Car fairs are a great way to buy or sell a car here, although you do have to be on the lookout for cars that might be stolen. (We're pretty sure we saw at least one. You could see the old paint color in some spots and the guy was super sketchy.) We did some research on what to look out for and wound up having a really good experience. People show up on a Sunday morning and exchange cars, money, and sometimes friendship (awww).
We came close to buying a car from a French couple we met there, Stephane and Cynthia. We liked them right away because they were easygoing and they made us laugh. Stephane came along with us while we took it for a test drive, which also happened to be the first time we'd ever driven on the left side of the road. Josh had the wheel; I sat clutching the back seat. Once, Josh reached for an imaginary gear shift on his right side; another time he meant to use the turn signal and got wipers instead. If you've never driven a car built for the opposite side of the road, the best thing I can compare it to is looking in a double mirror and trying to touch your left eye with your right hand: it requires a lot of extra concentration. Despite some (literal) bumps in the road, Josh handled it beautifully. Still, we couldn't let it go without a few jokes about having narrowly escaped death. Then we realized none of us knew how to get back to the car fair, and it turned to jokes about how we'd just steal the car with Stephane in it, maybe go to Wellington. We told him he should call Cynthia and let her know he was going to stay with us.
We looked around the car fair a little longer after we found our way back. In that time someone else agreed to buy Stephane and Cynthia's car, but our "near death" experience together bonded us enough that they invited us to dinner at their house later that week. There are a million Nissans in Auckland, so by then we had already bought Our Lady from a small scale dealer we met at the fair. We promised we'd give him a shout out since we (lovingly) twisted his arm into giving us such a good deal. So, if you're ever in the Auckland area and in need of a used car, Edgar Munro (021 024 52968--NZ phone numbers sometimes have a extra digits, because why not?) proved to be an honest and reasonable guy. He was really helpful with addressing our concerns, and he hooked us up with a mechanic who gave us a great deal on our oil change and a few other small things that needed to be done. And if this sways you at all, his granddaughter is pretty darn cute.
Buying a car in New Zealand requires some different paperwork than back home, but we found it pretty easy to navigate. We just stopped at the Post Office to pick up a change of owner form. (By the way the Post Office, as a government entity, also serves as a hub for official tax and automobile related doings. No DMV! Just one of the magical things this country has to offer...) The car was also due for a new registration, which is independent of ownership. So we handled that, made a spare key, and joined AA (NZ equivalent of AAA). Cars over 4 years old also need to pass a WOF (Warrant of Fitness) every 6 months to make sure everything is still in good running order. We had a pre-purchase inspection done to make sure our car was in a condition to pass, but it will be several months before it's actually due for a new one.
Another fun fact: here cars are only recommended for an oil change every 6 months or 10,000 kms (6,213 miles), which makes me wonder if Kiwis are just really lax or we're being overzealous back home? And gas here is way more expensive. It's about $2 a litre. That's $7.40 a gallon, for all you non-metrics out there. Our Kiwi friends were amazed when we told them how cheap gas is in the U.S. (Thanks, Fracking! Bwa ha haaa!)