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127 posts

Master Geek

# 64570 18-Jul-2010 06:57
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As stated in my introduction, we are coming to NZ in October.
Looks like we will be staying for about 4 months.
The plan is to start in Christchurch and end in Auckland.

We were planning to buy a car, but the used car prices I have seen so far look high.

In the UK, I would expect to get a reasonable car for £500 to £1,500 ($1,000 - $3,000) with a good chance of finding something decent at the lowest price if I was prepared to accept something up to 10 years old.

I had a quick look at an Australian web site and there were quite a few cars from $500 AUS (which is cheap!).

So far I've looked at AutoTrader for cars in Christchurch under $2,500 and most below $2,500 are auction estimates on 15+ year old cars.

Now looked at $2,500 to $5,000 and they are still around 1990-1996 which makes them up to 20 years old.

So - are cars just more expensive in NZ?
And are cars that old still reliable?

Would I be bettter off starting in Auckland (we planned on the assumption that most people arrived in Auckland and left from Christchurch so cars would flow South and be cheaper down there)?

How much should I budget for a car (wagon?) which will see me through 4 months of touring (some of it on rough tracks in South Island) and still be saleable next March?



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701 posts

Ultimate Geek


  # 352900 18-Jul-2010 09:51
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You can get a well used but workable jap import for around $3000, but you wont get them in car yards - very much the second hand market if you want much worth less than $5000.

I recently picked up a 1996 Holden Barina SB (think Opal - ) - for $2000. It's only a small car but does the job, but it did cause me to look at the market. $3000 would get you something reasonable in the 1800cc to 2L range (typical family car size here).

You'd want to be looking at Toyota Corolla/Corona/Camry/Caldina; Nissan Primera/Sunny; Mitsubishi Lancer (non racer spec) or Galant. I prefer Toyota most often as they're widely regarded as bulletproof.

In the sub $3K range you shoudl expect km's in the 170-240,000 range (and expect them to have a range of 250,000-320,000 typically) and be looking at cars from 1990-1996ish as you have noted.

If you want a station wagon I would recommend the Toyota Caldina (slightly biased, I own one myself) around a 1996 model should be within your budget. If you get one with the 3SFE engine, you'll have a little fuel economy on a 2L platform and a very well known engine (pretty much the standard Toyota 2L engine for all models from the late 80s to late 90s, found in Corona/Celica/MR2/Caldina) which when looked after well enough should give you well into the late 200,000kms. Also the Caldina is often available in 4WD which will be a huge advantage if you wind up somewhere in the cold or wet.

This is mine,, which I bought several years ago but for a slightly lower spec engine (mines the top-spec non-turbo model) on todays market you should get one for around $3000 that would last you fine.

All IMHO. Check out the 'Car Fairs' (open second-hand car markets held weekly around the place) or for online trading, or Be careful of cars _auctioned_ on Trademe as if they're a desirable car the Auction will drive their value upwards quickly (I found this out too :() - Classified listings are often easier to budget on.

No signature to see here, move along...

1249 posts

Uber Geek

  # 352904 18-Jul-2010 10:12
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Apart from 2 car dealer purchased cars, which were massively overpriced, all the cars I have owned during my life have been $2,000 or under, and combined between them I have clocked up closing in on 300,000 kms. The worst mechanical problem I had was a leaky waterpump, which eventually failed, but did many 100s of km before doing so.

I have owned a mix of Japanese and European cars, and by far Japanese cars have been reliable in every aspect, where the Euro cars have almost had something trivial fail every time I get in them, especially comparing reliability of electronics.

I have found the kms on the clock, and age of car, have very little impact on reliability, I have owned cars between 80,000kms and 440,000kms, and ages between 23 years old and 11 years old.

Car dealer prices here are massively overpriced compared to privately. A friend and I did the rounds of some car yards 2 weeks back and had to laugh when we saw a car which was 2 years older model than mine, but 10x the price!

I paid $6000 for a 97 Impreza wagon from a car yard, and was LUCKY that I managed to sell it for $3,500 8 months later. I bought it as it was the only Subaru (fullstop) $6000 or under at a car yard in the city I live. If I bought one privately in a hurry I would have got one similar easy for $4,000, and If I had the time to search each day waiting for a bargain, I know I could have got a similar one for $2,500 easily, but I did not have the luxury of time back them.


