Buying a car at auction 


For general information about what your rights are when you buy goods or services at an auction, visit our Auctions page.

I bought a car from an auctioneer and later found out it was damaged. What are my rights?

In an auction, goods or services are sold through bidding, by a registered auctioneer on behalf of a seller. 

If you think the car was damaged while under the control of the auction house, or they misled you about the condition of the vehicle, you can complain directly to the auction house. Under the Fair Trading Act a registered auctioneer can’t advertise the car as being in good running order if it is not (for example).

If the auction house thinks the problem with the car is with the seller, you should be able to get the seller’s contact details so that you can complain directly to the seller.

If the seller is a trader, you have rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act and the Fair Trading Act. For example the car must be fit for purpose, match their description and last a reasonable amount of time. (If you aren’t sure whether the seller is in trade, it should be stated in the vehicle listing – in the sale catalogue or online.)

If you aren’t able to resolve it with the auctioneer or the seller , you can apply to the Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal for a decision.

If you aren’t satisfied with how the auction house has dealt with your complaint you can make a complaint to the Auctioneers Association of NZ.

If the seller is a private individual (not in the business of selling vehicles) then under the Contract and Commercial Law Act you may be able to cancel the contract of purchase and get your money back. If you aren’t able to resolve the matter with the seller you can make a claim at the Disputes Tribunal.

More about this is on our Buying a car privately page.

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What are the auctioneer’s responsibilities regarding the vehicles they sell?

A car auctioneer, like any other motor vehicle trader, has certain responsibilities which protect the consumer.

These include:

  • ensuring that a Consumer Information Notice is prominently displayed on the car window, 
  • disclosing whether the vehicle is being used as security for a debt,
  • stating whether the seller is a trader or not and
  • not misleading or deceiving buyers about the vehicles for sale.

Some auctioneers promise that the cars they sell have been mechanically checked, or that their cars are not being used as security on a debt – these aren’t legal requirements so it’s worth checking what they offer.

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I went to an auctioneer’s website and they have a “buy now” option. If I use this option to buy a car, does it affect my consumer rights?

The “buy now” option is just another way of offering to sell you something at a fixed price.

So as long as the seller is a motor vehicle trader, you are covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act and the Fair Trading Act whether you bought it through bidding or by using their “buy now” option.