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The deal with ‘imported as damaged’ vehicles on Trade Me

Sellers need to disclose if a vehicle has been damaged or is a statutory write off so buyers can make informed decisions

24 February 2021

One of the key things vehicle buyers love is transparency.

What’s the vehicle’s story?

How many kilometres has it done?

What’s the wear and tear like?

What’s the year of actual manufacture? Has it been in a crash?

These things can be verified by a few simple checks.

You can physically inspect the vehicle, do a MotorWeb check, and also check the CIN (Consumer Information Notice) if the vehicle is being sold by a Motor Vehicle Trader (MVT).

One thing that isn’t always clear, is whether the vehicle was ‘imported as damaged’.

So, what does ‘imported as damaged’ mean?

'Imported as damaged' is a declaration that MVTs must make if a vehicle they have imported has known issues with it. Before the vehicle can be driven on NZ roads, it must pass a roadworthiness test.

Any damage that hasn’t been fixed needs to be repaired before the vehicle can be driven.

Damage doesn’t necessarily mean a vehicle has suffered an accident though, it could’ve been written off due to a variety of reasons, such as water or fire damage.

If in doubt, you can check if a vehicle has come to the attention of the NZTA for being flood or fire damaged on the NZ Transport Agency website or check on MotorWeb.

If a Motor Vehicle Trader is selling a vehicle, they must prepare a CIN (Consumer Information Notice). It needs to be physically attached to the vehicle for sale, and if it’s being sold by auction on Trade Me, it needs to be a photo on the listing.

The CIN is there to provide the potential buyer with information about the vehicle and it has a section which indicates whether or not the vehicle has been imported as damaged.

The section of the CIN explains that:

“Land Transport New Zealand records whether or not imported used vehicles had any obvious structural damage or deterioration that was identified at the time of importation. However, the extent of the damage is not recorded. Any damage that may have occurred in New Zealand is also not recorded. You may wish to have a vehicle checked by a person with mechanical knowledge before you buy.”

How do I know if a vehicle has been imported as damaged?

If a vehicle has been imported as damaged, this will be outlined in the CIN that the Motor Vehicle Trader should have displayed on all vehicles being sold via auction or Buy Now.

We also encourage all MVTs to disclose whether a vehicle has been imported as damaged and or previously written off in the listing description.

In terms of Trade Me and how the law applies, the CIN is required only for auctions or listing with Buy Now, as it’s possible for someone to purchase a vehicle without viewing it first.

A classified listing means the vehicle cannot be purchased via the site (there is no auction or Buy Now function), so no CIN is required to be displayed on the listing.

In these situations we recommend members view and inspect the vehicle before arranging the purchase or at least get a MotorWeb check. The CIN should still be physically attached to the vehicle.

Buyers should be wholly aware that vehicles can be written off and or repaired overseas and that this will not be recorded on the CIN Notice.

To determine this for vehicles imported from Australia, first obtain the VIN - this can be done with a MotorWeb Check.

You can then search this NZTA database to see the status of the vehicle before it was shipped to NZ. You will need the vehicle's VIN number.

Traders, be careful how you describe the vehicle

If you’re selling a vehicle as a Motor Vehicle Trader, the Fair Trading Act will apply to you.

This means representations of the vehicle’s history must be accurate.

As an example, to suggest a vehicle is ‘brand new’ when it has been written off in Australia could well be a misleading representation.

To avoid any sticky situations, we recommend a vehicle’s history be accurately described in the listing description.

It’s better to be overly thorough rather than leaving anything to chance.

Statutory write offs from Australia are required to have wording which clearly conveys this.

We suggest MVT use this statement:

"This vehicle was imported from Australia as a statutory write off. Buyers should ensure they fully understand the history of the vehicle before purchase."