How do I check who owns a car and what its history is?
Access to who owns a car is limited, but it is easy to find out information about the vehicle itself as well as whether there is any money owed on it - and we recommend that you do check if you are thinking of buying a car privately.
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 owns a particular motor vehicle, as well as information about the vehicle itself. However access to this information is restricted.
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.
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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 owning 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?
First of all, any vehicle which is being bought or sold must have a warrant of fitness (WOF) no more than one month old when the buyer takes possession of it, (unless the car is sold “as is, where is” - in which case the buyer must give the seller a written note that says the buyer will not drive the vehicle except to get the WoF done). If it is subject to road user charges it should also have a current RUC licence.
Each time a vehicle is sold, a new Certificate of Registration is issued. Both the buyer and the seller need to notify the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA).
As soon as possible, the buyer should:
- complete the Notice of Acquisition (M13B), available at any NZTA agent, and give the form to the NZTA agent; or notify the NZTA online
- pay the change of ownership fee (around $10)
- show your New Zealand driver licence as proof of ID (if you are doing this online you can’t use another form of ID; if you are doing this in person then another form of ID which shows your full name, signature and date of birth is acceptable)
- request an acquisition transfer receipt
- take the transfer receipt to the seller as proof of the change of ownership
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 new Certificate of Registration will be posted to the buyer within 10 days.
For more information, ring the NZTA on 0800 108 809.