424 posts

Ultimate Geek

  # 352920 18-Jul-2010 11:35
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Used car prices are higher here because we keep cars longer.  The average age of a car here is 12 years.  My Nissan Sentra is 22 years old, I plan to keep it another 5 years before getting another car. is the place to look at cars online.  I'm not sure what the best place to buy a car is in Auckland.  I'd suggest a price of about $2000, you won't find many at a dealers at that price.  When you buy the car, don't forget to check for debt on the car (look up the wikitravel entry on NZ).  As for reliability, that's a hard one.  I've found that engines are fine, it's just the other things that can go wrong (clutch, wiring, wheel bearings, suspension, brakes, cooling system etc). It's all relative.  You can buy a much cheaper car ($500 say) and just be prepared to take it to a wrecker if it gets major problems.

You probably should prepare to take a loss of about 20% when you sell it since you want to sell it as close as a specific date as possible. As for the price difference in different locations, I don't think there is much.  The Cook Straight ferry will rule out any potential profits.

Baby Get Shaky!
1647 posts

Uber Geek


  # 352942 18-Jul-2010 12:22
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For Christchurch you could try the Addington Car Fair every Sunday or Turners Auctions. My family's bought several cars from Turners over the last 5 years and always got a price cheaper than anywhere else (inc Turners and privately). My last car from Turners was 12 years old, cost 2 grand and lasted 5 years before it was written off (vandalism). With Turners however you need to factor in the success fee (around $350).

You could also try looking in backpackers as there are always signs up for cars for sale. If you're really desperate go wander around the carpark of Pak n Save supermarket on Moorhouse Ave in central Christchurch, theres always dozens of backpackers cars parked there with for sale signs (and a lot of the time a complementary wheel clamp).

Toyota Caldina would be ideal but they are hard to get as they are popular. You could try for a Mitsubishi Legnum, easier to get although less fuel efficient and also in Top 10 most stolen.

4352 posts

Uber Geek

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  # 352957 18-Jul-2010 12:51
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74 posts

Master Geek

  # 353067 18-Jul-2010 19:22
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I guess I know something about things with wheels (I own more than 20 just now ), I'd generally agree with everything that's been said previously except I'd stick with Toyota, followed by Nissan and leave most other things alone.

Nissan gearboxes are worth checking out thoroughly, both makes but with different models can have issues with heads cracking. Beyond that they're generally good reliable machines and will last for several 100,000k's. I once had a Toyota that had > 750,000km on it by which stage the clutch was tired and it needed a head gasket (or head) but a very impressive record.

Given you mentioned something about tracks it may be worth looking at a lower-end Toyota diesel 4WD. You will pay a little more but you'll also get more for it at the end. If it were me I'd get a normally-aspirated 2.4 or 2.8, they're particularly economic and reliable, albeit rather slow - but then you're enjoying the scenery rather than trying to get places in a hurry aren't you?! An alternative would be a Nissan Terrano or Mistral but since they're a turbo machine you'd need to check out the cooling system/head and be aware it won't be quite as economic. For manuals check g/box bearing noise. Price would be 3.5k + or - a bit for all of these (expect to pay a bit more for a 2.8D Toyota though). If you wanted a [Toyota] Landcruiser I've got a good one you could have later in the year but it's probably closer to $5k really...


127 posts

Master Geek

  # 353127 18-Jul-2010 22:32
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Thanks for all the information - very useful.

My biggest question now is where to start - Auckland or Christchurch.
Looking online yesterday and today there seems to be more car choice in Auckland and more wagons under $5,000.

We have to make our minds up in the next couple of weeks so we can buy our air tickets.




74 posts

Master Geek

  # 353169 19-Jul-2010 00:12
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Well I'm in Christchurch so I'm probably biased towards the place but I'd make the observation that as we're around 1/3rd the size of Auckland one would expect there to be less vehicles for sale. However it's also probably not so hard (and therefore cheaper) to get around to look at something - an important factor, particularly if you're new to the place. Christchurch is arguably flatter and drier too, possibly affecting the overall condition of the vehicle fleet but YMMV.


274 posts

Ultimate Geek


  # 353222 19-Jul-2010 08:45
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I live in Dunedin these days but spent a few years in Auckland and visit often for work, i would suggest start in Christchurch it is much easier to get around and not get lost. There is no shortage of cars in either city. Have a good search on
probably the best way to price or search anything in New Zealand. Enjoy your trip

67 posts

Master Geek

  # 353245 19-Jul-2010 09:41
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Christchurch still has a massive amount of car dealerships. Spend 5 minutes driving along Moorhouse Avenue and you'll pass at least 20! Most of them don't promote cars for under $3000 but they'll probably still have some. You need to find the places that have a few cheaper models out the back. Usually cars that have been traded in.

