Buyers warned to beware when purchasing vehicles off the internet


The NZ Transport Agency has issued a warning to people to beware when purchasing motor vehicles through auction websites.

The NZTA is fielding an increasing number of complaints from buyers who have purchased a vehicle without having it properly inspected by an expert first, only to find after they have purchased it that the vehicle is in poor condition.

NZTA Access and Use manager David Pearks says there is a growing number of cases where despite having a current warrant of fitness, buyers are finding that the actual condition of the purchased vehicle differs from how it is portrayed on the internet by the seller.

"There seems to be an increasing number of people who see a car on the internet for sale, and think the photos displayed are sufficient enough to give an indication of the condition of a car," says Mr Pearks.

"We would urge all buyers of vehicles over the internet to carry out an on site pre-purchase inspection of the vehicle before committing to buying it, or to use services of an expert to do this on your behalf."

This is a less expensive option than being left with a vehicle that is worth much less than what it was purchased for, or needs significant work to be brought up to a road worthy standard, he said.

Trade Me's head of commercial Jimmy McGee said Trade Me supported the NZTA's advice that buyers should carry out due diligence on vehicles before purchasing.

"Trade Me provides a car buyer's checklist at the bottom of each used car listing, encouraging every buyer to undertake a vehicle information report. This will check whether money is owing, whether the odometer is wound, or if the car is stolen. We also recommend people get a pre-purchase inspection report through the AA," said Mr McGee.

"Any blatant attempt to mislead buyers is a pretty dumb thing to do online because it's easily traceable," he said. "If buyers are misled about the condition of the car they also have rights under the Sale of Goods Act, Fair Trading Act and Consumer Guarantees Act," said Mr McGee.

Trade Me can also provide an audit history of the transaction which a buyer is able to use at the Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal or at the Courts Disputes Tribunal, he said.

The NZTA is responsible for ensuring that those agents responsible for inspecting vehicles for a warrant of fitness do so in line with approved practice.

A warrant of fitness (WoF) inspection is an assessment of a vehicle at a point in time, and a vehicle's condition can deteriorate considerably between WoFs, which in some cases will be 12 months apart.

Mr Pearks says the NZTA does not have the authority to seek compensation from the seller on the buyer's behalf when these circumstances arise. "This is simply a case of buyer beware."