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Where is the best place to buy a car?

Should you get your next set of wheels online, from a dealer, at an auction or through a private sale? Find out here.

Buying a car is an important financial decision and one that you need to get right. Whether you’re looking for a luxury vehicle or just a cheap car to get you from A to B, it’s vital that you shop around for the best possible deal.

But should you buy from a dealer, buy at auction, shop for cars online, find a private seller or another way? Let’s compare all the options to help you find the best place to buy a car.

Quick comparison of places to buy a car

DealershipOnlinePrivate saleAuction
CostMore expensivePotentially cheap – freedom to negotiatePotentially cheap – freedom to negotiateCheap
Speed of purchaseDepends how much you shop aroundCan be time-consumingCan be time-consumingVery fast
New cars availableYesYesNoNo
Used cars availableYesYesYesYes
Test drivesYesYesYesYes
Ease of purchaseEasyVaries – depends on the sellerVaries – depends on the sellerEasy

Buying a new car from a dealership

If you want a shiny new set of wheels with that ‘new car’ smell, start visiting local car dealerships. You can find dealerships for all major brands in cities, regional centres and towns right around New Zealand – it’s just a matter of visiting your top choices to start test-driving models.

The biggest advantage of buying new is that you get peace of mind. New cars are much more mechanically sound than used cars and far less likely to break down. They also have a clean and unblemished history, so you don’t need to worry about servicing records, previous body damage or outstanding car finance from the previous owner.

Unfortunately, buying a new car from a dealership also means paying a premium price. You can get a car with all the latest features, a new-car warranty and any options you desire, but you’re always going to pay more than you would for a used vehicle.

Finally, buying face-to-face means dealing with sales staff. Car salespeople may not have the best reputation for honesty or integrity, so keep an eye out for the dodgy sales tactics some dealers use to prey on unwitting customers. You will also need to deal with the pressure of sales pitches at every dealership you visit.

  • Peace of mind. New cars are much more mechanically reliable than used cars and you don’t have to worry about their servicing or repair history.
  • New-car warranty. New cars purchased from dealerships come with the manufacturer’s new car warranty, which can provide financial protection against any mechanical problems for several years.
  • Latest features and options. New cars have better fuel economy, improved safety ratings and all the latest tech features. You also have the freedom to select any extra-cost options you want.
  • Trade-ins. You can trade in your old vehicle when you buy your new one.
  • Pressure to buy. You may have to deal with pushy salespeople and questionable sales tactics.
  • Expensive. Buying a new car from a dealership can leave a dent in your pocket.

Buying a used car from a dealership

A used car may not have the same level of glamour and excitement as a new vehicle, but buying used does allow you to save thousands of dollars. There are also plenty of well maintained used cars that have been regularly serviced and treated with the utmost care throughout their lives, so it’s certainly possible to find excellent value for money.

The trouble is that not all used cars have led trouble-free lives. Mechanical problems, poor servicing history and questionable repairs following previous accidents are just a few of the potential problems lurking just beneath the surface. Dealing with used car salespeople, who have a well-established reputation for dodgy sales tactics and questionable ethics, is another drawback.

  • Cheaper. It’s much more affordable to buy a used car than it is to buy new.
  • Plenty of choice. There’s a huge range of choice available to help you find the right make and model.
  • Consumer Guarantees Act. Dealer-sold passenger cars are covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act depending on the age and price of the car.
  • Dodgy dealers. Used car salespeople aren’t always trustworthy.
  • Your car could come with baggage. From a poor servicing history to shoddy repairs following a previous accident, there may be more to your used car than meets the eye.
  • Older vehicles. Used cars usually can’t boast all the modern features of a new vehicle.

Buying a car online

The first port of call for many people looking to buy a car is online. Through websites, like Trade Me and Auto Trader, you can browse thousands of new and used vehicles from private sellers and car dealerships.

The biggest advantage of buying a car online is that it’s extremely convenient. You can compare a wide range of vehicles and prices without having to get off the couch and without feeling pressured to buy. Of course, you’ll still need to visit the seller to inspect the car and take a test drive, but shopping online can remove a lot of the legwork and hassle of comparing your options.

However, one of the problems with online is that the ad you see posted may not match the car for sale when you turn up to inspect it. There’s also no way of knowing whether private sellers that list their cars online are trustworthy and above board, so it’s important to get a pre-purchase inspection, check the car’s history and make sure there is no car finance owing on it.

