1 Oct 2020

REDnews spoke to the experts to get their top tips on second-hand car shopping.

Private sale or car dealership? European or Japanese?  These are some of the questions that race through one’s mind when buying a second-hand car. 

Buying a used car comes with obvious risk but we’ve compiled some tips for finding the best value for money. 

REDnews spoke to the experts to get their top tips on second-hand car shopping. 


1. Don’t go for the cheapest deal you can find 

“From my experience the best deal does NOT just come down to price,” says Director of Euroland Motor Company in Wellington, Andrew Smith. 

‘You need to look at the whole package consisting of the quality of the car, the finance and warranty offers or inclusions, trade-in price and any other added value the dealer may be in a position to offer you.  

“You are shopping for a car NOT a discount. 

“If the price is too cheap ask why and check everything in the car’s background. If it's too good to be true it probably is,” Smith says. 

European cars, like this Fiat 500, are slightly more expensive to service than Japanese cars

2 . Research the vehicle and registration 

MotorWeb, which is part of TradeMe, offers vehicle information reports online for $14.95. 

The report will reveal the car’s fuel economy, driver safety and pollutants, as well as whether there is any money owing on the vehicle, whether it has passed its legal checks, how many owners it’s hand and whether it has been reported stolen. 

It is also important to see how regular the car’s services have been and its odometer reading, which are also available on the report when you enter the licence plate details. 

“Have the vehicle independently inspected for your own peace of mind. Consider it an investment in your future,” Smith says. 

“Ask your car dealer how long they have been trading for and which finance and warranty companies they have relationships with.  

“Having relationships with the top lenders and warranty companies is a fairly good gage of a dealer’s reputation,” he said.        


3. Buying privately vs. through a dealership 

“The most important thing when purchasing a car is finding out what protection it comes with if something goes wrong,” Smith says. 

“By purchasing a vehicle through a reputable car dealer, you have the protection and peace of mind of the Consumer Guarantees Act, which states the vehicle has to be fit for purpose,” he said. 

The Consumer Protection legislation was established in 2015 to enforce consumer rights, protection and to offer tips before, during and after purchasing. 

Before buying a used car, the Consumer Protection Government website recommends that you read all contracts thoroughly and calculate the true cost of the car, including interest if you are receiving a loan as well as fuel and maintenance costs. 

“Motor vehicle traders must attach an accurate and reliable Consumer Information Notice (CIN) to any second-hand vehicle, where the transaction takes place.  

“They also have to provide you with a copy of the CIN and ask you to sign it when you buy a used vehicle. 

“If you have problems with the vehicle in the future, the CIN provides evidence of the details you received when you bought the vehicle. 

“Private car sales don’t need a CIN,” the Consumer Protection website says. 

As vehicles age and their mileage increases, so do their servicing requirements

Smith says that even though purchasing a car privately might appear attractive with a lower price tag, there is no Consumer Protection to go with it. 

“The car is sold on a caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) basis,” he says. 

“Most reputable dealers understand this Consumer Protection law and will want to assist in keeping their customers happy and put right any genuine concerns that may arise. 

“Purchasing through a dealer will also ensure the vehicle has a clear title with no money owing to a finance company or security against any loans. 

“It is important if you purchase privately that you pay for a full VIR inspection report which will tell you this and whether there is any history of the vehicle being de-registered due to accident damage,” Smith says.  


4. Mileage and year

As vehicles age and their mileage increases, so do their servicing requirements

“As vehicles age and their mileage increases, so do their servicing requirements,” AA Motoring Advisor Ian Green says. 

“Most cars have a fairly major service at the 50,000 – 60,000km mark, as well as the 100,000 – 120,000 km.  

“If you’re buying a vehicle with mileage near these milestones, you should inquire with the manufacturer’s agent as to what is required for a ‘by the book’ service and the costs associated. 

“The average vehicle in NZ would travel 10,000 -14,000km per year, so it would be common for a 10-year-old vehicle to display 100,000 –140,000 on the clock and still be considered ‘normal’.  

“We would say that after 10 years, a vehicle has had the potential for its most trouble-free life and extra maintenance costs could be expected,” Green says. 


5. European vs. Japanese  

Neither Japanese nor European vehicles are immune to the degradation that occurs over time and with increased mileage. 

“In terms of general servicing, Japanese and European vehicles both have fairly similar service requirements,” the AA’s Ian Green says. 

“However, the price of parts for servicing European vehicles tend to be more expensive than their Japanese counterparts such as Original Equipment (OE) filters and some specialised oil requirements. 

“Also, some parts may be readily available more than others as aftermarket alternatives. 

"The price availability of parts and skills necessary to fit them tend to be more of an issue with European vehicles and this in turn can inflate the cost of their repair,” Green says. 

The Motoring Advisor says that more modest runabouts, like Toyota Corollas and Honda Civics, appear to be more robust than some luxury makes and models,  

“However, these vehicles may not give the same driving experience and refinement European vehicle buyers enjoy,” he says. 

Since European cars have become more prevalent in New Zealand over the past 10 years, the cost of parts and repairs have however decreased in recent years, Andrew Smith believes. 

"There is more knowledge and there are more specialists who are capable of understanding European cars now.  

“They do tend to have more technology than many Japanese or Korean brands though and higher performance engines, so you will have to budget a bit more in your maintenance and ownership costs with a Euro car,” Smith says.