Buy / sell a van in New Zealand

by | Feb 18, 2019 | New Zealand, Travel tips

As many backpackers, we decided to buy a van when we arrived in New Zealand.
So between what we knew and what we learned on the job, here is a short recap so you can buy and sell your future home on wheels with confidence.

Tip # 1: Where can we find van ads?

It is extremely easy to find van ads of all kinds in New Zealand. The reason is that many backpackers travel this way since it is the most comfortable in terms of cost and freedom of movement.

So you will have the choice:

  • Facebook’s Marketplace: Widely used in New Zealand as in Australia, it will probably be the cornerstone of your research
    The van / car sales groups on Facebook: there are no less than a dozen, so you have the choice! (New Zealand backpacker cars, New Zealand backpackers buy or sell, campervan …)
    Most sellers are very responsive since they need to sell quickly often because they have a fixed start date
  • Bulletin boards: in the backpackers you will often have bulletin boards with job offers or van sales!
  • Trade Me: New Zealand website full of all the ads you will need
  • Car Fair: These are weekly gatherings that bring together car salesmen of all kinds, not just vans. It’s free for buyers so it can be worth it.

Note however, that Facebook remains the platform most used for the purchase and sale of van. It is certainly through that you will find your friend on 4 wheels.

facebook marketplace

Tip #2 : Self-contained or not ?

In New Zealand, there is a certificate for vehicles certifying that your vehicle is “self-contained”. To put it simply, it allows authorities to know if you can live independently in your vehicle. Many rules are to be respected so that the van obtains this certification (bed, toilet, can of 25 liters of water …).

Many free camp (free campsites) are reserved only for self-contained vehicles. The official reason being that people who do not have the necessary equipment could damage the site by spilling dirty water, urinating outside or other …

To know if a camp is reserved for SC (self-contained) or not: you can check on Campermate or Wikicamps. Feel free to read our article on essential applications in New Zealand.

So, the question is, should I buy a more expensive self-contained vehicle that allows me to sleep in many more camps? We would tend to tell you a big yes! In our experience, those who buy a non-SC vehicle end up regretting it or at least are much more restricted in their movement. And here the usefulness of van travel is somewhat undermined. So yes, it is necessarily more expensive, but it is better to take a SC vehicle at the base price cheaper than the last van fully equipped but not SC.

But it’s up to you of course!

Tip #3 : The WOF (Warrant of Fitness)

The WOF, you will hear about it! It’s the equivalent of our good old technical control, happiness. Know first that it is valid for 6 months for vehicles dating from before 2000. If you want it to last 1 year, you will need a van after 2000-at the time the article is written well sure-.

It costs about fifty euros and can be done in many accredited centers. They are pretty picky from what we know especially about rust, real gangrene in New Zealand.

When looking for a van, pay attention to the expiry date of the WOF and carefully check the vehicle before buying it.

Even without really knowing you, the hotspots to check are:

  • Rust, under the car most often
  • Tires: New Zealand’s roads are hard on tires!
  • The brakes and shock absorbers that often take a hit also during a road trip
  • The lights: headlights, flashing …


Of course you are not safe from surprises during your trip so to maximize your chances, you can ask for a mecanic check (about 140 dollars) before the purchase. Do not hesitate to ask if the seller has a complete maintenance booklet to reassure you and facilitate future resale.

Never forget that you will have to sell your van! Keep all the bills!

Tip #4 : The REGO

Rego is a tax that you will have to pay for driving on New Zealand roads. It is also a point to check when buying a vehicle even if it “enough” to pay to extend a rego. You can extend it by 3 months, 6 months, 9 months …

The price is sixty euros for 6 months and you can do it in many approved institutions (post, center AA …) or on the internet if you have a postal address. But if you are in your van, it’s a safe bet that no!

Tip #5 : The D day 

You have found the van of your dreams and you are going to visit. To make sure everything is normal, take a look at Carjam, it’s a site that will give you the history of the vehicle through the license plate. You check everything that has been mentioned before and definitely everything is perfect!

But how is the change of ownership?

In New Zealand, the change of ownership is frighteningly simple. All you have to do is go to a post (yes, yes). The seller will fill out a form and you will yours. They each make a page. You will then pay 9 dollars and voila!


Tip #6 : The best time to buy / sell your van

The period is extremely important when buying a van in New Zealand. Know that prices can easily go from single to double depending on the time of year.

Of course, everything is a question of offers and requests. Everyone wants to enjoy the summer and sell before the arrival of winter. Prices explode when the demand is strongest, that is to say from October to December. Then prices begin to fall in January and are lower and lower until June.

The must is to buy in June and sell between October and January.


This is an event that should not be taken lightly! The choice of van will determine the rest of your trip. We had no problem for the duration of the trip (or almost) but we are very lucky! Some backpackers have to work to pay for repairs or just go home … So be careful, scams are relatively common and remember that you will live in this block of junk for the next few months. Choose a van that you like, that looks healthy and … cross your fingers!