  • Convenient. Online car sales websites can help you compare an extensive range of makes and models without leaving your house.
  • Wide range of vehicles. You can compare the prices and features of thousands of new and used vehicles from private and commercial sellers all over New Zealand.
  • No pressure to buy. When you browse cars online, you don’t have to deal with the inconvenience and hassle of fending off sales pitches from dealers.
  • Competitive prices. The online car sales marketplace is very competitive and the wide range of vehicles available means you can shop around for a good deal.
  • False listings. You can’t always trust the photos and details included in online car sales ads.
  • You don’t know who you’re dealing with. There are always risks involved when buying from private sellers, so it’s important to get the car inspected and make sure it is not encumbered by car finance.
  • No Consumer Guarantees Act. You don’t get protection from the Consumer Guarantees Act when you buy from a private seller.

Private sale

Not all private car sales take place online; you could see a car advertised in the classifieds section of your local paper, or maybe just marked on the side of the road with a ‘For Sale’ sign on the windscreen. There are also car fairs, like the Ellerslie Car Fair, that are held each weekend.

Buying privately potentially allows you to score a great deal. When you find a mechanically sound car with all the features you want, you can haggle with the seller and try to negotiate the best possible price.

However, you will need to watch out for several traps and pitfalls. There is no cooling-off period when you buy privately, and a clear title is not guaranteed. You could potentially be buying a stolen car and you also won’t get a warranty, so you must do your research and get an independent inspection before you buy.

  • Potential savings. You may be able to find the car you want at a bargain price.
  • Freedom to negotiate. You can haggle with the seller to try to lock in a better price.
  • Don’t have to deal with dealers. Private sellers usually won’t apply the same pressure to buy as car dealers.
  • No cooling-off period. There is no cooling-off period if you change your mind and want to back out of the deal.
  • No Consumer Guarantees Act. You don’t get protection from the Consumer Guarantees Act when you buy from a private seller.
  • Past problems. It’s important to be sure that the vehicle you buy actually belongs to the person selling it and doesn’t have any faults, mechanical problems or unpaid debt attached to it.

Buying at auction

Buying a car at auction is the quickest method available and can let you enjoy significant savings compared to buying from a dealer. At auctions, like Turners, you can find a great deal if you know what you’re looking for.

You will typically get to inspect a vehicle before bidding and test drives can be arranged. With this in mind, it’s important to do your research ahead of time and keep a cool head when bidding starts.

  • Cheap prices. You may be able to secure the car you want at a bargain price.
  • Inspection. You are usually able to inspect the vehicle before bidding begins.
  • Fast. This is one of the quickest ways to buy a car.
  • Consumer Guarantees Act. This may offer some protection if the vendor is in trade.
  • Can get caught up in excitement. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and emotion of an auction and pay more than you want.
  • No cooling-off period. There is no chance to back out of the purchase if you change your mind.

Top tips when buying a car

No matter where you choose to buy a car, keep the following tips in mind to help you find the right vehicle at the right price:

  • Compare your options. Compare features, inclusions and prices across a wide range of vehicles. Shopping around will help you find the best value for money.
  • Get an independent inspection. If you’re buying a used car, always get it inspected by a qualified mechanic. This will turn up any mechanical issues and can help you decide whether it’s the right car for you.
  • Read the contract closely. Always read any contract closely before signing it so you know exactly what you’re getting.

If you’re willing to do your research and shop around, you’ll be able to find a reliable car with all the right features, and without breaking the bank.

Compare a range of car loan options

Name Product Interest Rate (p.a.) Loan Amount Loan Term Establishment Fee Requirements Table description
Simplify Secured Car Loan
8.05% - 12.30%
$5,000 - $500,000
12 - 60 months
$100 - $500
Requirements: NZ citizen/permanent resident, income of at least $500/month.
See how much you could borrow without affecting your credit score.
Gem Secured Car Loan
8.99% - 24.99%
$2,000 - $70,000
6 months to 7 years
Requirements: NZ citizen/permanent resident or hold a valid work visa, employed, earning a stable income.
Secured personal loans with weekly, fortnightly or monthly repayment schedules and no early repayment fees.
The Co-operative Bank Unsecured Personal Loan
6.99% - 17.75%
$3,000 - $50,000
6 months - 5 years
Requirements: NZ citizen/permanent resident or have a valid work visa.
Floating-rate, unsecured personal loans from $3,000.
Lending Crowd Secured Car Loan
6.45% - 17.23%
$5,050 - $200,000
3 or 5 years
$350 - $650
Requirements: NZ citizen/permanent resident, have a good credit score.
100% online with no paperwork or early repayment fees.
Nectar Unsecured Car Loan
8.95% - 29.95%
$1,000 - $30,000
6 months - 4 years
Requirements: NZ citizen/permanent resident or have a work visa, income of $400/week (after tax), stable credit history.
Payouts made within one day of approval. Applications 100% online.
CarFinance2U Car Loan
8.95% - 23.95%
$5,000 - No max.
1 - 5 years
Requirements: NZ citizen/permanent resident.
Get pre-approved for your next car in 30 minutes.

Compare up to 4 providers

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