Buying a campervan in New Zealand in under 3 hours (kinda)

Hoorah, we have a Vanmaison in our possession!  To keep this post brief and helpful to anyone who might be thinking about doing the same, I’m just going to jot down the main how-to-buy-a-campervan-in-NZ facts. It’s not a kerfuffle at all. Promise.

If you prefer the more blah blah what campervan should I buy kinda post, it’s over here. We’re buying a regular van to convert ourselves.

Let’s do this.

As a foreigner buying a vehicle in New Zealand, you need to do the following:

Step 1: Ensure the vehicle you want to purchase passes a Warrant of Fitness (WOF)

Most vehicles advertised privately or at dealerships will already have this, because you can’t legally drive on NZ roads or register the vehicle without it. A WOF is the MOT equivalent in the UK, check for the WOF sticker inside the windscreen. Our van needs to be inspected annually, but this timeframe varies depending on the age of the vehicle.

Step 2: Get yourself a physical New Zealand address

We went with a company called Private Box. We rent a physical address and they open, scan and email all our mail to us digitally. You can also use it for physical things like online purchases, but you’ll have to go there and pick up the goods yourself or pay for them to forward it by post. We chose Wellington as our address location since we hope to be spending a lot more time around there in the coming months. Our AirBnB host in Auckland offered for us to use her address (what a legend, Judy!) but we decided Private Box would be useful for other things too.

Step 3: Consider booking in for an independent, pre-purchase mechanical inspection

We went with a company called Vehicle Testing New Zealand (VTNZ) because they were close to the dealership and can handle the registration too (see step 5). A bunch of companies also provide this inspection service, the AA seems to be a popular choice. Our inspection took about an hour and a half, and was pre-booked the previous week. We received a comprehensive report with no issues by email as soon as it was done.

Step 4: Transfer your money

We bought our van from the genuinely lovely Jay (pictured below) at August Autos, and their preferred method of payment was cheque or bank transfer. As we were transferring funds from our UK savings account, we wanted a service that would give us a) the real exchange rate and b) a quick transfer. In the end, TransferWise won over our bank on rate and pace. We transferred the money on Tuesday immediately after the pre-purchase inspection, and it was due to arrive on Thursday. Not bad for an 11 hour time difference eh? Luckily for us, Jay was happy to proceed with the registration after seeing evidence of the funds transfer, even though it hadn’t cleared yet. We really appreciated that, thanks Jay!

Step 5: Register the vehicle with the New Zealand Transport Agency 

Locals call this the ‘rego’. To complete this step, you’ll need to provide your physical New Zealand address and show your passport (if you don’t have a NZ driving licence, like us). Our van was imported from Japan and hadn’t been registered in NZ before, so we needed to sort out the plates and initial registration first. Our dealership included all the on road costs in the purchase price, and sorted the registration transfer paperwork at VTNZ for us. Rego needs to renewed every 3, 6 or 12 months, and the price depends on the vehicle type and rego duration.

Step 6: Get yourself insured

It’s not actually illegal to drive without insurance in NZ like it is in the UK, but we felt safer with coverage. We chose AA and signed up over the phone as soon as the rego was sorted.

Step 3 to 6 all happened in under 3 hours.

See? Easy peasy. Toot toot.

A couple of snaps from our van buying adventure.

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