Buying / Renting Cars in New Zealand 2017-03-18 20:27:00 2018-06-17 16:04:44
Pilot George
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Buying / Renting Cars in New Zealand

18 March 2017

Cars: the unfortunate cadet necessity...


Another requested post, so here it is...

With Clearways accommodation being 6km away from the CTC Aviation training centre, 12km away from Hamilton City Centre and 135km away from the Capital it becomes immediately apparent that cars are a necessity and you should therefore budget accordingly for your New Zealand expenditure - which I hadn't, but oh well. During your first 10 days here CTC provide hire cars to help you find your feet. So far we've driven to supermarkets to fill the cupboards and have done a bit of exploring.

During our second day here we spent the afternoon car hunting and came across a fair few cars for sale on the kerb side, a number of budget car garages and an auction house. In addition to that, a couple of cadets were looking to pass their cars on within the Clearways Facebook group. We explored all of options available and I explain a bit about each of them here in addition to giving you some other useful bits of information. I hope this provides you a good idea of what to expect.

UK / NZ Differences

Difference 1 - M.O.T. is called a W.O.F.

wof manukau

Just like back home it is a legal requirement for cars to be put through an annual W.O.F. test. Standing for 'Warrant of Fitness' and costing about around $30-$50 (or so i've been told) it covers all of the safety components you'd expect from an M.O.T back home. A passed car will have a sticker on the windscreen with holes punched on the appropriate month and year number of its expiry. As W.O.F. tests are valid for 12 months you may be able to find a car which has a valid certificate for your entire time here in which case you would never need to put the car through one.

Difference 2 - Road Tax is referred to as Vehicle Registration here, or 'Rego'

Just like we pay road tax back in the UK, similar costs apply here too. Referred to as the Rego (imagine that in the local accent) it's made up of a number of components. These are:

  • Licence Fee
  • ACC Levy (essentially a national pot of third-party insurance)
  • Other Levies
  • Admin Fees
  • Sales Tax

The total cost of your Rego will depend entirely on the type of car you buy, and in respect of the ACC Levy the risk you pose to third parties in such a vehicle. On the car we've taken the Rego costs about $174 for a year. Similar to the W.O.F., you could end up finding a car which has recently renewed their Rego meaning you wouldn't need to worry about it at all!

Difference 3 - Petrol & Diesel


You'll notice this as soon as you pass your first petrol station here, the difference in price between petrol and diesel is crazy! What's more, there doesn't appear to be any parity of pricing between different garages so you need to be somewhat smart with where you fill up. Here's an example of fuel prices:

National Average (Source NZ AA):

  • Super Unleaded: $2.20 / £1.25 litre
  • Unleaded: $2.09 / £1.19 litre
  • Diesel: $1.15 / 65p litre

Local Price (near Clearways):

  • Unleaded: $1.77 / £1.01 litre
  • Diesel: $1.07 / 61p a litre

Notice how cheap the diesel is? Think it's too good to be true? Well, it is sadly...

In New Zealand unleaded fuel is taxed at the point of delivery, whereas diesel fuel is taxed at 7¢ a kilometer. So whilst a Diesel car may go further on a full tank, if you do a 300km drive for a round-trip you could be looking at an additional $21 on top of your fuel, it soon adds up. I suppose the real question on which fuel type is viable for you would be the fuel economy of your car and the distances you were to travel. It's certainly something to think about when considering your hire / purchase. 

Another thing to note is petrol cars in New Zealand also seem to be a LOT older. The NZ AA claim that New Zealand prefers diesel due to an average of 30% more km per tank. What this means is the majority of cars within the price range of most cadets are from the late 90s early 2000s and often have well over 150,000-200,000km on their clocks. In most cases though they will be perfectly fine so long as they continue to pass their W.O.F. tests.

Difference 4 - Insurance

Perhaps the biggest difference and also shock to me was that car insurance is not a legal requirement in New Zealand and as a result some cadets don't bother. With the value of cars being what they're worth my car group isn't too concerned about the car in the event of a crash, however what we do care about is any third-party. Legal expenses, medical expenses etc could run in the thousands so we're actively exploring insurance on a car at the moment.

What's good though is prices tend to be a LOT less than back home as the insurers are actually trying for your business as opposed to charging what they want as you have no choice. In addition, you actually insure the car here and not the drivers which means anyone with a licence can theoretically drive it. With that said though, should you list the drivers on a policy it does bring down the overall excesses. For example, all named drivers on our policy have an excess of $500 whereas anybody else would be charged $2000. For our groups car - the Nissan Pulsar in the table below - our insurance is with TradeMe Insurance and sets us back around $190 for third-party cover and breakdown, roughly $50 / £30 each. As they do in the UK, the insurer added an additional $500 excess for all drivers aged under the age of 25. As you can see, it's much cheaper compared with back home and even adding comprehensive cover didn't cost too much more although we didn't want it given the age of the car.

