Your rights and what you should know when buying a vehicle from a dealer.

Motor vehicle sales and your rights

The Motor Vehicle Sales Act (MVSA)(external link) is the main law that applies when new and used motor vehicles are sold by motor vehicle traders (also called dealers) to you for personal, domestic or household use.

The MVSA protects you by requiring motor vehicle traders to:

  • disclose certain information when they sell used vehicles
  • be registered
  • meet certain administrative and record keeping requirements.

Also, certain traders or companies are disqualified or banned from being registered.

Businesses who fail to comply with the MVSA can be fined up to $200,000 (the amount varies significantly depending on the offence).

New and used motor vehicles must also meet safety and licensing requirements.

See New Zealand Transport Agency(external link) for more information.

What you need to know

Under the Motor Vehicles Sales Act (MVSA), any person whose business sells or trades motor vehicles must be registered. This includes car dealers, importers, wholesalers, and auctioneers and anyone who intends to sell motor vehicles, eg a trader on Trade Me.

You can ask a motor vehicle trader to show them their registration certificate with their trader number on it and the date their registration expires.

You can do a free search on the Motor Vehicle Traders Register either on line at the registry(external link) or by phoning 0508 MOTOR TRADERS (0508 668 678) to check the registration details on the CIN.

You can also find out who’s responsible for running a particular motor vehicle trading business and how to contact that trader, or search for traders who’ve been banned.

Unregistered motor vehicle traders can be fined by up to $200,000. Registration laws are enforced by the Registrar of Motor Vehicle Traders at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). You can make a written complaint about unregistered motor vehicle traders to the Registrar.

See Motor Vehicle Traders Register for more information.

A Consumer Information Notice (CIN) [PDF, 44 KB] (PDF, 70 KB) provides information about a used motor vehicle’s history. It includes information like:

  • the year the vehicle was first registered and whether it was imported
  • if a previous owner owes money on the car. Check to see if the security interest field on the CIN is ticked ‘Yes’ and includes this statement, “There is a security interest registered over this motor vehicle”, then the vehicle could be repossessed
  • the name and address of the business selling the vehicle
  • the cash price. This should include all the costs associated with buying the vehicle and being able to drive it immediately. This includes GST, registration, and licensing costs.
  • odometer reading
  • whether the business is registered as a motor vehicle trader.

Motor vehicle traders must attach an accurate and reliable Consumer Information Notice (CIN) to any second-hand vehicle that they display for sale- eg at a traditional car yard, at a car fair or display for sale operation. If a business sells used cars on the internet, they must have a link to the CIN on the same web page as the car is offered for sale. Private car sales don’t need a CIN.

They must also:

  • provide you with a copy of the CIN if you buy this vehicle
  • ask you to sign the CIN – as proof that they’ve provided it to you.

If you have some problems with the vehicle later on, the CIN provides evidence of the vehicle details you received when you bought the vehicle.

If a used motor vehicle has been imported into New Zealand, the CIN must state when the vehicle was first registered overseas and where it was last registered before being imported into New Zealand. This gives an indication of the history and use of the vehicle.

The CIN must also indicate if a vehicle was imported as a damaged vehicle. Land Transport New Zealand records whether imported used vehicles had obvious structural damage or deterioration identified at the time of import. By contrast, damage that may have occurred in New Zealand won’t have been recorded.

You may wish to have any vehicle (whether imported or not) checked by a person with mechanical knowledge before you buy.

Tampering with odometers is illegal. This is an offence and carries a fine of up to $50,000 for an individual or $200,000 for a company. If the odometer reading is in the CIN this must be correct. If the motor vehicle trader believes the odometer reading is incorrect they must include a warning on the CIN, eg “This motor vehicle’s odometer is inaccurate.”

You can take a claim to the Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal (MVDT) under this Act if you bought a vehicle from:

  • a business that is a registered motor vehicle trader
  • from an unregistered trader if you can show they were in the business of selling motor vehicles.

You may want to bring a claim:

You can ask the MVDT to order that the motor vehicle trader:

  • repair your vehicle
  • refund the money you’ve paid someone else to repair your vehicle
  • refund of all of the money you paid for the vehicle, if it’s a serious fault or a serious false representation
  • compensate you for the loss you’ve suffered because of the fault, the problem or the false representations
  • any extra losses or costs to you that directly resulted from the problem with the vehicle eg such as hiring a rental car while your car is being repaired.

More information:

Example situation

Josh buys a Honda family car that he thinks is a 2007 model from a dealer. He later finds out after taking the car to his local mechanic that the car is in fact a 2004 model. He can take a claim in the Motor Vehicles Disputes Tribunal to get the dealer to compensate him for the cost of any repairs and/or any loss in the value of the vehicle. Josh can also claim the cost of renting a vehicle or hiring taxis while his vehicle was being repaired.

Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal Annual Reports

Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal Adjudicators are required under section 87 of the Motor Vehicle Sales Act 2003 to submit an annual report to the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs within three months after 30 June in each year. The report must:

  • summarise the applications dealt with during the year; and
  • detail any cases that in the adjudicator's opinion require special mention; and
  • make any recommendations for amendments to this Act (if any) that the adjudicator thinks desirable based on the experience of the Disputes Tribunal.

The Minister must make the annual report available, free of charge, on an Internet site that is publicly accessible at all reasonable times within 28 days after receiving the report.

1 July 2016 to 30 June 2017

1 July 2015 to 30 June 2016

1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015

1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014

1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013

1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012

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