Getting started

Looking for your next car and not sure where to start? No worries - we got you covered!

What type of car meets your needs
Unsure what type of car you should buy? A good starting point is to think about your needs:
  • What will you mainly use it for? Around town, long distance travel or heading off the beaten track?
  • Will it usually just be you in the car, or do you need to consider enough room for friends, family and/or pets too?
  • Do you have specific needs such as a big boot for prams, luggage or work equipment? A tow bar for trailers or bikes? Roof racks?
Some other things to consider
  • Body style: small manageable hatchback, roomy sedan, station wagon, or people moving van or SUV?
  • Age and reliability: new, near new (still within manufacturer warranty) or used?
  • Comfort features: heated seat warmers, leather seats or a reversing camera?
  • Car safety features: high safety ratings, full airbags, or electronic stability control? Check out our car buying safety guide to find out what’s most important.
  • Manual or automatic: do you spend time in traffic jams where auto is essential, or prefer a good solid gear change?
  • Preferred fuel type: petrol, diesel, electric or hybrid?
  • Engine size and fuel consumption: is fuel efficiency important, or do you need something with a bit of grunt?
  • One of the biggest considerations will be what you can afford and the ongoing costs to run it.
Make a 'must have' and a 'nice to have' list to help you narrow down your search. Cars listed on Trade Me show fuel and safety ratings and have an explanation of what each rating means.
What car can you afford
Whether you’re purchasing the car outright or taking out a loan, what car you choose will be largely dictated by your budget. So how do you know what you can afford?
Trade Me price guide
The price guide will give you an indication of what you might need to pay to get the car you want. Click the ‘Buying’ tab and pop in the make, model and year to see what price similar cars currently listed on site are selling for (or you can just enter the number plate of a car you’re interested in and we’ll find those details for you). If the price results are too broad, try narrowing your search by including an odometer range. If you already own a car and are planning to sell it, you can also use the price guide to work out what it might be worth.

Car finance
Once you have an idea of how much you may need to spend to buy the car you’re after, you may want or need to consider car finance to cover the difference between your savings and the price of the car. A number of our listings have a finance calculator to help you understand what your repayments could look like. Click on the edit button to input your deposit and term (time over which you will need to pay the loan back).
There may also be an upfront establishment fee and an on-going monthly maintenance fee. Different lending providers offer different interest rates, so it’s worth shopping around to find the most suitable offer for you. Make sure you read all the documents carefully and don't sign anything that you don't understand or don't agree with.
Ongoing costs
Buying the car is not the only time you’ll need to spend money on it. Besides fuel, make sure your budget includes insurance, the next Warrant of Fitness (WoF), rego and servicing. Diesel cars also pay a Road User Charge (RUC), so take time to compare the running cost of diesel versus petrol cars.
Getting a second opinion on used cars
Why take the risk if you don’t need too? Getting a second opinion is one of the best ways to feel confident about your purchase.
Car reviews
It can be difficult to know if the car you’re considering is the right one for you. To help you make an informed decision, our reviews and advice section has a wide range of new and used car reviews, written by motoring experts. Search by the make, model and year of the car you’re thinking about to get an overview of the ‘good’ and ‘not-so-good’ points about it. As well a comprehensive description of the specific model including performance and style, safety, reliability, cost of ownership and history.
Ask around
Ask friends, family, a trusted mechanic or dealer to find out what their experience has been with certain makes and models. It might be useful to go for a drive in the type of car you’re after to give you confidence that it’s the right one for you.
Finding the right car for you
Once you have a good idea of the type of car you’re after, you can start searching. Use the left-hand grey search box to select your preferences. You can choose between all cars or just electric, and refine your search by choosing:
  • Make, model, body style, safety rating, type, transmission (manual or automatic) and two or four-wheel drive.
  • Your price range, odometer, year and number of seats.
  • Your preferred region or you can search for New Zealand wide (you can get cars transported to where you live).
  • Keywords you might want to add such as your preferred colour or New Zealand new.
You may not know all of these things to start with, and they’re all optional, so have a play around with what you may want.
Advanced Car Search
The Advanced Car Search enables you to narrow down your search, even more, allowing you to filter by:
  • Seller type (all listings, or either private or dealer listings).
  • Engine size.
  • Number of doors 
Sorting and filtering your results
Once your search results come up, you can sort by price, the age of car, kilometres, when listings close or alphabetically by using the drop-down menu at the top of the search results. You can also filter by auctions, classifieds or Buy Now.
Finally, you can select to only view cars which have a Background Check. A Background Check displays information from government and private databases about whether a car has been reported stolen, is a damaged import, or has been re-registered. For more information about each of the checks included, see definitions.
Save your search
To make sure you don’t miss a newly listed car that meets your criteria, you can save your preferred search options by clicking on the button at the top of the search results.
Once you have saved a search, you can choose how frequently you want to be alerted about new listings by going to ‘My Trade Me’ at the top of the page, and choosing ‘Favourites’. Use the drop-down menu to the right of each of your saved searches to choose a frequency that suits you.
Buying from a car dealer or private seller
You can choose to buy a car from a private seller or one of the hundreds of dealers who sell with us. You can filter your search to look at dealer’s cars or private sales, or your choice may hinge entirely on who happens to be selling a particular car you’ve got your eye on. So what’s the difference?
Buying from a private seller
Buying a car from a private individual means you’re buying off someone just like you – who may know a little or a lot about cars. Often when you buy from a private seller you’ll be able to get the car for a lower price than from a dealer.

The key to buying privately is to do your research and satisfy yourself that you’re getting a sound car at a fair price.

  • You should check the car’s history by getting a Vehicle Information Report (VIR) from MotorWeb. This will tell you important information such as if there’s money owning, an inconsistent odometer reading or if the car has been reported stolen. If you don’t and later discover the car you’ve bought has money owing on it, you will be liable for the outstanding amount.
  • As you’re not covered by the laws that cover purchases from dealers, make sure you do your own research on the car’s mechanical history. If you don’t know a lot about cars, it’s worth getting a mechanical and safety check from an independent provider such as VTNZ, the AA or a mechanic.
  • It’s worth doing a quick check on the seller’s history and feedback as this will tell you whether they’re a good trader to deal with. This can be found at the bottom of each listing.
Buying from a dealer
Like buying from a private seller, it is good to understand the pros and cons of buying from a dealer:

  • Buying your car from a dealer means you’re covered by the laws that dealers must abided by, including the Consumer Guarantees Act and the Fair Trading Act, among others.
  • Dealers are required to provide all the correct information that you’d have to find yourself in a private sale, including the number of owners, odometer reading as well as quality, safety and any faults. Plus, they’re experts in this and should be able to answer any questions you have.
  • If the car you buy has debts owing, the dealer will be liable (unless it was specifically pointed out to you in writing prior to the sale).
  • Some cars purchased through a dealer come with a guarantee or warranty, which means the dealer is liable if anything goes wrong with the car within a certain period of time.
  • Some dealers also offer additional services such as car servicing, finance and insurance.
  • On the downside, cars purchased from a dealer may be more expensive than those of private sellers. Our dealer directory tells you which dealers are in your region and provides their contact details.