It's worth nothing that you have to have had your UK / EU driving licence for longer than 2 years to take advantage of such rates. If you've had it less than that or plan to be over here for longer than 12 months without leaving then you may have to take the NZ driving test.

Buying Options

Option 1 - Buying from Car Garages

There are many budget car forecourts around the city of Hamilton. One thing i'll say though is they hide all of the really budget cars out the back and many of them aren't in that good of a condition. As a group of four we each set a budget of $500 each maximum and many of the cars within that budget range were old, not very well looked after and had many many km on their clocks. There were some in the $3000 bracket that were a bit nicer, but that was outside our price bracket. You're here for 8 months remember so you don't want to go splashing it all on a car in week one.

Option 2 - Buying Privately

It's actually quite strange how when actively looking for cars how they just pop up on the roadside. We came across a few but only engaged with two sellers in the end. One car was up for $1800 and as we rang somebody else had literally just bought it. It had well over 400,000km on the clock though so it wasn't an ideal buy for us either. The second car looked great. It was a little Mazda with 125,000km or so on it and around $2400. 

On taking it for a spin we thought it was a great little runner until we discovered a problem when driving at full-lock. On questioning the seller he made out he'd known nothing about it thus meaning that whilst New Zealanders are generally nice people, they too are not immune from people trying to flog you something if they think you know nothing about it. Thankfully, our car group has someone who has previously purchased several cars and knew what to look out for. The top advice for buying privately would be to do some reading on buying second hand cars in order to know what checks to make. Furthermore, NEVER buy anything unless you're allowed to test drive it first. In our case we took the car for about 10 minutes and put it through its paces doing more than simply admiring the view! 

Option 3 - Car Auctions

This was an option we were told about by a car dealer when we gave them our price bracket. Hamilton has one or two car auctions nearby where they sell off old cars at various different prices. You're more than welcome to go and look at the cars on the forecourt and see their estimated sales prices but in order to buy you must be free to attend the auction house. In our case we weren't able to do this due to needing to be at the training centre. There were a few great cars here at the price range, although each one is sold as is and you are not permitted to test drive it nor be able to tell if it would even pass it's W.O.F. check up. With that in mind, if you're buying from an auction take a look at those cars with already have their W.O.F. certificate at the time of auction to be extra safe. 

Whilst some cars were less than 150,000km, in good nick and around the $1000-$2000 bracket it's worth taking into account any auction buyers fees. In this case it was $250 for any car less than $1000, jumping to circa $450 for anything between $2000-$4000. It could quickly add up. 

Option 4 - Buying From Cadets

When you go to Clearways you're given the option to join the cadet only Facebook group. This is often a great place to grab items from departing cadets at reduced prices when compared with stores in the city. It's also a place where cadets sell on their cars which, in many cases, have been passed down among cadets for a number of years. When we arrived there were three or four cars available for sale. The table below gives you an idea of those on offer:

Phone users please note this table is scrollable left-to-right.

  17353316 1505176819506057 1969416238329219412 n2 16999064 10154151778836949 7284035301237112490 n 16711894 10158749529895497 7141667598686402255 n
Price $1800 $2000 $2499
Brand Nissan Honda  Volvo
Model Pulsar (1997)  Accord (~2000) S80 (2000)
Fuel Type Petrol Petrol Petrol
Engine 1.5 2.2 3.0
Transmission  Automatic Automatic Automatic
Odometer 165,000km 270,000km 122,000km

In the end my car group ended up going for a car that cadets were passing down. Each of the cars were in great condition for the distances they had travelled and were being offered at fair, if not better prices than similar cars on New Zealands' AutoTrader equivalent. If cars pop up on the Clearways group and you're interested it's worth being quick about it as they don't hang around for long. The great thing here is, when you eventually leave New Zealand you can recoup some of this outlay on selling the car on to future CPs.

Option 5 - Renting

CTC Aviation have negotiated rates with a local leasing company which can see a group of cadets hire a fully maintained car, of similar age to those in the table above, starting at about $350 a month. The cars available will vary depending on what they have available at the time. The cars CTC hires for you in your first 10 days are from this company and it'd be likely you'd end up renting one of those. Whilst you do not need to worry about the W.O.F. nor the Rego, the disadvantage is the money is somewhat lost compared to buying and reselling a car. If you were to take a $350 car, as some can be more than this, it would work out at £274 for your time here if split between five of you.


Hopefully this post has provided you with a useful insight into the cost of transportation for cadets during their New Zealand stage of training. It isn't something that's previously been blogged about so I hope you have found it useful. In my case the car we bought was £230 each, the Rego £25 at renewal and whilst yet to be sorted, the insurance around £94 each. That's a total of £349. On leaving New Zealand I hope to recoup as much of the £230 purchase price as possible.

All the best,


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