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What it costs to own a vehicle

What it costs to own a vehicle

Although the purchase price of a vehicle may be written on a neon sign, other costs of owning a car are easier to overlook. Issues such as the loss in value that results from driving a new car out of the showroom, or the costly repairs if parts are difficult to come by, can really set you back.

First off, remember, price shouldn’t be your only priority when buying a new vehicle. Things like the safety and reliability record for the car should never be overlooked, so if you can afford it, it may be worth paying a bit more to get the car you want. With the list below, you can decide whether buying a car is right for you – or whether you should stick to taking the bus. Here's a breakdown of the main costs involved in owning a vehicle.

Initial purchase price

This one is pretty obvious; the amount you pay for your vehicle. Keep in mind a car's advertised price is often not set in stone, and may have even been inflated to account for the likelihood of buyers trying to bargain the seller down. This means you should always have a go at negotiating the price of your car.

Registration and licensing

All vehicles on the road need to be registered and licensed. What's the difference? Registration is when the car is added to the Motor Vehicle Register in New Zealand, which normally only happens once when the car is imported. Vehicle licensing is the regular fee you pay in order to use the roads. Before you agree on a purchase price for your car, get clear on whether the on-road costs (those for registration, licensing and a warrant of fitness, if needed) are included. 

Find out more about vehicle licensing fees at the NZTA website.

Warrant of Fitness

All vehicles are required to renew their warrant of fitness regularly. The cost for as warrant is normally around $40-$50, plus the cost of any repairs.

If your car is:

  • Less than 6 years old, you must renew the warrant every 12 months.
  • More than 6 years old, you must renew the warrant every 6 months.


The cost of tyres will vary – it depends on the quality and size of the tyre. A set of tyres will normally last 30,000 to 40,000 km, if you take good care of them.

Vehicle service, repairs and maintenance

The vehicle should be serviced regularly to keep things running smoothly. In general, you should get your car serviced every 10,000km or 12 months, but check your car’s manual. Repairs and maintenance include replacing the wiper blades and light bulbs, and filling up the oil as necessary.

Before you buy a car, it's a good idea to get a history check done. This should uncover issues such as any money that's still owed on the car, which may com back to bite you later on. You should also ask to see the vehicle's service history. You'll be able to see whether it's been serviced regularly and what problems have come up in the past. Another reason you shouldn't buy a car without getting its service history (unless of course you're the first owner) is that it can be harder to sell it on later, because other potential buyers will want to see this. Having a record of regular services over the car's life can help your vehicle retain its value.


The cost of petrol varies according to a variety of factors. It is always wise to consider fuel efficiency when purchasing a vehicle. The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority makes it easy for you to view information on the efficiency rating of your car. Check the EECA website for the fuel efficiency rating for your vehicle.

Vehicle insurance

The annual cost of vehicle insurance depends on the type of cover you have, and varies for each individual. It’s a good idea to get a few different quotes – you may be surprised by the variation in price.


A car that holds its value better will cost you less over time, as you should receive more when you come to sell it. New cars have a dramatic loss in value the moment you drive them away, whereas a used car will often depreciate more slowly. This is especially true for popular makes and models, as there's likely to be a larger pool of potential buyers when you go to sell your car.

Parts supply

Parts of some cars are much easier to source in New Zealand that those for other cars. It can be much easier and cheaper to buy parts for cars from Japan than for European cars – which are less common.


There are not only financial consequences of frequent trips to the mechanic, but you also suffer the inconvenience of not having your car available – you may have to hire another car or pay for public transport in the meantime.

Looking to buy a car? Check out this guide to choosing the right vehicle for you.

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