Backpackers Cars are an outfit in Christchurch dealing with lower priced cars. Their stocklist is here:

Prices start at $2500 for a 1996 Ford Telstra station wagon (or an estate as you'd call it in the UK!) but it has over 300,000kms on the clock. Then a '94 Honda Odyssey for $3500 which might make for a good traveller's car.

Car insurance isn't compulsory here but being from the UK, you'll find the insurance prices so cheap here that you'll think they've made a mistake ;)


Chief Trash Bandit
10035 posts

Uber Geek

Mod Emeritus
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  # 353255 19-Jul-2010 10:02
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For used car shopping etc, Ive always checked out The Dog and lemon Guide ( book (around $20 I think for latest edition) - full of handy info.

You can pick up some great deals on cars for a few more dollars a well... I picked up a 2004 Nissan Wingroad (aka AD aka Pulsar) wagon this time last year for under $7000 - the k's were slightly higher then most around that age (115km) but all checked out fine and its been a great little car.

XPD / Gavin / DemiseNZ


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6970 posts

Uber Geek


# 353263 19-Jul-2010 10:27
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Yeah remember that NZ sources a huge amount of it's cars from Japan so you'll be looking for different brands/models here than in the UK.  The good news is most are far more reliable than equivalent aged vehicles from the UK too!Wink  

Stick to the name brands of Toyota and Nissan essentially if you are on a Sub $3,000 budget.  We keep cars going a lot longer here, so it's quite normal to find high mileage cars in the 150 - 250,000kms range.  Obviously the lower the better but a lot of constant speed road driving has less impact on the motor than lots of cold stopping and starting around towns, so mileage is not the only factor, as has been mentioned above.

Generally something clean under the hood, with good conditioned rubber hoses etc should be ok.  Look for all the obvious signs of abuse and be aware that you will probably get what you pay for.  Either way I'd be looking to chuck a container of oil and some soft drink bottles full of water in the boot. 

Auckland is quite wide so you may have to travel a long way to view all the cars you find on trademe.  Car yards just don't factor with this low cost vehicle hunt.

All cars here need a current registration and warrant of fitness to drive on the road.  Technically I think the seller is supposed to sell with 3 months worth of warrant or reg left?  (but this doesn't always happen anyway).  Reg is just a payment, and your car needs to be registered before you can go for a wof.

Rule is not to buy something without a warrant because you don't know what the inspectors may find when you go for one.  If you fail a wof you get 28 days to correct it without paying for a whole new inspection.  (sometimes you can get a good deal if an owner has failed a wof on something and can't be bothered getting it repaired.  In this case you do know what the costs will be to sort it). 

Hope some of that is useful.  Enjoy your time here.

1286 posts

Uber Geek

  # 353358 19-Jul-2010 13:07
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All cars here need a current registration and warrant of fitness to drive on the road.  Technically I think the seller is supposed to sell with 3 months worth of warrant or reg left? 

From memory WOF must be valid unless expressly sold (advertised) "AS IS", in which case, no WOF necessary.

Reg is just a payment, and your car needs to be registered before you can go for a wof.

Other way around (unless you really are talking about registration plates), you must have a valid WOF before you can renew your Continuous Vehicle Licence.

Registration = Number Plates
WOF = Regular Inspection
Vehicle Licence = fee for using public roads, ACC, etc...

James Sleeman
I sell lots of stuff for electronic enthusiasts...

6970 posts

Uber Geek


  # 353397 19-Jul-2010 13:56
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Yeah that's right, thanks for the correction sleemanj.

So what he says, you must have a valid WOF before you can renew your Continuous Vehicle Licence.

You can renew your car licence for a minimum of 3 months or more, so you don't have to pay a full years worth if it's getting down and you know you're only going to be here for a while.

Good luck trying to sell quickly when you leave too, may want to start advertising on trademe or similar if possible earlier than your departure date to see if you can rig up a deal to be collected when you leave etc.

1249 posts

Uber Geek

  # 353687 19-Jul-2010 23:34
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Actually vehicle licences can be done from 1 day to 15 months.

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