Tips for buying a used car, what to check for and how to protect yourself from common problems.


What to check before buying a used car

Buying a second hand car is another option consumers can consider when purchasing a car. Use these tips and resources when you view, test drive and inspect a car before you buy it.

Use this checklist with steps to follow when buying a used car. 

Download guide: Pre-purchase checklist before buying a used car [PDF, 394 KB]

Pre-purchase checklist

1. Work out your priorities

What do you really need?

2. Check your finances

How much do you want to spend?

  • Look at how much money you have coming in and going out
  • Estimate the total cost of a car including running costs
  • If you get a loan, shop for the best interest rates and get pre-approval from a lender

3. View and test cars

Does it look and feel right?

  • Check important documents
    • Consumer Information Notice (CIN)
    • service receipts
    • current warrant of fitness (WoF)
    • current licence (rego)
  • Do basic checks
  • Ask about previous water damage
  • For used EVs, get a battery state of health (SOH) test, and check the charging cable meets safety and compatibility standards
  • Take it for a test drive

4. Call in the experts

Does everything stack up?

5. Before you sign on the dotted line

Are you getting the best deal?

  • Be wary of any offers too good to be true
  • Calculate car’s true cost if you borrow
  • Make sure any add-ons, eg extended warranties and accessories, are worth it
  • Read any contracts or agreements carefully

6. Let’s go

How can you get on the road?

  • Let Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency know you bought a car
  • Safeguard yourself with insurance
  • Stay road worthy with regular servicing and current WoF and licence (rego)
  • Save sales documents and service receipts, CIN notices and all other related paperwork to avoid problems

Protect yourself from common problems

Here are some additional elements to check – and risks to be aware of when buying a used car: