Used Car Sales – the Complete Guide to Buying A Used Car

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When your car breaks down unexpectedly, it’s highly likely that you weren’t in the process of saving up for a new one. With winter heating bills, school fees, and more to deal with, the last thing you need is to buy a new car right now.

That’s where used car sales can come in. Whether you find one at a dealer or online, if you can find one that’s in good nick and will be trustworthy and reliable, it’s worth getting a loan to pay for it.

Let us take you through our top tips for what to look for in your search for a used car to take home that won’t cost you the earth.

Check The Car’s Background

When buying a used car, you should first check that the vehicle hasn’t been stolen or damaged and doesn’t have any debt owing on it.

Unfortunately, due to New Zealand laws, any car sold that has debt owing on it is now the responsibility of the new owner and this can result in repossession of your vehicle. You can check whether the car you’re interested in has debt owing via a PPSR search. To check if it has been stolen, you can enter the plate number on the NZ Police website.

Doing these searches before you commit to buying a car is crucial as it can save you both stress and thousands of dollars of debt.

Car Safety

The number one priority for you and your family should be safety. Every single car sold in New Zealand comes with a  safety rating  from 1 star to 5 stars. The more stars a vehicle has, the safer it is, and specifically, it refers to how the car is expected to be impacted in a crash. For used cars, this is determined by the Used Car Safety Rating (UCSR). So, if you see UCSR referenced somewhere, that’s what it means.

Did you know that in a crash, you’re twice as likely to suffer injuries or die in 1-2 star vehicles as opposed to a 5-star car? For the safety of you and your family, it’s worth spending the extra money on obtaining a car that has a higher safety rating.

If you’re looking at a particular vehicle, simply type the number plate into the Rightcar website to find out what the safety rating is for that vehicle.


Trading in your car  can be a fantastic way to save some extra money. Maybe you’re replacing your last car because it would have bee too expensive for you to fix. Even in this case, many used car yards are happy to take trade-ins for your current vehicle.

This can save you thousands of dollars on your new car, or at least a few hundred. Every little bit counts. Just make sure that you’re getting what the car is worth, otherwise, you’ll be better off advertising it on Trade Me Cars.

Running Costs

One thing that many people don’t necessarily consider when selecting a car is the running costs. You might find a fabulous car in your price range and wonder why it’s priced so low. These are often the cars that no one else wants because they cost so much in petrol and upkeep.

If you’re looking to save money on fuel, then finding a car with a smaller engine can help with this goal. They consume much less petrol than cars with bigger engines. The trade- off, of course, is that they can’t go as fast.

While diesel may seem like an enticing alternative due to the lower cost of filling up, it often doesn’t end up cheaper to buy diesel vehicles. That’s because of the additional road user charges which are where the government recoups the money they aren’t making on diesel sales.

Cost of Parts

The cost of parts and repairs on different brands of vehicles varies greatly according to how difficult it is to get these parts into New Zealand. For example, because of the large influx we receive of Japanese imports each year, it is usually much cheaper to replace parts on these cars than European models.

When considering a car, you must be aware that it will likely need repairs if you plan on owning it for a long time, regardless of the quality of the car. So, ensure that you take the cost of parts into account. It may be worth spending a little more on a car that has cheaper parts because you need to consider what you’ll be able to afford in the future.


Our top tip would be to make a budget for your new car and stick to it. It can be far too easy to completely blow your budget when you find a fantastic car that you fall in love with. Avoid this concern by having a set amount that you’re willing to spend on a used car.

You can use the handy loan calculator on the Alternate Finance site to figure out how much you could get a loan for and how long it will take you to repay this. Using this tool will give you a great idea of what regular payments, whether weekly or monthly, will be feasible for you to pay off.

Before you start dreaming about what type of car you would like and checking out Trademe Cars, apply for a loan with Alternate Finance. We offer competitive interest rates on car loans and our understanding staff are there to listen and confirm whether we think you can pay off the loan you’ve applied for.

Apply online now and we’ll quickly get back to you with the result. Then you can start choosing your fantastic new (but used) car!


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