What legal protection do I have if I buy a car privately?
Buying a vehicle privately can often lead to getting a better bargain if you know a lot about cars, but you have to be careful, as you have less protection. If you buy a car from a private individual (or from a car market which provides a venue for private sellers but was not involved in the sale), you are not covered by the laws that cover purchases from dealers.
However, you are covered against a seller’s misrepresentation of the vehicle (if you can prove that misrepresentation caused you loss), under the Contract and Commercial Law Act.
You are also covered by this Act if the seller wasn’t the legal owner of the vehicle when they sold it. Have a look at our Repossession page for what you can do if the car is repossessed because the previous owner used it as security for a loan.
You can read more about what protections you have when buying or selling privately.
If you have a problem with a vehicle bought privately (i.e. not from a motor vehicle dealer), you can make a claim with the Disputes Tribunal.
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What can I do to protect myself when buying a vehicle privately?
When buying privately, you aren’t protected by the Consumer Guarantees Act or Fair Trading Act, so it is wise to have a thorough mechanical check of the vehicle. Many organisations provide a pre-purchase inspection service.
You should also check that the car has a current Warrant of Fitness - vehicles for sale must have a warrant which is less than a month old unless they are being sold ‘as is, where is’. It’s also a good idea to check if the registration (vehicle licensing) is up-to-date. You can read more about how to protect yourself when buying or selling privately.
The New Zealand Transport Agency has a useful checklist to use when buying a used car.
It is also a good idea to check whether the vehicle is stolen or has money owing on it. More information about this is on our buying and selling page.
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What does it mean when the seller says they are selling a car 'as is, where is'?
Sellers generally use this term to mean that they won’t confirm whether the car will start or what hidden faults it might have, and that it will be the buyer’s responsibility to move the car after they have bought it.
If a vehicle is being sold without a current warrant of fitness then the seller must advertise it 'as is, where is'.
So if you are considering buying or bidding on a car which is being sold 'as is, where is', it’s a good idea to have it checked thoroughly so you know what problems it might have.
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I sold my car on TradeMe and the person who bought it is taking me to the Disputes Tribunal! What should I do?
When there is a dispute over a car sold privately, the buyer (or seller) can make a claim at the Disputes Tribunal.
It's usually a good idea to try to resolve a problem before getting tribunals or courts involved, so if you have not yet contacted the buyer, try to do so - especially if you are at fault. If you are unable to reach a resolution, then going to the Disputes Tribunal is not necessarily a bad thing, as the Tribunal will provide a reasonable hearing and judgement.
You might have reason to make a counter-claim, for example if the buyer has not paid for the car or costs associated with shipping it to them. You probably won't be able to claim any money if you have not lodged a counter-claim.
You'll find information on how to manage a claim on our Disputes Tribunal page. For more help with this and advice on your rights at the Disputes Tribunal, please contact your local CAB.