Buying cars

The next steps to take if you are unable to resolve an issue when buying a car.

Who do I go to?

Who do I go to?

The Registrar of Motor Vehicle Traders(external link) if you have a complaint about motor vehicle traders who may be:

  • unregistered and trading illegally 
  • tampering with a vehicle’s odometer
  • banned motor vehicle traders still operating illegally.

Motor Trade Association (MTA)(external link) for complaints against MTA members.

Motor Trade Finance(external link) for complaints about car finance against participating car dealerships.

The Commerce Commission(external link) to report a business for for false or misleading statements, or misconduct related to the sale of your motor vehicle under the Fair Trading Act.

NZ Transport Agency (NZTA)(external link) for resolving complaints about:

  • a car's recently issued warrant of fitness, if the car doesn't appear to be in a warrantable condition
  • unsafe child restraints (booster seats) if you have purchased one recently.

If your issue relates to insurance, please see our information on resolving banking, finance and insurance problems.

What kind of problems do they handle?

What kind of problems do they handle?

Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal

Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal (MVDT) deals with claims up to $100,000 under the Consumer Guarantees Act, or if you have been misled under the Fair Trading Act. Examples of claims include:

  • the vehicle is faulty, poor quality, or doesn’t do what you were told it would do
  • you can’t repair the vehicle or find spare parts for it
  • you think the dealer has misled you about the vehicle or the terms of the sale
  • you think that the vehicle was not in a fit state to be sold.

Claims must be against a registered motor vehicle dealer or an unregistered dealer who has a business selling motor vehicles. They can’t hear claims against private sellers, or motor repairers for repair costs. The MVDT can’t hear claims about certain vehicles such as mopeds, any kind of farm machinery, or trailers.

The Disputes Tribunal

The Disputes Tribunal deals with claims up to $15,000 (or $20,000 if both parties agree in writing):

  • against a motor vehicle trader for compensation and/or a refund under the Consumer Guarantees Act and the Fair Trading Act
  • against the loan company to vary or cancel the loan contract under the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act.

It also deals with claims against private sellers to cancel the sale and get compensation under the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act.

The Motor Trade Association

The Motor Trade Association (MTA) handles disputes about issues with your car and breaches of the Consumer Guarantees Act.

What do I need to do?

What do I need to do?


  1. Contact the dealer or seller to try and resolve the issue. Follow their complaint process if they have one.
  2. If you can't resolve the issue the issue, you may wish to make a claim to the MVDT. If so, the trader is required to discuss the issue with you. If this isn’t successful, the MVDT will hear your claim(external link).
  3. If you have not resolved the issue or you have purchased the car from a private seller, you may wish to make a claim to the Disputes Tribunal(external link).
  4. If the dealer is a member of the MTA, you can contact their Mediation Service(external link) and they will investigate and assist with a resolution
  5. Download the relevant NZTA complaint forms(external link) if you have any complaints about warrant of fitness certification or unsafe child booster seats.
What else do I need to consider?

What else do I need to consider?

Claims for compensation against private sellers can only be made to the Disputes Tribunal.

The Disputes Tribunal charges a filing fee to pay, depending on the amount claimed. Current fees can be found on their website(external link).

The filing fee for a claim in the MVDT is currently $50 including GST.

Both the MVDT and the Disputes Tribunal hearing processes are informal. Lawyers cannot participate in the process, but the trader must. You are responsible for paying the costs and expenses of any witnesses you call to give evidence.

The MVDT or Disputes Tribunal can order that:

  • repairs or parts are provided 
  • your contract is changed to compensate you for your loss
  • the trader fully refunds you for the vehicle
  • you’re compensated for the loss you’ve suffered e.g. cost of repairs or reduction in value of the vehicle
  • the motor vehicle trader pays off any loans you took to buy the motor vehicle.

For a dispute with a private seller, the Disputes Tribunal can order the seller to:

  • cancel the sale and refund your money
  • pay compensation for the loss in value of the car.

It takes longer to get a hearing before the MVDT than the Disputes Tribunal. If you live outside a main centre, it can take many months to get a hearing before the MVDT.  

The MTA Mediation Centre can’t make binding orders on either party’s behalf.

Where can I get more information?

Where can I get more information?

Motor Vehicle Dealers Tribunal

Provides information about the work of the Tribunal and how make a complaint.

Visit the website(external link)
Phone: 0800 367 6838

Disputes Tribunal

Provides information about how to make a claim, online applications and current fees.

Visit the website(external link)
Phone: 0800 268 787

MTA Mediation Service

Provides information about the MTA's complaints process for disputes between customers and its members.

Visit the website(external link)
Phone: 0508 682633

Registrar of Motor Vehicle Traders

Provides information about registering as a dealer and maintains a list of registered dealers.

Visit the website(external link)
Phone: 0508 668 678

Product Recalls

Provides details of all product recalls including those affecting vehicles.

Visit the website(external link)
Phone: 0508 627 774

New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA)

Provides information on all forms of transport in New Zealand including car registrations and vehicle safety.

Visit the website(external link)
Phone: 0800 822 422