What To Look Out For When Buying A Car: Buyer Red Flags

AutoTrader NZ
Published 5 June 2024

Buying a second-hand car can be a daunting process with so many checks and balances needed to be done to make sure you do not buy a lemon.

Check out our red flag guide below to help you stay informed when looking at your next car.

🚩 Vehicle Condition

  • Rust or Corrosion: Check for rust, especially under the car and in the engine bay.
  • Fluid Leaks: Look for oil, coolant, or other fluid leaks.
  • Odd Noises: Listen for unusual noises during a test drive.
  • Uneven Tyre Wear: This can suggest alignment or suspension problems. See our Tyre Guide.
  • Mismatched Paint: Inconsistent paint can indicate past accidents.
  • Engine Codes: If you or a friend have an engine scanner, plug it in and see what errors come up. Engine scanners can pick up hidden issues with the car.

Top Tip: If you are unsure about the condition of a car you can organise a pre-inspection through VINZ, AA or your local mechanic.

🚩 Documentation and History

  • Missing Records: Lack of service history or inspection reports.
  • Inconsistent Mileage: Discrepancies in the odometer readings.
  • Written-Off Vehicles: Cars that have been declared a total loss by insurance.
  • No WOF (Warrant of Fitness): Ensure the car has a current WOF as it is illegal to drive without one.
  • No REGO (Registration): Make sure your car has a current REGO as it can be deregistered without it.

Top Tip: You can double-check the vehicle history on ThatCarNZ.

🚩 Seller Behaviour

  • Pressure to Buy Quickly: Be wary if the seller is pushing for a quick sale.
  • No Inspection Allowed: The seller should allow a pre-purchase inspection.
  • Unclear Ownership: Verify the seller’s ID matches the current registered owner.

Top Tip: You can confirm the current registered owner on NZTA orThatCarNZ.

🚩 Pricing Concerns

  • Too Cheap: Extremely low prices can indicate hidden issues.
  • International Pricing: If the currency is not in New Zealand dollars, be wary as this might be a scam.

Top Tip: Physically view the car or have a trusted person view it before you purchase to avoid any scams.

🚩 Online and Transaction Concerns

  • Unusual Payment Requests: Be cautious if the seller insists on PayPal deposits or bank transfers before seeing the car.
  • Online Scammers: Buying a vehicle from social media marketplaces can be risky as it is known for scam sellers. Make sure you double-check their profile and see the car in person before performing any transaction.

Top Tip: Buying a car on a social media platform carries a higher risk.

🚩 Vehicle Identification

  • VIN Issues: Ensure the VIN on the car matches the VIN on the car registry.
  • Duplicate Listings: Multiple listings with different prices or details can indicate a scam.

Top Tip: You can double-check the VIN on ThatCarNZ.

For more buying tips, check out Autotrader’s Buyers Guide!