How to buy a car online

Heading to the internet to find your next used car is a great idea. You have more chance of finding that perfect car for you in a bigger market and you also have the ability to do some great research online, in regards to price and condition, before you make contact with the seller – regardless of the seller being a dealer or private person.

Online car buying is safe and easy when you follow some basic guidelines.

The Kick The Tyres team are pretty knowledgeable and have seen a lot when it comes to buying and selling used vehicles! Here’s some of our tips of how you can best protect yourself and get the most out of your buying or selling a used car experience.

Make sure you get a Bill Of Sale

Thousands of private sales of used cars change hands every month and while most of these transactions occur with no problems, sometimes things don’t go as planned. To be able to legally rectify any problems you’ll need to ensure you have a Bill Of Sale. It’s the first thing either the Police or your lawyer (or even Fair Go!) will ask for.

What is a bill of sale?

A bill of sale is a legal document that confirms the transfer of ownership of property. By detailing the agreement made between seller and buyer, the bill of sale acts as evidence of a contract and is legally binding. Information on a bill of sale should include (at a minimum):

  • Year, make and model of the vehicle, as well as other useful descriptive information
  • The vehicle identification number (VIN) / vehicle registration number
  • Odometer reading (mileage)
  • Buyer contact and address information
  • Seller contact and address information
  • Date of the sale
  • Agreed upon purchase price
  • Signatures of both buyer and seller

If the transaction includes any conditions, for example the sale is dependent on a pre purchase vehicle inspection or finance approval, make sure these details are included on the bill of sale. You should also include how many days the buyer has to complete that pre purchase inspection, confirm finance or pay a deposit. Make sure that any assurances that either party give are also recorded. Basically, write down everything possible that may be something that is called into question if things go wrong at a later date.

You can write your own bill of sale or download a generic template from


A bill of sale is one of the few legal means that will allow the Police to get involved if your long-distance transaction goes wrong (in the worst case scenario!). You can use the bill of sale as proof of the agreements you and the seller made to each other. With a bill of sale, the buyer has an agreement in writing that they will receive the vehicle for a specified price. No money should ever be transferred unless buyer and seller have a signed bill of sale.

A bill of sale protects the seller too. It may include lines that define the sale such as “as is,” or “where is,” which states the vehicle is being sold in its present condition and that it is the buyer’s responsibility to arrange for the car to be picked up.

Remember; car dealers use a bill of sale agreements (or vehicle offer and sale agreements) so each party knows what is expected from them. You should too.

Is there money owing on the Vehicle?

Every day in New Zealand finance companies repossess cars where money is owed by a previous owner. As a buyer purchasing privately it is your responsibility to check for finance or security over the vehicle before you purchase it.

If a vehicle has finance outstanding from a previous owner a finance company is legally entitled to repossess that vehicle from the new owner. Generally the new owner will have no chance of getting their money back from the seller, unless they file a claim with the Disputes Tribunal and go through the lengthy process that follows. A new owner has no rights with the finance company that repossessed the vehicle. Kick The Tyres highly recommends that you take the time and effort to check either CarJam or the PPSR register to ensure the vehicle you are buying has clear title.

It’s really straight forward for a buyer to conduct a PPSR check on a vehicle they are intending to buy. You’ll need a RealMe log in through and you’ll have to pay a small fee. You’ll also need either the vehicles registration number, chassis number or VIN number. Conduct a PPSR search at

Or you can use, where various options are available for reporting at a small cost.

Get a Pre Purchase Inspection

A pre purchase vehicle inspection should be the most important thing you do when buying a used car. You can request a pre purchase inspection through any dealer and most private sellers will be open to allowing Kick the Tyres access to the vehicle for an inspection. A helpful and cooperative seller is a good sign that the car is legitimate, and a good buy.

Kick the Tyres can even make it as simple as possible for the seller by picking up and returning the vehicle to them on your behalf.

Pre purchase vehicle inspections make sense. Kick The Tyres vehicle inspectors are trained and experienced in what to look for across almost all vehicles available on the market.

Pre purchase inspections are particularly vital if you are buying a vehicle “sight unseen” e.g. from another city or town.

Check the warrant of fitness

All vehicles sold in New Zealand, both privately or through a dealer, are required to have a warrant of fitness certificate that is no older than 28 days at the time of sale. This is protection for the buyer to ensure that the vehicle they are purchasing is road worthy and meets minimum safety standards.

How to spot a damaged vehicle

In New Zealand, it is still possible for registered motor vehicle dealers to import damaged vehicles to sell. They are legally required to disclose any damage on the Consumer Information Notice, however they are not legally required to provide the buyer with all the information on any repair work that was carried out to bring the vehicle up to NZTA standards to allow for importation.

