January. While in April and May, the market stabilises as travellers leave for winters. Ideally, a car in New Zealand can range anywhere from $18,000 to $40,000.

4. Where can you find a car?

A blend of online and brick-and-mortar stores work just as fine when purchasing your new ride. New Zealand has its share of car dealerships and websites to help people look for cars. There are portals where you can compare deals that best suit your budget.

Here are some top websites where you can buy a car in New Zealand: Trade Me, AutoTrader NZ and Need A Car.

5. Car inspection

There are two types of car inspections required before buying a car in New Zealand:

(a) Legal checks

With a legal check you can be sure that the car you are buying is free from any previous unpaid bills or risk of repossession. To get this done, you’ll need the vehicle number plate and about 20 bucks.

(b) Mechanical checks

Mechanical checks are conventionally practised more as it covers more legal and safety requirements than the Warrant of Fitness (WOF) check. A mechanical check inspects the vehicle to ensure it works (and sounds) well. It can cost anywhere between $120 to $160.

Do note that both are optional, but it is recommended to stay on the safe side. These inspections ensure that the vehicle undergoes a full background check, giving you information about its odometer trajectory, possession status, and payment status.

(c) Warrant of Fitness (WOF)

WOF is a roadworthiness certificate that is mandatory for every car bought in New Zealand. It is a compulsory six-month test for an old car and a one-year test for a new car. When it comes to used cars, obtained a WOF is of utmost importance. Note: A car with a shorter WOF period on sale might need to be reconsidered as there could be replacements and repairs that you might have to bear, especially so if such problems are detected during the test.

6. Car insurance

Guess what! New Zealand exempts its drivers from obtaining car insurance. But that doesn’t mean car insurance is not important. If you do buy a car in New Zealand or any country, getting a car insurance will not only protect your car but also prevent unnecessary hefty payments in the event of an accident.

7. Registering the car

Registering the car is a lot simpler than buying a car in New Zealand. You just have to fill up a form, include an ID and submit it to the NZ Post shops or online. For a successful registration, both buyer and the seller will need to submit their respective forms. A small fee (under $10) will be charged, too. Once submitted, you will receive a transfer receipt indicating that you own the car. The final step is to post your proof of residence where you registered the car. Note: You can also use another person’s address in some cases.

8. Licencing the car

Car tax is yet another formality facing car buyers in New Zealand. Also called road/car tax, car licencing can be obtained at the same places – NZ Post shops or online. The cost of this tax varies depending on the car model and the duration of use. For instance, a patrol car licenced for three months might be taxed around $80 (or less).

Important note: Make sure to display your car licence on the windshield beside the WOF!

How to rent a car in New Zealand

how to buy a car in new zealand car lining up in auckland
Photo credit: 123RF

When travelling in another country for a specific period, leasing a car can be the most practical and economical option to move around.

In order to lease a car in New Zealand, you can find numerous car dealers and rental agencies online. You can also choose to hire locally from depots located in the main city. There are a wide range of cars you can choose from and you can easily find your perfect ride under any budget. Here are some important things to consider below:

1. How long do you need the car for?

Generally, hiring a car for longer periods costs cheaper than shorter ones. So, if you’re in New Zealand for two to three months, leasing a car will cost you much lesser than hiring a ride for two weeks. Alternatively, public transport in New Zealand is great, too. It has a vast network of trains, ferries, trams and buses to travel around town at economical rates. This can be a better option for people with shooter stays.

2. Car lease terms in New Zealand

  • Car leases in New Zealand last for 12 to 48 months
  • All leases have mileage limits
  • Some vehicle companies might charge a surcharge for drivers under the age of 25
  • An international driver’s licence or domestic licence
  • Credit Card

3. Where can you rent a car from?

Below is a list of best car rental websites that will assist you in leasing a car in the New Zealand: Avis, Budget, Hertz, Alamo, Apex, Enterprise, Europcar and Sixt.

4. What’s the cost of leasing a car?

Similar to other countries, the cost of leasing a car in New Zealand depends on factors like state, company, car model and duration of the lease. While it is hard to tell what kind of deal you will get, expect the best models to be around Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. An SUV might cost around $24 per day while a luxury car might reach up to $85.

5. Deposit

A deposit is a sum charged by most companies when you rent a car. It is deducted from the credit card and is mandatory. But leasing a car in New Zealand doesn’t require you to submit a deposit. However, in cases of emergency where the rental costs are pre-paid and no other charges are paid during pick up, individuals are required to pay the deposit. Most deposits costs around $208.

Note that deposits are lesser for corporate renters and returning customers, as compared to new customers. If these criteria are not met, the deposit can go up $1044.

6. Mileage

In all car leases in New Zealand, there is a limit to the miles one can drive. Mileage limit is not calculated per year, but rather extends to the tenure of the lease. If you happen to break this clause, a penalty would be levied additionally on the termination deposit.

7. Insurance

The insurance cost is paid independently, in addition to the monthly lease charges. New Zealand encourages comprehensive car insurance to car owners and renters as this will give them better coverage during unforeseen circumstances.

8. Terminating the lease early

Terminating leases early is far more common than people think. The following actions can be taken to do it without much damage to both parties:

  • If you do find yourself in the middle of a financial crisis, buy the car you were leasing and sell it
  • Transfer your lease to someone
  • Pay the termination fees and complete the formalities. Note: This might be expensive.

Cars are a great investment. It is a common misconception that cars add to one’s monthly budget. Why? Owning a car might save a big chunk of your salary from all that travelling. Not to mention. It’s also incredibly convenient.

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