The Ultimate Guide to Changing Car Ownership in New Zealand

Owning a car is a milestone on the road of life, marking independence and freedom. However, with this liberty comes the responsibility of car ownership, which includes knowing the ins and outs of how to legally and logistically transfer ownership when that time comes. If you’re a new car owner, a resident applying for citizenship, or someone navigating the legalities of vehicle ownership changes, understanding the process is pivotal.

In New Zealand, the change of car ownership isn’t as simple as a handshake and a set of keys. Multiple steps must be followed to ensure the transfer is official, protecting both buyer and seller. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through each step, providing clarity on this important process.

Understanding Car Ownership in NZ

Before you dive into the transfer process, it’s crucial to understand what changing car ownership in New Zealand entails. Owning a car in NZ involves several registration and documentation requirements to ensure it complies with laws and regulations.

What is Car Ownership?

Car ownership is the legal right to possess, use, and dispose of a vehicle. In terms of documentation, it’s represented by the title (also known as the certificate of ownership), which shows who the owner is, as well as any liens making note of financial obligations related to the vehicle.

Why Transfer Ownership?

Car Transfer Ownership

Changing the ownership of a vehicle is necessary whenever a vehicle is sold, given as a gift, as part of a deceased estate, or in any other circumstance where the current registered person is no longer the legal owner.

The reasons for transferring ownership are both legal and practical. Legally, the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) requires accurate records of ownership for accountability, while practically, it ensures that traffic offences, ACC levies, and unpaid fines don’t fall on the wrong person.

Preparing Your Vehicle for Sale

If you are the seller, there are essential steps to take before a sale to ensure a smooth transfer of ownership for both parties.

Gather Your Documents

You will need the vehicle’s registration papers which include the ‘Authority or notice to sell’, current license label, and any other relevant documentation. Ensure your latest warrant of fitness (WoF) is valid and your vehicle has a current registration.

Clear Outstanding Finance and Fines

Make sure you have paid any outstanding loans secured against the vehicle and that there are no unpaid traffic or parking fines. Clearing these will prevent any hiccups during the transfer process.

Take Care of the Personal Touch

Give your car a good clean and a mechanical check to ensure everything is in good working order. This increases the appeal to potential buyers and provides peace of mind regarding the car’s condition.

The Steps to Change Car Ownership

Here’s a detailed walkthrough of the steps to change car ownership in New Zealand:

Step 1: Filling Out a Change of Ownership Form (MR13B)

This form is available at any NZTA office, via post, or online. Both you (the seller) and the buyer need to fill this out, providing personal and vehicle details, the sale price, and the odometer reading, among other things.

Step 2: Completing the Sale Agreement

The sale agreement should detail the transaction’s terms. It should include the sale price, a description of the vehicle, and a warranty clause if relevant.

Step 3: Exchanging Money and Goods

The money should be exchanged for the vehicle. The buyer should receive a valid warrant of fitness (WoF) certificate as well as a signed and completed change of ownership form.

Step 4: Completing the Notice to the Warrant of Fitness Issuer

The buyer must complete this notice, which authorizes the update of vehicle records to reflect the new owner. This is an important step that updates the vehicle’s inspection requirements.

Step 5: Lodging the Change of Ownership with NZTA

The seller or buyer can take the completed and signed MR13B along with other relevant documents like the old vehicle license or a current WoF to an NZTA office (or some PostShops) to complete the transfer.

Step 6: Removing the Old Registration Label

As the seller, you should remove the registration label to invalidate it for use once the change of ownership is completed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Throughout this process, there are often questions that arise. Here are a few:

What If the Buyer Wants to Collect Number Plates?

Once the ownership has been transferred, the licensing label becomes invalid. As such, the buyer should be issued with a new label reflecting the new ownership. The previous label should be destroyed completely, ensuring it cannot be misused.

What If I’m Selling to a Dealer or Trader?

Different procedures apply when selling to a dealer or trader. They may handle some of the documentation and transaction processes on your behalf. However, you should still have a clear understanding of the process to ensure it is completed accurately and in your best interest.

The Legalities of Car Ownership Transfer

It’s important to be aware of the legal aspects associated with transferring car ownership in New Zealand.

Ensuring Transfer Is Notified

It is the responsibility of the buyer and seller to ensure that any change of vehicle ownership is notified to the NZTA. This can be done through an MR13B form or online, by the buyer within seven days of purchase.

Proof of Identity

Both the buyer and seller need to prove their identities when transferring ownership. This can usually be done with a New Zealand driver’s licence, a New Zealand passport, or a community services card with a photo.


Both parties should keep a record of the sale, such as copies of the change of ownership form and any correspondence related to the transfer. This is particularly important should any disputes or vehicle issues arise.


Changing car ownership in New Zealand involves several steps and legalities to ensure a smooth transition from one owner to another. Whether you’re buying or selling, understanding the process is vital. It protects your legal interests and ensures the vehicle is registered accurately with the appropriate authorities.

For a first-time car owner or someone navigating this process for the first time, the wealth of information required can be overwhelming. The aim of this guide is to simplify the transfer process, providing a step-by-step approach backed by knowledge and legal compliance.

As you journey through the reselling process, remember that each step not only represents the change in ownership but also the responsibility that comes with a new chapter in the car’s life. By embracing these steps, you contribute to the safety, accountability, and overall vehicular well-being within the New Zealand legal framework.

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