There is no legal requirement for a private seller to disclose any information. The buyer should do their homework and use means to check on the vehicles history.

Damage could be crash damage, water damage or other types of damage. Sometimes damage may have been repaired to a very high level of quality and you may have years of enjoyment from the vehicle without further repercussions. Other times, no amount of repairs is going to stop ongoing issues popping up at later dates and costing you lots of money.

A pre purchase vehicle inspection will often help you pick up on signs that the vehicle may have had some form of damage in the past, so that you can then ask the right questions of the seller and make an informed decision.


Make no mistake, any kind of water getting into places it wasn’t meant to be is a bad thing where modern cars are concerned.

Mechanical and electrical parts are both affected adversely by water and even though problems may not be immediately apparent, part failure could develop at any time. Rust and corrosion may not be readily apparent but, as time goes by, rust and corrosion on bolts and electrical connectors can get worse, even after the water has dried up. Dampness under the carpets and in the seats can cause dangerous molds or bacteria to take root and are nearly impossible to fully remove. Even if the car wasn’t fully submerged, it doesn’t take much for insurance companies to write the car off as unrepairable.

Unless you have experience dealing with problems that arise from damage caused by water, it’s best to avoid flood-damaged vehicles.


The very best way to identify a water-damaged vehicle is to rely on an inspector with training.

However, if you’re only casually interested, and you have the time and ability to look at the vehicle yourself, here are some things you’ll want to look for when investigating a vehicle for flood damage.

  • Identifiers of water stains are a dead give-away. Look for dried rings or “tide” lines where water may have evaporated from. Evaporation of water or the steps taken to clean it can result in unnatural fading that can betray a history of water damage.
  • Mud or mold under the carpets or boot floor is a bad sign, and dampness not attributed to a leaking air conditioning pan is as well.
  • Look for evidence of water in places water would not normally reach. If the vehicle was submerged, water or silt may have collected on upper surfaces that shouldn’t ever be exposed to these elements. Check areas in the engine bay, where cleaning up every part that can collect debris is difficult and time-consuming.
  • Get under the vehicle and see if there is debris lodged in places it would be difficult to reach without the vehicle being submerged. Mud, sand, leaves, and other types of debris can collect almost anywhere when the vehicle is underwater.
  • When looking at electrical components, watch for debris behind wiring or rusted connectors. Often wires that suffered flood damage will be dry and brittle as a result of water evaporation.
  • If the carpet has been recently cleaned, or the seats completely reupholstered, it could be a sign of flood damage. Be especially wary if these upgrades are not characteristic of how the rest of the car has been maintained.

Completing the transaction

This is the point at which the NZTA requires both parties to make notification of the vehicle changing hands.

The buyer must complete a Notice by the person acquiring the motor vehicle form (MR13B). This must be taken in with a suitable id and acquisition of motor vehicle fee to an NZTA agent e.g NZ Post.

The seller must complete a Notice of person selling/disposing of motor vehicle form (MR13A) and post this back to the NZTA (details are on the form).

A seller won’t part with the car until he has money in hand and a buyer shouldn’t part with any money unless a Bill of Sale has been received and agreed upon. This document is one of the few legal documents that can protect a buyer at this stage of a transaction. After a Bill of Sale is agreed upon, it’ll be time for money to change hands.

Kick The Tyres highly recommends that once you’ve paid for the vehicle, you arrange for your or your shipper to pick up the vehicle that same day, or very shortly after. You don’t want your property remaining in the care of the previous owner any longer than necessary. And it is your property now. Most sellers won’t risk additional liability once they’re paid for the vehicle. In most cases it will be the buyer’s responsibility to arrange for transport of their new car to their home.

Traditionally the best way to purchase a car has been to make the transaction in person. You hand the seller the money and he hands you the keys. No-fuss. This may require you to buy a one-way plane ticket and fly to the location where the sale will be made. You can make one final inspection of the vehicle, this time in person, and be sure of what you’re getting. The best part is that once money has changed hands and the keys are yours, you can drive your new purchase home!

Once of the biggest tips Kick The Tyres can give is, don’t let your emotions cloud your judgment. You’re about to put real money, and probably a lot of it, down on something you may not have seen in person. You’re taking risks in doing so, but if you follow the tips provided above, and do your research, the process can be quite enjoyable, and not nearly as dangerous as it may seem.

Did you know that you no longer have to purchase through a dealer to be able to purchase a mechanical warranty? A mechanical warranty from Kick The Tyres on your used vehicle purchased privately can still get you all the protections that used to be exclusive to car dealer only sales.