Buying or selling a car - the process 

How do I check who owns a car and what its history is?

If you want to be sure about a vehicle’s legal ownership (e.g. because you are about to purchase a second hand car) you would need to check the PPSR (see the next question) or a Sale and Purchase agreement (if there is one). 

There are many services available which check the car’s history thoroughly before you buy it. These services can check government and private databases for records of stolen cars, money owing, accident history, odometer history, etc. The cost of the report varies from service to service. To find a service to help you, enter 'vehicle history' as a search term on our database.

The Motor Vehicle Register, which is administered by the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA), holds information about who is legally responsible (i.e. the “registered person”) for a particular motor vehicle, as well as information about the vehicle itself. More about what a “registered person” is, is on the NZTA website.

If the vehicle is owned by an organisation, anyone can access the owner’s name and address. If the vehicle is owned by an individual, then you would have to apply to the NZTA to access it under the Official Information Act. More information about access to the Motor Vehicle Register is on the NZTA website.

It is important to note that the register is not a register of owners. In most cases vehicles are registered to their respective owners, but it is entirely possible for a vehicle to be registered to someone who is not the owner of the vehicle. This is because the purpose of the register is to enable NZTA to enforce traffic law and collect vehicle related fees, taxes and levies - it is not a register of vehicle owners.

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How do I find out whether a car for sale has money owing on it?

A motor vehicle for sale by a motor vehicle dealer must display a Consumer Information Notice (CIN). If there is money owing on it to a finance company, the CIN will display this statement - "There is a security interest registered over this motor vehicle".

If the vehicle is being sold privately, you can check the Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) online to find out if a motor vehicle has any security interest associated with it - you'll need to provide the registration number and VIN (or chassis number), and the service costs $3 by direct debit or credit card for each vehicle you check. More information about searching the PPSR online is on the PPSR website.

You can also use the TXTB4UBUY service -  text the registration number and VIN (or chassis number) of the car to 3463, and you'll receive a YES/NO answer (depending on whether the vehicle is being used as a security for a debt), along with an SMS report code to enter online at their website. More information about the TXTB4UBUY service is on the PPSR website.

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I have sold/bought a car. What paperwork needs to be done?

Each time a vehicle is sold, the NZTA must be notified so they can update the Motor Vehicle Register. Both the buyer and the seller need to notify the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA). More about what a “registered person” is, is on the NZTA website.

As soon as possible, the buyer should notify the NZTA, online or by completing the Notice of Acquisition (M13B), available  at any NZTA agent, and give the form to the NZTA agent. The buyer will need to pay the change of registered person fee (around $10) and show their receipt to the seller as proof that they have completed their responsibilities. 

    Before the seller hands over the vehicle to the buyer, the seller should ask to see one of the following as proof that the buyer has completed their part of the paperwork:

    • the acquisition transfer receipt or
    • an email confirmation page (if they notified the NZTA online) or
    • an completed MR13B with a receipt stamp on it

    The seller must then notify the NZTA of the change of ownership. They can do this online or by completing a Notice by Person Selling/Disposing of Motor Vehicle (MR13A) - also available at any NZTA agent - and sending it to:

       The Transport Registry Centre
       Private Bag 11777
       Manawatu Mail Centre
       Palmerston North 4442  


    NZTA will post out a new Certificate of Registration to the buyer, and a letter to the seller which confirms that the notifications have been received and processed.