The importance of changing vehicle ownership


We’ve previously had calls from AA Members where they’ve been left in tricky situations as a result of selling a car and having to deal with complications stemming from a change of ownership. In most cases, people have sold their car for a relatively cheap price due to moving overseas or to a new area in New Zealand. Unbeknown to the previous owner, the buyer hasn’t then re-registered the car in their name and they’ve been saddled with fines which can, in a worst case scenario, result in the arrival of a debt collection agency knocking at the door.

Generally, the only way this can be resolved is in court so it’s easy to understand how ignoring something so small and simple as changing ownership can turn into a real nightmare.

With a variety of ways to change ownership, it’s now easier to do than ever before and costs less than $10.

Online

You can instantly change the ownership of a vehicle online on the NZTA website. This is great for private sellers as no matter what time of day you sell your car, providing the buyer has a New Zealand driver’s license, you can fill in the appropriate forms online and change ownership within a matter of minutes. We’d suggesting filling out the forms together before the buyer drives away with your old car. As a seller, you’ll need to complete the ‘I have sold a vehicle’ section, while the buyer will need to fill out the ‘I’ve bought a vehicle’ section.

Over the counter operations

For buyers who don’t hold a New Zealand driver’s license, or for those who prefer to manage their affairs with someone face-to-face, you can change ownership over the counter at NZ Post outlets or numerous licensing centres.

The seller needs to complete a MR13A form, confirming that they’ve sold their vehicle and the new owner will need to fill out a MR13b form. These will then be shared with the NZTA to confirm the change of ownership.

Unlike the online method, this process also offers more payment options for the buyer and for those who don’t have a New Zealand driver’s license, they can use other forms of identification such as a passport.

Look out for warrants and debt

If you’re buying a vehicle, remember to check its Warrant of Fitness. Any car that’s being sold must have a WoF that’s no more than a month old by the time the buyer receives the vehicle.

For private sales this rule can be waived, providing the seller obtains a written agreement from the buyer. Where the warrant is more than one month old, the agreement needs to specify that the buyer accepts this. If the car is sold without a warrant, the agreement will also need to state that the vehicle won’t be used by the buyer until a new one is obtained.

Another thing to watch out for, particularly on diesel vehicles, is road user charges (RUC). If you buy a car, unaware that the previous owner has fallen behind with payments for RUC, you take on these charges and they can cost a lot to get back up-to-date. This can be easily avoided by checking the vehicles road user allowance ticket to see if the vehicle has travelled beyond the mileage. This can be found in the display pocket on the car’s windscreen.

If you buy a used vehicle with outstanding fees, it will also become your responsibility to pay for them, so check the registration ticket to see that it’s up-to-date before you hand over any money.

Who’s responsible for the change of ownership?

The responsibility of changing the ownership of a vehicle lies with both the buyer and seller. It’s the buyer’s responsibility to pay for the change of ownership so before they come to pick up the car, make sure they bring their credit or debit card to pay the change of ownership fee.

Before the sale of the vehicle has been completed, the seller should ask to see proof that the buyer has completed the required sections to confirm the change of ownership. This could be an email confirmation if the process was done online or a completed MR13B with receipt stamp or transaction receipt, if it was done over the counter.

The misconception with change of ownership

There’s also a myth that a change of ownership document confirms legal possession of a vehicle. In actual fact, to prove possession and disposal, a simple receipt is a good form of evidence to legally confirm this. It should include the names of both the seller and buyer, and needs to be signed and dated by both parties.

A record of the price, the vehicle’s make, model, registration number and VIN/chassis number if it has one, should also be noted on the receipt. It’s a good idea to include the odometer reading at the time of the sale as well.

While changing the ownership of a vehicle might not be the most exciting part of buying a new car, it’s the last piece of the puzzle which shouldn’t be ignored.

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