Reporter: Gordon Harcourt
Buying a second hand car has always been fraught with risk - especially if you're relying on what you're told. Unfortunately, some people don't tell the full story.
Jill Holt from Auckland thought she'd found a minter on TradeMe - a 2005 Subaru Impreza.
A friend helped her out by getting a vehicle information report on the car, and it showed the registration had been cancelled a couple of months earlier.
They asked the private seller why, got what seemed like a good explanation, and paid $10K for the car. Good price!
We think the seller wasn't as open as he should have been.
In fact, the rego was cancelled because the car was written off by an insurer. I did some digging, and discovered their repair estimate was nearly $15,000!
The car was sold by someone we think should have known a lot better. He's Snow Mooney, former race mechanic to the late rally driver Possum Bourne. He runs a garage in Manukau City, specialising in Subarus.
We've been negotiating with him and then his barrister for two weeks. To begin with he told me the car had been stolen. It wasn't, and he later admitted it wasn't.
He told us he didn't know the car had accident damage. But I got the Transport Authority's paper trail. It shows he had "accident damage repairs" done.
He also told us he was never asked if the car was in an accident. Maybe he wasn't asked those exact words, we can't be sure, but even if that's true he was definitely asked for the reason it was deregistered - he sent us the email that shows that. He didn't provide an accurate answer.
Why on earth wasn't Snow Mooney more up front with his buyer? He's obviously a good mechanic. Why didn't he just tell Jill he'd repaired a write-off and it was a good buy? There is no suggestion the car is unsafe. Like any re-registered car, it has passed a rigorous re-certification process.
We got a valuer in to look at Jill's car. He says the market value is $6500, not the $10,000 that Jill paid.
Even if Snow Mooney wasn't asked exactly the right question in exactly the right words, we think a man of his standing didn't pass on as much information as he should have.
Last week, he agreed to refund Jill in full - well, actually she knocked off $400 because she'd dinged the bumper.
Karyn Healey bought a nice little Mazda two years ago from a dealer. She checked the Consumer Information Notice (CIN or window card) that every car sold by a dealer must display. Under "Imported as Damaged" it said NO.
The car's had problems, and earlier this year it was stolen. She was shocked when the insurance assessor asked her if she knew it had been imported damaged. The CIN was filled out wrongly.
Karyn went back to the dealer, told them this, but they said it was too long ago and they wouldn't do anything. So Karyn came to Fair Go. The dealer didn't really have any option, but to his credit he immediately agreed to a full refund.
Get a vehicle report!
These days you can find out the stuff that Jill and Karyn found
out. There is no excuse for not getting a vehicle
report. It won't cost much more than $20.
AA Vehicle History Report
Motochek (NZ Transport Authority)
Check the CIN
If you're buying from a dealer, the vehicle MUST have an accurate Consumer Information Notice. If it doesn't the dealer has a problem, whether inadvertent or not.
If the vehicle report says the registration was cancelled, be careful! The Transport Authority withdraws the reason for de-registration once a vehicle is re-registered.
They say that's because it's been through the re-certification process. But we think you shouldn't be denied that information. As things stand, you have to rely on what you're told by the seller.
Our advice? Ask the seller to give you the reason in writing. If they won't, walk away. There is a very good chance the vehicle has been written off, repaired, re-certified and re-registered. That means it should be a safe vehicle, so why should the seller withhold that information.
- Always get a vehicle history report.
- Check the Consumer Information Notice is accurate, if buying from a dealer.
- Be very careful if the report shows the rego has been cancelled. Ask for a reason in writing, or walk away.
TRANSPORT AUTHORITY STATEMENT
National Manager Vehicles, Don Hutchinson.
"We appreciate that buying a car is a big investment, and it's
important to get it right. As such, consumers are able to access
information held on the Motor Vehicle Register by using NZTA's
Motochek service to help give them more certainty of the history of
a vehicle. Motochek uses information from the Motor Vehicle
Register, and it's a great way of extracting extra value from an
However, the main purpose of the register is as a regulatory
database. As such, it only holds information that is required for
regulatory purposes, and the finer details of why a vehicle is
written off is not required for registration and licensing
purposes. When a vehicle is written off, insurance companies take
over the ownership of a vehicle, and as such would be able to
provide more detailed information about the circumstances of why a
vehicle is written off.
The NZTA's Motochek service does provide the reason for
de-registration, and anyone can have access to this information
either directly from Motochek or from organisations who package and
provide the information from Motochek to members of the public in
the form of a vehicle information report . For safety reasons a
vehicle must go through an inspection and certification process in
which it is checked against relevant standards prior to being
approved for re-registration. Where a vehicle has sustained
significant damage then repairs must be certified by an approved
repair certifier as part of that inspection and certification
The NZTA's existing inspection requirements for re-registered
vehicles ensure that only vehicles assessed as being safe can be
registered. Ultimately, if a vehicle's condition is misrepresented
by a vendor, it may constitute a breach of the Fair Trading Act in
which case the buyer could lodge a complaint with the Commerce
Commission (or if the vendor is not in trade, the Disputes
I should also bring the following link to your attention, which enables people to use our website to search for imported vehicles with water or fire damage that have been brought to our attention during border checks.
We agree that it's important that people are well informed when
shopping for a vehicle, and the NZTA will be continuing to enhance
website, which provides information for consumers that will
help them make more informed choices. We're certainly open to
including more comprehensive information about vehicles as part of
this ongoing improvement, and we already have a project underway in
which we are asking the public to give us their feedback on how
this website can better meet their needs."