Guide to New Zealand: Buying a Car

Upon moving to my new life in New Zealand I was surprised how little & outdated information was availible online. Despite being far from an expert, I decided to write a shortfire guide of what I learnt from living in NZ. Today I’m taking a look at cars.

Do you need car for hiking/tramping in New Zealand?

My original intentions for buying a car in NZ was as a means of getting out to the hiking trails, this turned out to be a huge miscalculation. Unlike previous countries I’ve lived in, and insanely large procentage of people in NZ have their own car. If you meet 5 friends during your first week, don’t be surprised if 4 of them have their own car, regularly asking you if you want to come along on their next hike.

Even if you’re not that outgoing, a hiking club might solve your transportation problems. When I went on a dayhike with a local tramping club I found on facebook, I brought my car to the clubhouse with the intention of giving other members a lift to our destination. I was surprised to find that nearly all members had brought there own car, so not only did I not have anyone asking me for a lift, I even asked if I could get a lift with someone else as I considered it a colossal waste of gas to drive my own just for 1 person. With splitting the cost of the gas, everyone was more than happy to give me a lift.

Renting out your car on apps like YourDrive & MyCarYourRental

As I quickly found myself never using my car, I considered it being a good idea to rent out my car on such app services. However after a lengthy sign-up it turned out there was a huge catch involved. Before completing the last step of the registration process it turned out my car would need a certificate to prove that it is in suitible shape for rentals. Such certificate would have cost me 80 NZD, and I fear upon reselling the vehicle the buyer might find out that it had been registered as a rental car, and thus been able to barter down the price significally, a risk I did not want to take.

Car insurance

Upon visiting my bank for car insurance I was surprised to find that the costs were astronomical as my drivers license wasn’t issued in NZ. When I asked to cover additional drivers (such as lending out the car to my dad) the qoute rose even higher. For a moment I was deeply regretting buying a car I wouldn’t afford to insure, but then the nice banking staff leaned over and whispered something in my ear…

It turned out his foreign girlfriend had the same issue, and had found out that AA offers a MUCH better deal. It turned out AA didn’t penalize me at all for my foreign license. They even allowed me unlimited extra drivers, enabling me to tell all my Swedish friends that they can borrow my car when they come to visit.

Renting Car

Renting a car in New Zealand is very expensive. Technically the day-rate isn’t much worse than the rest of the world, but unlike your average holiday destination, New Zealand isn’t a country you come for a 1 week visit. If you truely want to experience the amazing south island you may find yourself renting for MONTHS not days.

When my dad rented a car for 3 weeks we were originally a bit shocked at the high price, but then calculated that the day-rate was technically quite reasonable. Regardless of the reasonable day-rate however, when we added together all the sums we came to a grim realization. It would have been cheaper to just buy a used car then re-sell it after 3 weeks. He might even have made a nice profitif he bought the car in Auckland (where his flight arrived, where cars are cheaper) and sold it at his destination in south island (where cars are significally more expensive).

Beware of Parking Tickets

New Zealand is insane when it comes to tickets, if you park for 3 minutes on the wrong spot in the middle of nowhere you can return to a huge fine. I honestly don’t even know the logistics how it can go that fast. If you park at a store like Countdown for shopping, then quickly run over to another nearby store, you can return to a big fine. New residents may not be used to this level of strictness.

Buying Car

I don’t have the time to go into this subject deep enough, I just want to mention a couple of things.

At the dealer they might try to make you buy some sort of cover from you. Basically this is not insurance for accidents, but rather if something breaks down due to wear and tear. I have read and heard that these covers are a complete scam! NZ laws says that when you have bought a car from a dealer (as opposed to a private seller) that dealer is somewhat responsible if the car were to be faulty (within 6 months I believe).

For both the cars I bought in NZ, the battery was dead the first time I tried starting it and I was able to get the dealer to pay for it. 2CheapCars was a nightmare of bearocracy (but was eventually pressured to respect the law), Mike Cars immediately came over to replace it for free.

It should however be noted that the extent to these rules seem quite vague. So if you do have a problem with the car it’s probably best to communicate that to them as very quick as possible. Even tho the law seems to say 6 months, I think it is greatly evaluated on a case by case basis.

Drivers License

Keep in mind that your home country’s drivers license may not be legal in NZ, you may need an international drivers license, official translation or get a local NZ license.

I would recommend getting a NZ license because you will be needing it for things like credit card applications anyway. It was extremely easy to get mine converted, no test was necessary.


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