Guide to buying and selling cars and motorcycles

Preparing your car for sale is important so make sure you groom the vehicle and ensure it has a current W.O.F and registration.

Classic In general terms a classic is an older car or motorcycle although the exact meaning is variable. The Classic Car Club of America maintains that a car must be between 20 and 40 years old to be a classic, while cars over 45 years fall into the vintage class. Handshake has gone for the middle ground – 30 years or older. We have included motorcycles in the same criteria.

When you list a car or motorcycle that has been manufactured before 1982, selecting the year of manufacture will automatically put your car or motorcycle in the classic category.

Exterior It is best to wash the car out of direct sunlight. Hose down the car and then use a good quality car wash product, clean all surfaces and especially in and around the wheels then hose off with clean tap water. Wipe inside around the doors and pillars. Once the car is dry give it a good wax – make sure you use a quality product. The finishing touches count! Spray and wipe all black plastic parts, bumpers and tyres with Armour All or a similar product.

Interior Remove all loose items and belongings. Vacuum the interior and wipe down all the internal surfaces with Armour All or a similar product. If you’ve had animals in the car, pay special attention to removing pet hair and deodorise the entire car.

Engine If the engine bay is extremely dirty, it will pay to get the engine steam cleaned. Check the battery terminals for build-up and clean them with CRC or WD40 and a brush. Top up the engine with oil, the radiator with coolant and the windscreen reservoir with water. Spray and wipe all black plastic parts with Armour All.

Dents If the car has any scratches or dents, get them fixed, or be prepared for buyers to knock down the price.

Photographs You can display up to 20 colour photos, so make sure you take plenty to choose from. Take photos as soon as the car has been groomed. Avoid taking photos in the middle of the day in sunlight. Make sure you take close up photos of the engine and any other important features.

Paperwork If you have a service history, make this available together with a copy of the registration papers. You should consider getting a vehicle information report (VIR) as this enables buyers to check the history of the vehicle and whether it has a clean title.

Price Setting your selling price can be tricky. Research the make and model and see what other cars are selling for.

Auction or classified Classified has a fixed price and the buyer and seller deal direct to negotiate the sale. Auctions make buyers bid with each other and the car sells to the highest bid above the reserve. Bidders can contact you directly to ask you questions or arrange a time to view the car. Auctions draw the most interest just before closing time, so make sure that your closing time is at a convenient time of the day.

Write a good story If the car you’re selling is a pile of junk, then you won’t have much to write about. But if your car has been looked after and had regular maintenance or it’s a classic or there’s something special and unique about it, then you’ll have a good story to tell. Besides filling in the mandatory fields, write about the features, history, motor, any major repairs etc. The story must be truthful and keep it to the point.

Setting your reserve Generally a lower starting price attracts more interest. The reserve price is the minimum price you will accept. As a general guide you normally start the price around 15-20% less than your reserve. If your auction closes without a successful bidder you can relist the auction for free.

Potential buyers Treat every enquiry as a genuine buyer.

Answering questions Reply to all questions promptly and truthfully. If you don’t know the answer to a question try and find out the answer as it may help the potential buyer make up their mind to purchase the car.

Test drive Before you let someone drive your car, ask to see their driver’s license. Do not let the buyer test drive the car alone, make sure you go with them. It would pay to advise your insurance company that you may have other people test driving your car.

Here are a few questions you should ask the seller:

  • Why are you selling the car?
  • What is the car’s service history and do you have receipts for the work?
  • How long have you owned the car?
  • How many owners has the car had?
  • Has it been in any accidents and are there other things I should know about the car?


Watch out, there are scammers about! Check out the trading history of the seller.  If they don’t have a selling history or they have poor feedback, be cautious. Make an effort to see the vehicle, do all the checks prior and ask lots of questions. If something smells fishy, drill deeper.  If it doesn’t feel right don’t buy it! Get the car checked out by a certified mechanic or the AA (Automobile Association) and make sure there’s no debt owing on the car.

Payment For security reasons a seller should always insist on a bank cheque or direct deposit into their bank account as this is the most secure form of payment. Do not transfer money into foreign bank accounts or via Western Union. Request a receipt and note all the vehicle details, the buyer and/or seller identities and date and time. Do not hand over the keys until you have the payment in your account and the funds are cleared.

Changing ownership Fill in the new owner’s details and sign it, then send it off to the Transport Registry Centre, Private Bag, Palmerston North within seven days of selling the vehicle. The buyer must fill out an NZTA MR13 form and pay the fee to change ownership. Forms are available from any NZ Post shop.

Car dealers If you sell more than six vehicles or import more than three motor vehicles over a 12 month period for financial gain you will need to register as a Motor Vehicle Dealer. Failure to register is a breach of the Act and could result in prosecution.

For more information and registration visit Forms are available from the website or on request by calling freephone 0508 668 678.

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Warranty If you are buying from a dealer always insist on a warranty with the purchase. If you’re buying privately the seller may provide you with a mechanical warranty if you ask, but make sure whatever you agree to is put in writing with dates and signatures. You can also buy a mechanical warranty. There are plenty of companies to choose from, so get on the internet and check them out.

Bidding Experienced bidders start bidding in the last five minutes of an auction and then bid solidly up to their top price. Hit the ‘refresh’ button on your browser regularly to keep up to speed with bidding. Remember that auctions may extend if bids are placed in the last two minutes. Consider using auto-bid if you don’t want the pressure of last minute bidding. If the car fails to sell via auction you can ask them to relist or make a fixed price offer.

Insurance Arrange vehicle insurance after you have paid for the car but before you drive the car away.

Satisfaction If you’ve sold or bought a vehicle you should place feedback on the sales process.

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