Case Study-How did I buy a used car for NZ $1,300 and sell it for NZ $1,500 on my three month trip to New Zealand?


“Really? You bought a car for just NZ$1,000 and sold it for a profit. That sounds unreal!!!”

That was the reaction of Santiago, the Argentinian guy who stayed with me at Lyn’s house. He travelled New Zealand for months before crossing the water to Australia in 2010. Infact he had just sold his car before he met me one month later.

Many travelers buy and sell used cars in New Zealand. It’s a good choice for people who plan to travel more than a month because hiring a car is not cheap and having a vehicle is vital if you want to explore the road less travelled. If you decide to buy a used car, and choose it wisely, you could even make a profit selling it when you leave the country. My case study has been proven- Santiago iterated.

Here’s a good thing to know and if I hadn’t been abroad I would never have known this; cars in other countries can be super cheap to buy second hand. My country has 300% tax for an imported car, so the same car in New Zealand would cost at least double the price in Thailand.

Two years after, I thought about Santiago again when I landed in New Zealand. I made my way to my first host’s place, as I didn’t have my own vehicle. The bad reputation of transportation in New Zealand was true; there were no busses or trains passing nearby the property I was staying, I felt stranded!

Was I required to just work all day for my host in return for meals and accommodation, but without a break or being able to somewhere else? Nope, I told myself I wouldn’t put myself down like that. Actually, what seemed like a crisis turned out to be an opportunity. The opportunity for picking up a nice cheap used car! So I stayed at my first host’s place for just that reason-to buy a used car!

I have to give credit and many thanks to my NZ hosts Tricia and John who supported me for the time I spent looking for a set of wheels!


Having made about 10 phone calls, I got two appointments to meet the sellers in my host’s backyard. Fortunately the first one I met gave me an awesome deal. So I scored a Nissan Bluebird 1995, automatic gearbox, 299,800 kilometers on the clock… for $1300. It was the first time I’d spent money on a car and it was super cool.



After nearly three months travelling miles and miles of picture perfect open road ( I bought the car on 10/14/2012 and sold it on 12/24/2012 ), this beloved car made me NZ $1,500 back in return- $200 more than the original price- AWESOME!!!

So here are a couple of tips based on my experience, for those of you that are interested in buying and selling a used car for an unforgettable road trip in New Zealand:


Q & A To buy or not to buy?

Q: Who can buy a used car in New Zealand?

A: Anyone who has the relevant visa for New Zealand. No matter what your conditions are, you too could buy a used car here.

Q: How do we know the condition of the used car? Could it break down easily?

A: You will hear people calling it W.O.F. or Warrant of Fitness. This document should provide you with a full service and repair history for the registered vehicle. W.O.F is basically a certificate which details mechanical and safety features of the car that by law, need to be assessed every 6 months. All used car owners are required to take the vehicle to an official WOF service center to fix or change any problems in order have the document approved. The standard of W.O.F. is reliable as it is strictly regulated by the government. You shouldn’t be tempted to buy any vehicle which has not been approved, this is not only against the law but it’s also a big risk to your own safety.

Q: Who should buy a used car?

A: Any traveler who wants to explore New Zealand freely without worrying about the lack of transportation or inaccessibility on some routes, and anyone who plans to stay more than two months.

1. Where could I find used cars?



This site is widely used and recommended as the best choice to buy and sell almost everything in New Zealand. I bought not only a used car, but also a tent. Both of them were considerably cheaper than normal market sale price. Before I came to New Zealand, I had never heard of this website but as I discovered you would be surprised by how many people in this country, both nationals and internationals, use this website to buy and sell things.

Note : You can access a seller’s contact details for free if you want to make an enquiry about buying a vehicle, but when you come to sell your car, there is a one off payment of NZ $10 to be a seller.


This is a source of reliable information about some sellers that you could check before you make an enquiry. Spend time to see what other buyers say about them.


This picture is an example of a typical used car as advertised on trade me. The details you should focus on are;

Buy Now = the selling price,

Kilometers = the average usage of a car 15 years or older is about 300,000 Kilometers.

Engine = The bigger the engine size, the more petrol/ gasoline the vehicle will consume e.g. A vehicle with a 1100 CC engine will be a lot more economical and cost effective than a 2200 engine.

Automatic= Automatic transmission means that you won’t have to worry about changing gears manually, especially if you are used to driving on the other side of the road!

Registration Fees (REGO) = you will have to pay NZ $78 for 3 months REGO. If you sell the car before this expires it means you don’t have to pay the cost. However, if the REGO expires while the vehicle is still in your name, it is a legal requirement that you go to the nearest Post Office to have the Registration renewed.

Note: there are combinations of mobile, temporary and fixed cameras all over NZ which have been programmed to scan the registration plate of your vehicle whilst you are driving. If you are caught driving an unregistered vehicle you maybe landed with an unnecessary fine and/or penalties.

W.O.F how long to buy= the longer you have before the WOF expires, the better. When the WOF expires every part of the car will be checked and approved and this could have been up to half year ago. If you have to enroll for a new W.O.F. while you are still using a car, it will be out of service until you have a certificate and if you are unlucky you might have to pay a lot for some part like cam belt. This could be like NZ$500, and I am not kidding!

Here are some other useful places to find a used car:

-,, backpacker car market, and newspaper.

I have not had any direct experience of these but I did look through Gumtree, which looks ok and is widely used in Australia. However, do be aware that on Gumtree there are no records to track the sellers rating or reliability. So I decided to use Trade me instead.

In NZ I also met a couple who came from Israel. They bought a car from backpacker car market. It was their nightmare. You would never know how annoy it was when you have a car problem abroad.


2. What do you need to have before buying a used car in New Zealand?


- International driving license = this is a must have document before buying a car.


- Document of buying and selling. =   This is a super easy and simple document for transferring the ownership details of a car. You could copy my form in the picture above.


- Document of acquiring = You can pick up this document from the post office and after you finish completing the form you should to return it once again to the post office and pay NZ $9.41 to change the name of ownership.


Once you have completed the form you will receive the document below which shows your name against the vehicle registration number- and the vehicle is finally yours at last.

Other costs you have to know

- Insurance cost

Whether you like it or not, and no matter how many days you decide to drive. You need car insurance in this country. The price will vary by your age and gender. I had to pay NZ $170 for my three months condition.

- Gasoline = NZ $2.17 ( 5/30/2014 )

- Speed Limits =  This is a bad example from me. I did drive 67km/h in 50km. /h zone. I had to pay NZ$120             (super stupid huh?!) If you do get a fine you can pay by bank transfer Westpac or Nab for example or by producing a cheque made payable to a police station. Damn!!!

- The Season to buy/sell.

I came to New Zealand at the end of their winter. Demand for used cars at that time was low. But when came to sell my car It was almost summer time and when there are more tourists coming to the country there is therefore more of a demand to buy a used cars. So I was able to increase the price even though I used the car for a while.

Buying and selling a used car in New Zealand for profit, depends on many factors such as condition of the car, the length of the REG. and WOF, the season in which you’re trying to sell, the city you’re selling in ( you’re more likely to sell your vehicle for a good price in a big city like Auckland) I sold mine in Dunedin.

I really hope this article will help you to find the luck I found and a similar deal to me. I can assure you this will make an amazing road trip in New Zealand and an unforgettable experience.


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